After the Dream—Natsume's Arc (Complete)

WORDS WORDS WORDS
User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Re: After the Dream—Natsume's Arc (Part 5b up 20140622)

Post by brythain » Sun Jun 22, 2014 12:31 pm

Rhodri wrote:As much as I love the earlier parts of the mosaic, ever since 'the family' has started to become more prominent in Rika's arc, I've been finding it harder to read. I was kinda all right with it when it felt more of a "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse" family, but this just took the cake along with the tea and biscuits.
Well, I'm sure you (and dewelar) are quite right to dislike this part of the mosaic. The good news is that you're not the only ones. :)
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)

User avatar
Oscar Wildecat
Posts: 477
Joined: Sun Jul 28, 2013 7:28 pm
Location: A short drive west of Kingdom Come.

Re: After the Dream—Natsume's Arc (Part 5b up 20140622)

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Sun Jun 22, 2014 12:50 pm

brythain wrote:Well, I'm sure you (and dewelar) are quite right to dislike this part of the mosaic. The good news is that you're not the only ones. :)
On the other hand, I've been enjoying it. Of course, it's probably because I've been corrupted by mom's taste in Korean political dramas... :?
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
“Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.” - Winston Churchill
Checkout SordidEuphemism's Logo Thread.

User avatar
dewelar
Posts: 1228
Joined: Sun Jul 14, 2013 6:09 pm
Location: The Fifth Thing

Re: AtD—Natsume's Arc (Part 5b up 20140622)

Post by dewelar » Sun Jun 22, 2014 12:54 pm

brythain wrote:
dewelar wrote:I don't see that the lack of choices in and of itself requires much suspension at all, and less than certain other things in the VN. It requires much less than thinking that the lives of this particular handful of people would continue to revolve around each other for the rest of their natural lives, to the near-exclusion of anyone they hadn't met before entering Yamaku, which I was willing to accept. To further accept that this was all a result (even if unintentional) of manipulation by the Families feels...well...stomach-turningly chilling.
I don't think it's manipulation per se. If, for example, you had a school run by a particular social group (like the Quakers or Methodists or something), it would be quite likely that a lot of them would move in the same social circles and have relatives and relationships in common. This would be even more likely if the entry requirements for students were limited to those meeting certain criteria, some of which were genetically-linked.
*nods* Still...remember when I said the first thing this brought to mind was the Wold-Newton Universe? With this arc, the first thing this whole mosaic now makes me think of is a large-scale version of The Truman Show. You may decide for yourself if that's an improvement :) .
brythain wrote:
Rhodri wrote:As much as I love the earlier parts of the mosaic, ever since 'the family' has started to become more prominent in Rika's arc, I've been finding it harder to read. I was kinda all right with it when it felt more of a "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse" family, but this just took the cake along with the tea and biscuits.
Well, I'm sure you (and dewelar) are quite right to dislike this part of the mosaic. The good news is that you're not the only ones. :)
I'm not even sure "dislike" is the right word here. "Put off by" is more the correct term. When you start off a story in the way you did, with the ties among the characters feeling fairly natural, but then add the elements you have that have left it feeling less and less so, there comes a point that some readers (like me) will feel like what we enjoyed about the story was never actually what the story was about. This story has gone, in my mind, from being about the KS characters to being about The Families, and it taints everything that came before.

So...maybe still a good story, just no longer the story I thought I was reading. Maybe if you'd been a bit more up-front about this at the beginning, it wouldn't feel so bait-and-switchy, but maybe then I don't even read it at all, and in the end I am glad I have read it up until now. I know I'll read the rest of it, however much there is, but I think it might wind up in the "probably won't re-read this" bin.
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Re: AtD—Natsume's Arc (Part 5b up 20140622)

Post by brythain » Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:47 pm

dewelar wrote:When you start off a story in the way you did, with the ties among the characters feeling fairly natural, but then add the elements you have that have left it feeling less and less so, there comes a point that some readers (like me) will feel like what we enjoyed about the story was never actually what the story was about. This story has gone, in my mind, from being about the KS characters to being about The Families, and it taints everything that came before.

