Sisterhood: True Edition (Hanako Epilogue) (Completed)

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Chapter 55

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:20 am

Chapter 55
01
The first time I saw this gate, it felt intimidating and unwelcoming. Now, just over a year later, it almost feels like an old friend whom I haven't seen in a long time.

When I left this place about three months ago, I didn't expect to see it again this soon.

The lush greenery of the school grounds feels soothing. It's not like Kasshoku doesn't have any gardens, but somehow Yamaku's feel neater.

Or maybe that's simply nostalgia talking.

Either way, when I first came here I couldn't help but feel that I stepped into another world. Even though I'm familiar with this school and its surroundings now, coming back here after having spent some time in university and Chiba it once again feels like I've entered an isolated bubble that's cut off from the rest of the world. How strange that I still feel this way, even after all this time.

As I walk down the tree-lined walkway leading from the gate to the main building, a group of students passes by. They don't look familiar, so they're probably 1st years. As we pass one another we exchange a polite greeting, but as I proceed, I feel their eyes on my back and for the first time since my arrival, the feeling of nostalgic comfort fades a bit to make room for the sense of being a stranger here.

Ironically that's how I felt when I first started attending here too.

For a moment I find myself wishing I still had my old school uniform. Being the only teenager around here not wearing green and white probably draws way more attention than I'd welcome right now.

I suppose the best thing I can do is not loiter around here for too long.

I reach the point where the pathway splits off in several directions, and I wonder where to go. Would Hanako be in her room today? I rack my brain in an attempt to determine whether she was already holing herself up in her room around this time last year or not, but can't tell for sure.

I'm not sure if it's a good idea to go straight to the girls’ dorms though. I think I'll search the school building first, particularly rooms like the tea room, the library and the newspaper club room. Maybe our old classroom too.

The lobby of the school building is a little busier than the area outside, and my eyes dart left and right, scanning the place for people I know. A group of three female students stands near the entrance, chattering away. A nurse is checking his watch as he's hurrying for the exit. A teacher and a male student are coming down the ramp leading to the first floor. A student with crutches is sitting in a chair near one of the doors reading a study book.

The student in the wheelchair coming down the ramp actually looks familiar and he's even waving at me. The teacher accompanying him is someone I know too, but he's decidedly not waving.

Oh crap! How ironic is it that Mutou's once again the first person I run into? Since I've already been discovered, I wave back at my former clubmate and my former homeroom teacher.

"Hi there, president Hisao!"

I roll my eyes at the boy in the wheelchair before returning his greeting.

"That's former president Hisao, president Nobuyuki. But good to see you, too."

"Couldn't stay away from us, huh?"

"Well, I felt I had to check up on you guys from time to time, just to keep my peace of mind."

"Is that really so, Nakai?"

Contrary to Nobuyuki's jovial expression, Mutou's looking a bit sour. I hope he's not jumping to the wrong conclusions about me. I face my mentor and make a respectful bow.

"It's good to see you too, sir. I was just joking a bit. There's another reason I came here."

Nobuyuki snickers.

"You didn't drop out already, did you?"

Mutou's glare tells me that if I dare to say yes, even as a joke, I can safely consider my life over.

"Hey, what do you think of me?"

"Well, i wouldn't make sense for you to visit here if you dropped out. In fact, if that's what happened, it'd be in your best interest to stay as far away from here as possible. So I guess you're still in the running."

My former homeroom teacher's expression becomes just a little less hostile and a little more curious.

"Then what brings you here, Nakai? Is it...?"

I nod.

"I came to see Hanako. It's... uh... her birthday tomorrow."

Mutou doesn't immediately answer. It's obvious that he's at least partially in the loop about Hanako's birthday issues from the past years. Eventually he sighs, probably having decided that this isn't a subject that's appropriate to be discussed at length, particularly in front of Nobuyuki. Not wanting me to get off the hook too easily, he gives me a scolding look.

"You're still skipping class."

"The only major thing for this week is a report for molecular physics that I have to finish together with some classmates. I brought some books from the faculty library with me, and I intend to use the computer lab here tomorrow to type up my part and send it to the rest. I'll be doing an extra large piece of the work to compensate for my absence."

In hindsight this seems to have been a real bargain for my classmates, since they got me to write up the toughest part. At least I was discreet enough not to mention that I was taking my leave of absence in order to visit my girlfriend, or they would probably have dumped the entire project on my shoulders.

"Hmmm..."

A few painful seconds pass, and then suddenly Noboyuki looks up at our teacher and addresses him.

"Sir, may I make a suggestion? Maybe it'd be a good idea to have the former president drop by the club tomorrow and tell everyone about university and what he's learned there so far. It could be a big boost for morale. He could show us his report too, so we can have a taste of what's going to be expected from us after we graduate. I think everybody would love it. Maybe even be inspired to work as hard as we can to get good marks and do well on the exams."

That's some pretty smooth talking right there. I can see Mutou furrow his brow, and he doesn't say anything for a very long time. Just when things start feeling too awkward, he gives me an exasperated look.

"I hope you can show us something impressive tomorrow, Nakai. I will not be expecting anything less from you."

He makes a small bow in my direction, and after I return it, he walks off in the direction of the staff room. Nobuyuki and I watch him until he rounds the corner of the hallway. When he's finally gone from sight, I turn towards my former clubmate.

"That was a pretty clever suggestion you came up with. I could just see the teacher and the scientist engaged in a tug-of-war game inside Mutou's head."

"And the scientist won out. Lucky for you."

"This was not how I imagined my reunion with him."

"He probably would have welcomed you with open arms if you had only picked a Saturday afternoon to drop by. I think deep down he was happy to see you, but as a teacher he can't bring himself to condone someone playing hooky. As a guy who wants to follow in his footsteps someday, you ought to understand that."

"Yeah, that's a good point."

"I'm kind of surprised he dropped the matter this quickly. Maybe I was wrong and he's simply biding his time and waiting for the right moment."

"What do you mean the right moment?"

Nobuyuki snickers.

"Not only did you turn up here in the middle of a school week, but you also suggested that you're planning to spend the night here, most likely in the girls' dormitory. That's... probably not the smartest thing you've ever done. Maybe Mutou decided that having you kicked off the school grounds here and now would be boring, so he's gonna ask the dormkeeper to check in on your girlfriend's room later this evening and have you kicked off the school grounds wearing nothing but your underwear."

"I see the position of club president hasn't done much to diminish that twisted imagination of yours."

We both laugh at that. I've always gotten along pretty well with Nobuyuki during our science club sessions, and when I graduated I felt like the club was left in good hands. He's a pretty good guy with a real passion for science, especially physical cosmology, but also fun to occasionally exchange down-to-earth banter with.

"Glad to see you too."

I step aside as a group of students passes us on their way to the exit. I exchange a glance with Nobuyuki who smiles sheepishly.

"I think we're kind of blocking the traffic here. Want to stop by the cafeteria? Or am I keeping you from your girlfriend?"

"I guess I can spare a few minutes. I'm not even really sure where she is yet anyway. It's possible she's in her dorm room, but I thought I'd check a few places in the school building first instead of heading straight to the girls' dorms."

We head over to the cafeteria where I pick a quiet corner for us to sit. With my clothes having already drawn a few stares, I'd rather avoid attracting too much attention. I wait until Nobuyuki has maneuvered his wheelchair into the right position before posing the question that's been on my mind since I ran into him today.

"So Nobu... How's the science club doing these days?"

Nobuyuki smiles proudly.

"We've picked up six new members among the 1st years. Courtesy of Takahiro and me campaigning at the start of the school year."

"Hey, nice work! I'm looking forward to meeting them tomorrow."

"That reminds me... Some of them have been having a bit of trouble with the finer points of thermodynamics. I was wondering if you could... hmmm..."

"I can see where this is going. Isn't it your job to provide the explanations now? You've always gotten good marks for science, haven't you?"

"Yeah, but I'm not as good at explaining the stuff as you are. Help me out, will you? Consider it a counterfavor."

"A counterfavor for what?"

"For not making an anonymous phone call to the dormkeepers' office this evening."

"You're stooping to blackmail now?"

"It's okay. You weren't going to turn us down anyway, were you?"

"Okay then. How many people are going to take part in this miniature tutoring session?"

"Eh... Jurou, Katashi and Minoru. That's three."

"All guys. We're still a men's club, aren't we?"

"Uh, yeah. There are a lot of female students here, but our club still only has male members. I wonder if the female part of the student body simply isn't interested in science."

"I don't think it's that simple. There are probably few female students who like the idea of being the only girl in the club, so they're hesitant about joining, which in turn discourages other girls from joining up as well. It's kind of a vicious circle."

Nobuyuki grins.

"Even though we're a club filled to the brim with strapping guys? I know that the prospect of being the only guy in an all-female club wouldn't put me off. Heck, maybe the opposite."

I chuckle.

"Then you'd better stay far away from the faculty I'm studying at right now, because guys are all you ever see there. If you're hoping to get lucky, best try your chances here while you still can. A strapping guy like yourself shouldn't have too much trouble following in my footsteps in that area too."

My successor puts on a mock-grumpy expression.

"Rub it in, why don't you? I know I'm definitely making that phone call tonight."

"Let's drop the phone call stuff, okay? I'm kinda curious. You're in class 3-3 now, aren't you?"

"That's right."

"Are you taking classes with Hanako these days?"

"Ikezawa? I don't think she's actually part of any class right now. I think she studies somewhere else during the day. You'd have to ask her."

"Have you seen her today already?"

"Not as far as I can remember. If she's in the building, there's one place I'd check out before all others."

"The library."

"Yep."

"I'll go and have a look then. If she's not there, I can come back here."

"I have some homework to do actually, so I'm afraid I can't stick around. But assuming you're not going to get kicked out of here, I'll see you tomorrow after classes, right? Classroom 3-3."

"Alright, alright."

I say goodbye to Nobuyuki and leave the cafeteria. As I walk through the school's hallways in the direction of the library, I replay the events that just took place in my head. I didn't count on immediately running into Mutou, so I was caught off guard when I suddenly came face to face with him. It's a shame we got off on the wrong foot like this. I hope I'll be able to get back in his good graces tomorrow. It'll be good to see the guys at the club again, though I hope this unexpected club session isn't going to mess up my schedule for tomorrow.

A wave of nostalgia hits me as I open the door to Yamaku's trusty old library and walk inside. The gardens and cafeteria were familiar places, but I never spent hours in there. The same cannot be said about the library. This room holds a lot of memories for me.

A quick glance around tells me this place hasn't changed a bit. The slightly musty smell, the students studying or stealthily sleeping at the tables, the sunlight shining through the windows and the peaceful atmosphere... It's all exactly like it used to be. Well, almost exactly. A teacher and two students are standing near the counter, and I can hear a soft shuffling sound coming from the storage room behind the counter. I play with the thought of hanging around here and saying hello to Yuuko, but then I remember that Yuuko doesn't work here anymore, so I walk past the counter and towards the quiet little corner that Hanako has always used as her own personal place of shelter.

I guess even here, some things do change. To me, Yuuko's always been a part of the library, and yet now she's gone. I wonder if Hanako's once again in her usual place.

As I approach Hanako's corner, I can't help feeling a little apprehensive. Hanako doesn't know I'm here. My visit here is a surprise, and I have no idea how she's going to react when suddenly coming face to face with me. There's a chance she'll be overjoyed, but a little voice in the back of my mind also tells me that there's probably a chance of her either clamming up or even running off. That'd make things awkward in a hurry. It's too late to turn back now though, so I take a deep breath and make my way past the bookcases only to find...

...nothing.

My heart, which has been beating at a significantly faster pace since I entered here, slows down again and a pang of disappointment surfaces. I just got myself riled up for nothing.

I suppose even Hanako isn't in here 24/7. Maybe I should check the tea room or the newspaper club classroom next. Before doing so however, it might be a good idea to talk to the librarian and ask if Hanako's already been here today. She's bound to be a familiar face around here even to a new staff member.

I turn back and head back towards the entrance. My mind is already trying to determine where to go next. The tea room is closer to the library than the place the newspaper club uses to have its meetings, but the chances of Hanako being in the tea room outside of lunch breaks are slim. Maybe it's worth heading to the dormitory straight away. I'm still weighing my options when I suddenly hear a thud coming from the direction of the counter. I turn my head towards the source of the sound and my heart promptly skips several beats.
02
Standing behind the counter, both hands in front of her mouth and eyes wide enough to fall out of their sockets, is my girlfriend. She doesn't move. She doesn't even blink. She just stands there, staring at me in total shock as if I'm a ghost. I open my mouth to greet her, only to find out I'm at an equal loss for words. Just when the moment becomes unbearably uncomfortable, the spell is broken by a sharp cough from the teacher standing at the counter. Hanako's eyes dart from me to the people standing near the counter, and a blush appears on her cheek. I turn to the bystanders and make an apologetic bow.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to cause any trouble. I'll be on my way."

I quickly turn to Hanako, who still hasn't moved a muscle.

"Uh... I'll be in the usual place, okay?"

My girlfriend manages a nod that almost seems mechanical and, still looking a bit dazed, bends down to pick up the books she just dropped. Meanwhile, I go back to the reading corner where I sit down on one of the beanbags and try to put my thoughts in order.
03
I'm not surprised to have found Hanako here, but finding her behind the librarian's desk was certainly something I didn't see coming. Well, she did say she ran a few errants for the librarian in one of her more detailed e-mails, but this is a lot more than a mere errant.

As much of a surprise as Hanako's apparent job here is to me, it didn't even remotely compare to the shock she must have experienced when suddenly finding me right here at Yamaku. I quietly curse myself for having been just as tongue-tied as Hanako despite the fact that I've had nearly a day to think up something to say.

But what do you say when you're suddenly faced with a girlfriend you haven't seen in months?

Good to see you again?

I've missed you?

I love you?

I'm not sure if I'd be able to say these kinds of things just like that without sounding cheesy.

The fact that there were other people nearby didn't help matters. I would have liked to speak with her without anyone else around, but since there are still students coming and going I don't think that's an option right now. The best thing to do is probably to just wait.

I check my watch. It's nearly five o' clock right now. The library closes at half past 6. That means I've got just over 90 minutes to kill.

Racking my brains over what to say to Hanako might do more harm than good. I don't want to spend one and a half hour getting myself worked up. Maybe it's best if I simply find something else to do. I could make a start on my report. If I can't come up with something that'll impress the guys at the club tomorrow, Mutou's probably going to be grumpy again.

I think I'll do that. It'll allow me to get my mind off things until it's time to speak with Hanako. I get up and head for the scientific literature section. I recall there being a book or two about molecular physics that I borrowed for the science club a few times last year.

Fortunately, the books I was looking for are still where I remembered them to be and after returning to the beanbag, I start thumbing through the pages in search of excerpts I can use. If I'm not allowed to take these books out of the library, I'll just use the photocopier to copy the pages I need.

As the outline of my report slowly starts taking shape, my thoughts occasionally jump back to Hanako.

She's probably trying to figure out how to deal with this sudden reunion, just like I am. I wonder what she's thinking right now.

I wonder if they made Hanako the school librarian as part of her therapy or simply in order to give her something to do other than studying during the day. I'm kind of curious how she's handling it. I remember how there was always a guilty look on Yuuko's face whenever she told me that it was time to leave because the library was closing. I could see Hanako having similar troubles.

Still, it seems fitting - just like it seems fitting that our reunion takes place in the very spot where we first talked to each other. That feels like such a long time ago.

I lose track of time as I work my way through the first book I borrowed, and as I finally finish my list of references I intend to use, I suddenly become aware of how silent the place has become. When I first sat down here, I could hear the occasional sound of footsteps or people speaking in hushed tones. Right now, though, the library is almost eerily quiet. A quick peek at my watch tells me it's a quarter to seven right now; 15 minutes past closing time. Just when I consider getting up and paying a visit to the front desk, I become aware that I'm being watched.
Last edited by Guest Poster on Sat Sep 20, 2014 1:15 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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Chapter 55 - cont.

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:20 am

04
I turn my head, and Hanako, who seems to have been standing in the nearby aisle for a while, quickly looks away as my gaze meets hers.

I wonder for how long she's been standing there, just watching me without saying a word.

I can tell that my stare is making Hanako nervous, but I try to block her fidgetting from my mind. It's been over three months since I've last seen her.

Despite the uneasy expression on her face, Hanako's actually looking a lot better than she did the last time I saw her. That evening before graduation day, she looked ill, scrawny and at emotional rock bottom. From the looks of it she's at least eating regularly again. I could be mistaken, but I think her hair's a little bit longer than it was three months ago. Even though Nobuyuki suggested that she's not officially part of any class, Hanako's still wearing her usual school uniform.

The mutual staring is starting to get a bit much. Seeing that there doesn't seem to be anyone but us left in the library, this awkward situation is probably going to last until one of us says something. Since I took the initiative to come here, I guess it's up to me to make the first move to break the ice.

"Hey, Hanako."

"Hey... H-Hisao."

"Uh... You know, you're...looking a lot better than the last time we saw each other. I mean... You're... uh... looking pretty good."

I cringe upon realizing how stilted that sounded, but I think that for just a split-second I could see a trace of a smile on her face.

"I... ah... wasn't really sure whether coming here at this time was a good idea or not, but... I was hoping you'd at least be happy to see me."

"I... I... I'm h-happy t-to see you."

"..."

"..."

This ice proves tougher to break than I thought. It's a little jarring how awkward our interaction is right now. It wasn't this bad while we were exchanging e-mails or smalltalk through the chess site's message channel. Then again, Hanako probably realized this, and that's why she's been limiting our interaction to more indirect ways of communication until now.

Well, there was that phone call on the evening of the festival, but back then Lilly was present with her ever-realiable knack for making pleasant and relaxing conversation. I won't be able to rely on her this time.

But then again, maybe making conversation isn't what we need right now. We've had conversations over the internet, but I didn't really have the impression that we started closing the distance between us until we started playing online chess against each other. The fact that Hanako suggested those chess games made me realize that she's also aware of how our relationship works.

I could tell her that I've missed her, and she'll probably stammer a response, but there are other ways of getting that point across and maybe those other ways are worth a try.

"Hanako?"

"Y-Yes?"

I smile at her, doing my best to hide my nervousness, and gently tap my knee with my hand. I feel a bit silly doing this, but judging from the sudden blush on Hanako's cheek, she understood the meaning behind my gesture quite well.
05
After a short moment of hesitation, she walks up to me, turns and sits sideways on my lap. I wrap one arm around her waist and place my other hand on her leg. For a while, she doesn't react. She just keeps staring at it, seemingly unsure of what to do now. Then she carefully takes my hand in her own and starts caressing it with her own.

Neither of us says a word. My gaze wanders from the sight of her hand stroking mine to the unreadable expression on her face and then back to the hand that's carressing my own. To my surprise, my eyes first focus on her neatly trimmed fingernails before they move to the scarred area on the back. It's a relief that even after a few months of separation, looking past her scars is still a second nature to me.

I let her caress my hand for a little while longer and then gently move it up to my face where I press a little kiss on the back of her hand, right on the spot where her scar tissue ends and her undamaged skin begins. Then I look at her face for a reaction.

This was one of the little gestures we came up with on one of our dates during the summer vacation last year. The time that was more or less the honeymoon stage of our relationship. That seems so long ago now and so many much has happened since then.

But then a look of recognition appears in her eyes and she takes my hand, brings it up to her lips and places a little kiss on it herself.

She remembered. That's a relief.

I pull her a little closer to me until her left side is leaning against me and I think of what to do now.

Maybe the best thing to do is to just keep going.

Think up some other ways to make things more comfortable between us without having to hold a conversation.

I rack my brain trying to remember the little rituals and gestures Hanako and I used to take part in. I know she really used to like playing footsies, but I'm pretty much guaranteed to destroy the moment if I ask her to get off my lap so we can take our shoes off.

Then I suddenly remember something else that especially Hanako enjoyed far more than a person of her age probably should. I bring my hand up to my lips and place a kiss on my fingers. Then I slowly move my fingers in the direction of Hanako's face and very softly touch her cheek with my fingers, as if putting a kiss there. A childish smile appears on Hanako's face as she presses a kiss onto her own fingers and then touches me on the nose.

This 'kissing by proxy' game was something we came up with during our vacation in Scotland last year. We'd often play it while we were in public places that weren't too crowded, trying to see how many 'kisses' we were able to sneak in while avoiding attracting attention.

I respond to Hanako by placing an indirect kiss on her nose as well.

Which results in a touch just underneath my right ear.

Then one just above her eyebrow...

An excited giggle...

One to the side of my neck...

One near the edge of her mouth...

A tender one on my lips.

One on her lips as well.

I eagerly wait for Hanako to pick a new spot for her next semi-kiss, but there's no immediate response. She merely fidgets a bit, her eyes jumping back and forth between me and her hands. Then she gets up and turns towards me. Just when I'm about to get up as well, she takes a step forward, lifts her skirt just a little bit and straddles my lap. My heart instantly skips a few beats. This is one sensation I haven't felt for a very long time.
06
Hanako still doesn't say a word, but she slowly moves her shaking hands towards my face and gently places them on both sides of my head. Her hands are just a little bit sweaty and very warm to the touch. It definitely feels nice.

Eager to reciprocate, I take her face in my hands as well, brushing aside the lock of hair that obscured her right eye until now. A rush of nostalgia hits me as my right hand feels her warm, soft cheek and my left hand feels the leathery roughness of her facial scars.

Noone but Hanako feels like this.

Our faces slowly approach each other, and I close my eyes and open my mouth just a little in anticipation of what's to come. Then I feel a pair of lips gently suckling on my upper lip. Hanako moves her head just a little bit and locks her lips with mine. Unable to wait any longer, I slip my tongue into her mouth, and as soon as my tongue finds hers and almost pounces on it, it's like a switch is thrown in the back of my head, and all the self-restraint I've mustered up to now vanishes in an instant.

My hands, moving on their own, slide down her back and then lock around her waist, pulling her closer.

My tongue dances around hers, sampling the taste and softness.

My lower body has started making jerking motions in response to the grinding movements of her hips. I feel myself slipping off the beanbag just a little and brace my right leg in an attempt to compensate.

My breathing becomes shallow as I struggle to breathe in and out without breaking our feverish kiss.

I want her. Badly.

We both gasp for breath as she breaks our kiss. Then she embraces me and hugs me, causing my face to press tightly against her chest. I can actually hear her heartbeat which sounds just as frantic as mine, and the feeling of her breasts causes my arousal to go through the roof. One of my hands makes its way underneath her blouse and starts stroking her back.

As she briefly lets go, I look up at her and smile sheepishly.

"This... kind of brings back memories, doesn't it?"

She blushes a bit, but nevertheless nods and smiles. Then her lips lock with mine again, and she starts moving once more.

I feel myself slipping off a bit again, but I'm way past the point where I can bring myself to care. Our bodies start moving in unison, old instincts reawakening within both of us.

Until I slip off the beanbag completely, nearly dragging Hanako along with me.
07
"Whoa!"

"Aah!"

Fortunately, I kind of slide off instead of dropping straight on my tailbone. I'm more startled than hurt. Hanako, though, looks at me with eyes as large as saucers.

"I'm okay. I'm not hurt."

I hold out my hand, which Hanako takes and uses to pull me up. When I'm back on my feet we exchange an awkward stare. I may not have been hurt, but the mood we were just in has been killed on the spot. Pity.

"I... uh... guess these beanbags aren't suitable for this kind of thing, huh?"

Hanako doesn't respond. I can't really blame her. It's not like this discussion about beanbags is really gonna go anywhere.

"So uh..."

Now what? Ask her if we can go to her room? That would be kind of bold.

While I'm busy trying to figure out what to say, I notice that Hanako's kind of fidgetting and fumbling as well. The expression on her face is a familiar one. It's her 'I want to say something, but I'm not sure how to say it'-expression.

"Hey Hanako, is everything alright?"

Still no response. Hanako closes her eyes, and I can see a frown on her face as if she's trying hard to make a decision of some kind.

"Hanako?"

Her eyes open, but her gaze remains focussed on her feet.

"H-Hisao...?"

"Yes?"

"Ummm..."

She falls silent again and starts to nervously play with her hair.

"You know you can tell me anything, don't you?"

She nods, but still seems to be struggling to say something. Eventually, she opens her mouth.

"C-C-Can you...?"

"Can you?"

"CANYOUWAITHEREPLEASE?"

Before I can say 'sure', Hanako has already taken off towards the librarian's desk. I wonder what that was about. I scratch my head, shrug and sit down on the beanbag again.

That sure felt familiar just now.

But so did many other things.

Her sitting on my lap. Us holding hands. The kissing-by-proxy game. They were all familiar little rituals from the earlier days of our relationship.

Even her straddling me like that, holding me to her chest and moving around on my lap. She did that during our vacation in Scotland in an attempt to distract me. She was kind of tipsy back then and really embarrassed about it afterwards. We both were, in point of fact, and kind of avoided speaking of it afterwards.

And yet, when I brought it up just now, we both smiled. Maybe because at this point, it may still be a little embarrassing, but it's also turned into a pleasant memory. A memory of more carefree times. A memory of how much fun we had together back then and how happy we were.

Maybe that's the key to bridging the gap between us. Maybe we need to remember the good times, draw resolve from them and do what we can to relive them.

Well, that's kind of why I'm here to begin with.

Maybe there's no need to talk at all.

I kind of wonder what Hanako's doing right now. If she wants to leave here and retrieve her handbag, why is it necessary for me to wait here?

Just when I start considering to get up and see what she's up to, I hear footsteps and the next moment she's walking up to me. As I look at her, my eyes grow wide in surprise.

Hanako's standing there, her mouth clamped shut, her eyes aimed at the floor and her face red like a tomato.

