After the Dream—Misha's Arc/Na-chan's Story (#4 up 20170121)

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After the Dream—Misha's Arc/Na-chan's Story (#4 up 20170121)

Post by brythain » Sat Apr 12, 2014 2:43 pm

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

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

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


Misha's arc consists of:

Misha 1 — Regrets (2007)
Misha 2 — Returns (2010)
Misha 3 — Reservations (2012)
Misha 4 — Redactions (2018)
Misha 5 — Restitutions (2022)
Misha 6 — Revenants (2028)
Misha 7 — Rebirths (2064)

There's also a little coda here.

Akira Nakai's story : Young Akira is Akira Satou's godson and Akiko's younger brother.
Misha thinks he's cute, and calls him Na-chan... and his story fits right into her own story.


Akira Nakai #1: Small Boy (2028)
Akira Nakai #2: Remembrance (2031)
Akira Nakai #3: Mothers (2036)
Akira Nakai #4: Fathers (2040)

=====

Misha 1: Regrets

I must start somewhere. So, reader-san, here’s the beginning, and if you’ve got a problem with it, sometimes it’s not the author’s fault. He’s not Japanese, and he doesn’t quite get our ways even though he’s been in Japan for years. I’m notorious, you all know that, and he’s a saint for being my friend long enough to write this for me.

When I was young, I thought I was like any other Japanese girl: Dad beats you, Mum cuddles you, you make what you can out of it, happiness! It’s hard to recapture all that when you’re much older and you know that’s not what happened. I’ll try to get author-san to show the girl who tried to be happy, but you know by now that I’m not ‘Misha’, because this is Shiina Mikado, whose hair is grey from seeing too much and having too much to regret.

I’ll get the famous people out of the way first. There’s the one whom I loved, Shizune Hakamichi—she who always did everything, won everything, gained anything she wanted—no, that’s not true, some things you don’t win no matter what. There’s my good friend, Hisao Nakai, gone too early, like the missing heart of a sad story—not true either, because he was somehow the starting point for many other stories. My story, it’s not my own.

*****

Misha fixes everything, I say to myself. Every day, I tell myself, you’re full of energy, you can fix everything and at the end of the day nothing needs to be broken! Or almost nothing. There’s always the bitter little thing in my heart, and the blank spot in my head.

But here is Shizune, and I have to keep her from exploding. It’s like what Mutou said about nukes, you need to moderate them. Something like that. Not easy, because Lilly is the reason.

I really like Lilly, always have. Some people think she’s the devious one of the two cousins but she’s actually the more considerate. Considers too much. Calculates too much. Wins at Risk just by counting a lot and taking her chances. People don’t know that she can memorize a four-deck stack of cards.

But so can Shizune, and they were very very close friends until, well, maybe it’s my fault they lost faith in each other. The problem was that they could only talk when they were touching each other, and when I came along, I didn’t know this, and I got in the way. That was my first regret, I broke things and then I made them worse by trying to fix them.

Then Hisao came along, and Shizune liked him. I could tell. I could always tell, because I knew it wasn’t me and I always knew who it was. But Lilly liked him too, and she won by default, and Shizune was too proud to go for ‘second best’. She was really bitter when everyone else seemed to win something, but not her.

And me? I was just Shizune’s mouth, people used to say. That hurt a lot. But I’m used to being hurt, people always hurt me because I will just laugh and not look hurt, I’m just “oh it’s Misha, she won’t mind.” I used to talk about that to Shizune, but she’d just look at me as if to say, “What can I do about it? You let them do it.” Although sometimes she would stand up for me, and it would look like I was standing up for myself.

I loved her for that, and one day I held her, and I kissed her. At first it was like fire, like strawberries and wine. But she pulled away, and gave me that look, which was tender and sad and cold. [No, you and me, we’re not like that.] That’s when I knew it was true, there really was no chance.

So, yeah, here we are, talking about Lilly.

[She’ll break him.]

[She will, Shicchan? Who will?]

I do this a lot. It makes people clear things up, sometimes for themselves.

[My cousin. Things are not bad between us now, but things will be bad for Hisao.]

[Hicchan will survive, surely? He’s not so useless!]

Shizune sighs. Her heart sounds very heavy.

[He Australia-ed, Misha.]

This one I don’t get at first. She’s signing quickly, and it’s about risk. No, it’s about the game of Risk. Like Hisao is going to lose badly.

[He’ll be crushed first. Crushed in his little room.]

That’s very dark. I’m getting quite worried now! Except that I know Shicchan always has a plan at times like this. So I will listen to her, and see what she wants me to do. And then I will go and do my own thing, because I’m really my own Misha, my name is Shiina deep inside, and I’m not just the Voice of Shizune.

*****

Sad people always get to me. Sad people are broken, they need fixing, but you can’t fix the world, and Misha is not enough. Some days I want to kill myself so I don’t have to keep looking at sad people. And I am the saddest of them all.

Hanako is very sad now. You can tell. She is beautiful even though her face is ruined on one side. If it weren’t, she’d be the prettiest girl in Yamaku. She’s in Lilly’s empty room, and she’s been crying.

“Hana-chan? May I come in?” I say, softly and uncertainly at the door. I don’t know what will make her panic, but Misha must fix things, and you have to be careful to fix them right.

I know she needs a hug. I do too. So I move to her, and I see what she’s looking at. It’s a little heart, some kind of stain on the floor, it says [H/L]. I wonder if it’s H for Hana or H for Hisao. But the L is obvious. Either way, it’s not good for her.

It makes me want to cry too. I gently embrace her. I don’t love her that way, but Hanako has always been a good person, even though very shy. It feels good. Her ribs are shuddering, as if trying to breathe but losing the will to do it. I try to keep her warm. She has a faint scent, slightly sweet, from the cream she uses on the poor dry skin of her healed burns. It’s pleasant. We’re like that for quite a while, because there isn’t anything we can do that’s better.

Then I know what I can do! Shicchan can’t do it all alone. Hisao will need somebody else, someone who’s not a slavedriver.

“Hana-chan?” I begin, “Can we talk a bit?”

By the end of our little chat, I know she’ll help Hisao in her own way. I hope it’s going to be enough! For me, it was never enough. But what I also know is that Hanako Ikezawa is the kind who will be a true friend. People need that, and they never know when.

*****

And soon it will be all over. Shizune and I, we have been drifting apart. She wants Hisao to be the man she wants him to be. I am happy he is also learning from Hanako and Emi. Everyone gets something. Me, I am going away. Mother has found some money for me to go to America, which is the best we can do.

I think I have wanted something I cannot have for too long. Misha fixes everything, but who fixes Misha?

It’s the last night. I help translate Hana-chan’s words that Shicchan speaks. Hisao helps too, he’s got a natural talent. This graduation is a good one. The juniors look impressed! The next council are nice people, although very weird compared to us. Everyone cheers when Hisao helps Hanako to her feet and our valedictorian blushes her way to us on the stage.

I’ve not done very well for my exams, so when this council all goes to Todai, best of the best, Misha will be away in a foreign land, hoping for the chance to get into the unknown world of Gallaudet University. Somewhere there, maybe I will find happiness. My heart won’t be fixed, because Shizune was all it needed, and Shizune is likely gone forever.

I slip away. I wander in the school gardens for a while, alone. I always do, and this time when I get to my room, I already know I am going to cry myself to sleep. I’m too tired to change. I will just fall into bed. Nobody will care if I don’t wake up again.

I fumble the door open, hearing the last celebrations fade in the background. The room is full of unfamiliar feelings, unfamiliar smells. Misha is not Misha, never was. Misha is broken, always has been.

Someone grabs me from behind and a big rough hand with long fingers covers my mouth. All I can think is that it’s going to happen again, and this time, Misha’s body will never be found because that’s what she deserves.

Fierce whispers in my ear. “Shhh. Don’t make a noise.”