So...maybe still a good story, just no longer the story I thought I was reading. Maybe if you'd been a bit more up-front about this at the beginning, it wouldn't feel so bait-and-switchy, but maybe then I don't even read it at all, and in the end I am glad I have read it up until now. I know I'll read the rest of it, however much there is, but I think it might wind up in the "probably won't re-read this" bin.
*grin* I don't think I could have been up-front about this at the beginning, but I respect that sentiment. I can only hope that the resolution is tolerable, and perhaps even enjoyable. It might be a bit too much to ask, and in that case, I will be very sorry to have failed you and my other readers.
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)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

AtD—Natsume's Arc (Part 6 up 20140622)

Post by brythain » Sun Jun 22, 2014 2:25 pm

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


Natsume 6: Statistics (T +16)

Here is a family portrait. Dad is tall and thin, old and balding, a bespectacled caricature of the Japanese academic, in formal dress. His hands are folded, and he sits so still, so upright and stiff in his ceremonial chair that it seems as if the world will fall if he moves. Mother is not tall, but she has presence, her hair as grey as iron and as stern. She stands behind him in her magnolia-silk gown, a little to his left, resting her capable hands on his backrest.

Next to her, also standing suited behind Dad, is my brother Matsuo—in another age, the heir apparent; in this age, just his younger child and one not inclined to take on family responsibilities. Or Family, for that matter. On his right, flanking my father, the pretty girl he married, the woman that everyone calls ‘young Mrs Ooe’ although she is in her mid-forties, Naomi who is the friend of my youth. She’s in rich pink satin, her fair complexion and blonde hair highlighted by a string of small black pearls.

I am opposite her, on the flank next to Mother, stern and trying hard to smile, untamed hair cascading around my shoulders—I, Natsume, on a good day, in my best strawberries-and-peaches-coloured cotton. I am keeping an eye on the kid: sitting on the floor is the baby of the family, Kinnosuke, who is my brother’s son and looks a lot like me. He is the only one completely not looking at the camera; he’s casting a rebellious glance up at me, slightly fretful that he’s in a formal white shirt with a little bow tie.

I’ve spent a lot of time describing this portrait. There is a reason for it, something I can’t quite talk about yet, and which you’ll therefore have to figure out.

In 2034, the average life expectancy of the Japanese female is 95, and that of her male counterpart is 92. For those born fifty years before that, it is of course lower. For those with certain medical conditions that affect the odds, the actuaries will quote you various figures, all worse than you’d expect.

Nobody knows how old Dad is, except Dad, and he’s not telling. But I am reasonably sure he was at least thirty or thirty-five when he married a lonely widow who worked hard to support her tiny partly-crippled baby daughter. In this picture, he must be moving rapidly towards his statistical end. Mother was much younger, and she’s not telling either, but I have my suspicions.

I’m 44, not yet 45, in that picture, and little Kinnosuke is six and wanting to be seven. There are 38 years between us, and mostly happy thoughts. My brother Mat has turned 41 and his wife, my very dear Naomi, is already 45.

I look at that picture, and think about how one might calculate the remaining years for each person there, all smiling or at least reasonably content. Naomi is resigned to maybe hitting 70, max. A lifetime of medical drugs, she says, is never good news. That’s probably true for me too.

*****

“General-san?” I smile at my old school friend, sitting down as usual at the beat-up old table he ushers me towards. A galaxy of coffee-stain rings smiles back at me as I look for a place to put my hands.

“Ha, ha. Nat, you’re digging? Fishing? But I will tell you again, we are on the same side.” He unwinds his colourful scarf and hangs it up where he’s already deposited his overcoat. “Is this the world you wanted, yet?”

“You know the answer to that,” I say bitterly. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t been warned, hadn’t known, hadn’t dug enough holes and exhumed enough secrets.

“I’m sorry. My condolences, and also those of my family. With a small ‘f’.” He looks genuinely sad, and my lifetime training tells me that it goes deep. “Are you retiring, then?”

“No, no. The Shimbun is still a force, and we’re still independent.” As long as the spirit of we-are-not-Tokyo lives on, which will be forever, I think.

“Glad to hear that. What did your father have to say?”

He said what I did not think he would say, Kenji. I will not repeat it because I cannot. When the only consolation is that Kinnosuke will get a scholarship to bloody Yamaku, that is the end of the line. “He’s not my father.”

Kenji reads my expression well. He too has had a lifetime of reading—faces, places, spaces, traces. A smart man, our Kenji, and a patriot. “Sometimes, one’s family forgets to discard the big ‘F’, I think.”

He sighs, carefully deposits his spare and rather undistinguished frame into a creaky old chair that looks as if it’s from the same vintage as the table. “Of course you want to know why you are here, in a secure facility that sits in enemy territory.”

“Yes,” I reply, too tired for any playful prevarications. Sometimes, my friend forgets when life stops being a game. “Why?”

“It’s all in our friend Shizune’s doctoral thesis. Do you remember what it was about?”

“Economic research. I got Miki Miura and her together to talk about it. That was twenty-five years ago, Kenji.”

“Yes. Remember that over the years I’ve been talking about cherry blossoms and how we should protect them?”

“Whatever.” Not much matters to me these days.