She's wearing the hairclip that I gave her on our first date.

And she's holding a blanket in her hands.

A blanket!

My first thought is: 'where did she get this?'

That's kind of an irrelevant question though and it's quickly replaced by a more relevant one.

Here?

Well, assuming Hanako locked this place up already, we'll actually have more privacy here than in the girls' dorm. But still...

Here?

While I'm trying to digest this sudden turn of events, Hanako hasn't moved a single muscle, and if I don't say anything, I could easily imagine her remaining standing here all night.

Here?

On the other hand, is there a more suitable place to reconnect than the very place where we first connected with each other?

Maybe there's no need to talk at all.

As I get up from the beanbag, I realize my legs are a little shaky. While we were making out earlier, going all the way would have felt more natural than it does now. The last time we did it, it ended rather badly. I pray that we won't end up in that kind of situation again.

No point in worrying about that now.
Last edited by Guest Poster on Sat Sep 20, 2014 1:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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Posts: 1266
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:42 am

Chapter 55 - cont.

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:20 am

08
When I reach Hanako, I let my forehead rest against hers and look into her eyes for several seconds before giving her a quick peck on the lips. It's another familiar gesture we've used in the past to say something without having to say it out loud. And when I receive a quick peck on the lips in response, I realize Hanako hasn't forgotten either.

Given where we are, we probably can't afford to ruin the mood again, lest we end up chickening out half-way through. Conversation will probably kill the mood. Thinking too much will probably kill the mood. I don't think we'll need to do either. We have our memories.

I take the blanket from Hanako and spread it out on the floor near the beanbag. Then I take off my shoes and socks and sit down on the blanket. It's soft enough to feel comfortable. Hanako follows suit and sits down facing me after taking off her own shoes as well.

Hanako's eyes still aren't aimed at my face. They're aimed somewhat lower. She says nothing, but I nevertheless give her an understanding nod. This has often been one of the first steps in the past. Fighting off the slightly uneasy sensation of Hanako's intense gaze, I take off my vest, followed by my shirt. It feels a bit weird to be doing this again after all this time.

Hanako's eyes are drawn to the scar on my chest as usual, and she tentatively places her right hand on it. This simple ritual of her scars touching mine has always been a powerful bonding mechanism for us both, and a sense of nostalgia hits me as she tenderly starts stroking the spot where the surgeons operated on me all that time ago. Maybe Hanako's feeling the same way as there's a dreamy look in her eyes while her fingers are running up and down the light line on my chest.

We stay like this for quite some time, but just before I can start wondering whether Hanako has lost her desire to go further, she pulls her hand back and turns around. She takes a deep, shuddering breath and she starts to tug at her ribbon. I sit there wordless as she slips off her ribbon and continues to unbutton her blouse, before working the clip on her bra. The process seems slow, but I know better than to try and hurry it up. If I want this to go well then Hanako needs to be able to set her own pace. I look on as Hanako, hands trembling a bit, unclips her skirt. Finally, she takes her blouse in her hands and draws it off, her bra falling from her shoulders. She sits there in front of me all but bared, save for her stockings and underwear.

I slowly reach out and gently place my hands on her shoulders as she lets go of her blouse. She gasps a little; not in fright, but in simple startlement. Her lips are open, just a little. She lets out a sharp breath as, without thinking, I lean forwards and press my lips to hers.

The kiss only lasts for a fleeting moment before our faces part. The feeling of Hanako's mouth lingers, and her eyes remain locked to mine. I decide to move things forward and unbutton my pants. Hanako's body flinches at the sound of my zipper being pulled down. Maybe it's better if I let her do this part. I lean back a little and raise my hips just a bit, giving Hanako a quick nod. She grimaces just a little, but then reaches out and takes hold of my trousers. I gently move my hips back and feel both my trousers and my boxers sliding down until they're removed completely. I suddenly feel extremely vulnerable and quickly pull my knees up a bit in order to cover up my private parts.

Hanako seems a little uneasy too and looks at a loss on where to look. Nevertheless, she mirrors my gesture, raising her bottom a bit. Saying a silent prayer that the next part isn't going to take longer than it needs to, I reach out and take hold of her stockings. I slowly, but deliberately pull both her stockings and panties down. The first time she and I did it, I wasn't even able to completely remove them, but in the months that followed I got plenty of practice with those stockings, and I'm relieved to see that I've still retained enough of my special touch to take them off without much trouble.

Wanting to move the situation forward quickly, I position myself in front of the beanbag I was reading on earlier and lean against it a bit. Then I open my legs and pat the blanket we're sitting on. I feel extremely embarrassed being in this position and I keep my eyes averted, hoping for Hanako to quickly make the next move. She thankfully gets the cue, and a moment later, she sits down in front of me, drapes her beautiful dark hair over her right shoulder and leans back against me. I wrap my arm around her waist and eagerly pull her closer. The feeling of her back and shoulders leaning against my chest is really nice. I think the hardest part is over now. I can probably go with my instincts from here.

I run my fingers gently across the side of her face, stroking her cheek before giving a loving kiss on it. My hand, as if possessing a mind of its own, starts stroking her shoulder and neck before ending on her left breast. She lets out a sharp breath as I start caressing it, starting with the sensitive underside before moving up, my hand going in ever-shrinking circles around the center, tracing the edges of the areola. I keep this up until she unexpectedly moves her upper body forward. Taking this as my cue, I take her breast in my hand and start kneading and fondling it, tweaking her nipple between my thumb and index finger.

She arches her back a bit and turns her head as far as she can. I notice her eyelids are slightly lowered, and her breathing has become more shallow. I lean forward and manage to embrace her lips with my own. My other hand, which was still stroking her tummy now works its way up until it rests on her right breast before it starts mirroring the movements of my other hand. I kiss Hanako passionately, drawing her sharp breaths into myself as my hands enjoy that wonderful combination of softness and firmness. Despite Hanako's right breast being partially covered by scar tissue, I've always found her breasts to be really beautiful and have always loved fondling them. The fact that Hanako has always enjoyed it as well certainly helped too. I continue kissing her, muffling her occasional moans as her nipples become erect underneath my fingertips. Sensing that she's probably ready for more, I let my left hand wander down until it rests on her upper leg.

Still keeping my right hand focussed on her breasts, my left hand slides further down and starts fondling her inner thighs, switching from her left thigh to her right and then back again. Each time I move my hand from one thigh to the other, I teasingly bring it mere centimeters away from her most intimate place before moving on and each time I do so, Hanako's breath stops for a moment. I keep this up for several times until eventually Hanako can't take it any longer and while my hand is hovering over her private spot once more, her lower body shoots forward and presses itself against my fingers. Eager to continue, I start making slow, circular rubbing motions with my fingers, just the way she always liked it best. We stay like this for a while, Hanako content to let me pleasure her and me content to listen to the little sounds and sighs my fondling draws out.

Deciding she's ready to go further, I bring my right hand up to her face and stroke her cheek with my index-and middle finger. She gives a barely visible nod and softly kisses the two fingers caressing her face. She shivers in anticipation as I run my hand down her body and briefly finger her with two hands until the fingers of my right hand are wet enough. Then I carefully slip two fingers inside her. She lets out a sharp gasp, and I immediately feel her tighten around my fingers. I give her a reassuring kiss on the cheek and wait until she's used enough to the sensation to relax. Soon, she lets out a long sigh, and the tension in her body slowly starts ebbing away. I push my fingers in a little deeper and then start making beckoning motions with them while letting my other hand wander up and down her body. At first, her entire body tenses up each time my fingers press against her sweet spot, but she soon gets into it and relaxes in my arms.

I realize that this is almost as arousing for me as it is for her. The sound of her rhythmic but shallow breathing, the sight of her naked body pressing against mine, the way her hands are squeezing my upper legs with each motion of my fingers and the sensation of her bottom rubbing and wiggling against my groin. Part of me would like to keep going until she reaches her limit.

Hanako, however, suddenly takes my wrists, gently pulls my hands away and gives a long breath of relief from the intense stimulation she's been experiencing. Her face looks to mine a little, silent, but expectant. I nod my head, sit up a little more and push away the beanbag we've been leaning against. Then I lie down on my back, ready to let Hanako take over from here.

Hanako turns around, gets on her knees and positions herself above me. She takes my erect member in one hand and slowly starts lowering herself, trying to aim the tip just right. The sight of her still shaky legs makes me a little nervous. Hanako must have seen my expression for she lets out a cute little giggle behind her hand, easing the awkwardness a bit. Then she lowers herself further onto me, and a warm sensation envelops my tip before extending all the way to the base.

"Oooh..."

I can't resist a moan when her insides embrace me completely, and I instinctively put both hands on her hips to prevent her from raising herself again. I close my eyes for a moment and relish the sensation.

So tight...

So wet...

So soft...

So warm...

I don't remember being inside Hanako feeling this wonderful. I open my eyes again when I feel something pressing down on my chest. Hanako has put her hands on my chest, on both sides of my scar, in an attempt to steady herself. For the first time since we started this, she's looking directly at me without any discomfort, and I take a long look at her as well.

He soft and slightly pale skin, colored by a slight blush.

Her beautiful dark and long hair, sticking to her back and sides right now due to her already being covered in sweat.

Her attractive figure and well-shaped breasts, the nipples now erect and blood-engorged.

The scars covering her body that give Hanako her unique look and feel.

Her pretty dark eyes which are half-closed and have a dreamy look about them.

Her smile.

That beautiful smile that sets her apart from everyone else I know.

I love this girl - scars and all.

A tear runs down her cheek as we look at each other. I bring my hand up to her face and tenderly brush it away. Words aren't needed here. The look we're exchanging is all we need.

After tilting her lower body a bit in order to get a better angle, Hanako slowly starts moving her hips, grinding against me in circular motions, slowly and carefully at first, but faster once we've figured out a rhythm. With me lying on my back and Hanako straddling me, I take advantage of the fact that I have my hands free to let them wander all over her body.

Her neck and shoulders...

Her sides...

Her upper legs and buttocks. I can't resist the urge to squeeze them a bit, but Hanako's too much into it to protest or even care.

Finally, her breasts. Due to her scarring, Hanako's right half tends to move differently from her left half during sex and her breasts tend to bounce out of sync as well, but I've always felt that it looked kind of cute. I start stroking them with both hands, and Hanako, gripped by the experience presses her chest against my hands, wiggles her upper body in order to increase the sensation.

"Hah... mmmg... hmmm!"

"Aah... mmmmm...nnnng!"

We're both breathing heavily and already past the point where we're even trying to restrain our voices. I doubt there's even a single soul other than us on this floor, and letting the other know how much we're enjoying each other is more important than anything else. Even if somebody were to come in, I doubt we'd even be able to stop anyway. We've come too far already.

Suddenly, Hanako takes my hands off her breasts, lies flat on top of me and takes my head in her hands. I wrap one of my arms around her waist, gently place my other hand on the back of her head and push her head closer to mine. We share a passionate kiss, and I start wiggling my upper body in response to her movements, my breath briefly taken away by the sensation of my nipples rubbing against hers. It feels like every part of my body is now being stimulated by her... my tongue, my upper body, my netherregion... everything.

I can feel our limits approaching rapidly. Our movements are becoming less and less controlled and more and more desperate... instinctual even. I gave up repeating scientific formulas in my head in order to stave off the intense sensation minutes ago. Our breathing is ragged and shallow. My muddled mind can just barely make out the sight of Hanako's face as she squeezes her eyes tightly shut and grits her teeth. Then her entire body starts squirming, forcing my body to do the same. Her mouth opens slightly. I close my eyes, bracing myself for the inevitable. We hang onto each other as we race past the point of no return together, still trying to prolong the moment for as long as possible. Then Hanako cries out, and her entire body freezes while her insides give me the most powerful squeeze I've ever felt. A wave of pleasure races up my spine as I, too, freeze up and then discharge into Hanako.

Everything around us seems to disappear in haze of white, as if there's nothing and nobody left in the world except Hanako and me, our bodies shaking and convulsing in a climax of shared ecstasy. Finally, after the last aftershock subsedes, the pleasure makes way for a sense of all-encompassing bliss. As my breathing slows down to a normal rate, Hanako slides off of me and puts her scarred hand on my chest. I concentrate on my heartbeat as it slowly returns to its normal pace as well. For one moment I feel a slight abnormality in its rhythm, but the feeling passes as quickly as it came up. I put my hand over Hanako's, look her in the eyes and give a silent nod. A happy smile appears on her face, and she closes her eyes, yet can't prevent a few tears streaming down her cheek.

Starting to feel a little cold, I sit up, pull the nearby beanbag a little closer and lean back against it. When Hanako sits up as well, I motion her to sit sideways on my lap and then wrap the blanket we've been lying on around us, like a wonderfully warm protective cocoon. Our lovemaking has left me feeling drained, and I feel my eyelids getting heavier. Hanako's drenched in sweat, and her unscarred skin is heavily flushed, but she isn't looking as sleepy as I'm feeling right now. Remembering how important this is to her, I hold her close and stroke her face and scalp with my free hand while gently rubbing my feet against hers. In response, I feel her hand stroking my chest and her left cheek brushing against mine. The feeling of sleepiness is getting stronger, and I blink my eyes a few times in an unsuccesful attempt to shake it off. Then I suddenly feel Hanako shift a bit, and a moment later I feel a tender kiss above my eyebrow. My mind eased by Hanako's gesture, I close my eyes as the warmth of the blanket and Hanako's body gently lull me to sleep. For one more moment, my mind registers Hanako's cuddling, and then I sink into a comfortable, dreamless sleep.

--------------------------------------
09
When I wake up, I notice it's already pretty dark, especially in the corner where I'm sitting against the beanbag. I must have slept for several hours. I let out a yawn and moments later, I hear someone softly whispering my name.

"Hisao?"

"Hanako. When did you wake up?"

"A little while ago. How are you f-feeling?"

"Pretty good, I think. My lower back feels a bit sore though. I guess I'm a little out of practice."

Hanako giggles.

"M-Mine too."

"Hanako?"

"Yes?"

"Erm... I hope you don't mind me asking, but... How was it?"

I wouldn't blame Hanako for refusing to answer a question like this, seeing how embarrassing it is, but I nevertheless get a reaction; not in the form of a reply, but in the form of a tender little kiss on my lips. It makes me smile and just a little bit proud too.

"I... uh... really enjoyed it too."

That earns me another kiss. I nevertheless feel a little awkward thinking back on the last few hours. Things took a pretty unexpected turn after we were reunited with one another. In a way it felt natural that our first act of intimacy and our first physical union in many months took place at the very spot where we first got to know each other. Our relationship underwent a bit of a rebirth in the very place where it was first born. But now that the adrenaline and endorphins are no longer raging through my system, my mind also reminds me of the implications of what we just did.

We just had sex.

In the school library.

The school's been pretty accommodating to Hanako over the years, but I have little doubt that if they were to find out about this, they wouldn't waste any time expelling her.

"Uh... Hanako?"

"Yes?"

"You remembered to lock the door, right?"

"Yes."

"We'd better not tell anybody else about what we just did. You could get into trouble."

"It'll b-be our shared s-secret."

"Heh, they say that shared secrets strengthen a couple's bond with one another."

My girlfriend giggles.

"Yes."

"Hanako? Where did you get this blanket? I didn't expect to find something like this in a library. And whose is it? We... uh... got it kinda dirty it and the owner may not be happy about that."

"It's okay. It's my spare blanket. I k-keep it in the storage room. I'll w-wash it when I have the chance."

It did kind of look familiar, now that I think about it.

"Why are you keeping a blanket in here?"

"Uh... ever since I... started helping the l-library staff, they've allowed me to... lock up at the end of the d-day and said that if I wanted to, I could use the library to study after closing hours. Ever since, I've often spent my evenings here. But... the heating in the building is automatically turned down after a certain time and it can get a little c-cold here in the evenings, so I use that blanket to k-keep warm."

I chuckle.

"My girlfriend the librarian. It kind of fits you. But why didn't you tell me in our mails?"

"This is... only m-my first week as an actual l-librarian. Before, I was just helping out s-sorting books and learning the ropes. I w-was going to tell you after I g-got settled a bit."

"Oh, okay. Do you often spend your evenings in here?"

"Usually a few days every week."

"You're not sleeping in here too, are you?"

It was just a playful little joke, but Hanako suddenly freezing for a second makes me realize I accidentally hit a nail on the head that I didn't even know was there.

"You're sleeping in here too."

"N-N-Not always!"

"Hahaha. Jeez... You're sleeping in here?"

"N-Not always. Only once or t-twice."

I chuckle. What a weird habit.

"Is that even comfortable?"

"If you... c-curl up on one of the larger beanbags, it's not too bad."

"I'll take your word for it. This is kind of nice too though."

That's an understatement. I hope Hanako's not in a hurry to get back to her dorm room, because the prospect of remaining here for a little longer, wrapped in a comfortable blanket with my girlfriend's warm body pressed against mine is really, really appealing.

"Do you... want to stay like this for a little while longer?"

"I wouldn't mind. Do you?"

"I'd... like to, but aren't you hungry?"

"A little bit, but the cafeteria is probably closed already anyway, so there's no point in hurrying."

"Ummm... Hisao? Can you reach my bag?"

I turn my head to the left and see Hanako's handbag lying near the beanbag we're leaning against. I stretch my arm out as far as I can and manage to pick it up without having to leave the spot we're sitting. With some effort, I fish a lunchbox out of it.

"This is your dinner?"

"Yes. I sometimes bring food along, so I can eat here after c-closing time. It's not much, but... we can share. I have... uh... rice balls, p-pieces of sashimi and some rolled sushi."

"Sounds tasty."

After some fumbling, I manage to open the lunchbox with a single hand and hold it in front of Hanako, who wiggles an arm out from under the blanket and takes a piece of sashimi.

"Could you say 'aaah'?"

I roll my eyes and sigh.

"This again?"

"P-Please?"

"Alright then. Aaaah."

I open my mouth, and Hanako puts the piece of sashimi inside, quietly giggling to herself. I've always had to roll my eyes at this childish little ritual whenever my girlfriend made me take part in it, but Hanako has always enjoyed it a lot, and I see no reason not to humor her right now.

Neither of us says a word for a long time, not during our quiet shared dinner and not during the time afterwards when we just sit there and enjoy each other's presence. Eventually, I start feeling a little drowsy again, and I yawn slightly.

"Are you sleepy, Hisao?"

"Not overly so, but I attended morning classes at Kasshoku and there was the long train ride too, so all in all it's still been a pretty long day."

"Is it... r-really okay to s-skip classes for my sake?"

"I think it's perfectly fine. I'm actually one of the most diligent pupils in my class. I can afford it. Some folks in my class hardly attend at all. There seems to be an unwritten understanding at university that everybody who's attending there had to work really hard to make it in, and after they graduate they'll once again have to work really hard until the day they retire, so now's their last chance in a long while to hang back a bit. Some take that further than others. I'm still going to do my part for our group project tomorrow, so my absence isn't too big a deal."

Hanako seems to consider this for a moment.

"If you... really say so."

"It's okay, I promise."

"Okay."

"So, do you want to stay here?"

"We... s-shouldn't sleep here. The cleaning ladies are usually here p-pretty early in the morning and if they found you here, that would be b-bad."

"Then maybe we should get dressed now before this starts feeling too comfortable."

"Okay."

I pull the blanket away, causing both of us to shiver a bit and fish a handkerchief out of the pocket of my pants so we can clean ourselves a bit. After dressing ourselves, we leave the school building and set out for the girls’ dorms. Just before we reach the entrance, I turn to my girlfriend.

"Hanako?"

"Yes?"

"You... know why I'm here, don't you?"

Hanako averts her eyes and looks a little uncomfortable, but then she nods.

"Yes."

"And it's still okay with you if I stay here tonight?"

"It...is. I...would love... for you to...stay w-with me."
10
Last edited by Guest Poster on Sat Sep 20, 2014 6:01 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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Posts: 1266
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:42 am

Chapter 56

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:21 am

Chapter 56
01
"Mmh..."

As I slowly wake up from my slumber, I wearily open my eyes only to immediately close them again due to the bright light. My eyelids feel heavy as does my head. My body feels like lead.

Did I forget to close the curtains last night?

Something feels very different.

As my mind starts trying to orientate itself, I'm starting to become aware of various things.

I can't feel my right arm. I try to move my fingers, but I'm not sure if they're even responding. Looks like my arm is still asleep for some reason.

I do feel my left arm and my left hand is resting on a soft surface. In fact, something is pressed against my body. Something nice and warm. It's a pleasant feeling.

I don't think I'm wearing my pajamas. Or anything else for that matter.

Something is tickling my nose. There's a faint smell of something... familiar.

I hear the sound of soft breathing nearby and carefully open my eyes a bit. As my eyes gradually get used to the light, I start making out my surroundings.

It only takes me one brief glance at the flowing, dark hair in front of me to realize where I am and who's currently sharing the bed with me.

Hanako.

This is Hanako's dorm room at Yamaku. I came to visit here yesterday. We shared Hanako's leftovers from lunch last night. She told me she wanted me to stay with her. (good thing too since it was too late to return home at that point) Then we snuck into her dorm room and... well...

Let's just say I'm happy that I made the effort to stay in shape over the last few months.

I take a long look at Hanako. She's lying on her back, and I'm lying on my side next to her. My right arm is wrapped around her, and her head's been lying on it which probably explains why it's asleep right now. My left hand is resting on her tummy which gently moves with the rhythm of her breathing. Our legs and feet are tangled up in one another, and my head was resting against hers until a moment ago. It was probably one of her locks of hair that tickled my nose earlier.

I try to move my fingers again, but they still don't seem to be responding. Using my other arm, I eventually manage to pull my right arm free. Hanako stirs for a moment, but doesn't wake up. I take another look at my girlfriend. Hanako looks really peaceful. A lot more peaceful than she usually is when she's awake. She looks really cute too. I hope she'll be at ease too when she wakes up.

It's the 10th of July today. Hanako turns 19 on this day. Since Hanako spent the last couple of her birthdays securely holed up in her room, I had been hoping to preempt the situation rather than risk arriving here on the day itself and only seeing a locked door.

I move my head closer to hers and take a gentle sniff. Hanako's hair always has a rather distinct smell. She probably uses a special shampoo to keep it as vibrant as it is. It smells really nice.

It turns out that Hanako's hair is the only thing that smells nice about us right now though. As I move a bit and start massaging my numb right arm with my left, the romantic mood of the moment is slightly spoiled by the faint smell of perspiration and... other stuff... coming from beneath the blanket. After our lovemaking last night, we didn't want to ruin our moment of closeness so we snuggled up to each other and drifted off to sleep without taking the time to clean up. It felt like the right course of action back then, but I'm feeling kind of sweaty and sticky right now. I could really use a shower...

...which might be a problem right now seeing that I'm currently in the girls' dorm. I don't want to cause a scandal while I'm here.

Guess it'll have to wait.

I suppose I'll just lie here until Hanako wakes up. It's not like I have a lot planned for today.

Then again, I think I have an idea that she might appreciate.

I quietly get out of bed, making an effort not to wake Hanako and start gathering the clothes scattered across the floor. I neatly fold Hanako's clothes over her desk chair and put on my own. I had the foresight to take along an additional set of clothes in my backpack, but I'd better keep yesterday's clothes on until I can wash myself.

I take the room keys from Hanako's desk, unlock the door and exit the room without making a sound. A boy walking through the girls' dormitory this early in the morning will immediately cause people to become suspicious, especially if said boy isn't even wearing Yamaku's school uniform, but it's still fairly early in the morning so with luck most of the students here are either still asleep or simply hanging out in their own room. I hurriedly make my way to the kitchen area and open what I remember to be Hanako's cupboard. She probably did some shopping earlier this week because there are plenty of things inside. I don't want to spend too long here, lest I attract the attention of half the building's residents, but it shouldn't take me too long to cook some miso soup with the stock and miso paste that Hanako has in here. I hurriedly put two pans with water on the stove; one for the miso soup and another for the instant noodles I found among Hanako's things.

While I'm waiting for the water to reach boiling temperature, I find myself repeatedly looking at the doorway. This isn't very relaxing. If the boys' dormitory had been a bit closer I could have gone there to prepare the meal, but walking across part of the campus carrying our meals isn't really feasable either.

After a few minutes, the water in the pans starts to boil and I add the stock, paste and noodles. Only a few minutes more and I'll be able to return to Hanako's room. With a bit of luck she won't have woken up yet.

"Huh?"

My attention is suddenly drawn away from the food when I hear a girl's voice behind me. I turn around and see a sleepy-looking girl still wearing pajamas standing in the doorway. Her long, unkept hair has an extremely light color, giving me the impression that she's an albino, and she has a rather skinny build. I think I vaguely remember her from when I still came here on a daily basis.

"Aren't you in the wrong building?"

I make an apologetic gesture.

"Sorry, I'll be done in a minute or two."

I quickly get back to my breakfast preparations, but when I take a careful glance over my shoulder, I notice the girl's still standing there, looking at me. She's probably either too polite or shy to tell me to hurry up, but I feel like I'm being stared out of the room. Just when I'm about to say something, another girl comes walking in; a familiar girl with a crutch who gives me a friendly wave.

"Oh, hello."

"Hey. Nice to see a familiar face."

The girl who first came in here turns to her fellow-student.

"Do you know him? Why is he occupying our kitchen?"

"He's Hanako's boyfriend. And I guess he's... making breakfast for her?"

"Who's Hanako?"

"The new librarian. She's a friend of mine from the newspaper club."

"Oh."

The first girl shrugs her shoulders.

"I figured I'd be the first person here if I got up a little earlier and I'd have the kitchen all to myself. So much for that. Guess it wasn't meant to be."