How funny, I think, preparing to surrender everything. Making a noise, it doesn’t make a difference. A light comes on, very faint, in my head. Or maybe outside my head.

“Hey, Misha. It’s me, Hisao. Shizune and Hanako are with me. We wanted to say a proper goodbye, and so we decided to spend the night with you. Just don’t scream, please?”

No, I won’t scream. I am already crying. It’s not happiness, not relief from fear. Misha doesn’t deserve anything as strong as that. It’s simply being not sad, and not having regrets. For one short night.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:08 am, edited 30 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—Misha's Arc (Part 1 up 20140413)

Post by Blasphemy » Sat Apr 12, 2014 4:37 pm

Time for me to say thay I really enjoy your After the Dream series. This MIsha opening was another strong one.

I have to say though, I usually enjoy even the sad stories quite a bit but there's so much sadness and melancholy in a lot of these pieces, it almost becomes a tad too much for me. Especially since you're one of those meanies that add huge skips in time and the mortality front hits me on top of everything else. So while I'm really enjoying all this I'm probably also gonna be a bit relieved when I'm done with this heavy stuff.

I'm quite curious about what you'll come up with for Misha, so I'll look forward your next bit.

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Re: After the Dream—Misha's Arc (Part 1 up 20140413)

Post by brythain » Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:56 pm

Blasphemy wrote:Time for me to say thay I really enjoy your After the Dream series. This MIsha opening was another strong one.

I have to say though, I usually enjoy even the sad stories quite a bit but there's so much sadness and melancholy in a lot of these pieces, it almost becomes a tad too much for me. Especially since you're one of those meanies that add huge skips in time and the mortality front hits me on top of everything else. So while I'm really enjoying all this I'm probably also gonna be a bit relieved when I'm done with this heavy stuff.

I'm quite curious about what you'll come up with for Misha, so I'll look forward your next bit.
Thank you very much!

I do find myself overwhelmed at times by the sadness. Yeah, I'm a bit of a softy that way. But it is inevitable (mostly) that people die and other people will feel it. Sometimes it helps to read between the lines. For example, Hanako passes on at the ripe old age of 90, and she, for one, has few regrets. Heck, she's got great-grandchildren and a husband who's stuck with her for a VERY long time… :) Also, Rin, who gets a fair bit of win after all… Sometimes, people manage to move on past the sadness and triumph over it all.

I'll wait for what Misha tells me, and we'll see how it turns out. :)
Last edited by brythain on Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:06 am, edited 1 time 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—Misha's Arc (Part 2 up 20140414)

Post by brythain » Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:00 am

This is the second part of Misha's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic.
It takes place at the end of the second academic year of Hisao's time at Tokyo University.



Misha 2: Returns (T -14)

For me to remember America, it’s cherry blossoms in DC because they were my first surprise. I’m a simple Japanese girl, though you probably don’t believe me. I didn’t know you could have a Sakura festival on the other side of the world. I felt even smaller when I discovered one in Denmark later!

The flowers cheered me up in April when I had been six months there, all alone. Hanako emailed me more than Shizune did, which hurt. But I figured out that Hana-chan was a natural writer, and Shicchan had always been better if it was work. She liked the structure. But it still made me sad.

The funny thing was really Hisao. He was good at making me cheer up. Something had clicked with Hicchan at Todai, and he was a good sport now, not so moody. Of my three friends, he was the only one who didn’t mind Skyping at all. The other two found it messy, although it was most convenient for Shicchan.

But this is not my story. Misha doesn’t have a story, really! I spent four years feeling sad for a home I wanted to go back to, and it didn’t exist, not really. In my mind, always a happy family. In my heart, one that might as well have been dead. And Shizune, still hoping that Hisao would hold her hand. Poor Misha! Always backing the wrong horse, me.

I was good at laughing, though. I could make almost anyone believe I was pink and bubbly, like some kind of alcohol! I was in a bar in New York when a brown girl named Jen (everybody’s named Jen there, even the Asians) told me, “Hey, Shiny, you’re wasted. Go home. Don’t come back here again till you know who you are.”

She followed me home. That was better, because Misha hates crying, and Misha was full of it. Things changed a bit! And in the fourth year, something happened to me, or to people who were with me. It’s one of those things I will put in my story when I have one.

*****

It’s expensive to fly back to Japan for a holiday. There’s a cost. You see your friends who have been seeing each other for years, and they are leaving you behind. It’s not you leaving them behind! It made me desperate. I remember when Emi was sad, she would pout or yell or cry or something.

Misha doesn’t do that. Or Misha tries not to. If Misha pouts or yells or cries, Daddy will hit Mummy, that’s what I always remember. And one day Daddy hit Misha and something burst in Misha’s head.

Author-san, stop that. What’s in Misha’s head stays in Misha’s head. Wahaha!~ Oops, but I’m Misha, and this is in my head, right? And yours. Sadface. Can we take it back to another time? OK!~

*****

Two years ago, then.

It’s my first time home for months, so excited! I worked hard to buy the ticket, and that makes me feel good, like I earned this break. I’m not a golden girl, I’m a small bird from a low family. And now, I’m flying high, that’s really happy-making!

It’s even better when I collect my bags at Narita and I see my friends waiting at Arrivals! Or at least, there are three of them, but Shicchan, she’s not there. My mood changes all at once. I don’t know why it feels like being punched in the head, being punched in the head leaves bruises.

“Wahaha!~ so nice to see you all! Hicchan! MMPH!”

He’s nearest to me, still in a silly sweater-vest thing, so I give him a big hug and I lean up to air-smooch him. Oh, this is Japan, so he’s a bit slow, never mind! It’s nice to see him again. Haha, he blushes still so easily!

“I don’t hug very…”

“Rin-chan! MMPH!”

I think she tries her best. I feel her sleeves drape around my back. She’s wearing a long white cotton shift with thin orange lines across it and a slender dark blue belt, sleeves tied up as usual. I wonder who buys her clothes these days! And how does she do a ponytail?! I haven’t seen her since I visited her exhibition quite a long time ago.

“H-hello, Misha! Welcome home.”

Awww, I think to myself, Hana-chan! She’s gone and dyed some of her hair electric pink on the left side, tied up in a little braid about half a finger thick.

“Hana-chan. You shouldn’t have! Wahaha!~ MMPH!”

This one is genuine, that little braid almost makes up for not seeing Shicchan. But where is she? I suddenly feel anxious.

“Ah, Shizune can’t be here. Needs to finish some project. But never mind, let’s get your stuff back to my apartment first. It’s good to have you back, Misha.”

“It’s great, Hicchan!”

But I don’t feel so great. I feel terrible inside. It’s okay though, I can always hide it, Misha’s good at that.

It’s strangely quiet as we get into a taxi.

“Short hair is a lot more practical. I like your new hair,” says Rin. This is quite a surprise to me. It’s so not-Rin!

“Haha!~” I reply, “I like your hair too, Rin-chan! I’m so amazed you can do a ponytail like that!”

Actually, it’s not really a ponytail. It’s what they call a French braid, and I can’t imagine how she can tie one! I can’t tie one, and I’ve got both hands!

“French braid. Not like a French bread. I don’t do braids. Or breads. Hisao does them for me.”

That’s… very confusing. Hicchan and Hana-chan, maybe. Or Shicchan, even if I don’t want that. But Hicchan and Rin??

Rin swishes her long braid. She grins at me, clearly delighted. She adds, “It’s practical when painting. Like having an extra brush. But not for washing. I had an idea though. I could paint with it and then cut the tip off after use. Like having a disposable brush.”

Hicchan in the taxi’s front seat turns his head to face us. He looks so scandalized! It’s so funny that I forget myself and laugh loudly.