“Natsume. What happened to Naomi was WRONG. When the servants become masters, that is WRONG. I am a servant, and even I believe that. You don’t want this to keep happening. We’re a small country, getting smaller, and the cherry blossoms are not meant to be used as goishi!”

I push my seat back, alarmed. Is he off his meds? I feel in my purse for some tissue, but Kenji is already offering me some. He still sputters when excited, and that can be messy.

“Sorry, my dear and honoured guest.”

He said her name. What is he talking about?

“What do you mean, Kenji?”

“Shizune was right. Certain kinds of organisations have no place in our world, even if they occasionally seek to do good. In the end, everything falls apart and the big vultures will sit like dying gods over all the crap of the world.”

“Ha. Your masters fear the Families?”

He grins fiercely, like the maniac I used to know. “No. I, we… we protect the cherry blossoms from overenthusiastic gardeners.”

“But you take no action, you goddamned grey men in white towers!” I am angry now, heavy with the memories of my ash-blonde love, gone to her grave a long time before any statistical probability would deem it likely.

“We need the media. And we need allies. Generals can’t win this war. If you agree, there’s another mysterious committee for you. This time, it is a conspiracy, not one of my paranoid delusions from long ago. I know, because it’s my conspiracy. What do you know about the Nakai Foundation?”

*****

All the pictures in my tabphone—after December 2040, none. I let myself into the empty apartment in which I do not live. The photographs in their dusty frames, the things that were hers, and are still hers, ownerless. Ronin clothes, ronin kitchen utensils—things that used to serve her and will not again.

I never wrote much about her, because I couldn’t, because I didn’t want to share her. Now there’s so little left for anyone to remember. I come here sometimes to work, to do trifling little editorial things, to write little notes to someone who will now never read them.

I remember the fights we had, the tender moments we shared, her endless wardrobe and my limited one, the shoes that got lost and the recipes that failed. My rebel eyes insist on shedding tears, and my heart has not the strength to stop them.

But I have a purpose now. Here is a packet of documents from MM, still a faithful friend although the news from her end is terrible. Here is an unmarked thumbdrive from Shizune, of all people. And a terse, very thin file from her brother. A nebulous plan, but one long in the making, and Kenji of all people at the centre of it. How did we all come to this? It is because, with humans, good intentions are never enough.

I check the time. I have a few hours before I have to pick Kinnosuke up from school. I can’t yet call him my son, since his father is my brother. If I had gone, he would have had parents; if Mat had gone, he would still have had parents. Now he only has us, and there is a lot less light in his life.

Here is a family portrait. No. Here is the family portrait, the last one when we were still a simple family, five adults and a child. The years passed, and the centre did not hold. All the actuarial projections failed.

Thunder rumbles beyond the horizon, with lightning unseen. From now on, I think grimly, all the stories of whatever is left of my days, they belong to the memory of Naomi Inoue. It is poor compensation for what I should have given to one who gave up all she had for me. Dear heart, dearest love, your Natsume is going to war.

=====
prev | next
Last edited by brythain on Mon Jun 23, 2014 5:15 pm, 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)

User avatar
Serviam
Posts: 110
Joined: Fri May 30, 2014 4:50 am
Location: Urbs Manilensis, Res Publica Philippinae
Contact:

Re: After the Dream—Natsume's Arc (Part 6 up 20140622)

Post by Serviam » Sun Jun 22, 2014 5:39 pm

I enthusiastically anticipate the action in the final (?) part of Natsu's story. Worry not, I have no intention of making any requests. :)
"What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else."
- Tom Clancy summing up l'état in a nutshell

In order of completion:
Lilly > Hanako > Rin > Emi
Currently on: Shizune

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Re: After the Dream—Natsume's Arc (Part 5b up 20140622)

Post by brythain » Sun Jun 22, 2014 11:51 pm

Oscar Wildecat wrote:
brythain wrote:Well, I'm sure you (and dewelar) are quite right to dislike this part of the mosaic. The good news is that you're not the only ones. :)
On the other hand, I've been enjoying it. Of course, it's probably because I've been corrupted by mom's taste in Korean political dramas... :?
It's hard to see the young grow up realistically and get worn down, sometimes defeated and killed, by time and age and the realities of the world. When I aimed our favourite KS characters on a 70-year trajectory into the future, I realised coherence would go out the window unless some things kept them together. And Rikabro's (inadvertent?) use of the phrase 'dream of Yamaku' provided the key. Or at least, a key, to one kind of story.
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)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

AtD—Natsume's Arc (Part 7 up 20140623)

Post by brythain » Mon Jun 23, 2014 5:09 pm

This is the seventh and final part of Natsume's arc in my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic, 'After the Dream'.