"I'm almost done. Sorry for making you wait."

She shrugs again and then takes a seat at the nearby table. The girl with the crutch, whom I recognize as Jun Yamazaki, approaches me.

"Good morning. Please don't mind my classmate. She's not really a morning person."

"It's fine. I know I'm a bit out of place here. It's been a while, hasn't it?"

She nods.

"How does it feel to be here again?"

"A little weird, but also strangely comfortable. I still can't help but feel a little bit like an outsider now though. That's something I didn't expect."

I take a look at her crutch and then at her. She makes a reassuring gesture.

"I had a little misstep a few weeks after graduation day and I'm not extremely mobile yet, but I can manage."

"Okay."

I I shift my attention back to our breakfast and finish preparing the meal. I get a tray from the cupboard, pour the soup and noodles into some bowls and put them on the tray. Jun looks at the tray with a slight look of envy in her eyes and sighs.

"I wish I had a boyfriend who did these kinds of sweet things for me."

I give Jun a surprised look, but her classmate at the table rolls her eyes. She's probably heard this before. She gives Jun an annoyed stare.

"Then maybe you should talk to boys more often or spend more time around them instead of sitting behind your computer surfing the web or playing games all the time."

Jun makes a face.

"If I have to give up everything else I enjoy in life, a boyfriend's still going to result in a net loss of happiness. Besides, nobody is attracted to frail grannies without wrinkles anyway. Well, except for my dad..."

"Ewww, gross!"

"Ugh, that's not what I meant. Get your mind out of the gutter before it catches something!"

I don't think I need to be part of this discussion, so I say goodbye to Jun, leave the kitchen and make my way back to Hanako's room. It takes a bit of effort to get the door open without dropping the tray in the process, but I eventually manage to get inside and deliver the meal to its intended recepient, who has already gotten out of bed in the meantime and has put on her nightgown. As I enter the room carrying the tray, Hanako lets out a surprised gasp.

"Oh..."

"Aww, you're already awake."

"Uh... S-sorry?"

"It's okay. It's just that I was hoping I'd be able to treat you to some breakfast in bed."

Hanako doesn't look me in the eyes, but after a few seconds a little smile appears on her face, and she gets back in bed while giving me an expectant look. I grin and sit down on the bed, putting the tray in between us.

"T-Thanks."

"I'm sorry it's such an unexciting meal, but I didn't want to take too long. I kinda felt like an intruder in the dorm's kitchen area."

"It's... probably best if you stay in h-here until classes have started."

"Yeah, since I no longer have a school uniform, I'm probably standing out even more than usual already."

We finish the meal I cooked up without making any further conversation. I'm still trying to read the mood in the room. Hanako's not exactly talkative, though that's hardly out of the ordinary with her. She doesn't seem to be struggling with depression either, so that's definitely a step forward compared to the previous years. But how is she feeling right now?

"Thank you for the meal, Hisao. It tasted really good."

I chuckle.

"It was just a basic soup and noodles breakfast. Still, I'm glad you appreciate it. It was the least I could do to get you off to a good start for the day."

The fact that Hanako averts her eyes as I finish my sentence confirms that she acknowledges that today is no ordinary day.

"Hanako?"

"Y-Yes?"

"Uh... Can I... congratulate you?"

Hanako pauses for a moment to consider this, but then slowly nods her head. I lean forward, we close our eyes and I share a quick but tender kiss with her. When our lips separate, I smile at her.

"Happy 19th birthday, Hanako. I'm really happy I met you."

Hanako looks a little awkward, but there's a brief trace of a smile on her face.

"T-Thank you... Hisao. I'm... r-really happy I met you too."

"How are you feeling?"

"I'm... n-not really sure. A little mixed, I think. P-Part of me still wishes this day would be over, but... I'm... happy you're here right now."

I pick up the tray and put it on Hanako's desk. As Hanako gets out of bed again I give her a curious look.

"So... uh... Do you have any plans for today?"

She meekly shakes her head.

"I... h-have to take a shower and then open the library."

"So you're working today?"

Hanako nods slowly.

"It's... an official assignment... from Miss Yumi. I h-have to spend t-this entire day away f-from my room. Just like... during the festival."

"At what time does your shift end today?"

"Usually until... the library closes. But... Miss Morita can probably t-take over after five o' clock."

"Miss Morita?"

"She... works at the s-school administration office, but she sometimes acts as r-replacement for the librarian. She used to... fill in for Yuuko at times too."

"So... five o' clock. I was wondering if you'd be willing to head to town with me afterwards. We can take a little walk in the park, and I'd like to treat you at the Shanghai afterwards. It'll be good to visit that place again after several months."

"O-Okay."

"Then it's a deal. I'm looking forward to it."

"But... that won't be until five o' clock, and it's still morning now. What will you do in the m-meantime?"

"Well, I promised Mutou I'd be at the science club today and tell the other members about life at the science faculty. He'll also be expecting me to show him and the rest at least a semi-finished science report. It's probably the only way I'll be able to earn his forgiveness for not being at school right now."

Hanako giggles, but also looks a bit guilty.

"Good luck."

"I'd like to take a shower and put on some fresh clothes, but it's probably best to do that in the guys' dorm. I'll just wait until classes get started. It's unlikely anybody will even notice me there with school being in session. I think I'll spend most of the day studying and working on my part of the school assignment. Though if there are any chores you want me to do, like shopping or laundry, I'll be happy to do them."

Hanako considers this for a moment but then smiles and shakes her head.

"Thanks, but that's not n-necessary yet."

I take a brief look at the bed.

"I'll be sure to wash the sheets and blanket though. You can't say that's not necessary yet either. We messed up two blankets in one evening."

Hanako instantly turns beet red and doesn't respond. I chuckle. It's not very nice, but I think her awkward fidgetting is surprisingly cute.

"It's a deal then. You should go and take your shower now. You want to be in time to open the library."

Hanako nods and, still blushing a bit, walks out of the door. As I'm left alone in the room I take the opportunity to look around a bit. When we first came here last night, we had other things on our mind, and when I woke up this morning, I was focussed on making breakfast before Hanako woke up. Now that Hanako's away, I find myself taking in the surroundings.

When I first saw the inside of Hanako's room I was shocked at how frighteningly plain it was. I still wouldn't mistake it for anybody else's room, but a few things in here are different now from how I remember them.

The teddy bear that Naomi got Hanako during the writing club's outing is lying under the bed. We put it there to make room for me last night.

The plush puppy that Hanako once gave Lilly is keeping the teddy bear company. Before we left Yamaku on graduation day, Lilly gave the plush dog to Miss Takawa with the request to leave it with Hanako as a sign of support.

It looks like she finally got herself a new alarm clock to replace the one Naomi accidentally broke. For a long time was stuck using her phone's alarm clock function.

I notice two framed certificates on her dresser. One of them is the first aid certificate Hanako earned nearly a year ago. The other one is the prize she and her friends from the writing club won in that contest. I remember she used to keep these in her desk drawer. I wonder if it was her idea to frame these or someone else's. Is she using these as reminders of what she can achieve if she puts her mind to it?

There are some papers on her desk. I briefly skim one and can immediately tell who wrote it by the writing style. It's a letter from Lilly. Hanako must have run Lilly's original letter in braille through the conversion software at the newspaper club and printed it out. Next to the letter is a sheet of paper with text in Hanako's handwriting. Seems like this is her correspondence with Lilly.

The most eyecatching additions to the room are on the shelf near the bed though. One is a photo album that seems to contain several dozens of photos from our vacation in Scotland. The other is a rather large frame containing what seems to be a collage of pictures. As I look closer at the frame, I realize I recognize most of them.

Near one of the corners is the class photo that was taken last year, just a week before we visited Kasshoku. Looking at it makes me feel nostalgic even though it's only been a few months since I last saw everyone at graduation. Hanako looks pretty good in that picture. She has a shy, but sincere smile on her face.

There's also a picture of Hanako, Naomi and Jun that was probably taken after the outing they went on to celebrate their writing prize. Each of the girls is holding a plush doll in their arms that Naomi presumably got from one of the crane games. Hanako is holding the teddy bear that's currently residing under the bed, Naomi has a 'Hello Kitty' doll in her arms and Jun is carrying a cute plush Pikachu. They seem to be laughing in the picture, and Hanako is holding her bear particularly close to her face, so her scars are practically invisible in the photo.

Another one is the picture we took on the plane to London at the start of our vacation.

And one with Hanako, Lilly and me having a picnic on that second day of our trip.

Then there are several photos that were made during our activities in Inverness and our time in my hometown during the summer break.

Finally, I spot a photo of me and my parents that was probably made when Hanako and I dropped by for Christmas and another picture of the Satou family that Hanako must have taken during New Year since I doubt Akira would wear a kimono on any other day of the year.

I'm pleasantly surprised seeing these things. There was always something unsettling about the emptiness of Hanako's room. It was like a jarring confirmation of her words that her life's been on hold for a long time.

After leaving Yamaku, there have been times when I wondered if Hanako's life went back on hold after her breakdown. Was this extra year truly going to make a difference or was it just postponing the inevitable? At times I feared it was the latter, but after today and yesterday I'm not so sure anymore.

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Last edited by Guest Poster on Sat Sep 20, 2014 6:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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Chapter 56 - cont.

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:21 am

02
I give a few polite knocks on the door of the office. After Hanako left the dorms this morning, I went to the guys' dorm to take a quick shower and change my clothes, and then I went through one of my study books while the washing machine was busy cleaning Hanako's sheets. Afterwards, I went to the computer lab, checked for mails from my classmates at Kasshoku and spent a few hours typing up my part of our group assignment. After mailing it to the others, I realized I still had some time before the science club started, so I went to see an old acquaintance with whom I already had a conversation over the phone earlier this week.

"Mister Nakai! So glad you could make it. Please come in."

The old therapist gives me a welcoming smile and gestures for me to come in. I've been here often enough to know the usual ritual by now, so I follow her inside, sit at the table and patiently wait while she pours us some tea and hands me a bowl.

If she does this with every person who visits here, I wouldn't be surprised if she's just as much a caffeïne addict as Lilly is.

"I hope I'm not imposing on you."

"Not in the least. As you can see I'm not having any clients over at the moment, so your visit was well-timed."

She smiles at me.

"Your visit was surely a nice surprise to Miss Ikezawa. She must have been quite pleased when you suddenly reunited with her."

She was... in several ways.

"You could say that. Thank you for the blessing the other day.Three months ago you told me it was best if as much initiative as possible was left to Hanako for the sake of her therapy. I thought it'd be best to ask you ahead of time if this was okay or not."

"There's nothing wrong with exceptions from time to time. I don't think she would have asked anyone herself to take a day off to be with her on her birthday after all. I won't go as far as to condone truancy, at least not officially, but if the university doesn't complain, neither will I."

I have the impression that if Mutou puts up with my truancy without further complaints, I'll probably have Miss Takawa to thank for it.

"I also felt that it was a smart idea to test the waters a bit myself since her birthday is a bit of a sensitive issue. Last year and the year before, Hanako spent her birthday hidden away in her room, probably wallowing in depression. I wasn't quite sure how things were going to be this time. I didn't want to run the risk of the same happening this year."

"Hmmm... Did you really think that would have happened?"

"I don't know. Before I came to Yamaku I never met anybody who reacted to a birthday the way Hanako did."

"Do you know why she secluded herself on that day in the past?"

"...Do you?"

Miss Takawa chuckles at this strange stand-off.

"I do."

"She told me once that her birthday was the one day when people would pay attention to her and she wasn't treated like an inconvenience. The sheer contrast of that day and all the other days of the year only served to make her feel worse about herself."

"But you are not merely pretending to care about her, are you?"

"Of course not."

"Then I don't think how she feels about her birthday really applies to you. Miss Ikezawa's faith may waver a bit from time to time, but I don't think she doubts the fact that you sincerely care about her. Because of that, I don't think she would have turned you away today. Please keep that in mind."

"Well, it turns out that she wasn't going to hide in her room regardless since you specifically asked her to go about her daily schedule as usual today. I don't understand why you didn't tell me about this when we spoke on the phone earlier."

Miss Takawa gives a casual shrug.

"Those assignments I give her on occasion to let her take gentle steps outside her comfort zone are part of her therapy and since you asked about her birthday, I didn't feel it was necessary to bring up her therapy with you."

There she goes again with the need-to-know stuff. I get why she's doing it, but it's annoying at times.

"Is Hanako working here as a librarian part of her therapy too?"

Miss Takawa smiles proudly.

"She's still a little awkward right now, but since this is her first week as an actual librarian rather than an assistant, I think things are still going pretty well. The job really suits her, don't you agree?"

Given how jumpy Yuuko was most of the time, Hanako almost seems like the perfect replacement to carry on the tradition at Yamaku of having the school library run by socially awkward people.

"It does seem pretty fitting. Does she get paid for it too?"

"Not directly, but if she can keep this up until the end of the school year, the school is willing to refund a good part of this year's tuition fee. That's one of the perks that come with the job."

"Perks?"

"In addition to that, it also gives her a useful activity to keep busy during the day and she's allowed to use the place to study in the evening. Having a job also tends to boost one's self esteem ever so slightly, which is always welcome with Miss Ikezawa. Most importantly though, it forces her to have casual interaction with other people on a daily basis while still in a relatively controlled environment that is familiar and safe to her and that she knows well. Through this daily contact with other people, we're hoping to restore her faith a little bit."

"Faith?"

"Not in a religious sense, but more in a personal sense. She trusts you and Miss Satou for example, but she's had quite a bit of time to get to know you and it took her a long time before she trusted you enough to open up to you. That's not a viable approach to take with people in general. In daily life you often meet new people with whom you have to deal and you don't get the time to gradually get to know them. In order to deal with them you simply need to have faith that they bear no ill will towards you. If every unknown person around you becomes someone who's potentially thinking bad thoughts about you, it becomes impossible to function in everyday society. Sometimes you just need to put your trust in mankind."

"Hanako's had some pretty rotten experiences with mankind."

"I am aware of that. That's why she needs this daily contact with other people so badly. She needs good or at least neutral experiences to cancel out the bad ones. If she cannot lose or soften this deep-seated distrust of people in general, it'll once again ruin her chances of moving on when it's time to take the entrance exams. What we're trying here is to prevent history from repeating itself."

"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid you've lost me. Did you say that Hanako's distrust of people in general caused her to flunk her entrance exams?"

"I did."

"I thought it was her fear of not being able to function outside Yamaku that contributed to her failing the entrance exams."

"That played an important role as well, but if I had to point out one central issue that must have dominated her thoughts back then, this one was probably it. To her it was a bad situation with no way out."

"The situation being exam season?"

"Yes. I think she really wanted to pass her entrance exam, Mister Nakai. She really, really did. She wanted to attend the same university as you do. She really wanted to continue her relationship with you and see you on a regular basis. She really wanted to become Miss Satou's roommate. She really didn't want Miss Satou to lose her chance of getting her own little place because of her. And yet... Despite the stakes being this high, another part of her felt terrified of succeeding. Probably even terrified enough to flunk that important entrance exam."

"But why?"

"Fear. Fear of others. Surely you understand her position. The stakes were so high and yet... That breakdown she had in the lecture hall… There were many people there. Apparently between 150 and 200. Many of those were high school students, just like herself. Many of those were potentially future classmates. And Miss Ikezawa made a very bad first impression on them that day..."

So that was what was on her mind. Hanako...

"Hanako was afraid that... the people who witnessed her breakdown that day... would remember it and... would start bullying her over it? And you're saying she...threw the exam? On purpose?"

"A term like 'on purpose' is a little too black-and-white for my tastes. And is it that hard to imagine Miss Hanako worrying about history repeating itself?"

"No, but I... Jeez, that must have been eating her up inside. But..."

"Yes?"

"What would the chances be? From what I've experienced so far, the atmosphere at university is very different from middle school and high school. Much more... laid-back. Much less pressure. It's a different environment."

Miss Takawa gives me a smirk that's almost derisive.

"Can you give her a guarantee that she won't get picked on, Mister Nakai? Because I certainly cannot despite the odds probably not being as high as she thinks them to be. People don't stop judging each other the moment they graduate high school. Bullying and exclusion can take place anywhere. Even at university or at the workplace. People get more subtle about things when they grow older, but group dynamics remain roughly the same throughout life."

"That's pretty depressing."

"Which is why Miss Ikezawa cannot afford to think like that. If she does, I'm afraid that the whole thing might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those first few weeks at university will be crucial. That's when groups are made. She cannot afford to lag behind despite having a disadvantage over the rest. You are right about the environment being different. I believe that if she can make it through those crucial few starting weeks and make a few friends, things will be fine for her, and she might graduate from university as a much more confident young woman. If, however, she enters university under the conviction that a repeat of middle school is inevitably waiting for her there, her behavior and mannerisms will reflect that belief. Her resulting behavior will be almost certainly keep potential friends at arms' length while at the same time attracting the attention of whatever bad apples might be nearby. That's why restoring her faith is so important. We cannot influence with whom she'll be attending university classes, but we can influence partially how those people will come to see her. As a fellow-student who's merely a bit nervous on her first day, just like the rest - or as a barely functioning loner."

"Do you think that can be done?"

"Her anxieties won't be gone at the end of the school year, but with enough effort on her part she'll be able to handle them better. That's what we're aiming for."

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

"I think you've already made a difference by coming here today. Even though I cannot officially condone the practice of skipping classes, I think it's a good thing you're here. Miss Ikezawa's bonds with her friends are at the foundation of her efforts to cope and adjust. Whenever I tell her to have faith in people, I bring up you and the rest of her friends as examples. Do what you can to honor that trust because without it, her resolve to see this year through to the end would quickly crumble."

"...sure."

The old lady chuckles.

"That probably sounded a bit more demanding than I meant it to. I think that if you simply keep up your interaction with her and watch your own health a bit, things'll work out fine."

"Here's hoping. With luck, today will add a little bit to that foundation of hers you spoke of."

--------------------------------------
03
"Uhuh..."

"Well, there's still some time left, but try not to take too long."

"Huh? Hey, there she is already. 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I have to hang up. I'll talk to you later."

I hang up my phone and wave at Hanako who's approaching the bench where I've been sitting for the last 10 minutes.

"Hey there! You're earlier than I expected."

"Miss Morita s-said she came a little earlier so I could spend a b-bit more time with you."

"That's really nice of her. Shall we go?"

"Okay."

I get up and we head through the school gate and down the road to town.

"It'll be nice to go on this little walk again after all those months."

Hanako nods and then turns to me.

"Who... were you talking to just now?"

"Oh, just one of my classmates. I mailed a piece I wrote for our group assignment their way earlier today and he needed some clarification."

"Were you... able to do you part?"

"Yeah, I used the computers at the computer lab to type up my contribution and to look up stuff I didn't know. I also took some of my science books with me for additional references. I feel that today's been pretty productive."

"And how was the s-science club?"

I smile broadly at the memory.

"It was really good seeing the guys again. They were all happy to see me, and I found out that the club gained six new members while I was gone. We had a really good time together. I felt embarrased being addressed as 'president' again though."

"I think... it makes sense. You're not just the club's first p-president, but also its f-founder. That m-makes you... a bit special."

"I personally don't think it's too big a deal."

"Did you get to talk about university?"

"Yeah, I did. Mostly about the various subjects and assignments I've had so far. Mutou actually ended up giving me some pretty helpful feedback on my science report, so I might end up getting something out of this too."

"Isn't that... uh... cheating?"

"I don't think it is. Mutou gave me some directions, but he didn't spell things out for me. There's nothing wrong with letting others review your stuff before you submit it. Scientists do that all the time."

Hanako lets out a soft giggle, and I realize that that probably came out wrong.

"Not that I'm calling myself a scientist, mind you."

Hanako merely shakes her head and smiles, obviously still amused by my comment. I decide to change the subject.

"How's the newspaper club, by the way? Are you still involved with it?"

"A b-bit."

"Seeing that you're probably the oldest member of the club right now, certainly you have special status."

Hanako smiles and meekly shakes her head.

"Not... r-really. Most people there h-have been members for a longer time than me."

"You say you're still a bit involved. Do you still go to meetings?"

"Not anymore. I have to work during their meetings. But I still t-try to write at least one piece for each of their issues. It's... a column where I r-recommend one or more books that w-we carry here."

"That sounds like something that's right up your alley. Do you have any recent issues? I'd love to read one."

"In my desk drawer. If you... still have time after we get back, you can r-read them."

"Looking forward to it."

We finally make it to town, and I take a wistful look around. I've lived in the city for most of my life and am used to bustling urban areas, so this town maintains a charming and soothing atmosphere.

"Shall we go?"

"Uh... T-the Shanghai is the other w-way."

I roll my eyes.

"I know that, but if it's okay with you, I'd like to take a little walk through town first. I'm not really hungry yet."

"I don't mind."

We walk through the peaceful streets of town until we see the lush vegetation of the park before us. I give my girlfriend a knowing look.

"I'd like to pick a nice spot somewhere around here and take a little break for a while."

"Okay."

Of course the words 'picking a spot' would suggest looking around, keeping a few options in mind and then choosing the option we like most. In truth there's only one spot in the park that I think is suitable right now, and Hanako's probably been thinking the same as we take a quick look at the other at exactly the same time when a particular bench with a vending machine nearby comes into view. The look we share is enough for both of us.

"It's been decided then."

Hanako lets out a cheerful giggle.

"Yes."

We head over to the bench, I get two cans of apple juice from the nearby vending machine, and we sit down. For a long time neither of us says anything. We both know the significance of this place. This is the place where, nearly one year ago, Hanako and I reached out to each other and became boyfriend and girlfriend.
04
"This place brings back memories, doesn't it?"

"Yes."

"I can't believe it's been nearly a year since we got together."

"Y-Yes..."

Hanako doesn't finish her sentence, and when I look at her, I noticed that there's a pained expression on her face.

"Hanako, what's wrong?"

"It's been... nearly a year, but I... haven't been a very good girlfriend for... a large part of it. I feel... good about the first f-few months, b-but afterwards..."

"You don't have to be so hard on yourself. You were going through a rough time."

"My... r-rough time spanned half of our r-relationship. We l-live far away from each other. I w-wasn't really there for you. I ran away from all of you. I... c-couldn't even do... that... with you anymore."

"I think yesterday proved that that last part was a temporary hurdle..."

Hanako's cheek turns a little red at the reminder of yesterday's events.

"...and besides, it was partially my fault as well. The last time we shared a bed and things didn't go well, you offered to... uh... tend to me using alternative means and I immediately shot the offer down because I didn't feel good about the idea of just me having a good time. I didn't even consider that putting our entire love life in the fridge was probably going to make you feel worse about yourself. I'm sorry about that."

"It's okay. I'm... guilty of the same when you were f-forced to take it easy because of your heart."

"So I guess the moral of the story is for both of us to be a bit more flexible in that area."

"Uh... Y-yes."

We both blush a bit at the implication of what we just said.

"You know... In the end, exam season probably would have played out the way it did regardless because I wasn't exactly in peak physical condition myself. In fact, I'm not sure if I would have been able to take anything more intense than a kiss."

"Isn't that... a little bit exaggerated?"

"I never told you or Lilly this, but I had a rather intense heart flutter less than eight hours before the National Center Test. Kenji needed to borrow some notes, he knocked way too loudly, I was concentrating on some last minute cramming and got startled badly, and my heart suddenly went crazy. It was really scary. When Naomi had that seizure the morning after, I realized how reckless I had been. I could have easily been the one who had to drop out early instead of Naomi. After that epileptic fit of hers, I promised myself to take it a little easier and let the nurse in on my condition. Even with the additional medication he gave me, I remained in a rather volatile state until the entrance exams were over and I started sleeping regularly and working out again."

Hanako looks a bit troubled upon hearing that.

"I... I never knew."

"Sorry. I just didn't want you to worry about me. I figured you already had enough on your mind."

"S-Same here. I... ever since that d-day at K-Kasshoku, I knew that I... probably w-wouldn't be able to make it in. I started having bad dreams. I gave everything I had on the C-Center Test, because I d-didn't want you to worry about me. But after the Center Test, the n-nightmares became more frequent and... a lot worse. I... d-don't think I ever r-really had a chance. I didn't know what to d-do or how to face you and Lilly. I felt I was ruining things f-for all of us. I felt like I was b-becoming a burden to all of you again. I..."

She swallows.

"I... I hated that you h-had to watch me r-regress like that. I wanted to be... the way I was during our v-vacation. I thought... maybe it was better if we... didn't meet until I was... back at that point. So that... when we'd meet... you could b-be proud of me again."

I can't say I'm surprised to hear her say that, but I still let out a sigh.

"Everybody knows how much effort you've been making, Hanako. There was no need to avoid us until some arbitrary point in time. I've really missed you and I think the same is true for Lilly. I just..."

Hanako lets out a sad sigh of her own.

"M-My absence is an even b-bigger burden, r-right? M-Miss Yumi already t-told me that before."

"Yeah, but it's not just that. It's just...what's the point of having friends who are willing to support you when relying on them is just gonna make you feel bad? If you can't bear to be around me when you're not feeling in top shape, doesn't that make me just a fair-weather friend? I really hope we moved past that already."

"I...I'm n-not..."

"I know that you tend to feel like a burden whenever people are having to accomodate you, but don't you get that people are accomodating you by choice? I just wish you could see that when people are going out of their way for you, they're doing it because they want to. At least that's the way it is with me. And it's really frustrating when every effort I'm putting in is just making you feel worse about yourself, because it makes me feel like none of those efforts is even appreciated."

The corners of Hanako's mouth drop down. I don't think she likes hearing this, but this has been something I've been wanting to say for quite some time.