“Wahaha!~”

I think both the taxi-driver and Hanako wince at the same time. The conversation for the rest of the ride is mainly Rin talking nonsense and me adding to it. For some reason, nobody seems interested in helping me catch up with what’s been going on in everybody’s life while I was away. That’s just mean! Their emails and online chats have been hiding something.

“So how has Shicchan been these days? She always seems busy!”

“That’s our girl. I think she wants all the prizes, although I must say she still finds time to have lunch with us a few times each week. Sometimes it’s just Hanako and me, though.”

‘Our’, ‘us’. So are they attached? Aaaaaah, Misha, why so nosy?! Well, because I’m Misha. Misha needs to know! I try to sound innocent.

“So, you two know each other a lot better than when we were at Yamaku? Very happy to hear that!”

Both of them blush. Oh-ho!

“I don’t think they are friends with benefits. I live with Hisao and Hanako hardly ever stays the night.”

Ah, ah, too much information! Trust Rin to say such things. Now everybody looks embarrassed! So, it’s Rin and Hisao?? It’s a relief when we finally exit the cab, somewhere near a library in the Bunkyo district.

It’s a gritty Tokyo night, a bit dry and cold for this time of year. Hisao gets my bags and we trudge up the stairs. I’m feeling a bit tired now, and it’s completely quiet as he turns the key in the lock and nudges the door open.

The lights come on immediately. It must be some kind of automatic…

Argh! Somebody grabs me and covers my eyes. I have to remember that there’s nothing to be frightened of, that these are all my friends, but my blood pressure is shooting up!

I’m forced into a chair. My eyes are uncovered. I blink quickly, maybe a little bit angry because I’m tired but curious because I’m Misha.

There’s a huge parfait in front of me. It’s actually very pretty, some kind of pink and orange and chocolate and vanilla with decorations. Mmmm! And there’s a card on the table. It says, “Welcome Home, Misha!”

That’s nice! And then a fist punches me in the ribs and I yelp. Who the hell?!

“Ow!”

She grins at me, the light gleaming on her blue-tinted hair. [Welcome home, Misha! Shicchan has missed you!] she signs emphatically. [I made that. Eat it.]

I have a lot of questions, but they don’t need answers now. Misha is happy! Except that they keep doing this kind of thing to me!

*****

The questions come back later, when Hanako and Shicchan have left to return to their apartment nearer the university. Hisao has gone to bed, all alone. He gave me a gentle friends-without-benefits hug, as Rin puts it, then disappeared.

I’m sharing Rin’s sleeping space. There’s quite a story there! It makes me sad that I hadn’t spent more time with Rin just after leaving school. I only visited her exhibition once, and when I went up to see her, she’d just told me, “Painting,” and then added another few words before I left.

It’s funny, lying here on a big mattress with Rin. She makes me feel fat because she takes up so little space! On impulse, I turn to look at her.

“Yes. Am awake.”

Her eyes are hugely open. She’s looking up at the ceiling, which is the floor of the loft above us.

“In case you wanted to go somewhere but were afraid of waking me up. I don’t mind. I don’t sleep very much.”

“Thanks, Rin-chan!”

“Don’t be sad, Misha. Because I’m not very good at hugging people, so I can’t help very much when they’re sad.”

Oh! That’s itself very sad. Ow. I am feeling a bit sad, but Misha always feels like that at night, so what’s new? How does she know I’m sad, though? Does Rin even have normal feelings? That’s very unkind, so I give myself a silent scolding.

“Eh, Rin. Did you ever love someone a lot?”

“No. Just a little.”

That’s a funny answer, but it is Rin, so I keep going.

“Did he love you back?”

“She. Don’t know. ’M going to sleep now.”

She?! As Rin turns her back on me, it just leaves me with even more questions than I can answer. Maybe more than I need. Life is so complicated, Misha.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:08 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—Misha's Arc (Part 3 up 20140417)

Post by brythain » Thu Apr 17, 2014 12:15 am

This is the third part of Misha's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic.
It takes place in 2012, just before Shizune begins graduate school in Chicago.



Misha 3: Reservations (T -12)

Summer in New York! How can you study in DC for so long and not really see NYC? But Misha is silly that way, because I went to Buffalo and to see the great Niagara Falls and I thought I’d seen New York… Because the big city part? It’s like any big city, probably a lot like Tokyo! No. Not!

I’m very happy this year because we’re a group. I like having company because sometimes it’s no fun being alone. We have a reason to be together because Hanako’s moved to Columbia to do her Master’s degree, and I’m starting work at the UN, doing English-Japanese interpretation. Somehow, we’ve got temporary summer accommodation at East Campus, the part of Columbia that looks down towards Morningside Park and beyond that to Harlem. But we’ll both be moving to International House when term starts!

Shicchan is now over at Chicago, but we persuaded her to join us, and Akira’s brought her disciple—the now-not-so-small Hideaki—with her as our mascot. It’s like a family trip. Not all family trips are happy, but this one looks good!

Our temporary base at East Campus is quite spacious. There are four small bedrooms one level below a big living room that has a great view and a little kitchen. The carpet and furniture are worn and ugly but it’s okay for university housing. We’re on the 20th floor, high enough that everything below looks small.

“No, absolutely not, Shortie.”

“Wahaha!~ why do you call him that still, he’s so tall now!”

“Because he’s my kid cousin, and kid cousin is going to bunk with his sister and not me.”

“But Akira…”

“Hey, you’re a bit big to be watching me change, and we have only one bathroom among the five of us. Your sister is fine, she won’t kill you, she hasn’t done it yet after all these years!”

I’m signing, but I’m laughing so hard that Shicchan is getting impatient with my shaky hands. Not that she really needs me to sign in this obvious situation! She just grabs hold of Hideaki and pulls him into their room, which has a creaky metal bunk bed installed. It’s a bit dark and narrow, but for a few weeks, it should be fine. Akira gets the room next door, and then on the other side of the bathroom, I get one corner room and Hanako gets the other.

Our first task is provisions, and then, shopping!

*****

When you come out of East Campus housing, you cross a plaza that has interesting sculptures in it. It goes over Amsterdam Avenue like a bridge, and if you look down the road, you can see many interesting things. We’ll explore there later.

But now we walk past what Hanako says is the Philosophy building, and a statue of Hisao thinking far too hard (no, that’s a joke!) and after walking under trees and along the paths, we come out on Broadway. Hana-chan is so much more confident now, after her years in Tokyo. She hardly seems to mind when the breeze blows her hair back and the right side of her face is exposed.

We’re here to buy groceries from the supermarket across the way, thanks to the friendly African-American at the security desk. The people here are friendlier than the people were back in DC, it seems. Or maybe more at home in their own city. I still cannot imagine that we’re in Broadway to buy groceries! I always thought Broadway was more cultural than this. A lot of things to learn!

Akira disappears. “On business,” she says—and she’s dressed for it. So we’re down to four of us. I’m happy to see Hideaki seriously taking notes. We can do all the fun things, but he’s located the subway station entrance near to Columbia’s main gate, and he’s spotted the bookstore and… well, whatever else he’s taking down. Quite a serious guy, Shicchan’s little brother.

We buy our stuff and head back in to East Campus, then down and out along Amsterdam. I think we look like Japanese tourists. There are a lot of them here, so I guess we blend right in. That’s fine! Life in cities is all about blending in. Actually, NYC seems more friendly than DC to me.

[Where are we going?]

[I don’t know, Shicchan! Last night Akira sat down with Hana-chan and your brother and they were planning something. Then Akira wandered off and those two made a list.]

Shicchan snorts at me. She has very evocative snorts, and they cover a very wide range. You’d need to spend a lot of time with her to differentiate between the “fine, but I’m waiting…” snort and the “you can hang around listening to Father but…” snort. And so many others! This one is an “I don’t trust those people, why do you” snort.