The events referred to here can be compared to accounts such as the one in Hanako's arc, here, and also that in Hideaki's, here.



Natsume 7: Chaos (T +60)

My few remaining readers these days often talk about the Yamaku gang, or the Yamaku conspiracy, as if we got together one day and decided to rule the world. The truth was never that. We were all the cripples, the disabled, the undesirable of Japanese society as it still was at that time, so we huddled together in the world’s darkness for mutual solace and companionship. But something happened—the world changed, Japan changed—and some of us, strangely, decided not to let others rule our world.

It was probably Shizune Hakamichi who catalyzed that change, who flapped her wings and brought the storm. She had never been content to let her deafness constrain her. Many people hated her for her ambition—do you think that in Japan the disabled had ever dared to be pushy, to grasp authority and power? Not since the days of Date Masamune, perhaps, ruling from his seat of power on Mount Aoba.

Here, as I write this in my old-fashioned way, I marvel at the tiny collective miracle that enables my gnarled hands to create anything at all. A lifelong battle with rheumatoid arthritis, finally won. The same miracle lets me hold Hideaki Hakamichi’s own hand in his final moments, as I tell you something of how it all came about.

*****

This is about forty years ago. We are sitting on the bleachers at Yamaku and watching the children run. It’s a sports meet, and it’s bright and everything is summer, like warm butter in the air. I turn to Kenji. “Were we ever like that?”

He grins, the sunlight glinting off his glasses. “Ha, no. You hated running and I hated being hot.” Same old nasal voice.

I smile. Yes, that’s how it had been. I look down to the VIP guest area, where Shizune sits, resignedly making small talk with the Family visitors and the high-donation parents. “What are your own children doing these days, General-san?”

“This and that. At the risk of sounding much like Tezuka, a bit of this and a lot of that. Masako’s 28 now, just got married to her childhood sweetheart and has dragged him off to South America; Koji’s about a year younger, and he’s teaching here.” He looks wistful for a moment, then adds, “They grow up so fast.”

“That’s true. Look, down there, the lanky one with the thick hair? That’s Kinnosuke. Seventeen in a few months, and horribly conflicted.” I can’t help beaming proudly, like any mother would.

“Ha. A bit of a beanpole, but good at the hurdles, I see. Interests? Interesting?”

“Don’t be rude, Kenji. He’s a pretty simple young man, likes hanging out, buying new sports gear, that kind of thing. Also, spends too much time in dangerous laboratories sucking up to smart older ladies like Auntie Rika.”

“Eh-heh. Two tall thin people, one dark, one white, what a sight! How come he’s so tall?”

“I have no idea. One of those generation-skipping genes, I suppose.” I glower at my friend, who while not tall would still be looking down at me if we were standing.

“So what conflict? Easy life, some ambitions, typical high-school senior.”

“He’s in love with little Kit, who’ll soon be fifteen.”

“Kit? Who? Our little naughty one whose aunt is Madam Principal Boss Lady down there?”

“The same. Kitsune Hakamichi, the daughter of the most underestimated man in Japan, as my brother once said.”

“That he is, that he is. Who would’ve thought that Shizune’s wimp of a brother would grow to be a big tree in the forest, eh? A Hakamichi boss. How convenient for us.” Kenji looks reflective. Where previously he’d been wistful, he now looks melancholic as his voice trails off, stops, and then continues. “Did I ever tell you he was my sister’s best friend in middle school? It all sounds so incestuous, until you realize that it wasn’t likely we’d have other friends.”

“Yes. Rika said that once; she hated making friends because my father would then send her dossiers on each one.”

“My God!” says Kenji, whom I’ve never thought of as particularly religious. He looks horrified, as if I’ve triggered some old paranoid delusion. “What a way to grow up! And to think she was one of the few of us who actually knew what was going on. How could she not get scarred for life?? No wonder she’s like that!”

“Kenji, mind the saliva?” I say softly, as he apologises wordlessly and wipes his mouth, before handing me a clean packet of tissues.

He looks at me. “Eh-heh, maybe that’s why Shizune is the way she is. Her father and all, you know.”

I glare back. “Maybe it’s better that women run things, not men.”

To his credit, his reply is pretty direct. “Maybe you’re right,” he muses. “Ah well. So what’s our status, Madam Editor Boss Lady?”

It’s disheartening, and he knows the score as well as I do, but we remind each other of the fallen and the still-living, the quick and the dead. “MM went off the board in January,” I say stiffly, remembering the tubes, the shaven scalp that finally broke me down—the beautiful hair, gone forever with the expressive eyebrows. “Nakai’s foresight was incredible, and only he could have made Rika and Shizune friends. We’ll never know what Mutou discussed with his disciple, but they were two of a kind.”