"S-Sorry..."

"I know this is not a switch you can just flip, but...the next time people are going the extra mile for you, instead of feeling like a burden, maybe you could just...feel thankful that they're making those efforts? Even if you can't immediately repay the favor, you could still make them feel appreciated. That's usually all people want in return. It's all I've ever wanted in return."

Hanako's silent for a very long time. She really seems to be thinking deeply about this. I hope I didn't just ruin our moment. When the silence finally ends, she gives me a guilty look and then nods her head.

"I'll t-try. I p-promise. Okay?"

There's an almost pleading look in her eyes as if she's afraid I won't believe her. This is better than just another reflexive apology. I give a satisfied nod and smile at her.

"Thanks. I'm really happy to hear that."

"Hisao, are you... happy with our relationship? With the way t-things are now?"

"I can't say that our circumstances are ideal right now, but I'm hoping we can find a way to make this work. I don't think we're really the ideal couple for a long-distance relationship, but that's simply the situation as it is right now. I don't like the idea of our relationship being put on hold. Maybe we can both think about what we want out of our relationship and how we can achieve that."

"I... r-really like the fact that we're playing chess again, even if its through an internet site. I... always look forward to our next game."

"Me too. That was definitely a step in the right direction. Maybe that's the key to maintaining the relationship. Finding things to look forward to."

"Like?"

"Dates maybe? We could, like, plan one every three or four weeks or so. You could either come over, or I could come back here. Even if we just end up spending that time in your room or mine, I'd still be looking forward to it."

"Every four weeks..."

"What do you say?"

"I... I think I'd like that."

"Great. Let's give that a try then."

"T-Thank you, Hisao."

"Huh?"

"F-For not g-giving up on me."

I chuckle.

"Hanako, do you remember when I got out of the hospital last time and you made a promise to me?"

"T-To wait for you?"

I nod.

"When you made that promise to me, I made a similar promise to myself. I may not be able to be there for you on a day-to-day basis, but waiting for you is the least thing I can do."

Hanako smiles happily and I feel her hand tenderly brush across mine.

"Ummm... H-Hisao...?"

"Yes?"

"Uh.... Hmmm..."

Hanako has suddenly started fidgeting nervously. I'm curious about what could make her act like this. I patiently wait until she's worked up the courage to speak up, which she eventually does.

"Hisao, since it's b-been... just over three m-months since you left here, that m-means we're... at l-least three d-d-dates behind."

"Yeah, we kind of are."

"Uh... I know it's s-selfish of m-me to ask, b-but... w-would you... Tt-take me on a date tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow? Well, I can probably do some more work in the computer lab, and I made sure to bring my medication along. We can go somewhere after you've closed up the library tomorrow."

"And ummm... m-maybe Saturday afternoon and S-Sunday m-morning too? Then we'll b-be...on schedule."

She's blushing heavily now, but I give her a happy smile to reassure her.

"How could I possibly say no to an offer like that?"

A happy smile now appears on Hanako's face too.

"R-Really?"

"Really. Let's recreate some of the good old times starting tomorrow. Heck, starting today."

"I'm... l-looking forward to it."

"Me too. I'll have to phone my parents this evening and tell them I won't be home until Sunday. I'm sure they'll understand. I might have to avoid Mutou tomorrow though."

I move a little closer to her, gently take her hand in mine, and we share a long, comfortable silence. This went better than I expected. I feel that the rift between us is gradually starting to mend. Eventually, the silence is disrupted by a sound from my cell phone. I take it out, take a look at the screen and put it back in my pocket again.

"Who was that?"

"Just one of my classmates. He can wait a little while longer."

I take my and Hanako's empty can and toss them in the garbage bin near the vending machine.

"Hanako?"

"Yes?"

"I think I'm ready to have a bite to eat. Shall we head for the Shanghai?"

"Okay."

Hanako gets up from the bench, and we casually stroll back to the park entrance and then to the street where the Shanghai is located.

"It'll be good to eat there again. It'll be just like old times. If only Yuuko was still there, things'd be perfect. But since you're the librarian now, I suppose Yuuko finally got into university as well."

"She did. But the new person there isn't too bad either."

As we reach the coffee shop's entrance, I stop for a moment.

"Hanako, could you wait here for a moment? I'll go and see if they have any free tables."

Hanako looks puzzled.

"Uh... It's Thursday, Hisao. They always have free tables at this time of the week."

"I know, just a moment."

I walk in, take a look at our usual spot and then quickly return to Hanako.

"We can sit at our usual table. Shall we?"

Hanako still looks a little baffled by my actions, but still follows along. As we enter, I take Hanako's hand in mine and guide her towards the spot where we always took our seats. As we approach, Hanako looks at me with a puzzled expression.

"H-Hisao, I think there are already people sitting there."
05
"Hey, there she is! Hurray!"

"Aah!"

I feel Hanako's grip tighten in shock as an excited voice suddenly calls out. An excited voice we haven't heard for some time, but is still instantly recognizable. One of the people sitting at the table gets up, and we see a head full of bleached blonde hair pop into view, sporting a million-watt grin.

"Hehehe, surprised to see me?"

Hanako's eyes grow to nearly twice their size, and her right hand flies in front of her mouth to cover up a gasp at the unexpected sight of Naomi. I gently escort her up to the table where the other people sitting there rise to their feet as well.

One of them is Lilly, who has a happy, but also slightly nervous smile on her face.

Standing next to her is Akira, who's looking at Hanako's face with a look of amusement.

Standing a bit unsteadily next to Naomi is Jun, her crutch leaning against a nearby wall. She's looking at Hanako with an expectant expression, trying to determine how the latter is going to react. It's probably something that's on all our minds right now.

I was a bit skeptical when Lilly called me last week and proposed to hold a surprise party for Hanako. Last year when Hanako found out about a party we were planning for her, she had a full-blown panic attack in class. I ended up making a phone call to Miss Takawa to ask her for her opinion. She told me that she thought it was a good idea not to just ignore her birthday. When asked about the possibility of Hanako having another breakdown, Miss Takawa gave the not exactly reassuring answer that if that were to happen, she'd at least know that she had her work cut out for her.

We decided to limit our little group to the handful of people Hanako's been closest to over the last year. That covered Lilly, Akira, Naomi, Jun and myself. We didn't have Jun's contact information, but fortunately we still had Naomi's, who was excited about the idea and sent word to Jun in our place.

I ended up coming to Yamaku a day in advance in order to gauge Hanako's mood and call the whole thing off if necessary. It was also my task to get Hanako to the Shanghai and to keep her occupied while Lilly and Akira dropped by the school by car and picked up Jun. I suppose it was a good thing Hanako and I had several things to talk about until I received Akira's text message that things were ready here.

We considered asking Lilly's parents along, but in the end we decided that the atmosphere would probably be less awkward without them present. They'll be picking up Lilly afterwards though and will probably take the opportunity to congratulate Hanako then, since Akira will be staying at a hotel near the airport tonight before flying back to Scotland tomorrow morning. It turned out that the business delegation she was part of already left the country two days ago, but Akira extended her stay for this party's sake.

There's a birthday cake on the table that I know Lilly spent a lot of time on, and I notice two bags underneath the table that probably contain presents. A lot of effort went into this. All that remains to be seen is how Hanako's going to react. At this point, she doesn't seem to be reacting at all, except nervously shifting a bit under everybody's gaze, her hand still covering her mouth and her eyes still wide. I put my hand on her shoulder in an attempt to reassure her.

"Hanako? Your friends are here to celebrate your birthday with you. Aren't you going to welcome them?"

For a second, Hanako's gaze jumps to me as if suddenly remembering I'm here with her. Then I hear a whisper from behind her hand.

"M-My friends..."

I'm trying to reassure myself by reminding me what Miss Takawa said. All of the people here genuinely care about Hanako. There's no pretending here. But does Hanako feel that way?

"Hanako..."

Having picked up Hanako's response, Lilly takes a step forward and feels out Hanako's shoulders with her hands. She gives her best friend a warm smile and embraces her.

"Happy birthday, Hanako. I'm really happy that you're here with us right now."

Finally, Hanako seems to relax a bit and after a few moments she returns Lilly's embrace. When I look at her, I notice a happy smile on her face.

"L-Lilly... everyone... t-thank... t-thank y-you..."
06
Last edited by Guest Poster on Thu Oct 09, 2014 1:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

Guest Poster
Posts: 1266
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:42 am

Chapter 57

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:22 am

Chapter 57
01
Friday July the 11th

Dear Mister and Mrs Nakai,

I wanted to send a little letter of thanks for the sweet birthday card you wrote to me. Hisao gave it to me yesterday during the party. I really appreciate the thoughtful gesture. I'm sorry for my absence over the last few months. I have no excuse. I promised Hisao yesterday that I'd visit your home during the upcoming summer break. We can catch up then.

I also apologize for having asked your son to stay here a few days longer. It's been a very long time since we've spent some time together, so I hope you understand.

I hope that you're both doing well.

Best regards,

Hanako
Sunday July the 13th

Dear Lilly,

Hisao has just taken the bus to the train station, and I'm finally getting around to writing you.

First of all, thank you so much for the wonderful birthday surprise. I have to admit I felt a bit strange at times, asking myself if this birthday was really different from the way they used to be. I think it helped when I stopped thinking and just tried to have fun. I'm happy we got together like this. So thank you again. I actually feel a bit bad for not having taken the initiative myself to hold a party. Maybe next year?

I'm also really happy that Hisao agreed to stay a little while longer. I have to admit that over the last few months, I've had my worries about the feasibility of our relationship, but this weekend served as a good reminder for both of us why it's worth staying with each other despite the distance. We both enjoyed the last few days a lot, and we made a mutual promise to try and keep our relationship going. It's a real load off my mind. I'm already missing Hisao, but I promised to visit him at his home during the summer break. I think I can hold out for some time.

It was a shame that I still had to work on the first two days, so we only had the evenings to spend together. We went to see a movie last Friday and got off the bus in town rather than near the school gates. It was relaxing to walk the final stretch back to school together.

Saturday evening was dedicated to karaoke. It's been over half a year since I've done that. It felt good to sing again. We spent the night in the city afterwards. We brought some food along the previous evening, so we were able to have breakfast in bed. It's a really nice way to wake up.

We visited a miniature golf course later that day. We fought a hard battle, and I lost, although it was close. Still, we both had a lot of fun. That's what's most important, isn't it?

I know that I promised last Thursday that we'd call each other on occasion from now on, but if it's okay with you, I'd still like to continue our correspondence through paper mail. It allows me to save our interaction and re-read it from time to time.

I'll talk to you later.

Love,

Hanako
To: Akira Satou
Subject: Thank you + messenger account
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2008 12:32:43

Hi Akira,

I hope you've already recovered a bit from the long trip back to Scotland. I feel a bit bad that you took three days off just to attend my birthday party instead of returning home with the rest of the business delegation last Tuesday.

Nevertheless, it was really good to see you again, so thank you, and I'm also very thankful that you and Lilly picked up Jun at the school gate. I would have hated to think of her having to walk all the way to the Shanghai with that crutch of hers.

Anyway, my instant messenger name is "Flowergirl_89", so feel free to add me. I'll be keeping an eye out for you, though due to the time difference we might not catch each other very often.

Love,

Hanako
From: Jun Yamazaki
Subject: Re: Fwd: Fits_and_Giggles has sent you an invitation
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2008 16:41:22

Hey Hanako,

I received the same e-mail from Naomi. She's set up a Mixi group for us. You're familiar with Mixi, right? It's a semi-anonymous social network service that allows you to interact with friends who share the same interests. I've already accepted her invitation. I suppose you don't yet have a Mixi profile? Registering can be a bit of a hassle and you need your cell phone number to finish the process. Let me know if you're having trouble.

Greetz,

Jun

P.s.: Did you see her username? Kind of a groaner, isn't it? I should have known there was more where 'The Broken Quills' came from. ;)
To: Jun Yamazaki
Subject: Re: Re: Fwd: Fits_and_Giggles has sent you an invitation
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2008 16:50:07

Hi Jun,

I'm not really sure. It probably seems paranoid to you, but I really don't like the idea of giving other parties my cell phone number. Or making an online profile about myself. Or having people I don't know request that I become their 'friend'. The word 'friend' has a very specific meaning to me and giving that title to random people with whom I only share an interest or two feels sacrilegious to me.

That probably sounded strange.

So I'm really on the fence on this.

Greetings,

Hanako
From: Jun Yamazaki
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Fwd: Fits_and_Giggles has sent you an invitation
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2008 17:04:28

Hey Hanako,

I think they merely use the cell phone number to discourage people from making fake accounts and make it easier to ban people if they violate the terms of use. They're not used for anything else. At least, as far as I know. You don't really need to enter any personal info. I noticed that Naomi uses an actual mugshot of herself in her profile, but the majority of Mixi users don't seem to do that. My own profile picture simply features Cubone from Pokémon.

The group Naomi created would only be accessible to the three of us, so you don't have to worry about other people seeing pictures of you. In fact, Mixi discourages the posting of personal photos, because they don't want people using the site as a dating service. Now that I think about it, that might be a problem if we use a Mixi group to interact with Naomi.

About friend requests, whether you get any depends on what you put in your profile. I get several of them each week, probably due to the video game titles in my profile, but I generally deny them. It can be annoying sometimes, but not overly so.

Anyway, if you want to discuss this further, why don't you drop by my room this evening? It's faster than typing.

Greetz,

Jun
To: Naomi Inoue
CC: Jun Yamazaki
Subject: The Broken Quills forum
Date: Sat, 19 Jul 2008 14:22:51

Hi Naomi,

Sorry for not replying sooner. I had a few reservations about registering a Mixi profile and talked them over with Jun last evening. Jun also noted that Mixi has certain user policies regarding the posting of personal information that might clash with what we want. So we came up with an alternative.

Jun is currently setting up a private forum that's hosted on the webspace that's also used by her father's website for his store. (he's okay with this) You need to log in in order to view the contents and only the administrator can create new accounts. So it's only open for the three of us, and we can post anything we want without fear of anybody else seeing it or us violating anyone else's terms of service. I personally think this is a better approach as it adds a more personal touch. When Jun is done, she'll mail us our account info.

Talk to you soon,

Hanako
H1S4O is online.
You have issued a challenge to H1S4O.
H1S4O has accepted your challenge.


- H1S4O: Hey there.
- Flowergirl_89: Hi. :)
- H1S4O: Are you on lunch break right now?
- Flowergirl_89: Yes. We should have enough time for a game. Shall we?
- H1S4O: Okay.

1. e2-e4________e7-e5
2. f2-f4________
- H1S4O: How are things?
2. f2-f4________e5xf4
- Flowergirl_89: Lots of studying.
- H1S4O: Exams are just before summer break, aren't they?
- Flowergirl_89: Yes.
3. Nb1-c3________Qd8-h4+
4. Ke1-e2________
- H1S4O: Aren't you exempt from them since you're no longer a third year?
4. Ke1-e2________d7-d5
- Flowergirl_89: They're optional for me, but I've decided to take them. I want to make sure I'm keeping up with the rest.
5. Nc3xd5________Bc8-g4+
6. Ng1-f3________Bf8-d6
7. d2-d4________Nb8-c6
8. e4-e5________O-O-O
9. e5xd6________Rd8xd6
10. c2-c4________Bg4xf3+
11. g2xf3________Ng8-f6
12. Nd5xf6________Nc6xd4+
- H1S4O: Feeling stressed already?
13. Ke2-d3________Qh4xf6
14. Bf1-h3+________Nd4-e6+
- H1S4O: Uh oh!
- Flowergirl_89: :twisted:
15. Kd3-e2________Qf6-e5+
16. Ke2-f2________Rd6xd1
- H1S4O: Grrr.
- Flowergirl_89: :)
17. Rh1xd1________Qe5-c5+
18. Rf2-g2________Qc5xc4
- Flowergirl_89: Not yet, fortunately. It helps that it's material I already studied for last year.
- H1S4O: Lots of luck with it then.
- Flowergirl_89: Thanks. :)
19. Rd1-e1________Qc4-c2+
20. Kg2-g1________Rh8-d8
21. Bc1xf4________Qc2xb2
22. Ra1-c1________Qb2-d4+
- H1S4O: Do you have any plans for the summer break already?
- Flowergirl_89: Stay at your place? :)
- H1S4O: That was just going to be for a week, right? Anything else?
23. Bf4-e3________Qd4-a4
24. Re1-e2________Kc8-b8
25. Bh3xe6________f7xe6
- Flowergirl_89: Hokkaido, right? Lilly invited us there.
- H1S4O: Looking forward to it. Too bad Scotland wasn't an option this time.
- Flowergirl_89: Indeed.
26. Re2-c2________c7-c6
27. Kg1-f2________e6-e5
28. Rc2-e2________Qa4-h4+
29. Kf2-g2________e5-e4
30. f3xe4________Qh4xe4+
31. Kg2-g1________Qe4-g4+
32. Re2-g2________Rd8-d1+
33. Rc1xd1________Qg4xd1+
- H1S4O: Naturally.
34. Kg1-f2________g7-g6
35. h2-h4________Kb8-a8
36. Be3-h6________b7-b5
37. Kf2-g3________
- Flowergirl_89: By the way, there's an assignment I have to do during summer break.
- H1S4O: An assignment? For what subject?
- Flowergirl_89: For Miss Yumi.
37. Kf2-g3________Ka8-b7
38. Rg2-d2________Qd1-g1+
39. Kg3-f3________Qg1-h1+
- H1S4O: What has she asked you to do this time?
- Flowergirl_89: Go on a trip by myself.
40. Kf3-g4________Qh1-e4+
- H1S4O: You mean going on vacation? All on your own? Isn't that boring?
- Flowergirl_89: Not really a vacation. More like a day or two, maybe three, that I have to spend visiting places. But I have to visit them on my own.
41. Bh6-f4________Kb7-b6
42. Kg4-g3________h7-h5
- H1S4O: As therapy?
- Flowergirl_89: To 'push against my boundaries' as she called it.
43. Bf4-g5________a7-a5
- H1S4O: Did she mention where you had to go and when?
- Flowergirl_89: She allowed me to pick the destinations myself, though it had to be some distance from Yamaku. I can't just visit the nearby city.
44. Kg3-f2________Qe4-f5+
45. Kf2-g1________Kb6-a6
46. Rd2-b2________b5-b4
- H1S4O: Do you have any ideas?
- Flowergirl_89: Tokyo.
- H1S4O: That's not too far away from where I live.
47. Rb2-d2________Ka6-b5
48. Rd2-b2________c6-c5
- Flowergirl_89: I was thinking that maybe I could make those trips after our week together. And...still spend the night at your home? That way I wouldn't have to
sleep in a completely strange place.
- H1S4O: Sure, that's not going to be a problem, I think.
- Flowergirl_89: That would be really nice.
49. a2-a3________Qf5-d7
50. a3xb4________Qd7-d4+
51. Rb2-f2________
- H1S4O: You could get up early in the morning, take the train to Tokyo and be back in the evening.
- Flowergirl_89: Yes.
- H1S4O: Do you already have an idea what you're going to do in Tokyo?
51. Rb2-f2________a5xb4
52. Bg5-f6________Qd4-g4+
53. Kg1-f1________b4-b3
54. Bf6-e7________Qg4-h3+
- Flowergirl_89: Disneyland.
- H1S4O: You like Disney and Disneyland?
- Flowergirl_89: Yes, I like Disney. But I can't remember Disneyland very well. The only time I've been there was when I was very young.
55. Kf1-g1________Qh3-g3+
56. Kg1-f1________Qg3xf2+
- H1S4O: Oh boy!
57. Kf1xf2________b3-b2
- Flowergirl_89: I'll be back. ;)
58. Be7-g5________b2-b1Q
- Flowergirl_89: Yay.
- H1S4O: Well, at least there's still only one of them.
59. Kf2-e3________Kb5-c4
60. Ke3-f3________Kc4-d3
61. Kf3-f4________c5-c4
- H1S4O: I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun there.
- Flowergirl_89: I'm not sure if I'll have a lot of fun, but at least it's a place that I like. Or used to like. It might make it easier.
62. Kf4-e5________c4-c3
63. Ke5-f6________Qb1-b6+
64. Kf6-f7________Qb6-c6
- H1S4O: Do you have any other plans besides going there?
- Flowergirl_89: I think I'll go to Ueno Park the next day. Perhaps visit the zoo there or the International Library of Children's Literature. Maybe visit a museum or two.
65. Kf7-g7________c3-c2
66. Kg7-h7________Kd3-e2
67. Kh7-h6________Ke2-d1
68. Kh6-g7________Qc6-d6
69. Kg7-h6________c2-c1Q
- H1S4O: Here we go again.
- Flowergirl_89: :)
70. Bg5xc1________Kd1xc1
71. Kh6-g7________Qd6-g3
72. Kg7-f7________Kc1-d2
73. Kf7-g7________Kd2-e3
74. Kg7-f7________Ke3-f4
- H1S4O: I'm not making progress here.
75. Kf7-f6________Qg3-d3
76. Kf6-e6________Kf4-g4
77. Ke6-f6________Kg4xh4
- H1S4O: My king's feeling kinda lonely now.
78. Kf6-e6________Qd3-c4+
79. Ke6-f6________g6-g5
- H1S4O: You know, that kind of reminds me of that trip we were supposed to make to Edinburgh last year.
- Flowergirl_89: Haha, you thought so too?
- H1S4O: Yes. Anyway, it sounds like an interesting two days. It's a real shame I won't be allowed to accompany you. Maybe some other time.
80. Kf6-e7________Kh4-g4
81. Ke7-f6________h5-h4
82. Kf6-e5________h4-h3
- Flowergirl_89: Yes. I've also been thinking that we could maybe visit Lilly afterwards. Plan these days in between the stay at your place and the stay at Lilly's.
- H1S4O: Sounds like a good idea.
- Flowergirl_89: Okay.
83. Ke5-f6________Kg4-f4
84. Kf6-e7________Qc4-c7+
85. Ke7-e6________h3-h2
86. Ke6-f6________h2-h1Q
- H1S4O: Nail, meet coffin. Please make it quick. :cry:
- Flowergirl_89: Awww.
87. Kf6-e6________Qh1-e4+
88. Ke6-f6________Qc7-e7#
- H1S4O: You were quite relentless this time. Well done and congratulations. Great game.
- Flowergirl_89: Thanks. :) Great game. Shall we play again?
- H1S4O: Sorry, but I still need to get lunch. Another day, maybe.
- Flowergirl_89: Okay.
- H1S4O: Bye. Miss you. :)
- Flowergirl_89: Aww, me too. :) Bye.

H1S4O has logged off.
02
Sapporo4ever has logged on.

Flowergirl_89: Hi Akira!

Sapporo4ever: Yo Hanako! Didn't expect you to be online.

Flowergirl_89: Huh? I'm often online around this time.

Sapporo4ever: Yeah, when you're at Yamaku. But aren't you, Lilly and Hisao in Hokkaido right now?

Flowergirl_89: We are. But your mother has left her laptop here for us to use and I was just using it to check my mail when you came online. Lilly was actually planning to call you later.

Sapporo4ever: Uh yeah, about that...

Sapporo4ever: She's not gonna be able to reach me for a day or two.

Flowergirl_89: Are you going on a trip?

Sapporo4ever: No, my phone's broken. I'm gonna get a replacement at work the day after tomorrow.

Flowergirl_89: Oh no! What happened?

Sapporo4ever: I left it in one of the pockets of my pants and then forgot about it. Until my washing machine started making a terrible noise.

Flowergirl_89: :shock:

Sapporo4ever: Yeah. :(

Flowergirl_89: I'll tell Lilly not to try calling you until then.

Sapporo4ever: Thx. So, how are things over there? Having a good time?

Flowergirl_89: Yes, very much. We've mostly spent time taking walks in the surrounding area and shopping in the nearby town, but it's been a very relaxing stay here.

Sapporo4ever: I heard you went to Disneyland in Tokyo last week without anyone else? How was that?

Flowergirl_89: It was nice at times, but also stressful. I think it might have been a a lot more enjoyable if I could have made the trip with friends instead of alone. I was completely exhausted after half a day and accidentally fell asleep on the train ride home. Luckily I woke up in time to get off at the right station.

Sapporo4ever: Too crowded for your taste?

Flowergirl_89: Some rides had fastpass systems so you didn't have to wait in line, but not all of them and being in the middle of masses of people felt very suffocating at times, despite my precautions.

Sapporo4ever: Precautions?

Flowergirl_89: I bought a Goofy cap at one of the shops near the entrance to hide my features a bit. It looked a bit silly, but there were many people wearing hats like it, so I didn't really stand out much.

Sapporo4ever: LOL! That must have been one helluva sight. Do you still have it?

Flowergirl_89: Yes.

Sapporo4ever: I'd love to see you wearing it.

Flowergirl_89: I haven't made any photos of myself.

Sapporo4ever: Maybe the next time I drop by here.

Flowergirl_89: Maybe.

Sapporo4ever: So how are things with you and Hisao right now?

Flowergirl_89: I've had a lot of fun last week and this week too. I'm starting to think the two of us will actually be able to make it through this year without our relationship suffering too much.

Sapporo4ever: That's the spirit! :D

Flowergirl_89: Akira?

Sapporo4ever: Yeah?

Flowergirl_89: You have experience with long-distance relationships, right? Do you have any tips for us?

Sapporo4ever: Hehehe, my relationship wasn't exactly a long-distance relationship. It was simply us being apart for some time until he could finish the arrangements and come over. Still, I think I can emphatize with your situation a bit.

Flowergirl_89: So, no advice? You do have relationship experience.