I smile at her. It’s nice to see the summer breeze ruffling her hair gently, like invisible fingers searching for something mysterious. After a while, she relaxes and smiles back, and everything feels good. It’s funny to feel how nice it is, paired off like this. In front of us, Hana-chan and Hideaki are squabbling softly like a married couple, which is so amusing that I point it out to Shicchan and start signing the bits of conversation I’m getting from them.

[Are you sure this is the way?]

[Yes, I have all the Google map images on tabs.]

[You would.]

[Aww, don’t be like my sister.]

[Hungarian restaurant? Is that some kind of English pun?]

[No, it’s good. It’ll be something different.]

She gives a “this you find funny, really? but then so do I” snort and grabs my elbow. Aww. It’s nice to be told to shut up in such a pleasant way.

*****

It’s a pastry shop, with high coffee availability. It’s not really a restaurant. The people there are happy to get us food, but they also tell us about where we can get a proper Hungarian dinner elsewhere, but we’ll need reservations. Many years ago, this area had a lot of Hungarians, it seems! I don’t even know where Hungary is, but I think it’s somewhere near Russia.

We get ourselves a plate of baklava, which is very sweet. They also have a cherry strudel which isn’t bad, and we eat a huge thing that has almonds and chocolate on it. It’s a funny mix of foods, as if all the countries in Europe used to just exchange people and food whenever they felt like it. But sitting in a dim and quiet place with Shicchan and watching her younger brother grow up is fun! The coffee’s okay, and you can have as much as you want.

It’s a bit later, after we have a look at the unfinished church across the way, and wonder how come it’s so big and still not completed, that we find the little toyshop. I think if we went there again, I wouldn’t know where it was! It’s small, and the lady at the counter is quietly cheerful and willing to help.

I think we always have fun in a toyshop, even though we’re older now and supposed to be more interested in clothes and shoes and things that feel nice on the body. This one is mysterious, so that’s a bonus! Hideaki, surprisingly, is like a child lost in a treasure cave—he’s wandering around going lookatthis lookatthis while Hanako trails after him making sure he doesn’t get lost.

[Hey, Misha, dolls!]

[Coming, Shicchan!]

I hustle over to where she’s looking at hand-made ragdolls. They’re adorable! Each one is different, hair colour and body shape and clothing options. A couple of them look at me with a ‘please take me home’ kind of look. You’d never know we were adults, the way we ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at them.

Hideaki’s the one who is clever enough to spot them. And maybe not clever enough to keep quiet about it. “Hana-chan,” he shouts in excitement.

The other customers flinch, a couple looking round in annoyance. Yes, crazy Japanese tourists in Manhattan. Haha!

Hanako looks up from the little chess set she’s examining and moves towards Hideaki. Then, she freezes. Over here, Shizune hasn’t noticed anything because we’re still looking at ragdolls and next to them, the cutest stuffed animals ever. Me, I follow Hanako’s eyes in Hideaki’s direction.

Not so haha anymore, I think. Shicchan wonders why I’ve stopped moving. She looks at my hands, then my face. She does the same thing I did, looks from my face towards the corner. And like Hana-chan, she becomes very, very still.

In a dim little space, not easy to spot, there are a couple of dolls dressed up to be married. A girl doll with long bright yellow hair and pale blue eyes. A boy doll with messy brown hair and murky eyes.

It’s funny how some moments can just change the whole day. Ah well, I guess there’ll be other days for shopping!

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:09 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—Misha's Arc (Part 4 up 20140417)

Post by brythain » Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:29 am

This is the fourth part of Misha's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic.
It takes place in 2018, during Shizune's tenure as Acting Principal.



Misha 4: Redactions (T -6)

I’m sorry, author-san. I need to tell it, but I can’t. It hurts a lot. Yes, it was very long ago. Shicchan, she’ll be uncomfortable with it. No, everything she did was right. It was a very bad year. Very bad.

No, I wasn’t there for the wedding. Maybe I should’ve been, then nothing would have happened. Okay, author-san, you win. But tell it as if it’s not me. It’s somebody else, it’s Shiina Mikado, not happy Misha who wants to be everybody’s friend. Please?

*****

There’s a quiet young woman who walks down that street somewhere in Europe. Her hair is tinted pale pink, and it fits like a soft helmet around her head before it bells out slightly, making her seem even younger than she really is. She’s not a classic Japanese beauty, but you can tell she’s a pretty girl with a good figure, dressed fairly conservatively in a cream silk blouse and dark grey formal skirt, one that just barely allows her dimpled knees to peek out, and which somehow transforms her by the illusions of colour and contrast into someone possibly memorable.

She’s been there a few months now, works for a shadowy and very large international organization that we won’t name. She makes words flow from one language into another, and she’s good with many of them. She can even make words with her fingers. She’s in demand because she has the ability to find a best guess for the words of the soul that don’t easily transform into the words of the mouth.

This young lady’s a little sad that she could not be in Japan for the wedding of her friends, but she sent a gift she thought they would like, and after all it’s not everyday that one gets such a good posting at such short notice. But it’s lonely here, she’s been away from home so long that she can’t think like a tourist although she looks like one.

It’s her birthday, and nobody’s around, and her best friends are a world away. Somehow, to call them up would be pathetic, and she doesn’t want that, because her birthday memories from the time she was a child have all been pathetic. And often, painful.

So that’s why she takes the time-honoured route that leads into a public drinking-house, where certain rare varieties of recreational alcohol can make a woman forget why her life is so good and yet so sad. Maybe she’ll meet someone like her, it doesn’t matter whom, as long as there’s talking to be had, and maybe more. It’s her birthday, after all.

*****

The woman remembers drinks. They’re friendly drinks, and friendly jokes, and a friendly hand on a friendly hip. And then everything’s everywhere. She’s lost her handbag, and they’re in the city, and a taxi, and in a quiet place. Then the hands are everywhere, rough and smooth, probing and slapping, hard and gentle but mostly painful. She’s dry, and wet, and there’s too much of it.

She hears a voice say something like ‘ku-er-veh’, and she thinks about Eastern European vocabularies in some part of her mind that is far away from abused children and unwanted attentions, and being hit again and again. When she screams into the balled-up cloth, it is the name of a person who wouldn’t be able to hear her anyway. And when they’re done, and the pain is a faint throb between her sticky thighs, she lies there on her battered face, not sure whether she is who she is, or if she’s lost that too. Perhaps all she wants to do is die, but then some other people come along, and that’s no longer an option.

They find her purse eventually, and her IDs, and she just wants to go home, if she can figure out where home is. It was her birthday, but birthday and home, they aren’t related in her mind anymore, in fact they have a negative correlation. She doesn’t say much because she’s been beaten so hard that she has to spend a week in a white room where kind female nurses and other people want to talk to her.

Then her kind employers put her on a flight back to the only place she can think of as home. For no reason at all, and yet every reason you can think of, she cries and each time something inside her snaps. When everything has all broken and fallen apart, she thinks she will die, and she’s scared she won’t.

*****

The other woman’s working late in the big office. Numbers, facts, and holding down both a day job and a night job. She is relentless, and staying in on a Friday night in November to work is what she is. Nobody else is left in the office; a long time ago, she’s made a habit to indicate, out of courtesy, that she’ll be working beyond normal hours and that the rest of the staff should go home. In this country, they would work on with her, even if nothing productive got done.

There’s a chill in Sendai tonight, and with it the promise of cool, gusty rain. Somewhere distant a shutter rattles and bangs, but of course she doesn’t hear it, although she might feel it. She wonders, as always, about whether the children are all right. They are all her children, and while nobody seems to have much affection for her, in times of crisis, she is the one they all turn to. Shizune Hakamichi, acting principal of Yamaku High, sighs and turns over another leaf of the financial report in front of her.

Tonight, she can afford to forget the thousand nagging pains of the past. For a few months now, since Emi Ibarazaki and Hisao Nakai got married, she’s learnt to leave old bones buried. There are still many unresolved matters in her life, but she has always been one for focus.