“No, no. Give credit, they were two very different men, but they both saw it coming, and I think it was really Mutou who brought the two ladies closer. Four years ago, the rumours about armed guards all over Mount Aoba? I sent drones, got lovely footage of the four colours seen together for the first time. They were an honour guard for the old man’s burial ceremony.”

“I wonder which man loved Shizune more,” I think out loud. Old rumours never die; they just fade away.

“Eh-heh. Speaking of which, her father screwed the Families over really well. Who got to him, I wonder?”

“If the tabloids have it right, Misha did,” I say with a straight face but also a sense of visceral sadness. I know part of the real story, and I suspect Kenji does too. “And my father helped him do it, except that nobody can prove that now.”

“Speaking for the Sakura, the government will remain silent and no serious intervention will occur if the Families suddenly decide to go to war with each other. Provided, of course, that civilian casualties are minimal.”

“How long will it take, General-san?” I say sadly. “Will we end up hiding in our fastness on Mount Aoba while the enemy besieges us?”

“Oh no, nothing like that,” he says lightly. But I can see through him better now. He’s not paranoid old Kenji Setou anymore, but the deceptive badger, who may shapeshift to deceive and yet will fight to the death for his family.

It’s a beautiful summer’s day as I put on my sunglasses and Kenji walks away, back to the Yamaku general office to collect the first of his cherry blossoms. Nobody knew then that it would take twenty years.

*****

And then it is twenty years later and also twenty years ago, the half-way mark between my middle age and my old age. As my younger friend once wrote: “It is from 2044 to 2064 that we fight the secret wars of the Nakai Foundation. Who would have thought that Katayama and Hakamichi colours would one day share a banner?”

I look upon his withered face now, and think about January 2064 and the iconic scene that all the archives now display when you run a search for ‘Peace of Aoba’—for that is how the media portrayed it. There is little mention of Yamaku, because that was a legacy of the old days that we loved, but which did not love us. In twenty years, the Nakai Foundation’s flag of four colours had brought down the Families, and forced them to become well-behaved and much less powerful corporate citizens.

Look at that footage, exclusive to my Shimbun. It is dedicated to the memory of Naomi Inoue, dearest and best, who died too young—and to all of us who wanted a better world for Japan. Let me describe it to you, if you prefer words and not pictures, unlike most of your generation.

It is New Year’s Day in 2064, sweeping across the globe as the Earth turns on its axis. And when the fireworks welcome in the New Year in Japan, all the newsfeeds switch to midnight in a little-known auditorium on Mount Aoba. It is tonight that Shizune Hakamichi acts as the face of our long fellowship. Hidden from view, every joint in my body throbbing painfully, I sit in the command centre. A certain observer, the Director-General of a particular government agency, is there with me. We can hear everything, see everything.

Before the feeds go live, Hideaki Hakamichi enters the hall. He looks like an old, grizzled warrior, a tiger turning dangerous as he ages. He exchanges words with Rika Katayama, each of them the senior surviving executive officer of their respective Families. “Rika, honoured lady? The count is in. Taian Holdings carried by two. There is a reserve, and the proxies make it at least thirty.” Her austere, ascetic frame moves slightly as she nods. “Esteemed colleague, old friend, it is well done.” They do not look tired; they only look incredible weary, worn like old furniture.

They’ve been counting shares and proxies, because whatever the Families have expected from the peculiar nature of our conflict, it was not that. My son—yes, my son—Kinnosuke whispers into Rika’s ear and then goes off to make sure that Shizune is properly miked up. He fusses over everybody; I don’t know where he got that trait. His sweet, elegant wife smiles, and it reminds me almost exactly of her aunt Shizune’s ‘catface’ grin.

When the feeds go live, there are thirty thousand officers from all the Families of Japan in the auditorium. Many are hostile, but they know that somehow they have been invited here for negotiations, with little choice but to comply. They do not know how little choice remains.

What the public, and the world, sees in the end is the myth we have crafted. A sea of guardsmen—in Katayama black-and-red, in Hakamichi blue-and-silver—bow to the left and right of the single figure of our Madam Director, Chairman of the Foundation. She is isolated by subtle spotlighting. The other members of the Nakai Foundation’s board are shadowed by the same subtlety, although there is bright light everywhere. In this age of special effects, we are still able to trick the world.

Thousands of our guardsmen bow in genuine gratitude, giving honour to one who might as well be their empress, such is the loyalty they offer her. It matters little that the others do not. The people of the world see and believe that Shizune, whom the opposing media have called ‘The Unspeakable’, has broken the power of the Families. How has she done it? By sacrificing all of it. Every guardsman is now a shareholder, and they have all given her their proxies.