Sapporo4ever: Heh, that really doesn't say much. Every relationship is different. What works for me might not work for you. Heck, what works for me is almost guaranteed to not work for you. ;) But, eh...

Sapporo4ever: If I had to give advice, I'd suggest keeping in contact as much as possible, though I hear you two are already playing online chess against each other on a daily basis.

Flowergirl_89: Not every day, but we try to play a game every 2 or 3 days. It's really helped me feel better about our relationship.

Sapporo4ever: Keep that up. Also, try to make plans to go and see each other on a regular basis. Not just to be together, but also to have something to look forward to.

Flowergirl_89: We're trying. At least until exam season comes up again.

Sapporo4ever: I think the most important thing is to stay positive and remind yourself that this separation is a temporary thing. That worked for me. Also, don't forget to make the most of the time you do have together. In fact, why are you even sitting here chatting with me right now??? Shouldn't you be doing lovey-dovey things with your boyfriend instead? ;)

Flowergirl_89: :lol:

Sapporo4ever: Anyway, I don't think you really need advice. Things seem to be going well. And even when school starts again, a little separation from time to time can keep things interesting. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Flowergirl_89: I'll remember that.

Sapporo4ever: Attagirl. You'll give Lilly my regards, won't you?

Flowergirl_89: I could ask her to come here and you could talk.

Sapporo4ever: Naw, no need for you to act as interpretor. Just tell her I said hi and let her know that I'll drop her a call the moment I get a new phone. With some luck my SIM card will have survived the ordeal.

Flowergirl_89: I will.

Sapporo4ever: Talk to you later. :)

Flowergirl_89: Bye. :)
From: Karla Satou
CC: Akira Satou, Hanako Ikezawa, Olivia Ferguson, Amy Taylor, Charlotte McMillan, Rebecca Johnston, Sarah Gray, Andrew Munro, Shizune Hakamichi, Caitlin Graham, Murray Hamilton, Stella Sutherland, list_SMT_Management_UK
Subject: New job
Date: Fri, 5 Sep 2008 19:05:55

Hello everyone,

I wanted to share some exciting news with you all. Many of you have asked me over the months what I've been up to, and I acknowledge that my answers have often been a tad vague. I've spent the initial few months in Japan getting settled in our new home and helping my husband get back on his feet. After Lilly's graduation I've also spent some time helping her get settled in her new apartment where she now lives by herself.

I've been doing my best to keep in touch with everyone even after moving back to Japan. That hasn't always been easy due to being limited to the internet most of the time, but I'm happy to report that my efforts have paid off.

I might have dropped the name Emily White to some of you already. She's a former colleague of mine I've worked with back in the time I was still working for the Herald. We got back in touch with one another through LinkedIn and decided to meet up at a local business conference a little while back.

It turned out that Emily recently received an opportunity to work on a biography for a retired businessman and philantropist living in Edinburgh and was still looking for a partner to take part of the workload off her hands. Deciding that with things pretty well in order back at home I was ready to explore new ventures I accepted the offer. I'll still be in Japan most of the time with Emily doing most of the resource gathering and me concentrating on putting the piece together. This is quite a step up from the small columns and articles I used to submit when I was still living in Inverness, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

If you're interested in more details, please don't hesitate to contact me or, for my friends in Scotland, arrange a get-together the next time I'm in Inverness.

Yours sincerely,

Karla
H1S4O is online.
You have issued a challenge to H1S4O.


- H1S4O: Hey.
- Flowergirl_89: Hi.
- H1S4O: How are things?
- Flowergirl_89: I'm doing okay. Thanks. And you?
- H1S4O: I'm good too.
- Flowergirl_89: Great.
You have issued a challenge to H1S4O.
- H1S4O: Sorry I haven't clicked the accept button yet, but I'm supposed to meet some classmates in a couple of minutes, so there's not enough time for a quick match.
- Flowergirl_89: :( :( :(
- H1S4O: Oh, come on, not the sad smilies. You know they make me feel horrible.
- Flowergirl_89: Hahaha, okay. I'm always happy to hear from you even if we can't play.
- H1S4O: Hey, Hanako, I was wondering if you're busy this weekend.
- Flowergirl_89: No, I'm not. Do you want to meet up?
- H1S4O: Yeah, it's been a little while. I'd like to come over. You good with that?
- Flowergirl_89: :D :D :D :D
- H1S4O: Hehehe, okay. Looking forward to it. :D
- Flowergirl_89: Me too. :)
- H1S4O: Great. We'll mail about the exact time.
- H1S4O: Hanako, you still there?
- Flowergirl_89: Uh, Hisao? I just remembered...didn't you say something about a class activity this weekend last week?
- H1S4O: Oh, you remembered that?
- Flowergirl_89: Yes. I thought you were thinking of going.
- H1S4O: It's not an official class activity. Just a little outing organized by a few guys in my workgroup. It's not exactly mandatory.
- Flowergirl_89: But since you don't live on campus, it's a good opportunity to hang out with classmates outside of school hours, isn't it?
- H1S4O: Yeah, but I'm not sure about the activities. So I'm gonna pass.
- Flowergirl_89: What activities?
- H1S4O: Well, one of the guys arranged one of those large semi-professional grills, so we're gonna have a grill party. Everybody who participates has to put in some cash for the food.
- Flowergirl_89: That sounds good.
- H1S4O: Yeah, it's the other activity that worries me. The organizer's a member of the baseball club and arranged for us to use the baseball field on campus. We're supposed to split into two teams and have a baseball match to work up an appetite.
- Flowergirl_89: And you're worried about your health?
- H1S4O: Yeah. I'm probably fit enough to throw balls, but most of the guys are novices at baseball and it's not meant to be a serious match, so we're probably gonna have a couple of collisions, accidental or otherwise. I don't want to risk dying there.
- Flowergirl_89: You're not going to go?
- H1S4O: Indeed.
- Flowergirl_89: So that's why you want to come over?
- H1S4O: Hey, don't be like that. I really do want to see you. But if I just sit at home, I'd probably feel conflicted all day long.
- Flowergirl_89: Hmmm.
- H1S4O: I do enjoy our time together.
- Flowergirl_89: Me too. That's not it. I just feel bad that you're going to skip something you might enjoy. I'm not sure I like being part of that.
- H1S4O: You think I should take the risk?
- Flowergirl_89: If it's just the baseball game, can't you say you're not up for it? That you're not in good shape?
- H1S4O: Half the class isn't in peak physical shape. I have several folks with Taro's physique here. If I said I was in bad shape, they wouldn't believe me.
- Flowergirl_89: Then how about sticking to the less risky parts? You could pitch or catch. You could let your teammates do the runs. And you could attend the grill party afterwards.
- H1S4O: Yeah, but I'd still need an explanation.
- Flowergirl_89: They don't know about your heart?
- H1S4O: No. There's never been a real need to tell anyone.
- Flowergirl_89: And now?
- H1S4O: I dunno.
- Flowergirl_89: Maybe you could consider confiding in them?
- H1S4O: I'm not sure.
- Flowergirl_89: If your classmates know and something happens, them knowing what's going on and what to do could save your life.
- H1S4O: I guess so.
- Flowergirl_89: It would be reassuring for me too.
- H1S4O: You really want me to tell them, huh?
- Flowergirl_89: I can't force you.
- H1S4O: You know Lilly had to deal with a lot of awkwardness with her classmates, don't you?
- Flowergirl_89: Whenever I ask her about it, she always brushes it off and changes the subject. I'm not sure if she's embarrassed about it or if she simply doesn't want to scare me.
- H1S4O: I guess I should feel lucky I've actually had the option of not telling people about it until I feel it's the right time, so far...
- Flowergirl_89: Lilly never had that option. I won't either. I'm trying really hard not to think about how it'll be for me.
- H1S4O: Yeah.
- Flowergirl_89: But when I attend university...IF I manage to get in...I'll have to deal with the same. Probably worse. And I don't think I'll be as graceful as Lilly about it.
- H1S4O: You don't know that yet.
- Flowergirl_89: It might help to remind myself that both you and Lilly went through the same.
- H1S4O: Misery loves company, huh? I guess you want me to come out?
- Flowergirl_89: I don't want to force you into it. But if you were to do it, consider it a favor from you to me. To keep things fair.
- H1S4O: Fair?
- Flowergirl_89: It's not really fair that Lilly and I don't have a choice, but you can just choose not to deal with it if you don't like it.
- H1S4O: Okay, okay. I can see how you see that as unfair.
- H1S4O: Things might be pretty awkward.
- Flowergirl_89: I'll be there for you if you need me.
- H1S4O: Thanks.
- Flowergirl_89: So, this weekend's meeting is off? I would have loved to see you, but it's okay if it's for a good cause.
- H1S4O: Some good cause. I hope I won't be too worked up over this.
- Flowergirl_89: It'll be fine. I'll be there for you too. Just let me know if there's anything I can do.
- H1S4O: Hmmm, there might be something.
- Flowergirl_89: What is it?
- H1S4O: Is it okay if I show my classmates your picture?
- Flowergirl_89: MY PICTURE??? :shock: :shock:
- H1S4O: Yeah, I always have one in my wallet.
- Flowergirl_89: Why? And how does this relate to that event with your classmates???
- H1S4O: It doesn't directly. But several of my classmates know that I have a girlfriend and they've been bugging me for a picture for quite some time now.
- Flowergirl_89: I'm not really fond of people looking at my picture.
- H1S4O: I know, which is why I've been blowing them off so far whenever one of them brings it up. But they keep asking about it. Blame it on the fact we're pretty much an all-male faculty. Since you said you wanted to support me...
- Flowergirl_89: By making me as anxious about the upcoming weekend as you are?
- H1S4O: Misery loves company. I don't think it'll be as bad as me having to come clean about my condition. I can't keep brushing them off forever anyway. This might be a good opportunity.
- Flowergirl_89: You're not coming clean about it for me, but for yourself.
- H1S4O: True, though my classmates knowing about it also feels reassuring to you. You said it yourself.
- H1S4O: Hanako? You're still there?
- Flowergirl_89: Which photo is it?
- H1S4O: The one Lilly's mom took of us at the ruins near Loch Ness.
- Flowergirl_89: I don't have my photo album with me right now.
- H1S4O: For the most part your left side is facing the camera. It's actually a very pretty picture and I think you look very good in it.
- Flowergirl_89: You promise to tell them?
- H1S4O: I promise.
- Flowergirl_89: Then...it's okay. Just a little peek.
- H1S4O: I'll treat you the next time we meet up.
- Flowergirl_89: Okay.
- H1S4O: Thanks Hanako. Let's both try not to get too worked up about this.
- Flowergirl_89: Okay.
- H1S4O: I have to get going. We'll have a little match the next time.
- Flowergirl_89: It's a promise.
- H1S4O: Great.
- Flowergirl_89: Hisao?
- H1S4O: Yes?
- Flowergirl_89: Good luck this weekend.
- H1S4O: Thanks. :D
- Flowergirl_89: Kiss? :)
- H1S4O: Kiss. :)
- Flowergirl_89: Haha.
- H1S4O: Bye.
- Flowergirl_89: Bye.
From: Hisao Nakai
Subject: You're cute
Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2008 23:03:55

Hey Hanako,

I'm sure we'll catch each other later, but for now I just wanted to let you know that the verdict was "cute". I actually felt really proud.

Talk to you later.

Love,

Hisao
Last edited by Guest Poster on Sat Aug 22, 2015 9:14 am, edited 3 times in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

Guest Poster
Posts: 1266
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:42 am

Chapter 57 - cont.

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:22 am

03
From: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Computer aptitude
Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2008 22:31:14

Dear Hanako,

How have you been doing at Yamaku lately? I trust life as the school's librarian is still treating you well? It seems a job you are most suitable for.

I apologize for bothering you with this matter, but you seemed the most suitable person to ask. From what I have heard from my wife, you are or have been acting as one of the editors of the school's newspaper club, which would indicate you are fairly capable with the use of a computer. May I inquire about your aptitude with the troubleshooting aspect of computers? And how quickly do you pick up new software when you are forced to use it?

Do you believe you would be capable of assisting someone with less experience in the use of a computer if that person were to run into trouble?

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Hiroyuki Satou
To: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Computer aptitude
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2008 8:13:37

Dear Mister Satou,

I apologize for not responding sooner. Your mail arrived just after I left the library last Saturday and I failed to check my mail yesterday.

I think I've been doing rather well. I'm slowly getting the hang of the librarian business. I'm not sure if I'm as suitable for it as you imply, but I do know that I enjoy the activities. I received a 3rd quarter catalog from the publisher you work at a few days ago with some hand-written check marks in the content section. I assume you were the person who sent it? Thank you very much. There seem to be some very nice offers.

About your question regarding my aptitude with computers: I'm nowhere near as good with them as my friend Jun who has assembled her own laptop, but I do work with a computer on a daily basis nowadays, and I'm comfortable with its use. If something goes wrong I can usually figure out a way to get things working again without having to contact the system administrator. I'm not exactly a computer expert, but I'd probably be able to offer a bit of help to someone having trouble with his or her own computer. I can't give any guarantees though. Is this about Lilly? I know she doesn't like computers very much.

By the way, congratulations on your wife's new job. She seemed really happy with it. I'll be sure to read her book when it comes out.

Best regards,

Hanako

P.s.: The library received three copies of a certain book last week. It's an autobiography written by a certain Mister Jigoro Hakamichi. Shizune used to be a classmate of mine, so I was curious whether the author is related to her or not. There was a photo on the back, but I certainly couldn't see any family resemblence. Do you know if he's related to Shizune?
From: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Computer aptitude
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2008 22:02:44

Dear Hanako,

Thank you for your kind words regarding my wife. It is true that this job is something that is right up her alley, and she has been in a very excited mood lately because of it, which makes me quite content as well.

Your guess about the catalog was correct. I was indeed the one who had it sent to Yamaku. The check marks on the first page highlight my personal recommendations. I tried to go for variation. It would be an honor for us to contribute to the worthy cause of having Yamaku's library maintain a varied and high-quality selection of reading material.

Regarding the original question; this is indeed about Lilly. My wife and I have been thinking about arranging a laptop for her in order to assist her with some everyday tasks. We have had talks with SMT's system administrators who have told us that it would be possible to set up a laptop with a microphone and voice recognition software that would allow its user to operate the system almost entirely through voice-activated macros. The accompanying scanner and text-to-speech software would also allow her to read her own incoming mail if necessary. We feel this would benefit her greatly in everyday life.

We suspect that Lilly does not feel quite the same way at this point. We felt a sense of reluctance coming from her when we brought up the subject. The system administrator at SMT let us know that it was possible to connect two computers through the internet and have a person on one end control the computer on the other. This would allow other people to help her solve whatever issues she'd run into while using her laptop. Obviously she can rely on SMT's system administrators in case of severe problems like virusses, but for more minor issues it would be good if there were some people closer to her she could approach for assistance. While my wife and I can help her if needed, we thought she may be less reluctant to call on you for assistance in case of problems. You are, of course, under no obligation to go along with this.

Best regards,

Hiroyuki Satou

P.s.: Three separate copies for a school housing about three hundred pupils is about one copy more than I would suggest a library like Yamaku's carry for our best-selling titles. Either the man has a warped vision of the quality of the book or the supply exceeds the demand to such a degree that he is taking drastic steps to get rid of whatever copies he can.

About your question: part of me would like to tell you that the figure in the photo on the back is just the publishing company's rather silly mascot, but I will not insult your intelligence with such a claim. The answer to your question is an affirmative one. The man you spoke of is my brother-in-law and Shizune's father. Please forgive me my rather inappropriate tone. The man and I have not been able to get along very well. I will not stop you from reading it if you are curious. In fact, I imagine I piqued your curiosity, and a good librarian should be as well-read as possible.
To: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Computer aptitude
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2008 19:38:02

Dear Mister Satou,

I'll be allowed to order another batch of books in three weeks. I'll be sure to keep your recommendations in mind. Thank you again for the catalog and the suggestions. I'll do my best to keep up the good fight for the worthy cause you mentioned earlier. :)

About Lilly, I'm not surprised she's reluctant. She's not very good at handling computers and as a result isn't very comfortable with their use. I wouldn't at all mind helping her get better at them, assuming it's also what she wants. I wouldn't be very comfortable going along with something that Lilly's doesn't fully support.

Lilly invited me over to her apartment for the upcoming Sunday. Maybe we'll get to talk about it.

Best regards,

Hanako

P.s.: I'm sorry if I opened up old wounds with my question. That wasn't my intention. I must admit that I am rather curious now, although I also feel a bit reluctant since I feel I'd be prying into the private life of one of my former classmates. Maybe I'll give it a try this weekend, if for no other reason than to be a good librarian. ;)
From: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Computer aptitude
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 2008 22:48:42

Dear Hanako,

That is good to hear. If you would like a copy of any of our titles for previewing purposes, please do not hesitate to let me know. I could leave some of them at Lilly's place when my wife and I drop by next Saturday.

I am very grateful for your offer to help regarding the issue of Lilly learning to use a laptop. I think it goes without saying that it would serve little purpose to take part in something that does not involve Lilly's full cooperation, but learning the basics of computer use is also something that Lilly wants, even if she herself does not know it yet. It may involve some adaption on her side at first, but it is sometimes necessary to endure some short-term hardships in order to make a positive difference in the long run, and the long run is what is important here.

Lilly has stated a desire to be independent, but technological progress will go on whether it is convenient for her or not. If she cannot adapt to changing times, her independence will be a mere temporary thing. She also wants to be an English teacher, but it is unlikely that next generation's school children will take their teacher seriously if that teacher gets uncomfortable when anything more technologically advanced than a typewriter is brought up. Expecting her to become an expert would not be reasonable, but she should know the basics. Can you imagine life without a phone? We might be in a similar position regarding a computer in less than a decade. With that in mind, one could argue that Lilly indirectly desires to keep up with the times as well. Anything else would be a contradiction.

My wife and I will be sure to bring the subject up this weekend. Perhaps she will talk to you about it when you visit. Your reassurance might help.

Thank you once again.

Best regards,

Hiroyuki Satou

P.s.: Do not worry about old wounds. Your question was not unreasonable. If you wish to form your own opinion there is no need to be afraid of many 'spoilers'. If you do decide to read it, do not be afraid to share your opinion of the piece.
To: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Computer aptitude
Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2008 7:57:26

Dear Mister Satou,

You make some good arguments and I can't really think of any way to refute them. Let's hope Lilly feels the same way about things. If she does, I'll do my best to help her. If she brings it up next Sunday, I'll be sure to tell her.

Best regards,

Hanako

P.s.: I think I'm going to give the book a try. It gives me something to do during the train ride. I'll let you know my impressions.
To: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Computers continued
Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2008 7:20:52

Dear Mister Satou,

Lilly and I had a talk about the laptop issue yesterday, and she has decided to give it a try, meaning I'll do whatever I can to help her out. Please let me know what I can do.

Best regards,

Hanako

P.s.: I've read the book we discussed earlier during my trip to and from Lilly's apartment. I'm still not completely sure what to think about it. I started reading the book with the expectation of getting a little glimpse into Shizune's family life, but the book focusses almost completely on the author's career, and his family is barely brought up at all. That disappointed me a little bit. The book feels... a bit odd. There's something... over the top about the person it's about. I can't really explain it very well. When I first saw the picture on the back, I thought he worked in the business of manufacturing katanas instead of consulting. After finishing, the picture strangely seems more fitting. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly to think about it, but I think the word 'unique' is very appropriate here.
From: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Computers continued
Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2008 22:15:11

Dear Hanako,

Lilly has also let us know that she is indeed willing to give our proposal a trial run. My wife and I were planning to send the laptop to Yamaku so you can take your time getting to know how the device operates. Since Lilly will be largely operating it with her voice, it is probably worth your time getting familiar with the speech recognition software. The software requires you to go through a few 'training sessions' in order to let it get used to your voice, tone and inflection. I suggest creating a profile for yourself and see what it is like to operate the computer through the microphone as well as going through documents or internet sites using the text-to-speech feature.

Good luck and thank you once again.

Best regards,

Hiroyuki Satou

P.s.: Over the top is actually a very apt description of both the book and its author. The fact that his home life is somewhat left out actually worked in the book's favor in my opinion. Words can tell you many things, but sometimes the absence of words can speak volumes as well, and some things are simply better off away from the public spotlight. As for the sword; he apparently hails from a rather upstanding and well-regarded family, and if I recall correctly, the katana is a family heirloom. It is, however, also my belief that the man uses it as a compensation mechanism.
To: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Computers continued
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 12:20:38

Dear Mister Satou,

Good news. The laptop arrived at noon. I'm eager to play around with it a bit. I think I'm going to ask my friend Jun to look at it together with me. She's really good with computers, and if there's something I can't figure out, it's very likely that she'll know what to do.

The only question I still have is how long I have before I'm expected to return the computer. Did you have a specific moment in mind?

Best regards,

Hanako

P.s.: You make a good point about Shizune's family life. I was hoping for a few amusing or interesting pieces of information, but if there was anything bad about it, I wouldn't want to read about it in a book. I'd want her to let me in on something like that herself, or else I'd rather not know it at all.
From: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Computers continued
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 22:27:30

Dear Hanako,

Good to hear that the system arrived safely. The system administrator mentioned to me that an e-mail account has already been set up and that a complete list of voice-triggered macros is present in the documents folder on the hard drive. I apologize for asking this of you, but would it be possible to print out the contents of the documents folder at Yamaku's copyshop as Braille versions? Regrettably we do not have conversion software or a Braille embosser at hand here or at work and some printed instructions may be of great help to Lilly.

As for how long you can take; I have no timeline in mind although it would probably be best to have everything over and done with by the time your mock exams are set to take place. A busy time is coming up for you and your assistence to Lilly should never come at the expense of your performance at school. You should not ever allow yourself to lose sight of your priorities.

Best regards,

Hiroyuki Satou

P.s.: I realized after my last mail that my previous postscript may have been open to misinterpretation. I did not mean to imply that the man uses that katana as a compensation mechanism for a lack of... physique. To clarify: the part of the book that I considered the most offensive is the part where he voices the expectation of his book having inspired 'Tomorrow's Japan' to be the best they can be, presumably addressing those of your generation.

Our country has a rich culture and many proud traditions that today's youth could use as inspiration. If someone were to ask me what I would consider some of the most valuable Japanese traits, I would name politeness, good manners, respect for one's elders and humility. Someone with a true Japanese soul displays impeccable behavior and politeness towards others, does not run one's mouth, remains humble even after great accomplishments, does not boast, is respectful towards his or her seniors and does not go out of one's way to draw attention to oneself.

The author unfortunately possesses none of these traits (a true Japanese would not even consider tooting his own horn in print, especially not at that age) and so he compensates for that lack of traditional traits by parading a katana around like the neighborhood's oldest otaku. I would hazard a guess that my own wife has a stronger Japanese streak than he does. I apologize for my uncouth assessment of the man, but you would probably agree if you met him in person.
To: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Computers continued
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 22:35:48

Dear Mister Satou,

I don't think printing out the documentation in Braille will be a problem here, seeing how much we print out in Braille on a monthly basis at the club. I'll be sure to make a note of it so I won't forget it.

As for my schedule; Jun and I intend to start studying for the mock exams near the end of October, at which time I'll also start toning down my activities on behalf of the library. That means we'll have about a month for this, though I expect we won't need more than a week if we really dive into it during the upcoming weekend.

I'll let you know how things go.

Best regards,

Hanako.
To: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Lilly's laptop update
Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2008 12:35:11

Dear Mister Satou,

Jun and I have spent several days and most of the weekend getting to know the laptop and we're now at a point where we can (with some effort) perform some basic tasks without looking at the screen even once. (which is good since it remains a bit awkward to use the keyboard with all those Braille stickers on top of the keys) We've had a lot of fun working with this. :)

I wanted to know what you wanted to do now. Am I supposed to send the laptop and documentation back to you? Please let me know how you want to go about this.

Best regards,

Hanako

P.s.: I've almost finished a new order for the library that includes several of your recommendations. I now have additions to the fantasy, science fiction, thriller, romance and drama sections, but I'm still trying to find some new material for the comedy section. Is there anything you can suggest, even if it's not part of the most recent catalog?
From: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Lilly's laptop update
Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2008 22:02:44

Dear Hanako,

That is truly good to hear. Thank you for getting it out of the way this quickly. Be sure to extend my thanks to Miss Yamazaki as well.

My wife and I would like to take the opportunity to spend a few days to also familiarize ourselves with the computer. My wife has an appointment at Yamaku later this week and will be able to pick up the laptop while she is there. While the computer is at our home we can simulate a remote session with you as well and see how easy it will be to address computer problems from a distance.

Let me know if this will work for you.

Best regards,

Hiroyuki Satou

P.s.: Regrettably, no suitable titles from my company came to mind for the section that you spoke of in your last mail. We are expecting a title that you would probably like at the start of November. In the meantime, something from another publisher will have to fill that space. In fact, you have just given me an idea. May I ask if you have already categorized the three copies of the book we discussed in our earlier mails? If not, perhaps you should consider adding them to the library section that obviously still has space to spare, hmmm?
To: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Lilly's laptop update
Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2008 7:27:08

Dear Mister Satou,

Sure, that will work perfectly. Please let me know if she'd be willing to stay for dinner, so I can keep that in mind the next time I go shopping. I'm looking forward to her visit.

Best regards,

Hanako

P.s.: I haven't categorized the books yet, but it might be difficult to put autobiographies in any of the fiction sections. A librarian is supposed to keep the library well-organized and I don't think I'm supposed to put books in sections they don't belong in.
From: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Lilly's laptop update
Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2008 7:27:08

Dear Hanako,

I am certain that my wife will be more than happy to have dinner with you, and feel free to invite Miss Yamazaki along as well. This one will be on us, so please do not trouble yourself with the act of cooking, and let us return the favor. The idea is for her to stop by the day after tomorrow around 14:00 though she has no idea how long her appointment will take.