Her door swings open, catching her completely by surprise. She frowns and stands up, quickly easing her feet into her formal shoes by feel and habit. Her left hand moves to the emergency button, and then freezes in place.

Shizune moves quickly round the barrier of the principal’s desk to hold the other woman, the one who’s somehow managed to find her way here. The pink hair is lank, unkempt; the once-cheerful features disarranged brutally where yellowing marks show fairly recent violence.

Behind her, a blue-clad Hakamichi guard waits alertly at the door. She dismisses him with a few swift but polite gestures, and he nods and leaves.

She doesn’t know what she should do. She makes her friend sit, cradles the broken face, tentatively touches the cast around the left elbow. There is so much hurt, so much that is terrible and wrong.

[What happened?]

Shiina Mikado sags, as if it has taken everything out of her to make it to this room. She turns her face into Shizune’s chest and makes a guttural sound, like an animal calling softly for a lost mate. And then again, and again, sobs that a muzzled beast might make.

To Shizune’s surprise, she finds a long-lost memory surfacing. A mother, and a child who could not speak. The comforting vibrations of a song that could not be heard, and only felt. And she holds her old friend tight, and tries to hum that song. It feels as if what is most precious in all the world lies weeping in her arms.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:09 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—Misha's Arc (Part 4 up 20140417)

Post by dewelar » Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:43 am

Oh, dear. That was well done, but I never like reading these kinds of scenes. I feel especially sad for Misha because even 10+ years on it seems she still has nobody other than Shizune, and damn it she does not deserve that fate.
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—Misha's Arc (Part 4 up 20140417)

Post by brythain » Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:51 am

dewelar wrote:Oh, dear. That was well done, but I never like reading these kinds of scenes. I feel especially sad for Misha because even 10+ years on it seems she still has nobody other than Shizune, and damn it she does not deserve that fate.
Well, fortunately the scene immediately before the one at Yamaku was redacted. You'd have kicked over a couple of tables if not. :(

Misha's hard to write, and her story is full of holes because she keeps telling me not to write stuff. She's had some happy times (redacted) and some awful times (also redacted). Sigh. But you know what happens towards the end, right? :)
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—Misha's Arc (Part 4 up 20140417)

Post by dewelar » Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:58 am

brythain wrote:Misha's hard to write, and her story is full of holes because she keeps telling me not to write stuff. She's had some happy times (redacted) and some awful times (also redacted). Sigh. But you know what happens towards the end, right? :)
Misha is very hard to write. And yeah, bittersweet is better than just plain old bitter :).
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—Misha's Arc (Part 4 up 20140417)

Post by Hotkey » Thu Apr 17, 2014 7:09 pm

Evocative...

...and horrifying.

Very realistic how you portrayed rape as an act of power, moreso than sex.
brythain wrote:‘ku-er-veh’
By some coincidence I learnt this word not long ago on a Polish YouTube video, and I remembered the meaning from when I read the comments!

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Re: After the Dream—Misha's Arc (Part 4 up 20140417)

Post by brythain » Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:52 pm

Hotkey wrote:Evocative...

...and horrifying.

Very realistic how you portrayed rape as an act of power, moreso than sex.
brythain wrote:‘ku-er-veh’
By some coincidence I learnt this word not long ago on a Polish YouTube video, and I remembered the meaning from when I read the comments!
Oops. It's not a very polite word, no matter how translated… yes, this was a hard piece to write. I had to throw out a lot of stuff that felt gratuitous to me, and other stuff which Misha wasn't happy about.
Last edited by brythain on Sat May 24, 2014 8:56 am, edited 1 time 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—Misha's Arc (Part 5 up 20140421)

Post by brythain » Sun Apr 20, 2014 9:42 pm

This is the fifth part of Misha's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic.
It takes place after this part of Shizune's arc and days before this part of Emi's arc.
Part of it takes place in parallel with this part of Hanako's arc.



Misha 5: Restitutions (T -2)

Every time I look at Hanako, I think to myself that we are opposites. She’s like blueberry cheesecake, and I’m more like strawberry shortcake! No, author-san, just because I make bad jokes doesn’t mean you must repeat them. But Hanako is the one that people couldn’t look at, and I’m the one people couldn’t stand to listen to. Now, she’s beautiful, and I’m still nobody.

But in case you think that’s sad, reader-san, remember: once I was nobody and hated myself for it; now I’m nobody and proud of it. You just have to read the whole story to see how it happened, even when there are sad parts, okay?

*****

It’s almost in the middle of 2022 that I’m back in Japan again. I saw Shizune at the end of 2018, which feels a very long time ago! But it’s ten years since I last saw Hanako. I’m thinking of them because of a holiday we had together once, when we were still young and optimistic about life. I should visit my friends soon. Today, though, I’ll be home with Mother, in our hometown of Niigata, and I’ll have to be Shiina, not Misha.

Mother lives with Aunt Sumi now. Both of them are survivors, strong women who don’t need men. The moment I reach the house, my charge-card is already out for payment. It takes seconds and I give the taxi-man a nice tip, and get a crinkly smile in return!

I don't have much with me, so I’m through the gate and into the front garden. It’s a beautiful day, dry and cool and sunny. And there’s Aunt Sumi, round and pink and happy, opening the door!

“Shiichan!~” she chirrups at me. “You’ve grown! It’s great to see you again! How long it has been!”

She smells of cinnamon and warm bread as I let go of my luggage and give her a big squeeze of a hug. No, I haven’t grown that much, but yes, it’s been a long time! And the promise of sticky cinnamon buns is calling to me… after I see Mother, of course!

As usual, she sees me first. Mother is a lot like me, but slimmer, with a slightly off-centre little nose that perks up at the tip. She’s got eyes that can look very dangerous, like a tiger’s eyes. But she’s a lot prettier than I am!

“Eh! Shiichan!~ Wahaha!~ So nice to see you, daughter! Come here!”

For a brief moment, I laugh inside, thinking about how my friends would flinch if they could hear the three of us at once. We Kobayashi girls can be very loud, especially in the company of those we love!

Mother’s wheelchair makes a faint whirring noise as she neatly parallel-parks herself in front of me. I kneel so that I’m closer to her and hold her tightly. Misha’s been such a bad girl, staying away from home so many years! Suddenly it’s all a bit too much, and I’m crying into her shoulder.

“Shiichan! Stop that! You’ll make me cry too! Then we won’t be in the mood for Aunt Sumi’s pastries, which will be a big waste! You must eat a proper breakfast! And also, I made sushi for lunch later!”

“Mother, I’m sorry it’s been such a long time!” I blubber.

“Ah-ah, no need, no need, it’s good you’ve been studying and everything. I read all your emails you know, again and again! With the pictures and all, haha!~”

She pats me on the shoulder, and everything is okay again. Things are fixed now, things are good.

“You forgive me?”

That’s important to me. It’s been a hard few years.

“Awww, Shiichan, of course, of course! Things are so much better now! I forgive you for telling your friend all those terrible things about us. She helped to fix them. That Hakamichi girl is a real darling!”

I can’t stop myself laughing at the idea of Shizune being called ‘a real darling’! But the background to that… author-san, must we mention it? Okay, just a bit.

In the winter months almost four years ago, I stayed hidden in Shizune’s apartment. I told her many things about why she was my only family, why I couldn’t go home, about my pain, my fear. She was very sad, and also very angry. She became determined to do something about it. But first, she helped me to fix me.

It was a surprise. In the past, she’d have just tried to fix things, with or without me. Things might have gone worse. But the years had made her more careful, and she was really a good friend to have. Without her support, I’d never have gone back to my work.

Now, Mother and Aunt Sumi have filled me in on the details. Father finally confessed to many things, and Mother’s medical records matched his confession. He’s been locked up for a long time. His ‘confessors’ also told him to stay far away from Niigata if he ever feels like coming out. His medical records look a lot like Mother’s now.