That is of course not all that gives her such authority. The Foundation’s trust is deep, and the old intelligence networks have won us many little victories in boardroom after boardroom. Shizune does not demand a count, but an accounting. The Foundation owns the Families now, and she is its chief servant.

As we look at her from our nest, Kenji grins at me. It’s with a note of serious admiration that he says, “Madam Student Council President School Principal Corporate Director Boss Lady, or something like that… she’s a natural, always has been. Damn feminist dictator.”

I nod, smiling. My son gives me a thumbs-up and turns up the volume. Magically, Shizune speaks. I do not recognize the voice she is using, but it is clear and sharp and hard-edged while being rich and low. The source was well-chosen. Camera 2 catches my attention: Rika has stiffened in her seat, her eyes slightly narrowed. I wonder why, and make sure nobody will see it.

“The dream of Yamaku was that all of us would learn to be human, to love one another, to treat people as people—regardless of infirmity or debility, appearance or disease, whether possessing a long future or a short one, in comfort or in pain. We did not know that at some point, those who paid for this dream would demand repayment. We did not know that we were property. But we did the best we could, with whatever we had.”

There are many voices represented here. Hana and I have borrowed from the dead and the living, the firm and the infirm. Rika has chosen to remember her husband, and Shizune has chosen from what we have offered.

When she is done, the world is behind us, and the Families are broken. When Hideaki and Rika embrace her and hand over to her their scrolls of office, the world sees it all. All that power now goes in one direction: to those who can be given more, when the world has given them too little.

We wrap the programming up quietly through the photogenic presence of Akiko Nakai—national athlete, acclaimed beauty, Hisao Nakai and Emi Ibarazaki’s firstborn, Shizune Hakamichi’s adopted daughter. She is fluent in at least three languages, and able to appear sincere in more than three.

By the time we shut down, the exhilaration is making us all light-headed through our fatigue. Kenji turns to me, two septuagenarians who should be asleep in our aged dreams by now. “Nat, we’ve won. The cherry blossoms are safe for now, and nobody will know we did it. Come with me.”

He grasps my elbow firmly, and my weakened joints cannot resist him. He presses some buttons and overrides my chair. It begins to wheel me out, amidst our much younger celebrating colleagues. He pauses, then says, “Tonight, no ramp is too long for you. I may be old, but Kenji is a tough one to kill.”

Something clinks in the darkness. Where are we going? Up on the roof? What ever for?

“I used to have a crush on you, you know,” he says conversationally. “That’s why I made sure that when Rika’s anti-inflammatory nanotech came to me, the first proven version should go to you. She agreed, with that strange gesture of hers.” He mimes a coiling-and-uncoiling action.

“What nanotech? Kenji, what’s this all about?”

“Old loves. Don’t worry, I told Yuuko I’d do this, and she laughed. But she said you might be nervous because both of us are old and frail. So I brought protection.” He grins, appalling the hell out of me.

“Kenji…” I say, almost growling as anger and panic rise within me. I can’t believe this kind of thing is happening. I attempt to rise out of my chair, but the safety restraints lock me down.

“Eh-heh. Sit down, old friend, nothing bad is going to happen. In fact, maybe something good.” My chair stops at the edge of the chain-link fence on the rooftop. Kenji sits down, his joints creaking almost as badly as mine. He whips a brown paper bag out from under his overcoat. Clink. Two bottles of whisky appear. Some tumblers. How quaint.

“Hold on. This won’t hurt.”

I don’t feel anything except fear. Then the door behind us swings open once, closes and then quickly opens again. It does this a few times. “Wahaha!~ It’s like old days, Natchan!” The voice is a little cracked, but very recognizable. What the hell…

“Misha?”

“Yes! And my darling Shizune is here too!”

I turn my head, and see that indeed, the Empress is with us. It’s really like old days, indeed—we are all old, wrinkly caricatures of who we used to be. Behind her, her brother clears his slightly younger throat.

“Esteemed seniors, I have arranged for a somewhat delayed private New Year’s Day fireworks display. This high up, we should all have a view of surpassing clarity. Or so my most beautiful and charming wife, who is of your excellent senior vintage—ouch, that hurt!—has told me.”

And that is what we do, before dawn on the second day of January, in the year 2064, on the heights of Mount Aoba. We imbibe the water of life, and watch alchemical fires bloom like cherry blossoms. For a short while, we are young again.

*****

It’s 2084 now, and I’m nearly a century old. But I’m sustained by therapeutic nanotech, twenty years’ worth of it, and Hideaki has decided that he doesn’t want any more. He misses his Hana, and I find that I understand how he feels.