Please enjoy your dinner.

Best regards,

Hiroyuki Satou

P.s.: One could argue that the comedy section would be the perfect place for the book. Did you yourself not describe it as 'over the top'? When looked at from a satirical point of view, the book's protagonist may actually be seen as amusing, rather than obnoxious since the reader no longer takes him seriously. People might actually enjoy the book more. It might be an interesting experiment. I think you should take some time to consider giving it a try for a week or so. There would be little harm in that.
To: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Lilly's laptop update
Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2008 7:40:55

Dear Mister Satou,

I feel a bit bad about your wife visiting and me not being the best host I can be, but if you insist...

I don't think Jun would mind hanging out with us since she already knows your wife from before. I'll be sure to ask her if she has free time that day.

Best regards,

Hanako

P.s.: I gave in and placed one of the books in the section you mentioned, just for a few days, but I feel rather bad about it as if I'm cheating on a test or stealing a cookie from the cookie jar.
To: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Lilly's laptop update
Date: Fri, 3 Oct 2008 7:21:34

Dear Mister Satou,

Jun and I had a really good time together with your wife. Please be sure to thank her for me again for taking the two of us out to dinner. It was really tasty, and it was also good to see her again.

She said that you're planning to visit Lilly at her apartment this weekend and that we were invited as well to help you familiarize Lilly with her new laptop. Unfortunately, Jun already has plans to visit her home this weekend, but I was wondering if it would be okay to invite Hisao instead. He doesn't live too far away from Lilly's place, and it's been a while since I've last seen him. Is that okay?

Best regards,

Hanako

P.s.: I'm not sure if you'll believe this, but the president of the literature club came by three days ago, and he ended up borrowing that book. When he returned it yesterday I asked him how he liked it, and he said it was cleverly written and a fun read. I was flabbergasted.

Anyway, your wife said yesterday that the Hakamichi family is one of the school's donors as well. With that in mind, I don't think I can afford to do anything that might cause the school trouble. If it were found out, I'd have no excuse, so I put it back in the non-fiction section. I hope you don't mind.

Oh, by the way, I finally got around to reading 'Sputnik Sweetheart'. Isn't that one of your favorite books? I liked it a lot.
From: Hiroyuki Satou
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Lilly's laptop update
Date: Fri, 3 Oct 2008 22:29:18

Dear Hanako,

You can certainly invite Mister Nakai too. It would seem like a wasted opportunity not to go and see him while you are in town. Having a long-distance relationship must be tough enough as it is.

We will be in town rather early, so if you give my wife a call when you are about to arrive, we will be able to pick you up at the train station.

Best regards,

Hiroyuki Satou

P.s: Very interesting what you said about the book. Very interesting indeed. It would almost be tempting to let the publisher know what gold mine he is ignoring. I do understand the school's position though, so perhaps what you did was for the best.

About Sputnik Sweetheart, it is indeed. I am glad you enjoyed it. Funny that you mentioned it. I recently finished 'Dance, Dance, Dance' by the same author. You liked that one, did you not? It was quite a good read if I say so myself.
Last edited by Guest Poster on Fri Sep 19, 2014 10:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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Chapter 57 - cont.

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:22 am

From: Lilly Satou
Subject:
Date: Mon, 6 Oct 2008 19:17:01

Hello Hanako I am trying to get my first male to you has this one arrived safely love Lilly

To: Lilly Satou
Subject: Congratulations
Date: Mon, 6 Oct 2008 20:01:27

Hi Lilly,

Hurray! Your first e-mail. I'm really proud of you! And I'm very honored to have been its recipient.

I have to mention that you forgot to add punctuation and carriage returns though. The software doesn't put those in place automatically. You're supposed to say things like period or new line in order to add them.

Also, the program seems to mix up homophones sometimes. It thinks you're trying to send men, rather than messages. It's supposed to recognize context, but it looks like it's not completely flawless yet. You can probably get around this one by using the word e-mail rather than mail.

Keep up the good work, and don't let these little errors discourage you. Nobody's perfect at something the first time.

Love,

Hanako.
To: Lilly Satou
Subject: Hi
Date: Tue, 7 Oct 2008 21:50:51

Hi Lilly,

Are you getting a lot of mails already? I imagine that suddenly getting an e-mail address with your social circle would result in a literal flood of mails. I hope you're not overwhelmed.

I've been overwhelmed today. And rather stressed too. In fact, I'm having a bit of a headache right now. Yesterday, Miss Yumi gave me a rather drastic assignment for today. Another one of those challenges and a rather sadistic one this time. I had to wear my hair clip throughout my entire working day in the library. Miss Yumi argued that most people frequenting the library are already familiar with me by now and that my hair clip wouldn't make that much of a difference, but it did to me. I felt naked the whole time. I didn't get any shocked reactions from people, but things were awkward. Then again, maybe that was because I was awkward.

I suppose the point of today was that in the end nothing really happened, and I'm still alive and not suffering from a nervous breakdown. But I'm still feeling like I'm having a hangover.

Sorry, I'm just venting a bit.

Love,

Hanako.
To: Lilly Satou
Subject: Hi
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2008 12:23:15

Hi Lilly,

Thanks a lot for the kind phone call last night. I really did feel better afterwards, and I'm doing okay now. Things went back to normal a lot faster than I imagined. Also, about what you asked about yesterday; I haven't received any mail from your mother, but she did say last Thursday that she wanted to talk about something with Jun and me. Maybe something related to that mysterious appointment she had at the school. Jun offered to give her an account to our private forum, so maybe she'll talk about it there.

Love,

Hanako
From: Lilly Satou
Subject: Re: Hi
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2008 20:18:59

Hello Hanako.
You are most welcome and it was good to talk to you. I also felt better after our phonecall so we both got something out of it.
Also I'm sorry if I sound spoiled to you but can you and I swap back to regular mail for our actual correspondence. I intend to keep practicing on the computer but you're the only person with whom I used to correspond in Braille and your letters are very special to me. I always imagine your voice in my head as I read your letters and now it feels jarring to hear your words spoken by a voice that is not yours. If possible I would like to keep receiving letters from you instead of just e-mails.
I hope that is okay with you.
Love
Lilly
04
Karla Satou wrote:I'd like to thank Jun for creating an account for me here. I hope a fourth account on these forums won't cause bad luck around here. ;) For Naomi's information; I visited Yamaku last Thursday and had dinner with Hanako and Jun. I asked them if they'd be willing to help me out with something I'm working on.

I have a confession to make. I wasn't merely at Yamaku last Thursday to pick up Lilly's laptop, but also to have a little interview with the principal and several staff members. I'm currently working on an article about Yamaku and schools just like it. It will eventually be submitted to a magazine that has agreed to publish it when it's finished. Part of the research involves asking students and alumni of these schools a few questions.

I've attached a document with some questions to this post. If you'd be willing to look it over, fill in the questions and send it back to me either through mail or by posting it here, that would be greatly appreciated.

Questionaire.doc
Naomi Inoue wrote:Whoa! Karla! :shock: That's unexpected. Nice to see our sponsor here. :D
Hanako Ikezawa wrote:Hello Karla and welcome. :) You seem to be keeping really busy, between this article and that biography you're working on with that co-worker in Scotland. Don't you get overwhelmed sometimes?
Karla Satou wrote:Hi Naomi. Nice to talk to you again. I hope you're doing well. And Hanako, believe it or not, but I enjoy keeping busy. Back in my days as a journalist I was juggling multiple projects all the time. I'd like to think I have a fairly good idea of where my limits for work-related stress lie. I think a little bit of hecticness makes me feel alive. Weird, huh? :)
Jun Yamazaki wrote:But not particularly inconvenient for a journalist. :)
Naomi Inoue wrote:I'm doing pretty well. Cram school isn't Yamaku, but there's still some nice people there. I caused my fair share of awkward moments already though. :| We've spent the last few months experimenting with my medication in preparation for exam season. It hasn't always been pretty. I hope we can come up with a definite 'diet' before the end of the year. I know the school is a bit worried about that. Anyway, I'll take a look at your questionaire tonight.
Karla Satou wrote:Naomi, if it's okay with you I'd like to hear more about your experiences. You can put it under 'additional comments' near the bottom. Or we can talk about it directly.
Jun Yamazaki wrote:The results of those questionaires won't be included in the article directly, will they?
Karla Satou wrote:They won't be. They're merely for my own information.
Hanako Ikezawa wrote:I've filled in the form and sent it.
Jun Yamazaki wrote:Me too.
Naomi Inoue wrote:Make that three. Though I kind of expected the question list to be longer.
Karla Satou wrote:It's easier to get people to participate if they don't have to spend an entire evening filling in the form. I can only cram so much information into one article anyway. Anyway, thank you very much. I appreciate the time the three of you took.
Jun Yamazaki wrote:It was my pleasure. It's a shame we can't do more. This is essentially an article about us, isn't it?
Karla Satou wrote:I guess in a way it is.
Naomi Inoue wrote:Isn't there anything else we can do? Maybe we can help out with the writing in some way or another. 8)
Jun Yamazaki wrote:Naomi, she's a former journalist. I think she'll manage without our help. :P
Karla Satou wrote:I'm honored by the offer, and I would have let you girls come along for the ride if it wasn't for the fact you have mock exams coming up in about a month. It's important that the three of you focus on your studies.
Hanako Ikezawa wrote:You really would have let us help?
Karla Satou wrote:Uhuh. I'm always willing to help inspire people with whom I share an interest in writing. But your school comes first.
Naomi Inoue wrote:But some additional inspiration might help us study better and do better on our exams. :mrgreen:
Karla Satou wrote:But you won't be doing better on your exams if you spend the majority of the upcoming weeks helping out with something that's not related to any of the things your exams will be about. :roll:
Hanako Ikezawa wrote:Spending all our time on this wouldn't be smart, but if you'd welcome our help then how about we pick one day to help you out and focus on our studies the rest of the time?
Karla Satou wrote:Just one day? Well, I guess that can't hurt, though I should stress that I'd reserve the right for myself to have the final word on all content.
Jun Yamazaki wrote:That sounds fine to me. Please let us know what you want us to do and post the material we have to work with here.
Karla Satou wrote:I usually prefer not to do this sort of thing online unless there's a continent between me and my co-workers. If you're only going to spend one day working with me, we should go out of our way to be as efficient as possible. What I'd like to propose is this: I'm going to focus completely on collecting as much data as possible during the upcoming 1.5 weeks, and during next week's weekend the four of us can work on sorting and processing all the data and get a basic outline done. The three of you can catch a train after your classes on Saturday and have dinner at our place. We'll try to get the outline out of the way that evening so we can do the data processing and perhaps make a start with an early draft on Sunday. Since my husband will be visiting with Lilly on Sunday, we'll have the place to ourselves most of the day. After dinner on Sunday, the three of you can catch a train and dive into your studies with new-found motivation. :mrgreen:
Jun Yamazaki wrote:That's quite an offer. I'm up for it if the rest is as well. So we'll be spending the night at your place? Is that okay?
Karla Satou wrote:Don't worry about that. We have enough space to accommodate you. I set up our attic as my own private office where the four of us can work. I have my own desktop PC, my laptop and a typewriter we can work on. Let me know if you're going to bring your laptop, Jun, or if I should try and arrange one.
Hanako Ikezawa wrote:This sounds like it'll be fun. Thank you for having us, Karla. :)
Jun Yamazaki wrote:I'll bring my own laptop along. No need to accommodate us further. Thank you.
Naomi Inoue wrote:W00t!!! Slumber party! :D :D :D :D :D :D
Karla Satou wrote:It's a deal then. Don't forget to study hard until then, okay?
Naomi Inoue wrote:YES MA'AM!!! 8) 8)
Naomi Inoue wrote:Whoohoo! Looking forward to it! :D
Naomi Inoue wrote:Comeback time for The Broken Quills! :lol:
Jun Yamazaki wrote:Naomi, you know you can edit your posts, right? No need to triple-post.
05
Sapporo4ever has logged on.

Sapporo4ever: Yo!

Flowergirl_89: Hey Akira!

Sapporo4ever: How are things?

Flowergirl_89: I'm well.

Sapporo4ever: Busy?

Flowergirl_89: I'm playing online chess against Hisao right now. :)

Sapporo4ever: How is he? And should I come back later?

Flowergirl_89: No need. The game is almost over. And he's doing pretty well. Apparently he's been asked by his teacher to take part in some special activity next month together with a few others in his class. It's a real honor, and I'm happy for him.

Sapporo4ever: When I asked whether you were busy, I was actually wondering whether you were busy these days rather than busy right now. Exam season is getting closer, isn't it?

Flowergirl_89: :oops:

Flowergirl_89: I'm slowly phasing out my librarian work. This month I'm having Wednesdays off. I use them to keep up with my studies. I also spend most of my evenings studying nowadays.

Sapporo4ever: I heard that my family's been keeping you occupied as well.

Flowergirl_89: Oh, the laptop? It wasn't that bad. We picked it up fairly quickly, and I haven't had to take over Lilly's computer so far. I think the documentation we printed out for her was pretty helpful. She's already sending her first mails.

Sapporo4ever: Yeah, I got one myself a few days ago. It was still kinda unrefined, but that's to be expected when you're just starting out.

Flowergirl_89: Yes. It'll be okay as long as long as she keeps practicing. Do you know of any other people she's already mailed?

Sapporo4ever: Not really, and I haven't given her e-mail address to anyone else either. Lilly's probably still a little insecure about her mailing skills, and she probably wants to practice with the people she's closest to rather than risk sending overly rough mails to people she doesn't know that well and leave a bad impression on them. I think just trying this out with you and me is already taxing on her pride.

Flowergirl_89: I think so, too. I've been trying to give her constructive feedback while keeping a neutral tone.

Sapporo4ever: Good call. Imagine what would happen if Shizune got her hands on her e-mail address and sent her a snippy 'Welcome to the 20th century.' message. My poor sister would probably lose sleep over that kind of interaction.

Flowergirl_89: Awwwww. :lol:

Sapporo4ever: By the way, do you think that text-to-speech software understands smilies in mails or would it just get confused?

Flowergirl_89: We didn't test that. I think it would be confused, but you could try it sometime. Just tell Lilly in advance what you're going to do.

Sapporo4ever: I'll keep that in mind.

Flowergirl_89: My chess game has just ended. I lost. :(

Sapporo4ever: Shame.

Flowergirl_89: It's okay. It was still fun. At least now I'm able to send quicker answers.

Sapporo4ever: You're not gonna keep chatting with your boyfriend?

Flowergirl_89: We don't really chat a lot during games. Just small talk most of the time. I think we do our actual bonding through the game itself and not through the accompanying chat messages. That's just the way things work for us.

Sapporo4ever: Ah, okay.

Sapporo4ever: I also heard that you and your writing club will be staying at our folks' place for a weekend.

Flowergirl_89: Yes, your mother invited us to spend a day helping her with an article she's writing.

Sapporo4ever: Excited?

Flowergirl_89: A little bit. This is much bigger than a school newspaper.

Sapporo4ever: I hope you'll have fun. I'm sure I'll hear about it afterwards from either you or from Mom when she comes over.

Flowergirl_89: Your mother's coming to Scotland again?

Sapporo4ever: Yeah, a few days after your excursion. To visit head office and write a report for Dad with her view of the state of affairs here, to see her Scottish friends, to work on that biography together with her journalist friend and to engage in a pub crawl with me. :roll:

Flowergirl_89: Pub crawl?

Sapporo4ever: To 'bond'... or something. You can be my witness. If she gets carried away, then I'm NOT dragging her hammered ass back to my apartment. Her friends can take that one.

Flowergirl_89: Hahaha. It'll probably be fine. She's Scottish. She can hold her liquor.

Sapporo4ever: I've learned that that's a bit of a generalisation, but who knows... ;) Anyway, I don't expect anything to come out of it, but it's against my core convictions to turn down free beer even if it means I have to put up with my old lady crashing on the couch in my apartment. ;)

Flowergirl_89: :lol:

Flowergirl_89: Speaking of your apartment; did you end up making a decision about getting a new place?

Sapporo4ever: It turned out to be a harder decision than expected.

Flowergirl_89: You and Yuichi weren't sure yet whether you were ready to move in together?

Sapporo4ever: It's not really that. We decided our relationship was stable enough to give it a try. But between the two of us we earn enough to get ourselves an actual home, rather than a mere apartment. That's one thing I've come to like about the UK. Houses are cheaper, and there's more space than the residences in Japan. We can actually have people over now. But getting a home means we'll have to decorate and furnish the whole place, too, since our current sets of furniture clash a bit style-wise.

Flowergirl_89: So lot's of shopping ahead then?

Sapporo4ever: Yeah. I've been getting lots of spam lately with offers for kitchens here. For a little while I'm not gonna delete that stuff on sight.

Flowergirl_89: Were you hesitant to make the move out of practical concerns?

Sapporo4ever: Not too much. It's mostly that when you get your own place and furnish the whole thing, it means you intend to be living there for at least a couple of years. It felt a bit awkward setting our lives in stone like that.

Flowergirl_89: But you're happy living in Scotland, right? I didn't get the impression you and your boyfriend had a lot of trouble acclimitizing.

Sapporo4ever: We've had our share of faux pas and misunderstandings from time to time, but they fortunately weren't all that common despite the fact that Japanese and Western culture are pretty different from one another.

Flowergirl_89: I suppose having a Scottish parent gave you an edge. ;)

Sapporo4ever: I used to think so too, but now that I've lived here for slightly over a year I don't think that's really the case anymore.

Flowergirl_89: Lilly told me once that your parents made sure that you two knew your Scottish side.

Sapporo4ever: They taught us to speak English, sure, and Mom used to read us Scottish folk tales and stuff, but our upbringing itself was decidedly Japanese. I found out that I'm not really any less prone to cultural missteps than my boyfriend despite having a Scottish parent. What made the biggest difference in the end has been the fact that many people at the office were already fairly familiar with Japanese culture through Mom and Dad and have been doing their best to be accommodating towards Yuichi and me.

Flowergirl_89: That's good.

Sapporo4ever: I suppose, though it gave me a very mixed feeling.

Flowergirl_89: Why? Were they being patronizing?

Sapporo4ever: No, not at all. They were treating us... like Japanese who moved here. Which was perfectly logical and Yuichi seemed fine with it. But it made me feel weird.

Flowergirl_89: Huh?

Sapporo4ever: I think that for a large part of my life I've been 'American', 'English' or Scottish' to most people, depending on the topographical savvy of those around me. I came to feel that way too at some point. I certainly didn't feel Japanese. I used to wonder if I'd fit in better if we had been living in Scotland instead. But when I moved here and started working at head office, people immediately started viewing me as a Japanese. In Japan, you're a Scot. In Scotland, you're a Japanese. Weird, huh?

Flowergirl_89: Is that why it was hard to make a decision on settling down there?

Sapporo4ever: Kinda. Don't get me wrong, I do like it here in many ways. I like my job, my colleagues, my friends and my my relationship, but there are still some times when I feel like a fish out of the water, even after all this time. I'm just not sure whether I can unequivocally call Scotland a real home, despite my initial expectations.

Flowergirl_89: Did you talk with Lilly about this?

Sapporo4ever: I did. With Yuichi too.

Flowergirl_89: What did they say? Lilly's a bit in the same boat as you are, isn't she?

Sapporo4ever: Yuichi said that I should just hang back and let things fall into place of their own. Kind of a non-answer, but I can't expect him to solve this particular puzzle for me. As for Lilly, I don't think she's quite in the same boat. She never wondered what part of her heritage contained the real her. She's a Japanese in heart and soul. Always been that way. She said that she thought I was simply looking for a place to belong, and that I already had such a place. I'm not sure if I share her optimism.

Flowergirl_89: Is she talking about your family?

Sapporo4ever: Yeah. I don't think she's trying to nudge me into moving back, but she IS trying to convince me not to give Mom the silent treatment when she comes over.

Flowergirl_89: Just doing a bit of bar hopping probably can't hurt.

Sapporo4ever: A buncha pints isn't exactly good enough to compensate for years and years of screwups. I like beer, but not to THAT degree. ;)

Flowergirl_89: But it's a start. :lol:

Sapporo4ever: I guess so.

Flowergirl_89: Let me know how it goes, okay?

Sapporo4ever: Sure thing. See ya around.

Flowergirl_89: Bye! :)
Last edited by Guest Poster on Sat Sep 20, 2014 12:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Posts: 1266
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:42 am

Chapter 57 - cont.

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:23 am

06
Monday October the 27th

Dear Lilly,

I promised to write you about last weekend as soon as I got the opportunity. It's Monday morning as I'm typing this, and I hope I can get this letter printed and mailed before my shift starts. (yawn) With luck it should arrive the next day.

First of all, I hope you had a good time last Sunday with your father visiting. I'm going to take his word for it that this visit was indeed already planned, and he didn't merely leave because he didn't want to get in our way.

Jun and I took the train to your parents' town immediately after Jun's last class. I fortunately managed to arrange for someone to watch the library in my absence. The three of us arranged to meet up at one of the stopover stations so Naomi wouldn't have to take the whole trip by her lonesome. After our meetup we had a quick snack and then took the train to your parents' home. Your mother was waiting for us at the usual place when we arrived.

We had some very tasty dinner, courtesy of your mother, and we had a bit of opportunity to catch up. Naomi had some interesting news. She's considering taking the Center Test and her entrance exams at Yamaku this year. Apparently her cram school's been voicing concerns about her due to her still having seizures from time to time even though she's changed her medication to something that decreased the frequency of her episodes. They brought up the possibility of taking her finals at Yamaku and offered to look into that. Your mother rather scathingly noted that the cram school's probably less worried about Naomi's well-being than they are about the hit its reputation might take if one of their students ends up disrupting an official exam. There's probably some truth in that, though personally I wouldn't mind at all if she came here to take the exams.

After dinner, Naomi and Jun were given a quick tour of the house that culminated in us getting settled in your mother's attic office, that was quickly dubbed the 'editorial office'. Your mother first spent some time telling us what exactly she would and would not cover in the article and giving us a brief look at the materials she gathered. Then we spent about two hours getting an outline ready before calling it a night. Your mother said she'd often pull all-nighters when writing articles, but Naomi's supposed to maintain a steady day-and-night rhythm, and we decided not to disrupt that.

Our stay hit a bit of a bump when Naomi said she wanted to take a soak in your parents' bathroom. Naomi's not allowed to bathe unsupervised because she'd drown if she had a seizure, and Jun's not allowed to be the supervising person because a thrashing Naomi could injure her. So the idea was thrown into the group to take a soak with the three of us, and I had to decline. I felt like a real spoilsport even though Naomi and Jun acted understanding.

In order to make up for it, I agreed to let Naomi and Jun sleep in my room for the night. (we put three futons on the ground for that purpose) I think we spent nearly two more hours talking, or rather it was Naomi talking with Jun and me occasionally chipping in, before we went to sleep. It probably wasn't very responsible, but it was rather fun. My very first slumber party.

After having breakfast the next day, we spent nearly six hours working non-stop to sort out and categorize all the information, and at the end we had a rough draft version of nearly half the article already. It was hard work, but it was nice to work together on something again after nearly a year. It felt a lot like the old newspaper club meetings or those nights the three of us spent working on pieces to submit to writing competitions. I've definitely had my nostalgic fix from this weekend for the time being.

We concluded our stay with another dinner and having to swear a solemn oath to your mother to give our upcoming exams a full 200 percent. (no pressure) We spent the first part of the train ride travelling together before saying goodbye to Naomi. And now I'm back at Yamaku, watching the mock exams slowly get closer and planning to get at least five hours of studying a day this week. One consolation is that it'll be almost impossible to do worse than I did last year.

Wish me luck.