That’s enough, author-san. Misha feels ill just thinking about it. Happy thoughts, please!

Oh! The tea-room has been done up so nicely. There’s a European-style tea service set out, with what looks like Meissen porcelain and fancy silverware. Aunt Sumi’s pastries and the cinnamon buns have been set out in three tiers, each tier with five confections on it. I’m going to get so fat…

I’m caught with a second red-bean pastry halfway to my mouth when Mother says, “Shiichan! I’m not going to ask you about getting married and having babies, please understand… but is there anybody we might want to know about?”

Mother. That’s a terrible question to ask. Misha’s feeling very sad now, because there’s nobody except Shizune, and Shizune is not always near. But I smile at Mother anyway.

“Haha!~ Mother, no… I’m still single, there’s nobody I’m attached to at the moment!”

She’s gazing at me in a strange way though, and Aunt Sumi is giving me that deep look which she used to give me when I was lying to her about Father.

“Shiichan… I just don’t want you to be sad. You might get lonely one day and you’ll need someone just to be there. Better it’s someone who’ll treat you right!”

I finish my pastry, but I don’t think my heart’s really in it any more. I want to have someone to go home to, but so far, all I have is places to hide.

*****

Things are better in the next few days. Misha is happy to wander around and look at the new willows they’ve planted in the city, and the old places they’ve restored, and hang out on the waterfront. Niigata in May is pleasant, not the boiling pot of soup it is in August!

But there are things to think about. I’m not a young girl anymore. I’m all grown up and one day I’ll be old and grey. Mother has Aunt Sumi, but who has Misha got? I can always return to Niigata and that’ll be home, but I’ve no friends here now.

They say that if you think hard enough about someone, they’ll get in touch with you. Maybe they’re right! One morning, my tabphone sings its happy little song.

Yes! Blue and silver avatar, calling from Sendai! I swipe eagerly at the icon. It’s a voiced text message, and only one person I know likes to use those. I read the transcript before I’m done listening to the digital voice.

[Hi last night hectic. Good news: Hisao Emi #2 child boy born 3.5 kg named Akira. Bad news: Hisao collapsed needs surgery. Come Sendai? XXO]

It’s 5 May. I do a quick calculation. It’s very childish, but 4 May was ‘good luck in the morning, bad luck after noon’. 5 May is ‘good luck all day except at noon’. What does it mean? I don’t know, but Shizune sounds like she wants me there! I should go. I send: [Gotta tell Mother. Let you know, see you soon! MMPH!]

As I make my way home to tell Mother and Aunt Sumi personally, my heart feels heavier though. Who is family? Who isn’t? I think many of us at Yamaku felt that way—our families left us there, and we became each other’s family! It’s so hard to make decisions about family, for each of us.

I can’t help thinking of Lilly and Hisao. Hisao was prepared to start a new family with her, and she was prepared to give him up for her old family. It made me so sad! When Shicchan told me that Lilly hoped Hisao would pursue her, it made no sense to me at all. People should fix things, not make other people fix them!

And now, Hisao’s collapsed. I think very few people know why that should make me upset. He’s really a nice guy! Although I know I’m irritating to some people, including him, he always tried to behave as if I wasn’t. He keeps a lot inside, you can tell. And while he can be grumpy and selfish, he does try to help his friends. I like that in a person.

“Mother? Aunt Sumi?” I begin. But I’m no good at hiding bad news. It must be all over my face by now.

“What is it, Shiichan?” asks Aunt Sumi.

“Something’s happened to one of my friends. I need to go back to Sendai for a few days.”

Actually, I don’t know how long this will be. I hope things work out.

“Shiichan,” says Mother firmly, “You know it’s right to look after your friends. Mother and Aunt Sumi will be here for you when you need us. And we will always be glad to have you around. Next time, you can bring Shizune over; we’d be happy to have her visit too, especially since she’s done so much for us.”

That’s as close to a command as Mother ever gets. Such a wonderful thing to say!

“Wahaha!~ Mother, you’re the best!”

“I know!~” she laughs impishly. Sometimes, she reminds me of me.

*****

I’m back in Sendai two days later. Shizune meets me at the airport, and after a long, warm and breathless hug, she gently detaches herself and looks at me. She pushes her glasses up her nose, then signs at me. Nowadays, with her electronics, she doesn’t need to do that, but I guess it’s more natural between us.

[I need your advice. About the right thing to do. And also, to meet some people.]

[Shicchan! I’m always at your disposal! But since when do you need advice about the right thing to do?]

Of course, I’m joking. Sometimes Shizune does know her limits, and while it’s difficult for her to tell how far she can push people, she knows I’m better at that.

[At times like this, quite often, Misha dear.]

She grasps my arm and leads me towards the exit. To my surprise, we’re moving towards a blue and silver Hakamichi Industries corporate vehicle! It’s something Shicchan is shy about, her connection to one of the Families.

But that’s not the only surprise for today. We’re headed for Yamaku, and the school’s boardroom. Misha’s a puzzled girl, by now. I’m just glad that I wore something decent and my usual electric pink has worn off somewhat while I was in Niigata.

This is going to be a strange meeting, I say to myself, when we walk through the door and Shicchan suddenly transforms into Madam Principal of Yamaku Academy. Especially since the other people here are not what I expect.

[Misha, you know Mutou-sensei, who’s now acting Head of Sciences here. Also, Kaneshiro-san, who’s now our school doctor. I’m not sure if you remember Katayama-san, who was one year below us in school? She’s an expert in a new technology that we’re going to discuss.]

I’m clearly very confused, so I just nod at everyone. Old Mutou, still in a disreputable leather duster, has a sympathetic smile on his face as he nods back. Nurse, who’s now Doctor, has his trademark foxy grin in place, and the lab coat he must have been born in. But it’s the third person who seizes my attention.

I remember Katayama; who wouldn’t? She’s albino, and she’s tall and slim, almost gaunt. She wears her hair in a single silver braid held together by some neat little clasps of coloured metal. She bows formally towards me, her red irises very disconcerting. She’s bigger now, has some muscle in that body. I can’t help but stare a little.

[This is the committee for giving Hisao Nakai more years to live.]

And that, I think faintly to myself, is the biggest surprise today.

*****

It’s been two years since I was asked to think about Hisao’s life. Why me? I’m a nobody! But Shicchan said it was because I was the most normal of them all. I don’t think so! I think it’s because somebody’s got to be her conscience, and it’s normally been me. Today, though, is not a good day for conscience. It’s not a good day at all! Because we’ve just had some really bad news.

Emi doesn’t know why Hisao’s in that room and not a normal hospital room. I’m with her in the corridor outside.

“Why the hell is Madam-fucking-Principal allowed in there and I’m not?”

I can’t tell her why, and Emi is furious. She gets hysterical when Rika Katayama emerges, bows formally, dabs a tear from her eye and walks away without a word.

“And what the fuck, is everyone allowed in there except me?? I’m his wife! I’m not his girlfriend or friend with benefits or… ”

She’s about to unleash some of the more colourful phrases that author-san has forgotten, when Shizune opens the door, sees us and comes out.

Emi growls like a wolf. In that little piece of time before she does anything else, I’m suddenly aware that this isn’t tiny Emi from fifteen years ago! It’s larger, stronger Emi who trains the national team and won four medals in Rio 2016. And I’m in her way, poor silly Misha.

“It’s your damn fault! You’ve killed him, you slave-driving bitch!” she yells at Shicchan. I see Shicchan wince. She might not be able to hear Emi if her implants are off, but she can see and feel it.

She launches herself at my dearest friend, and I don’t think of getting out of the way. She brushes me aside as if I don’t weigh anything. That would be nice on any other day, not weighing anything, I think! And then I’m bouncing off a wall and landing on the floor. Ow, that’s very hard, is all I can think now.