So here I sit, holding the old—oh how stretched the parchment of his skin is!—man’s hand that once belonged to a callow young lawyer. The biomonitoring array tells me he has not long to go. His large body looks emptied-out, like an apartment that nobody lives in anymore.

His eyes open suddenly. Mine are watery with sentiment. “Hana?” he asks, and it sinks in that no, Hana is no longer with us, either of us. “Hana?” he asks again, and I find myself replying, “Yes?”

“Oh, good. I thought you were g-gone… I don’t want to live where you aren’t…” he mutters incoherently, closing his eyes again.

I can’t stand this, so I slowly let go of his hand, hoping he won’t feel it. He sighs in his sleep, a faint smile on his face. I get up, taking care not to disturb him.

Outside, my children await, anxious. I smile weakly at Kin, who moves to support me. I wave him away, since I can still stand, and look at my daughter-in-law, who has always reminded me so much of her aunt, my long-departed friend Shizune. “Kit, he’s asking for your mother. Please, can you go in? I c-can’t, I don’t… I’m not your mother.”

No, I’m not. I miss her so much. I miss Naomi even more. Everything’s missing, but at least the children are safe, and their children. The cherry blossoms remain, and there is still a future, even if it’s not mine.

=====
prev | end



*****

Editor’s Note:

Natsume Ooe, the secretive and dour boss of the Asahi Shimbun Network, remains one of Japan’s national icons. I thank her son Kinnosuke Ooe and his wife Kitsune Hakamichi for their invaluable service in the retrieval of many of her written documents from the apartment she once shared with Naomi Inoue and later sold to Rin Tezuka and Misha Hakamichi. Unfortunately, many of those documents had been painted over or otherwise incorporated into Ms Tezuka’s own creations. Fortunately, good nanotech is the salvation of many things.

— R., Osaka, 2090
Last edited by brythain on Mon Dec 07, 2015 3:58 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)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Interlude (20140628)

Post by brythain » Fri Jun 27, 2014 12:29 pm

"She was born on the thirteenth of June, 1989. I didn't love her as much as she deserved."

Hnngh. I'm recovering from the 2014 World Cup, this being a rest day. In the corner where my old white wooden chair is, my colleague with the stern but pretty face, always framed by a mess of tangled, curly locks of waist-length dark hair.

"Ah. Natsume-san. How nice to see you. You are referring to… ?"

"Me," says another voice, lighter and sweeter. "But she did love me as much as I deserved. Maybe more."

This is Naomi Inoue, petite, slim, her hair always some shade of ash-blonde or perhaps something a little darker. She even has the perky little nose and heart-shaped face so beloved of those who describe 'cute' girls. But Naomi is in her mid-forties in this incarnation, a charming woman.

"To what do I owe this pleasure, colleagues?"

"I don't need a memorial, Nat. So I'm here to tell him he doesn't need to do it."

"I didn't…"

"You were going to… I know you too well. I love you too. Come on, let him sleep."

She smiles at me. After a while, they smile at me, and are gone.
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)

User avatar
YutoTheOrc
Posts: 296
Joined: Sat Aug 24, 2013 9:43 pm
Location: Canada

Re: After the Dream—Natsume's Arc (Complete)

Post by YutoTheOrc » Mon Aug 18, 2014 9:45 pm

2014 Fifa World Cup German victory!!!

Ahem

The political intrigue in this arc, had my head spinning for a bit. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Finally caught up and damn proud of it! When Kenji's next bit comes out I'll be sure to visit your library again. I raise my pen to you o puppeteer! :)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Re: After the Dream—Natsume's Arc (Complete)

Post by brythain » Mon Aug 18, 2014 9:50 pm

YutoTheOrc wrote:2014 Fifa World Cup German victory!!!

Ahem

The political intrigue in this arc, had my head spinning for a bit. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Finally caught up and damn proud of it! When Kenji's next bit comes out I'll be sure to visit your library again. I raise my pen to you o puppeteer! :)
Haha, if you read the interludes, you'll note that Kenji was also watching the World Cup. :) Thank you! I will try for a detective/crime genre piece next… oops… I think that was a joke. I hope… :D
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Interlude (201409015)

Post by brythain » Tue Sep 16, 2014 7:57 pm

In the corner of my room there sits an old white wooden chair, not particularly well-made. It's her favourite seat, and when I look up, there she is, her mismatched eyes shrouded. She looks melancholy.

"Hello, Nat. How are you doing?"

"The media wins, all the time. It's hard for me because the media devoured my birthday, and I hardly own it any more."

Oh. I've forgotten, just like the rest of the world. The wounds of 11th September will some day heal into a keloid scar, but not before obliterating the memory of a quiet September day on which the girl with heterochromia was born.