Love,

Hanako

P.s.: Your mother briefly mentioned that you might be getting an opportunity to take part in an activity at your faculty, but she didn't want to elaborate when I asked what it was about and seemed quick to dismiss the subject. Can you tell me more? Or is it still a secret?
07
Karla Satou wrote:I thought I'd post a quick thank you to everyone for their efforts last weekend. I hope you all had fun. I know I did. I think your participation has contributed to the quality of the final version. I hope you will show the same dedication in the preparations for the upcoming exams.
Naomi Inoue wrote:Hi Karla. I had a blast this weekend. :D Very motivated right now!
Hanako Ikezawa wrote:Hi Naomi. It was really fun to see you again and work together again last weekend. I had a really good time. :) Have you already heard something about your exams?
Naomi Inoue wrote:Apparently Yamaku had no issue with it. It seems it's not the first time alumni with special needs return to do their entrance exams there.
Karla Satou wrote:I don't want to start a rant here, but I feel very mixed about this. If they're so worried about you getting a seizure during exams, why don't they ask the nearby university where you're set to take the tests to let you take the exams in a separate classroom with a teacher to keep an eye on you and instructions about how to deal with seizures on hand? It can't be that hard.
Jun Yamazaki wrote:Maybe they feel embarrassed about making that kind of request from the university. Or maybe they'd need to request a second official proctor just for Naomi.
Naomi Inoue wrote:Hey Karla, I get what you're saying, but I don't really mind myself. A lot of people I know from the newspaper club will be doing their exams this year, including Hanako and Jun. I think it's cool that I can be there to wish them good luck. In fact, I was wondering if I'd be able to get away with doing the last stretch of studying there too.
Jun Yamazaki wrote:That might get you into trouble since you're not a student here anymore and most teachers probably still remember you.
Hanako Ikezawa wrote:But it's not like she'd be doing any harm by studying together with us. It could be just an extended visit. And we could see to it that Naomi gets enough sleep per day.
Naomi Inoue wrote:I'd need a place to sleep though. Are you offering me your room? What will your boyfriend say? ;)
Hanako Ikezawa wrote:If you brought your own futon then maybe.
Jun Yamazaki wrote:Naomi having to spend the night in Hanako's room. That brings back memories. :twisted:
Naomi Inoue wrote:Screw you so much, Jun. :P
Karla Satou wrote:Well, you already slept in her room last weekend. :)
Jun Yamazaki wrote:It'd probably be okay for you to use my room from time to time as well, just so Hanako can maintain a bit of privacy.
Hanako Ikezawa wrote:We could use the library as a cramming room in the evening. I've already been using it for that purpose for months. The beanbags are also just large enough to comfortably curl up on.
Jun Yamazaki wrote:And I thought you actually sleeping in the library from time to time was just a silly rumor. :roll:
Hanako Ikezawa wrote:There are rumors? :oops:
Naomi Inoue wrote:BUSTED! :lol: :lol: :lol:
Jun Yamazaki wrote:So is this a serious idea, Naomi?
Naomi Inoue wrote:I like it. I'll talk to my parents about it. I hope they'll agree. I could spend January and February studying with you guys. We could make our graduation an official Broken Quills project. :D :D
Naomi Inoue wrote:BTW guys, Natsume says hi. :)
Karla Satou wrote:Are you still in contact with her, Naomi?
Naomi Inoue wrote:Yup. :) We try to have one phone conversation a week to keep each other in the loop. By the way, she pointed something out last night that made me think. She said that if I were to bring my friends over to her house, her parents wouldn't just let me spend the night there with you guys, even though they know me fairly well. I never thought much about it, but not many people I know would just let a friend of their daughter bring along their friends and sleep over without the daughter even being present. And I think Mister Satou referred to the room we slept in as 'Hanako's room'. What's up with that? Is it Scottish hospitality? :)
Jun Yamazaki wrote:To be honest I was wondering about that as well.
Naomi Inoue wrote:Anybody?
Naomi Inoue wrote:Hello?
Naomi Inoue wrote:Suspicious silence. ;)
Naomi Inoue wrote:Very suspicious.
Jun Yamazaki wrote:^ Edit button! Do you see it? :evil:
Karla Satou wrote:Sorry for the delay. I'm in Scotland right now and staying at my oldest daughter's place. The trip took me an entire day, and I didn't get around to setting up my laptop yet. Anyway, I'd like to say that last weekend was simply due to me being an honorary member of your club (or that it's Scottish hospitality ;) ), but Hanako is also in a special position. You could say that she's an official friend of the family. I hope that answers the question. Anyway, I might not be able to reply for some time. I'll be here for less than a week, and I have truckloads to do while I'm here. I'll be finishing up our article while I'm in Inverness, and I'll be sending it to the publishing magazine through mail. When the next issue comes out, I'll be sure to send the three of you a copy.
Naomi Inoue wrote:Great, thanks. :D
Jun Yamazaki wrote:Yes, thank you. :)
Hanako Ikezawa wrote:Thanks. :)
08
Sapporo4ever has logged on.

Flowergirl_89: Hi Akira! :)

Sapporo4ever: Hey

Flowergirl_89: How are things?

Sapporo4ever: My head hurts. Good thing it's Saturday morning right now, and I don't need to work.

Flowergirl_89: Oh dear.

Flowergirl_89: Is this a result of your 'pub crawl' with your mother? That was yesterday, wasn't it?

Sapporo4ever: Yeah. We had dinner after I got off work, and then we went into town. Man, the old lady can really hold her liquor. Maybe Yuichi being such a wuss with alcohol caused me to let my guard down.

Flowergirl_89: So she beat you? :lol:

Sapporo4ever: Dunno. She left early this morning because she still had a lot to do. Her flight back is only three days away. If she's feeling the way I'm feeling right now, it might still be a tie. I don't think it's just the alcohol though, but also the evening itself.

Flowergirl_89: So how did it go? You didn't get into a fight, did you?

Sapporo4ever: Dunno. Somewhere along the line. It was mostly talking. It was probably somewhere around the third pub that we got into an argument about the usual stuff. She said she wanted to have a serious talk with me. We bought a bottle of Scotch to go and took a walk. We ended up at the marina where we sat down on a bench facing the bay.

Flowergirl_89: And you had a talk there?

Sapporo4ever: Not sure if it was a talk. It was mostly her talking and me listening.

Flowergirl_89: About you and her?

Sapporo4ever: About lotsa stuff. Mostly about our family.

Flowergirl_89: I see.

Sapporo4ever: You know, while we were there she

Sapporo4ever: apologized.

Flowergirl_89: She apologized?

Sapporo4ever: For being such crappy parents... for leaving Lilly behind in Japan...

Flowergirl_89: :shock: :shock: :shock:

Flowergirl_89: I don't know what to say.

Sapporo4ever: I'm not sure either.

Flowergirl_89: This is a good thing, isn't it?

Sapporo4ever: Not sure. I mean it doesn't really change all that much. What happened happened and no apology is gonna change the past, is it?

Flowergirl_89: No.

Flowergirl_89: Miss Yumi told me many times that I shouldn't let the past get in the way of the future.

Sapporo4ever: Miss Yumi?

Flowergirl_89: My therapist at Yamaku.

Sapporo4ever: I think I remember her. The old granny with the violet shawl? ;)

Flowergirl_89: That's her. :lol:

Sapporo4ever: And your therapist would want me to forgive Mom and Dad? :P

Flowergirl_89: She's never that direct with me. She usually tries to nudge me towards certain actions instead of telling me to do things. Unless I have those assignments.

Sapporo4ever: Assignments?

Flowergirl_89: Like attending the school festival or visiting some tourist attractions on my own. That or spending a day behind the library desk without my hair obscuring the right side of my face. That was kind of bad. She said that I'll get another assignment at my appointment tomorrow. I'm kind of nervous about it.

Sapporo4ever: Given that last one, I can imagine.

Flowergirl_89: She says it's to stretch my comfort zone. She believes that some of the best changes in my life came to be whenever I stretched my small comfort zone.

Sapporo4ever: I think I know what she's talking about. The reason Yuichi and I got back together and are now about to move in together is because I apologized to him for dumping him without giving him an opportunity to make a choice for himself. That was hard, and it really, really bruised my ego, but I think I wanted our relationship to be mended badly enough to ignore my pride for a while. It was worth it.

Flowergirl_89: It was probably even harder for your mother to apologize, but I think she wanted a better relationship with you badly enough to also put her pride aside for a moment.

Sapporo4ever: I suppose so. She insisted that history doesn't always repeat itself and that things are different now. But forgiveness isn't that easy to get. Even Lilly confided in us last year that she still hadn't completely forgiven our folks yet.

Flowergirl_89: But Lilly's still trying to improve her relationship with them. It's easier to forgive people you feel close to. And I think they've made a sincere effort this year to be better parents to Lilly. I don't think you need to forgive them, but maybe you can reciprocate in a smaller way.

Sapporo4ever: I dunno. Maybe. Mom invited me to come and celebrate New Year with them again at the end of the year. I'll already be with Yuichi's parents during Christmas, but New Year's day is still free. Maybe I could come over and make an effort to simply have a fun day. As in a real effort.

Flowergirl_89: I think that would be a very good start. :D

Sapporo4ever: Did you already get an invitation?

Flowergirl_89: Huh, me? :?

Sapporo4ever: Well, you were there last year, and it wasn't all bad, was it? There were some awkward moments, but I don't think I was the only person who was glad that you were there as well. I expect Mom and Dad will invite you too sooner or later. You should give it some consideration.

Flowergirl_89: :?

Sapporo4ever: I, for one, would be happy to have you there. Think of it as an additional motivator for me to go there as well. :)

Flowergirl_89: That's cheating. :(

Sapporo4ever: :mrgreen:

Flowergirl_89: I need to disconnect. I still have an hour of studying on my schedule, and I can't sleep in tomorrow because of my appointment.

Sapporo4ever: Oh right, no problem. I'll just go and have a BLT sandwich. They're good hangover cures. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed the assignment won't be anything stressful. Maybe she'll just tell you to do well on your mock exams. They're less than two weeks away, aren't they?

Flowergirl_89: Indeed. That would be a relief. I hope so. :)

Sapporo4ever: Well, good luck with your studies. I know you'll do well, but I'll still keep my fingers crossed. :)

Flowergirl_89: Thank you. :)

Sapporo4ever: See ya. And good luck with the mock exams. You're gonna make it this year, mark my words. ;)
09
Last edited by Guest Poster on Fri Sep 19, 2014 10:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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Posts: 1266
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:42 am

Chapter 58

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:23 am

Chapter 58
01
As I pass through the school gate, I stop for a moment and take a few deep breaths. Even though it's been two months since I started attending university here, the sheer size and especially the crowdedness of this campus still manage to overwhelm me. I kind of long for the quiet and cozy atmosphere of Yamaku at this point, but high school is a definite thing of the past now and something I can never return to.

Not wanting to be late, I pick up a steady pace and make my way to the journalism faculty.

--------------------------------------

"And that's all for today. Remember that this material will return in the upcoming tests, so study it carefully."

As the teacher walks out of the room, I take one more opportunity to compare my notes with the contents of the blackboard. After confirming that I've got all the important points down, I put my books and notebook away and my thoughts dwell on where to spend this lunch break. I'll probably settle for the area near the sports field again. As I'm making up my mind, I pick up pieces of conversation from the other people in class.

"Man, I'm glad it's lunch break. That guy just drones on and on."

"Hey, when are you going to return that book that I lent you?"

"Relax. I'll have it with me the day after tomorrow."

"Wanna stop by the shopping center later today?"

"Sure, why not?"

"Will we be staying here this lunch break or head down to the cafeteria?"

"I didn't bring my lunch today, so how about heading downstairs?"

"You already know what you want to eat?"

"I do. And how about having you-know-who get us some? To make up for the other day."

"You mean about the day before yesterday? You were really bugged by that? It was pretty obvious the teacher was just going through the motions. When we told him it was a misunderstanding and she simply took it the wrong way, the whole thing was quickly dropped."

"I know that. It's just that that silliness caused me to miss the bus I wanted to take, and I was late for an appointment in town."

"What a pain."

"It was. Shall we?"
02
Just as I'm about to get up from my seat, several of my classmates suddenly crowd around my desk, causing me to startle and quickly avert my eyes.

"Hey!"

"Y-Y-Yes?"

"Do you already know where you're gonna have lunch?"

I hesitantly shake my head. Even if I knew for sure, I still wouldn't let my classmates know where I go during lunch break.

"So you have no plans? Why not join us in the cafeteria? Also, could you buy us lunch today?"

"L-L-Lunch?"

"Well, you kind of owe us something from two days ago, remember? If you buy us something to eat for today, we'll call it even."

"I... d-d-didn't d-do anything."

"Huh? You're not trying to weasel out of this, are you?"

"I r-really d-didn't..."

"So the answer's no? I'm shocked."

"Ummm..."

I get four stares that seem to suggest I'm crazy for having to think about such a 'bargain' and I start feeling more stressed by the second. If I refuse, I'm not sure what'll happen. I look around the classroom, but the few people who are still here aren't paying us any attention. Eventually I sigh and manage a soft nod with extreme effort.

"Great. Just get us today's special. We'll be right there."

One of the others frowns.

"Today's special? How can you be so sure all of us will like that? Did you even check what it is today?"

"Hey, don't worry. I checked this morning. Trust me, you'll like it."

"Well, okay."

Their attention turns back to me.

"So... four times today's special. Got it? Attagirl."

I receive a playful slap on the back that causes me to let out a surprised yelp, resulting in a few amused looks.

"Hey relax. Didn't mean to startle you. You have ordered from the cafeteria before, haven't you?"

I manage another soft nod, pick up my stuff and quickly leave the classroom. As I walk down the hallway leading to the cafeteria, I realize that being pressured into paying for someone else's lunch gives me a feeling of déjà vu.

I just hoped that those days like at middle school were a thing of the past.
03
They're not.

The four people who were at my desk just now were all people I already met before enrolling here, though I didn't know it at the time. They were there at the open house day two years ago as well and probably flunked their entrance exams the first time around just like I did. They did remember that spectacle though as well as the one who caused it.

I'm not even sure how they got my phone number in the first place. The first time my phone went off in the middle of class, I instantly had a flashback, lost my nerve under the attention and ran out of the room.

I initially thought it was just a one-time prank, but then it happened again. I stopped taking my cell phone to school with me, but someone then had the bright idea of setting up his or her cell phone with the same ring tone I used and letting it go off in class, causing all gazes to immediately focus back onto me.

Those were just the first few weeks.

That was just the start.

I don't know for sure what's going on, but I think some of my classmates got into trouble with the teacher over something like this. I told them the truth just now when I said I didn't do anything. But I think I know what happened.

Lilly probably called the school again.

Even though I begged her not to.

And now I'm being punished for that.

I wonder why they even waited a full day before retaliating.

I'm not sure if they're serious about dropping this if I just buy them lunch. It seems too easy, but if there's a chance to avoid more trouble, then I should probably take it.

At the cafeteria there's already a line forming at the counter, so I quickly join the queue while trying to avoid as much attention as possible.

"Can I help you?"

When it's finally my turn, I try to quickly place my order while blocking out the stare coming from the man behind the counter.

Just place the order. Get them their damn food and then get out of the building.

"T-T-Today's s-special, p-please. F-Four t-times."

"Fried shrimp?"

"W-W-W-What?"

My heart nearly leaps out of my throat, and my eyes grow nearly twice as large as I stare at the person behind the counter, wondering if I really heard that right. The man merely rolls his eyes.

"Today's special is fried shrimp. Would you like some?"

I swallow the lump in my throat and fight back my tears as I painfully nod my head. I can see the corners of his mouth twitching as he tries to maintain a neutral smile, but his eyes show amusement at my reaction. I shiver as I hear a few soft chuckles around me. They probably think this is pretty funny. Maybe it actually is pretty funny, and I'm just too messed up to 'get the joke'.

Now I know why they waited a whole day before pressuring me into this.

It truly is like middle school all over again.

The time it takes for my order to finish feels like forever, and the whole time I can feel several gazes piercing my back as if looking right through my clothes.

The meals eventually arrive, and I quickly pay for them, desperate to get out of here as quickly as possible. I walk around the cafeteria in search of my classmates, trying to steady my shaking legs. If I lose it here in the middle of the cafeteria, things'll be even worse. I'll just drop off these meals and then leave here. I need to be alone. Away from all this.

WEEEOOOOWEEEOOOOWEEEOOO!

Just when I approach the place where I saw my classmates earlier, a loud noise coming from somewhere very close by startles me and causes me to promptly drop my tray. The noise itself was loud and distinct enough to draw gazes, but with the mess in front of me I'm immediately at the center of everyone's attention.

Again.

WEEEOOOOWEEEOOOOWEEEOOO!

I need to get out of here!

I manage to keep myself together for long enough to realize that the sound is actually coming from my bag and frantically reach into it. The source of the noise turns out to be a cell phone.

That's not my cell phone. I don't even take my cell phone to school anymore. How did it get in there? When did they sneak in in there?

The second thing that pops into my mind is the thought that everyone staring at me is probably already thinking.

What kind of person uses a siren as a ringtone? Is it an ambulance's? Or something else's?

I try to flip open the phone to switch it off, but the phone's lid is kept shut with a strip of adhesive tape and my hands are shaking too much to scrape it off.

I need to get out of here!

WEEEOOOOWEEEOOOOWEEEOOO!

The pressing atmosphere here is starting to suffocate me and in a fit of panic I hurl the source of the ruckus as far away from me as possible and dart out of the room and out of the building.

When I finally stop running, I find myself near the small substation building close to the sports field. Exhausted, both mentally and physically, I slump against the far side of the building and wait for my heart to stop racing. It does so eventually, but the utterly miserable feeling that comes in its wake isn't much better.

I should probably get back to clean up the food I dropped, but I don't have the nerve to do that in front of half the faculty.

I don't think I have the nerve to return there regardless.

I'll just wait until lunch break is over and then head back to the apartment.

Suddenly I hear voices, and when I peek around the corner I discover to my horror that my classmates have followed me here. I turn around and make an attempt to run, only to nearly collide with another of my pursuers who must have circled the building. Moments later the four of them have me surrounded and one of them gives me a quasi-jovial smile.

"You sure pick strange places to spend your lunch break."

"..."

"I thought we'd let you know that a cafeteria worker is cleaning up the mess you left right now. So no need to worry about that."

I don't think they came all the way here just to tell me that.

"Also, we've been thinking and maybe making that phone call while you were carrying that tray was kinda stupid. Heh, I might have dropped that stuff myself if I had been in your place. We really should have thought that through. So we decided not to hold the wasted food against you, and we won't expect you to buy us another round. I mean, it's just food, right?"

Somehow this is not putting me at ease. Despite the jovial tone of this one-sided conversation, the situation feels very threatening to me and I realize with dread that my decision to pick an isolated spot to retreat to is now working against me.

"We're not gonna hold the food against you, but there is another problem..."

"OW!"

I let out a cry, more from surprise than pain when my left arm is suddenly grabbed and twisted behind my back. The already artificial smile in front of me grows colder. Then, something is held out in front of me. It's the cell phone that was hidden in my bag. The one that I threw away in a panic and is now obviously no longer functional or even in one piece.

"We could have called it even back there, but you just couldn't leave well enough alone, could you? Fine, we played a little prank. It was just a harmless little joke. Anyone who has a sense of humor would have understood that. What do you think is worse? Startling someone for a bit in good humor or wrecking a cell phone worth 16000 yen?"

"I...I..."

"Don't you think your reaction was a little disproportionate?"

"I...I...j-just..."

"Because everybody else thinks it was."

"I...I..."

Before I can finish thinking of a reply, the broken phone is put away, and another object is held out. Something that turns my anxiety from mere fright into pure terror.

It's a small lighter.

My classmate then takes out a pack of cigarettes, pulls one out and lights it.

"Do you know what your problem is?"

I start struggling, but then the hand holding my arm tightens its grip and I let out a soft whimper.

"No...n-no..."

"Your problem is you're overreacting."

The cigarette is raised slightly, and I press myself back instinctively.

"You're always overreacting. To every single thing. From the time you first set foot here until several minutes ago in the cafeteria."

The cigarette is raised again until it's at eye level. The slightly glowing tip has to be one of the most frightening sights I've ever seen. My brain tries to insist that they wouldn't go this far. Something that'd leave marks like this would destroy the plausible deniability they've been hiding behind so far. But my gut tells me that I already have so many scars that most people wouldn't even notice a few extra ones. My breathing becomes frantic, and I start trembling as the person in front of me takes a drag and then dangles the cigarette in front of my face.

"In fact, you're overreacting even now."

A cloud of smoke is blown in my face, causing a heavy coughing fit.

"Hanako?"

I suddenly become aware of someone in the distance faintly calling my name, but none of my tormentors react.

"Bring 16000 yen for a new phone tomorrow."

"I...I..."

"Hanako?"

"I don't care where you get them."

"Hanako."

"Or else... We might be forced to start overreacting too."

"Hanako!"

Just when the lit cigarette is less than five centimeters from my cheek, my vision turns blurry and my mind fogs up. The only thing that remains is the voice.

"Hanako, are you alright?"

"Mmmm?"

The clouds in my head slowly start clearing up and I notice someone in front of me. It's dark all around us, but the voice and the silhouette are familiar.

"Are you okay?"
04
"Uhhh... W-what? H... Hisao?"

"You were getting kind of restless in your sleep."

"Oh..."

I squint as the lights are suddenly turned on. My thoughts are still a bit jumbled as my boyfriend sits down on the nearby couch and gives me a concerned look.

"You okay?"

I manage a soft nod, but don't say anything.

"Can I get you something? A glass of water perhaps?"

I give another dazed nod, and my boyfriend walks off towards the kitchen area to fetch me something to drink.

"What... time is it?"

"Nearly half past two."

I hear Hisao rummaging through the cupboard, and moments later I hear the sound of water running from the tap. Hisao walks back, hands me the glass of water and then sits down next to me. Before I can take a sip, I hear another voice from across the room.

"Hanako? Hisao? Are you two... awake?"

"Oh, Lilly. I'm sorry, did I wake you up?"

"I wasn't asleep, Hisao. When I heard the sound of running water, I realized that at least one of you two wasn't either."

"I was just getting Hanako a glass of water. I think she had a bad dream just now."

Lilly walks up to the futon we're sitting on and sits down next to me. There's a concerned look in her eyes.

"Another bad dream, Hanako?"

"I... I think so..."

What exactly happened during the dream I just had is already becoming a blur in my mind, but it has nevertheless left a lingering feeling of severe depression and a faint feeling of dread.

Hisao sighs.

"I kind of wonder if it's a good idea for you to go to Kasshoku tomorrow to begin with."

Lilly looks very uncomfortable at Hisao's suggestion.

"I don't think that giving up at this point is the right thing to do, Hisao. We've already come this far. Maybe after tomorrow, things will get better. Don't you think so, Hanako?"

"I'm... not sure."

If there was one thing that probably caused me to flunk my entrance exams the first time, it had to have been the dreams like the one I probably had just now. Most of the time I didn't exactly remember what they were about, but they always left me with a profound feeling of fear and anxiety whenever I thought about my time after Yamaku. I first started having them right after that incident in the lecture hall, but they lessened a bit after I started taking sleeping pills. After I passed the Center Test however, the nightmares came back with a vengeance, and they got worse the closer I got to the entrance exams and graduation day. The dosage of sleeping medication I was allowed to take didn't help anymore. I was terrified of going to sleep every night.

After Miss Yumi took me back to Yamaku and enrolled me in the ronin program, the bad dreams stopped. Until last week when Miss Yumi gave me my latest assignment. When I chatted with Akira earlier, we professed the hope that she'd simply tell me to do well on my mock exams, which are only a few days away. But it turned out that my therapist had other plans. This year, like last year, Kasshoku University is holding an open house day. In fact, Hisao will be one of the students participating in the workshops held at his faculty. Miss Yumi's assignment was straight-forward. Go back to the very place where I screwed up so badly last year, and attend the open house day once again.

Like a criminal returning to the scene of the crime.

I haven't had a peaceful night's rest ever since.

Eventually I ended up asking my friends for help, and Lilly invited me to stay at her apartment the night before the big event and also asked Hisao to stay over. She offered to accompany me on my upcoming ordeal and give me emotional support, which was probably what ended up convincing me to take the leap and come here. She only had one spare futon that we put in the living room for me to use while Hisao slept on the nearby couch. Last evening I could tell that Lilly was trying her best to make the atmosphere relaxing and comfortable for me as we spent time hanging out together, but I fear that by that time I was already such a nervous wreck that no friendly get-together would have been enough to ease my mood.

I'm seriously doubting my ability to make it through the upcoming day without having a nervous breakdown. With my luck I'll probably suffer one at the worst time and in the worst place possible.

Hisao rubs his forehead.

"Either way, it's probably best if we try to get a bit more sleep soon. We can't sleep in tomorrow."

Even though I feel tired, exhausted even, the prospect of going to sleep again and possibly having another nightmare is so unappealing that I can't resist a depressed sigh.

My boyfriend gives me an awkward smile that's probably meant to be reassuring.

"Maybe it would help if I sleep next to you instead of on the couch? You know... The Takawa remedy?"

Despite my despondent mood I can't resist rolling my eyes at Hisao using that term.

"You're... s-still calling it that?"

"You never came up with alternative descriptions."

Lilly lets out an amused giggle.

"You named the practice of sleeping next to each other after Hanako's therapist? How did that came to be or am I better off not knowing?"

"Don't get any weird ideas. It's nothing dirty. I had a conversation with Miss Takawa once and she mentioned to me that if Hanako was stressed or panicking, the best thing I could do was hold her close. Activities such as cuddling cause oxytocin to be released in the brain and help Hanako relax while lessening sensations like stress or fear. Oxytocin is a hormone that..."

Lilly grins playfully.

"I think I understand the general idea, professor Nakai."

"Uh yeah, anyway... We eventually started calling it the Takawa remedy."

"I... usually d-don't c-call it that."

Lilly gives us an amused smile.

"And is this... Takawa remedy... very effective?"

"It usually helps... a little bit. But... I'm not sure if it'll help this time."

"If it even helps a little bit then that's still better than nothing, right?"

"O-Okay then."

"Lilly, we're going to try and get some more sleep. It's probably best if you do the same. We all have a big day ahead of us, and if we stay up for too long we're certain to oversleep. We already have to get up rather early."

"Alright, Hisao. Sleep well, you two."

"Goodnight Lilly. Could you switch off the light on your way, please?"

"I will."

"Goodnight... Lilly."
05
I hear a soft snick as the lights in the room are turned off. I lie down on my futon again and turn on my side. My boyfriend feels his way over to me and lies on his side behind me. I feel an arm wrap around me, pressing my body against his own. I take a deep breath and slowly exhale in an attempt to relax as much as possible. He places a gentle kiss on my cheek, and I feel his fingers tenderly stroking the side of my face.

"Hanako?"

I suddenly become aware of Lilly's voice nearby. She's kneeling right next to the futon Hisao and I are lying on.

She didn't return to her room after switching off the lights?

"L-Lilly?"

"Would it... be okay if I sleep here as well?"

"H-Huh?"

"Would it be a problem?"

"N-No, I don't t-think so."

"Thank you."

"L-Lilly!"

I let out a surprised gasp as Lilly, instead of lying down on the nearby couch as I was expecting, gets under the covers and snuggles up to me.

"Hey Lilly, I get that you want to do your part in giving Hanako support, but don't you think this is a little bit inappropriate?"