Emi stops in her tracks. Some non-existent part of me that doesn’t hurt is glad.

“Misha! Did I hurt you?”

She sounds mortified. I hear the faint whine of Emi’s latest legs as she bends over me. I want to say, “Yes, Emi, but I’m used to being hurt by my friends,” but that’s not nice and I don’t want to hurt anybody back.

“I’ll be fine, Emi. Just an accident, that’s all!”

Shicchan is kneeling down next to Emi, looking very worried.

[Are you OK?]

[Am good. Will talk to Emi. She thinks you’ve killed him. You should go get Hanako first.]

Even that seems to take a lot of strength out of me. I’ve got to stay awake! I’ve got to tell Emi how Shizune’s little group has been keeping her husband alive all along. But now we’ve run out of options, all of us. And Misha is very sad.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:10 am, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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AtD—Misha's Arc (Part 6 up 20140423)

Post by brythain » Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:39 pm

This is the sixth part of Misha's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic.
It's not easy to follow Misha's very non-linear musings; this piece starts in 2028 and then goes elsewhen.
The main event in this part takes place just before this part of Lilly's arc.
However, more about Shizune's family can be found in her own arc, Hanako's arc, and here.



Misha 6: Revenants (T +4)

Dear reader, you might find it funny that when I’m not thinking about Shizune, I’m thinking about Hanako! The thing is that Shicchan and Hana-chan, their stories became one, and in a way, I was there too. They helped to make me feel like someone again, and I’ll always be grateful.

But there were others who also helped with that. This part of the story is where author-san is going to try and explain some things that are uncomfortable to me, but both good and bad. So if the story doesn’t make sense here, it’s my fault and not his. Poor author-san! Mwah! Haha!~ I hope that makes up for it.

*****

It really all began when I became friends with Shicchan a long time ago at Yamaku. We were young girls, and I admired her a lot, and I guess I fell in love with her. She was pretty, and sharp, and came from a good family, and was everything that Shiina Mikado was not. It’s now more than 20 years ago, but it still hurts to remember how it felt when Shicchan rejected me.

To me, men are force and danger. I learnt that from Father. They’re sometimes threat, and sometimes thrill. They’re a bit like wild animals, you can pet them and they can bite! But I’ve always thought of women as easier to work with, like Mother. I liked Shicchan because she was like the good parts of both of them.

She always had a plan and worked towards it. When I was just getting to know her, I didn’t know how to tell her why I admired her. Remember, I was young then! I had no words to say what I felt, what I thought. And I didn’t know enough to put all that into signs that Shicchan could understand. So, for one whole year, I followed her around and got to know her, and wondered what to say about it.

In that year, Shizune Hakamichi went from being a very angry young girl to being much nicer to everybody. I think part of it was because of Mutou-san! He was the only teacher who actually bothered to spend time signing with her, even though there were many teachers who could. The rest just didn’t seem to bother.

And of course, there was Lilly, who seemed to know Shicchan quite well, and was always communicating with her by touching and holding her hands. You might not believe it, but I was jealous of them sometimes! I used to watch their hands a lot.

I only found out they were cousins when I was invited to spend summer at Shicchan’s home in Saitama.

[Misha. Summer vacation is almost here. Would you be free to spend some time at my home? It’s a small place in Saitama.]

[That’s great, Shicchan! It sounds like fun!~]

It was one of the happiest moments of my life. And then…

[Of course, Lilly will be there too, and we can all go shopping together!]

Lilly was by then my friend too, but somehow I felt less happy than before. Fortunately, Shicchan saw my expression as confusion rather than unhappiness.

[Her father and mine are… were close friends. We’re related. Cousins. It’s complicated.]

Now I was more confused, and also embarrassed. But I didn’t feel so sad.

Dear reader, you’re probably also going to get very confused. The parts of the story seem so out of place! But that’s because I told author-san to put them all here so that they can help to explain why today is such a bittersweet day for me.

*****

I’d like to think that Shizune’s dad and I were instantly good friends. But sadly, that’s not quite true. Rather, when he first saw me, he frowned deeply and said very loudly, “Shizune! Who is this person?! Why did you bring her here?!”

I scrambled to sign this, but Shicchan seemed to get what he was saying.

[Tell my father you’re my very good friend and you have ears under all that hair.]

Whaa-at? I looked at her oddly, but I tried my best. I was loud and clear.

“Hello, Hakamichi-sama, I’m Shizune’s good friend Misha and… and thanks for being so clear in your speech!”

“Wonderful! Someone with courtesy! But you need to do something with your hair, it’s long and brown and undistinguished! Very nice to know Shizune has polite friends! Although you can lower your voice, I’m not deaf!”

He nodded at me, the bow of an older man to a younger associate. It was an honour, but he was a very unsettling person. I translated his words for Shicchan. To my surprise, she frowned almost as deeply as her father had, and made some very emphatic signs.

[Tell him I said your hair is very nice and womanly.]

“Mm. Hakamichi-sama, Shizune says she thinks my hair is nice and womanly.”

“Is it now! Well, it’s not your fault my daughter likes to pick fights. Why don’t you come in and make yourself at home? Not too much at home, but more like a guest! And look who else is here! Hideaki! Aki-chan and Swordsman are here, go help them carry their stuff!”

Hideaki was Shicchan’s brother, I remembered her saying. But who were ‘Aki-chan’ and ‘Swordsman’?

A small girl came running. She looked a lot like Shicchan, and she—no, if this was Hideaki, he—was dressed a lot like Shicchan, except that he was wearing colourful shorts! He ran past us and out through the door behind me. I turned to look.

Lilly was getting out of a small black car. On the driver’s side, there was a slim young man in a black pinstriped suit waiting. When Shicchan’s father nudged his way past me and out into the doorway, I heard a clear tenor voice say, “Respected uncle! Blessings to you, sorry I can’t stay, have to go back to work! Thanks for looking after my younger sister! Hiya, Shortie! Missed me, didya? Give my regards to your sis.”

Shicchan had also nosed past me and was looking out. She waved at the young man, who grinned back and blew a kiss in her direction. Hideaki blew one back and received a cheerful laugh. Now, I was completely confused! Poor Misha!

It would take some time and a lot of embarrassment before I sorted out Shicchan’s complicated family relationships. It took Hideaki’s great idea of drawing a family chart before I could figure it out! And then, I just felt sorry for a lot of people. I guess having a family can be a difficult thing too.

*****

You know where we are now, as I’m remembering all this? I’m in Saitama, in 2028, watching as Shicchan’s father is laid to rest. He is only 66 years old. All along, he’d had a tumour in his brain. It had started in his lungs, but he was fit and healthy and nothing appeared to be wrong. By the time they found out why he was doing such strange things and forgetting people’s names, he had too little time left except to say goodbye.

I’m here with the few people he had left to care for him: Shicchan and Hideaki, and Hana-chan. Hana-chan’s story is her own business. But I was there when Shicchan’s father, in his last moments, reached blindly up to touch her face. And he rasped at her, “You always reminded me of Hideaki’s mother. You’re beautiful. Look after him, and my ghost will haunt any fool who says you’re not.”

I was there at his end, and now here at his burial, because I loved him. Because what I remember about Jigoro Hakamichi is that he was the first father who ever really acted like one towards me. Yes, he was often very rude to people! Yes, he was terrifying or ridiculous, sometimes both, at times! But he was always kind to me, and it’s shame that I feel when I remember what happened nearly a decade ago, halfway between now and the time we first met.

It was a bad night, a cruel night. I’d been raped in Europe, and my people had flown me back to Tokyo. The only place I could think of going to was Shizune’s home in Saitama. The lights went on as I was sobbing at the gate.

“What the hell is that noise?!” came a familiar voice. I’m sorry to say I gasped and hid. I was afraid. Where was Shicchan?