"It must be painful. I'm sorry I forgot, Nat."

"It's all right. I suppose that when I became a newsperson, I gave up having an identity of my own. The professional way, not the way of the 'media personality'. I'm just old-fashioned; don't mind me. Raita didn't even bother with me in the first place, you know."

It's very unlike Natsume to just let it all come out like this. "What's on your mind?"

"It's my god-daughter's birthday too. And Kenji is being his usual preposterous self. Sometimes I wish he'd picked someone more inclined to visit ice-cream parlours."

"Ha! Really?"

"As they say, one moodiness bleeds into another. I don't really care deeply about many things, but a few things nag at me quite a bit. You need to wash up your stack of used coffee mugs. And get some sunlight!"

For a moment, I imagine a twinkle in that severe gaze. And then my old white chair is all alone.
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)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Interlude (20150105)

Post by brythain » Mon Jan 05, 2015 1:13 am

"An interesting release, author-san. I had forgotten that such documents still existed."

I look up from where I've dozed off in the unseasonable heat. That is what happens when it is too cold and you try to make it warmer, and forget to limit the warming.

"Greetings, Natsume, and a happy new year to you!"

She almost always appears in a simple white cotton outfit, slightly frilled at the neck and wrists. Her hair seems always messy, sometimes as if a bird has been desperately attempting to make a nest in it, and failed. Today is no exception. She crosses her ankles beneath her formal buff-grey skirt and adjusts her glasses. I've noticed that whereas Shizune does this by pushing up along the bridge of her nose, Nat prefers to massage her temples (or something much like it).

"Good day, author-san. You've published that report under Lilly Satou's arc. Why?" This sounds a little accusatory. Maybe a lot.

"Well, it is about her grandfather, isn't it?" I say somewhat defensively.

"If you're going to publish all of them, you could put them here. Or open one of your many interminable threads. I see you've already dug up a second report in the set."

"Your reporter friend was a true amateur. Didn't do it because of professional desire, but because journalism was an art to be appreciated."

"Yes. So, where are you going to put the second report?"

"I bow to your judgement on matters of literary presentation, Ooe-san."

Her face softens, and she shakes her head, her hair somehow falling into a neater disarray. "Heh, I know you do no such thing. But I appreciate your work too."

For a brief moment, I scent the fragrance of peaches. And then she is gone.
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)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Interlude (20150504)

Post by brythain » Mon May 04, 2015 8:53 pm

"Are you giving her her own arc as well, author-san?"

"Hmmm?" I look up and see two oddly mismatched eyes looking at me. Close up, it feels like being intimidated by an owl.

I recover. "Good morning, Natsume journalist-san!"

"Hah. Sleeping on the job again, I see. Tsk. Are you answering questions today?"

"Umm. Well, it looks a bit like that, but the thing is that she did do all those interviews."

"They started out with me trying to see if I could extend her range. She did well, but she did them more for her own satisfaction than for the Shimbun."

"Do I hear echoes of Shizune Hakamichi, Nat?"

She draws back from her position two feet away from my face, and I sit up. She's in a pale blue linen blouse today, and denim. Her unruly hair has been loosely tied back with a bright yellow scrunchie that has... tiny strawberries on it.

"No. Although some at the Shimbun say that I am a worse dictator. Hah."

"This is you as Chief Editor?"

"Oh yes. And if you follow Misaki's interviews to the end, do try to get her to talk about herself. She never really does, but who knows?"

"That's an interesting idea."

"Believe me, our little Ms Kawana has a lot more to herself than you think, author-san."

She gives me an enigmatic wink, looking strangely normal for a brief moment. Then her winking eye opens, flashing green-gold at me before she disappears.
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)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Interlude (20151110)

Post by brythain » Wed Nov 11, 2015 12:00 am

"Even for you, that was devious," she says. I can hear the starched disapproval in her voice.

I look up into her mismatched eyes. "Devious, Ooe-san?"

"Yes. We were having those meetings about our crazy friend's memoirs and then you go and talk to Misaki behind my back."

"Behind your back? Wasn't it you who asked me to listen to her?"

There's silence. I am appalled at my rudeness. I think she is likewise uncomfortable with her own.

"Natsume?" + "Author-san?" sound simultaneously from our lips.

We smile sheepishly at each other. This time, I get to speak first.

"It was that last section, wasn't it? The scene with Naomi in your office."

She hesitates, then replies. "Yes. I remember that day. I was so happy that she was back two days earlier than expected. I remember all the happy days, you know."

"I'll try to remember that," I say, half joking, half sympathetic.

"See that you do, colleague."

Her expression is stern, but somehow wistful. That particular expression stays with me for a while, even after she's gone.
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)

Post Reply