There was the crunching of heavy footsteps. I held my breath. The gate opened.

“Damn kids! I’ll kill them all!”

He was huge. And there was a katana in his hand. I couldn’t stand it any more. I burst into tears. I couldn’t move. I remember saying something like, “Don’t hit me, don’t hit me…” over and over again.

I remember him looking down, suddenly quiet. I remember thinking, this is it, it ends here, goodbye Misha.

Then he stooped over me. I was beyond caring.

“Oh. Misha.”

His voice sounded very soft. Maybe my other eardrum had been broken too. I wasn’t thinking straight.

“Oh, Mi-chan. Who’s done this to you? Oh gods, who?”

I was lifted like a sack of rice.

“Father, what’s going on?” — another familiar voice.

They were all men, all men. No. I couldn’t let this happen. I tried to scream, but nothing happened. I’d no strength left. Everything went black.

When I awoke, I felt fear. It was the big shape of Hideaki next to me that I recognized first: Shicchan’s not-so-little little brother. It was dark outside. We were in a moving vehicle.

“Hide-kun?”

“Misha? Hush. You’ll be with Shizune soon.”

Where was she? I needed her. I was all broken but Shicchan fixed people. She could fix me.

“Hush.”

There was a large, firm, warm hand holding mine. It felt like a safe hand.

Later, Shicchan told me how her father hailed the night guards and shouted that the principal’s father wanted a word with the principal. It must have been a shock to them to finally meet their scary boss’s even scarier ancestor!

Over the next few weeks, whenever Shicchan couldn’t be with me, her father was there. He’d make me eat when I had no appetite, he’d leave me alone when all I needed was peace and quiet. Somehow, he knew when it was, and when it wasn’t, the time for crude banter and bad jokes.

I owe a lot to Shicchan’s father. He came to treat me like his own daughter, and I will forever be grateful for that. And now here we are, me and Shicchan, Hideaki and Hana-chan. We put some earth on his grave, and we say quiet prayers for the memory of this infuriating man who somehow brought us together as a family.

And there’s also one more set of memories, if I can persuade author-san to help me with them…

*****

It’s the seventh day of August in 2024, four years ago. It’s early in the morning, and I’ve just had a big fight with Shicchan, because she wants to be alone before the funeral that will be held tomorrow afternoon, and I’ve told her that if she wants to talk, I’ll be there for her.

[What makes you think I want that?]

Oh no, I say to myself. She’s in a fighting mood. She’s angry because she still thinks she killed Hisao with overwork.

[You didn’t kill him. He said so.]

[He was always too kind. Everybody else thinks I did.]

I’ve been spending time with Emi, and Emi used to think that, but I don’t think she does anymore. Hicchan used a lot of energy to tell everyone that it was not Shicchan’s fault at all.

[Things will be okay, Shicchan!]

I try to laugh for her, but it seems to infuriate her. She begins to sign very quickly, as if some fire is burning within her.

[No. They’ll never be okay. Everybody had something to give him. I had nothing. I took everything away from him. When he needed to be happy, you laughed for him. I saw him cheer up. When he wanted words, Hanako read to him. Even when he couldn’t hear anything anymore. Everybody did something. But I couldn’t even hold his hand, because his hands belonged to Emi. He became my friend, and I couldn’t do anything to help him back!]

[But you gave him more time than he would have, Shicchan! We gave him two more years, and you were the one who made it happen!]

[I don’t know, Misha. It was that or a heart transplant, and the heart transplant might have been better. Maybe we all killed him.]

I gasp. It’s such an awful thought!

[I’m going out. Don’t wait up.]

As the door slams like a fist in my gut, I already know where she’s going. I have to leave her alone. I know that. But I’m alone too, and it hurts! I’m angry, and confused (yes, Misha is always confused, right? I’m sorry if I annoy you!), and I just want to talk to someone because I like talking. I’m crying now, and I don’t know how long it’s like that, me in her empty apartment, coming apart.

Then her flatphone begins to flash and hum. Incoming call. I don’t care. Why should I care?! It’s an irritating flash and hum. And she can take her own damn calls.

The screen switches to automatic input. Text. I look at it anyway.

[Shizune. Hideaki told me. Sorry to hear. Love. Father.]

On impulse, I hit the callback button. No video.

[Shizune! Why didn’t you pick up the phone?] displays immediately on the screen.

“Hakamichi-san? It’s Misha. Shicchan went out by herself. How are you?”

“Misha? She left you alone?”

Very shakily, I answer, “Yes.”

“Ah, damn woman. I worry about her! Wait there. I’m coming over.”

The phone goes dead.

That’s why I am staying over in Saitama on the morning of the eighth, with Shicchan’s family. The previous day, I’d sent a message to her phone to tell her where I was. Her reply was: [Am very sorry. See you tomorrow at funeral?]

Hideaki swore and told me not to answer. But I told her I’d be there. Hideaki will give me a lift, since he too is going.

And there I am, on the afternoon of the eighth, standing silently in the shadow of a tall tree. Really, I’ve not got a very large share in Hisao Nakai. I’ll talk to him after everyone else has gone, because he was my friend, but also because I don’t much want to talk to anyone else, not even Shicchan. That’s why I tell Hideaki not to wait for me, and that’s why I’m still there after he takes Hana-chan away.

I kneel by the grave. Friends are so rare, to me. Hisao, I didn’t really know you as well as the rest did. But we could talk. In your last days, you would sign because you couldn’t talk with the tube in your mouth. And you’d sign things like [Misha, be happy!] and [Misha, one more laugh for me?] and I understood it was your way of telling me we were friends to the end.

That’s very precious, you know. So thank you for all that. I wish we’d had more time. Today’s the last day of Tanabata festival, and I’ll remember to come back to say hello whenever I can. That’s Misha’s wish! I’ll be happy for the good times, and… wahaha!~ well, that’s one more laugh for you.

When I leave the cemetery, it’s getting quite late, and I don’t know where I should go. Shicchan’s place, I suppose.

The battered blue SUV takes me by surprise. I didn’t expect it to be here! The window rolls down, and the gruff, rude voice of Jigoro Hakamichi disturbs the peace of the dead.

“Misha! It’s late! Come, let me give you a ride to Shizune’s apartment. I’ve told her we’ll go out for dinner together because there’s nobody else with her or with me.”

*****

See, my reader? Misha doesn’t really have a story of her own. But she has a lot of other people’s stories with her, and this one is for that fierce old man with whom she had so many arguments and crazy discussions—the man who was Shicchan’s father first, and then mine.

Author-san has probably made it sound sadder than it should be, he’s good at doing that. But I have to say, the 2020s were good years for me. I will never forget the last words Hisao spoke in his own voice to me: “Misha, you’re someone special. Promise me you’ll always remember that.”

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:11 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—Misha's Arc (Part 6 up 20140423)

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:15 pm

For someone who claims not to have her own story, I find Misha's story to be the most interesting of the lot. Yes, it's bittersweet. Then again, so is chocolate -- so bittersweet is not all bad.
I like all the girls in KS, but empathize with Hanako the most.
"Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience." - Mark Twain
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Re: After the Dream—Misha's Arc (Part 6 up 20140423)

Post by brythain » Wed Apr 23, 2014 1:06 am

Oscar Wildecat wrote:For someone who claims not to have her own story, I find Misha's story to be the most interesting of the lot. Yes, it's bittersweet. Then again, so is chocolate -- so bittersweet is not all bad.
I've always wondered what makes a story interesting. In Misha's case, what I've done, for good or ill, is to let her remain in her chosen role—she doesn't think of herself as a main character, but as supporting cast. She does regret that a bit, but it's the path she's chosen all along. And yet, that does allow her greater complexity; whereas those who speak are locked into their role, those who translate have some flexibility of interpretation… :)
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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