"Didn't you yourself say that there was nothing dirty about the Takawa remedy, Hisao?"

"Uh..."

"H-Hisao... I think... it's okay. Just this once."

"If you say so."

We fall silent, and I feel Lilly's hand briefly stroke my hair before settling down on my shoulder. Then she gives me a quick kiss on the forehead. This feels a bit strange, but also a bit familiar. I'm suddenly reminded of that last day in Scotland, when Lilly and I took a bath, had a heart-to-heart talk and eventually shared a hug. Lilly's presence feels similarly soothing now. As the closeness and warmth of my best friends slowly causes my anxiety to change into weary comfort, I find my eyelids slowly growing heavier. As Lilly's and Hisao's breathing slows down to the steady rhythm of slumber, I close my own eyes and sink into a deep, dreamless sleep.

--------------------------------------
Last edited by Guest Poster on Sat Sep 20, 2014 6:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

Guest Poster
Posts: 1266
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:42 am

Chapter 58 - cont.

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:24 am

06
TRIIIIIIIING!

"Mmmmm?"

The sound of something, a phone or a doorbell, shakes me out of my slumber. I'm not sure if I had another bad dream or not, but I still feel a bit tired. I don't feel quite as bad as last night, but maybe that will change once my brain has woken up completely. I wearily open my eyes only to let out a soft cry at the sight of Lilly's face being a mere ten centimeters away from my own.

"Oh!"

After a moment of confusion I remember going back to sleep last night, and I giggle awkwardly. Lilly's action was very sweet, but a little bit embarrassing too.

I don't hear a reaction from Hisao, so he's probably still asleep just like Lilly is.

Before I can doze off again, I hear a door opening, followed by the sound of voices.

"Hmmm..."

"Hiro? Lilly's not in her room. I wonder if she's taking a bath, and that's why she didn't open up when we rang. Shall I check the bathroom?"

"Not necessary. I have already found her. It appears that she is still asleep and... hmmm... perhaps you should come and see for yourself."

"Huh? She's asleep in the living room? Is there a boy with her or something?"

"A boy... and a girl..."

"No way!"

I feel an uneasy sensation in the bottom of my stomach. I'm already awake enough to recognize those voices. They belong to Lilly's parents, and it seems that her father has already discovered us here. This is probably going to be awkward.

I decide to do what's probably for the best: pretend to be asleep and let Lilly handle all of this.

"Hahaha. Oh my, it seems we just stumbled into something scandalous."

"The actual scandal would be the fact that they are still asleep. This is an important day, and our daughter here is sleeping through her responsibilities."

"Then lets wake them up, shall we? My own mother often used the the good ol' ladle and frying pan combination to get people out of bed. It never failed to do the job. I've always wanted to wake someone up that way. This would be a perfect opportunity."

"It may be effective, but it is also a bit coarse and unrefined. I prefer a simpler approach."

I hear him clearing his throat.

"Lillian!"

I instantly reel a little, and I feel Lilly immediately stirring as well. Mister Satou didn't even raise his voice all that much, but his tone was one of an angry boss who just caught one of his underlings napping during crunch time. It's the kind of tone that would probably cause me to start stammering apologies before I even knew what I did wrong.

I open my eyes and throw a quick glance at the people standing in the room. Lilly's mother has an amused grin on her face, but Lilly's father looks a little dismayed. Behind me, Hisao rises up as well, and I hear him fidget.

"Mister and Mrs Satou. Uh... This isn't what it looks like."

Lilly's mother gives my boyfriend a teasing wink.

"You know Hisao... When people say those specific words, it's often exactly what it looks like."

"Hanako had a nightmare last night, and we just wanted to...uh..."

Lilly's father gives a prolonged sigh.

"My wife is merely teasing you, Mister Nakai. Your sleeping arrangement is of less concern than the fact that Lilly was about to sleep through her obligations for today. Do you know what day it is?"

"Yeah, it's open house day at school. *yawn* I'm supposed to help out with a workshop at the faculty. Uh... What time is it anyway?"

Hisao looks around, only to remember that Lilly doesn't have any easily readable clocks in the apartment. Mister Satou checks his watch.

"It is almost a quarter past 8."

"What? Damnit! I'm supposed to be at the faculty in half an hour!"

"So... You too..."

"Huh?"

"Never mind that. Mister Nakai, why not pay a quick visit to the bathroom and freshen yourself up? Do not take too long. You can hitch a ride with us and still be at the university in time."

"Really? Thanks!"

Hisao gets up and quickly leaves the room. Next to me, Lilly's slowly rising to her feet as well, yawning as she does so. Something her father just said is bugging me, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around the Satous' sudden appearance. Lilly didn't mention that they'd drop by this morning.

Lilly's father gives his youngest daughter a scrutinizing look.

"Is it still too early in the morning for a proper greeting, Lilly?"

"I... apologize, Father. I'm happy to see you and Mother. Welcome. It's just that your appearance here caught me off guard. Weren't we supposed to meet up this evening?"

Lilly's mother smiles playfully.

"We changed plans and decided to attend your little performance... or performances. Hehe... maybe I'll write a review afterwards. No pressure, of course."

"A good thing we did or you might have overslept."

So it wasn't just Hisao who got involved in a faculty activity for today. But Lilly never mentioned this. Why not? Didn't she promise to accompany me today? What's going on?

"Ummm... L-Lilly... What p-performance?"

Lilly grimaces and suddenly looks cornered.

"The truth is, Hanako, that I was originally scheduled to participate in an activity at my faculty as well. When you called me earlier this week to tell me that Miss Takawa instructed you to visit the open house day today, and you mentioned you didn't want Hisao to come with you because he already had a workshop activity that you didn't want him to give up for your sake, I... decided not to bring up my original plans for today. I'm sorry."

"Y-You... c-canceled something f-for m-my sake?"

"I called a classmate and told him that some personal circumstances came up. I asked him if he'd be willing to fill in for me and he said that was okay. I'm sure he'll do a very good job in my place. Being here for you today is more important to me than the activity I was initially planning to help out with. This is my own choice."

I feel guilty about Lilly having made such a decision for my sake, though part of me also feels good that she's so committed to being by my side. Mister Satou, on the other hand, gives his daughter an angry scowl.

"And how much time did you take to carefully consider that choice, Lillian?! Do you realize what it is that you are so casually dismissing after all the effort that was put into it? Do you realize what your classmates will probably think of you afterwards? What effect this will have on your reputation?"

Lilly cringes at every word from her father. I'm a little taken back by how fierce his response to the news of Lilly's change of plans is and the same is probably true for her. After fidgeting a bit, Lilly recomposes herself.

"I... I am hoping that they will be understanding, Father. I was... hoping that you would be understanding as well."

"I am understanding. But I still insist that you call your classmate and tell him that you have changed your mind. I do not think Hanako would want you to do this if she knew the whole context of the situation."

Huh?

"But..."

"L-Lilly... I... I think I'll... b-be okay on m-my own."

Lilly's mother gives me a concerned look.

"I don't think that sounded very convincing, dear."

Mister Satou's look softens a bit as he addresses his daughter again.

"Lilly, nobody in here doubts your ability to function as a pillar of emotional support to others, but what if something happens that... triggers Hanako's apprehensions? Will you be able to quickly get her out? Will you even notice in time? For whose benefit is this really?"

"..."

While there's no accusing tone in Mister Satou's voice this time, Lilly looks more hurt by his words this time than during the scolding she received moments ago. As much as I hate to admit it, I can't deny that there's probably some truth to his words. If something happens, and I start panicking and need to get away, Lilly's usual pace would be a hundred times too slow for me, and from the looks of it, Lilly also realizes this and it stings her.

A painful silence follows, but Mister Satou eventually exchanges a long look with his wife. Just as I start wondering what's going through their minds, Lilly's parents share a short mutual smile and Karla gives her husband a brief nod, which is promptly returned. Then she turns to me.

"Hanako... I think it's still a good idea if someone comes with you to offer a bit of reassurance in case you need it. Would you mind if I came along with you instead of Lilly?"

Lilly looks genuinely baffled.

"Mother?"

Lilly's father nods.

"Yes, I will attend the activities at the English faculty on behalf of both of us, and my wife will accompany Hanako for today. Hanako, do not be afraid that you are imposing on her. It is a journalistic faculty after all, so she will probably enjoy the experience."

"How about it, Hanako? Can I go with you for today?"

I give Lilly an unsure look.

"Uh... Lilly?"

A tiny smile is visible on Lilly's face.

"I'm okay with it if you are, Hanako. I... I have faith in Mother."

"Uh... O-okay then."

Lilly's mother gives me an excited smile.

"Alright then. Just leave things to me, okay?"

Lilly's father gives an approving nod.

"It is decided then."

He walks out of the room and returns a few seconds later with Lilly's cell phone which he places into his daughter's hand.

"Lilly, call your classmate, and tell him that the circumstances have changed and that you will be fulfilling your obligations after all. Be sure to apologize profusely to him for the confusion you have caused."

"Ah... Yes, Father. I will."

"Good. Let us make haste. If we hurry we can be on the road in 15 minutes."

Lilly's mother heads to the kitchen and starts rummaging through the cupboard.

"I'll go and get some food ready for breakfast."

"That is a good idea. They can eat on their way there."

Things suddenly become hectic around me. As Hisao, fully dressed now, walks back into the living room, Lilly's father looks at me and gestures towards the bathroom.

"You should go and tidy yourself up too, Hanako. A proper lady does not go out in public with a head of dishevelled hair."

And with that, the morning suddenly kicks into overdrive.

Against my own expectations, we manage to finish our preparations for the day in record time although it's obvious that Lilly, who is always a slow starter in the morning, has trouble keeping up. After refreshing and dressing ourselves, we get in the car and feverishly wolf down the seaweed-wrapped pieces of fish that Lilly's mother found in the fridge and hurriedly prepared for us. I hope none of us is going to get a stomach ache half an hour into the event.

We're still finishing the final remaining pieces of food by the time we reach the campus terrain. As the car approaches the parking area, Lilly's mother turns to her husband.

"Hiro? Since Lilly and Hisao are in a bit of a hurry and the English and science faculties aren't really close to the entrance, why not stop right in front of the gate and get out there? I'll park the car for you. Since it'll probably still take a little while for preparations to finish and the actual events to start, Hanako and I still have plenty of time."

"Very well. If we get out close to the entrance we should be able to still make it in time as long as we pace ourselves a bit."

Lilly's father stops the car in front of the entrance gate and turns around to face us.

"Lilly, Mister Nakai...this is our stop. Mister Nakai, be sure to do your best today too."

"Don't worry, sir. I will. I'm not sure when I'll be back. Probably some time after the activities at my faculty end. Fortunately there are already other people scheduled for cleaning duty. I'll come to the journalism faculty afterwards."

Hisao turns to me and gives me a quick kiss.

"Hanako... Good luck today. I'll be rooting for you."

I feel Lilly briefly taking my hand in hers.

"Yes, good luck, Hanako. You'll be in my thoughts today. Hang in there."

"Let us be on our way."

Lilly's father gives the car keys to his wife and then gives her and me a quick nod.

"Karla... Hanako... Good luck."

"Thanks, Hiro. We'll do our best."

"Y-Yes..."

Lilly, her father and Hisao get out and head towards the entry gate at a brisk pace. Lilly's mother gets into the driver's seat and motions me to take a seat next to her. As I get in the front seat, Karla starts the engine and navigates the car to a secluded corner of the parking lot. Then she looks at me.

"We should probably go too."

"A-Already?"

"If you really want to stay in the car for a little while longer, that's fine with me, but there's not a lot we can do here. They're probably still busy with preparations at the journalism faculty building, but I was thinking we could have a brief walk around the campus. To acclimatize to the place a bit. It might ease your nerves a little. You're looking a little tense right now. Staying here and doing nothing might only make things worse."

"I..."

'A little tense' is hardly an accurate way to describe how I'm feeling right now. I'm extremely nervous, and I'm getting uneasier by the minute. Funnily enough I felt okay this morning. We got off to such a rushed and hectic start that I was completely preoccupied with getting ready and making sure Hisao and Lilly wouldn't be late. I had no opportunity to think too deeply about today. But after Hisao, Lilly and her father got out of the car and the pace slowed down again, my brain was quick to remind me how horribly wrong things went the last time I was here. And now it wants to know whether I'm really ready to go back for more of what I endured last year.
07
Karla seems to notice my nervous fidgetting and gives me an awkward smile.

"You know... I'm... probably not as good at this as Lilly is, but I do think I understand how you're feeling right now. Last year things went terribly wrong, and you haven't been back here since. Your gut tells you that if you go now, things'll just turn out the same way."

I nod sullenly. That's pretty much the gist of things.

"Whenever you're getting particularly nervous, I'd like you to tell yourself something. I'd like you to remind yourself that history doesn't always repeat itself."

"History d-doesn't always repeat itself?"

"Uhuh. There's nothing strange about the way you're feeling right now. There's a saying that says: 'Once bitten, twice shy.' It wouldn't be a saying if what you're feeling is anything out of the ordinary. But sometimes a situation isn't completely the same. Sometimes it's merely similar, but beneath the surface things are different enough to result in a completely different outcome altogether. I think this is one of those situations."

Despite my anxiety I manage to smile for a moment. There's something strangely familiar about what Karla is saying.

"Uh... Akira said... that you told her something like this too."

Karla's look turns slightly curious.

"What exactly did Akira say that I said?"

"Just that... history doesn't always repeat."

"It was probably as appropriate then as it is now. Like I said, there's nothing unusual about how you're feeling. It's completely human. Just for the record; what I said were originally my husband's words. Heh, as a journalist it's important to name your sources when quoting someone."

We smile a little at that.

"Speaking of which, shall we go?"

I let out a deep sigh.

"O-Okay then."

We get out of the car and start walking back towards the campus entrance. I make certain to keep walking on Karla's left side so I can quickly turn towards her a little if we get too close to other people. By the time we reach the gate, I have already slowed down to a fraction of our starting pace. And when we get close to the journalism faculty building, a shiver goes through my body that even Karla seems to notice. She gives my hand a reassuring squeeze.

"It's probably kinda early to go in already, so why don't we go find ourselves a spot where we can take a load off for a while? I know a place that's fairly peaceful."

I give a weak nod and follow Lilly's mother until we reach a garden-like area some distance away from the faculty. As I sit down on a nearby bench, Karla gestures back towards the building.

"I'm going in there really quick to get us some snacks for lunch. The cafeteria's probably open for business already. Can you think of anything in particular that you like?"

"N-No. Anything's fine."

"Good. I'll probably be back in ten minutes or so."

She turns around and hurries off in the direction we just came from. I've noticed before that Karla's usual pace (and not just her walking pace) is quite fast. I feel bad about making her slow down so much for my sake.
08
I shoot an uneasy look at the faculty building in the distance. It sounds crazy, but when we were near its entrance just a few minutes earlier it felt like the building itself loomed over me like a faceless bully, and I could almost picture it throwing a mocking greeting my way.

Hey there! Remember me? Good, because I certainly remember you! Did you come back to cause more trouble?

I shiver again.

"History d-doesn't always repeat itself."

I softly repeat Karla's mantra to myself. It doesn't really do much to put my mind at ease.

"History doesn't always repeat itself."

That implies that at least some of the time it does. It sure feels like it'll do just that. I can still recall the summer of last year. Getting into a relationship, strengthening my bond with Lilly and making some new friends, enjoying life for the first time in a long while despite the increasing need to focus on my studies, the approaching mock exams which I didn't think much of at first, visiting this place, feeling very uneasy from the moment I set foot on the campus and then having a panic attack at the worst possible moment and in the worst possible place.

Thinking about it, this year hasn't been all that different. 'Hanging out' with Lilly and Hisao at the festival, starting to play chess with Hisao again, my relationship with Hisao going through a bit of a rebirth, reviving my friendships, being fairly happy with my life, being fairly optimistic about the mock exams, visiting this place again and feeling very uneasy again. The only thing that's still missing is the panic attack - so far.

I'm certain that Lilly's not going to accidentally call me today, but the way I'm feeling right now I might not even need a phone call. Just being in the building for an extended amount of time might be a trigger. And then what?

I don't think I'll be able to stay at Yamaku for another year. Besides, I don't want to lag another year behind Lilly and Hisao. Deep down I want to move on as well, despite my anxieties. I could always apply to another university. I've learned this year that despite the physical distance I've still been able to keep interacting with the people who are important to me, despite my initial worry that my bond with them would quickly fade out after graduation day.

But a university isn't a high school for the disabled. They probably won't be as willing to accommodate my apprehensions the way Yamaku has done. I won't be one of many. I'll be the odd one out, no matter what school I'll end up attending. It'll be a major change in my life regardless. And exactly because of those inevitable changes that will inevitably be extremely difficult for me, I want part of my life to remain familiar and comfortable. Hisao, Lilly... maybe even Naomi. Having them as constants in my life in the background might just give me the strength to face the unknowns that are waiting for me beyond graduation day. They might make the difference between struggling through or breaking down after the first week.

I guess in the end this place really is the best thing I can go for.

If only I could be a little less... me.

"History doesn't always repeat itself."

No luck.

"Hanako?"

I jump a little at the sudden sound of my name. I was so occupied by my own brooding that I didn't even notice Lilly's mother making her way back to me. Karla gives me an apologetic look.

"Did I startle you?"

"It's okay."

She holds up a plastic bag filled with... something.

"I remembered correctly, and they were already open. I got us enough snacks to make it through the day. Now we can have our lunch break wherever we want."

"You r-remembered... correctly?"

Lilly's mother nods.

"I'm fairly familiar with this campus. I accompanied Lilly to school during the first few weeks of her college life until she memorized the layout of the place a bit. I used to take walks around the campus while Lilly was taking classes. I naturally visited the journalism faculty from time to time, out of curiosity."

She sits down next to me.

"I'm gonna assume we're not gonna lose sight of one another, but in case we do get separated I was thinking it'd be a good idea if we designate a spot or two to meet up."

In other words, we're going to pick a spot where to run off to if I suddenly lose it.

"We could pick this spot or maybe the bleachers facing the sports field. You can see the field's floodlights from here."

"Okay."

"Good. Like I said, it's just a little precaution. I doubt we'll lose sight of one another, but better to be safe than sorry."

"Y-Yes."

"You know... while I was leaving the building just now I could already see the first bunch of visitors making their way inside. It's probably best if we go there too. That way we can still pick a spot in the respective classrooms."

I guess this is it.

"While I was inside I already picked up two pens and notepads they were handing out. I also got today's program."

She takes out a pamphlet and hands it over to me.
Information sessions and presentations: (start every 45 minutes. 9:15 - 15:15)
- History of journalism (classroom 1-1)
- Journalistic writing (classroom 1-2)
- Research and analysis (classroom 1-3)
- Researching media and culture (classroom 2-1)
- Advanced reporting (classroom 2-2)
- Political reporting (classroom 2-3)
- The media and popular culture (classroom 2-5)

Closing session: (15:30 - 16:00)
- The internet, social media and the future of journalism (lecture hall 1)
I can't be sure, but I'm fairly certain the program isn't very different from last time. Maybe it's even exactly the same. Another case of history repeating itself. Not exactly reassuring.

Still, despite my uneasiness, I manage to take a deep breath and get up. Karla smiles at me.

"So, which one shall we attend first?"
Last edited by Guest Poster on Sat Sep 20, 2014 12:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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Chapter 59

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:24 am

Chapter 59
01
Is my phone turned off?

"...and many of the people now covering our politicians have alumni from this school."

I think it is, but I'm not 100% sure. What if it goes off in the middle of class?

"There's also the matter of several political leaders in the Liberal Democratic Party as well as some in the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japan Restoration Party being graduates of this university. This creates a bond that can be used to your advantage to improve your working relationship with the politician you're assigned to cover..."

The thing's been dominating my thoughts for the last 15 minutes. I shouldn't check. It might draw attention. But what if it's still on? What if it goes off?

"Since Kasshoku has good ties with the five largest newspapers in the country, graduates of this school will have a good chance to get into the various kisha clubs you need to be part of in order to have direct access to the members of our legislature."

My eyes keep getting drawn to my bag.

What if it's still on?

I have to check.

I lower my hand into my bag while trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. It's still folded open, so the only thing I need to do is turn it around and look at the display. My hand is shaking a bit, but I manage to steady it enough to grab the phone.

It's turned off. Thank goodness. I drop it back into my bag.

I can breathe a little easier now.

At least until I notice that one of the other people is looking at me.

Did he see me checking my phone?

Was he here last year too? Did he recognize me?

"Trust will come with better access and more opportunities for stories."

I'm not sure if his gaze is still on me. I can't tell without looking behind me, but if I do and he isn't watching me then maybe I'll attract his attention.

"...and there's information about Japanese kisha clubs obtainable online for those of you who wish to learn more. That is all for today. There'll be opportunity for you to have lunch in our cafeteria downstairs. The next presentations will start in 45 minutes. I wish you good luck with the rest of the sessions."

People all around me start packing their things, and I shoot an uneasy look in Karla's direction who's sitting behind the desk next to mine. Lilly's mother makes a small gesture with her head towards the notepad in front of her before returning to her scribbling.

I guess that's not a bad idea. Look busy until the classroom has emptied out and the building's population has concentrated itself in the cafeteria on the ground floor. It'll give us an opportunity to leave the building without having to wade through the crowd.

The teacher who was holding the lecture just now gives us a brief glance, and I reflexively raise my notepad a little. Karla gives the teacher a friendly nod.

"I apologize for taking so long. We'll be done in less than a minute. Please don't mind us."
02
The teacher returns Karla's nod with one of his own and leaves the room. We wait until the din in the nearby hallways has settled down and then prepare to leave the classroom ourselves.

"The sky's kinda cloudy, but if we get rain today it probably won't fall until later. Do you want to go outside and eat lunch there?"

I give a tired nod. I don't think we're supposed to stay in the classrooms during lunch break and the cafeteria will be way too crowded. We might as well go outside and get some fresh air. I could certainly use some. We've only been in the building for about three hours, but it feels like three days to me. My head hurts from having been on my guard almost non-stop, and I feel exhausted. A little unsteadily, I follow Lilly's mother down the stairs and through the still rather crowded entry hall, sticking as close as possible to my companion in order to prevent the people hanging out there from getting a good look at me. The bench we sat down on this morning turns out to be occupied, so we head towards the sports field and find the bleachers still empty. I let out a worn-out sigh as I slump down next to where Karla's sitting. Lilly's mother gives me a gentle pat on the shoulder.

"Tired?"

I just nod. I know better than most people how much of an energy drain stress can be. I doubt 45 minutes will be enough to get my bearings back, but it'll have to do.

"Here, have something to eat. After having only that three-minute breakfast in the car this morning you're probably hungry again by now."

Not really. I've always had a diminished appetite whenever I'm stressed, and today is no exception. But I don't want to worry Karla, so I take some sweet breads from her hands and start nibbling on one of them.

"So..."

Karla gives me a sympathetic look.

"...things aren't going too badly, are they?"

I don't know. Last year I was anxious, but it wasn't a lot worse than it usually was whenever I was in an unfamiliar place full of unfamiliar people. I know for sure that my emotional state right now is one hell of a lot worse. Just about every time someone looks at me for longer than a second I'm expecting him or her to point at me and shout something like: 'Hey! You're that girl with the scars that caused such a disturbance last year.'

"I... d-don't know. I'm... p-probably a whole lot w-worse right now than I was at t-this point l-last year."

"But what really matters won't be whether you're feeling worse right now, but whether you'll be feeling worse than you did last year at the end of the day, right?"

"I... s-suppose so. I d-don't think I p-picked up anything f-from the lectures though."

Lilly's mother suddenly breaks into a wide grin.

"Hehehe, about that..."

With a hint of excitement she pushes a notepad into my hands, and I let out a pleasantly surprised cry as I read it.

"Oh!"

Written on the pages are three surprisingly thorough summaries of the lectures we've attended so far, all of them ending with a neat bulleted list containing the main points of each of the presentations. Looks like somebody was paying attention. I'm impressed. And here I was thinking that Karla was just doodling.

"W-Wow. You're... r-really good at this."

"Heh, think nothing of it. I figured it might be useful. There was quite a bit of stuff in those lectures that was worth remembering."

"What... d-did you think of them?"

"The teachers seem to know their stuff. I don't agree with everything that was said, and don't even get me started on the subject the last lecture was about, but all in all I still think that if you can make it in here, you'll get a solid education that'll serve you well for what you intend to do afterwards. Good credentials are very important."

"That's w-what they s-say at Yamaku too."

"Yeah..."

Karla nods, and suddenly a very grim expression appears on her face. I give her an awkward glance, but I have no idea how to react. Eventually, her grimace turns into a sad smile.

"Hanako, Lilly didn't tell you anything about the activity she's participating in today, did she?"

"N-No. I think... she was planning to tell me, but when I t-told her about Miss Yumi's assignment, she d-decided to k-keep it from me and offer to g-go with me instead."

"The activity in question was a public recital of various English poems and pieces of literature held by the first year students of Lilly's faculty. It's considered a pretty big honor and a pretty big responsibility since you're essentially representing the school in front of potential newcomers, and the works that are recited are not exactly beginner's material, so they only pick the best candidates. The people chosen for the event are the students who have scored the highest on their tests during the last trimester. They pick one student per class. You may have heard that Lilly's been taking her studies very seriously, and she's been at the top of her class for some time."

"She... said something like that the last t-time I asked her."

Karla nods.

"Imagine the surprise when one of her classmates was chosen to represent their class instead."

"Despite Lilly having higher m-marks?"

"Yeah. Someone in the committee that's organizing the event apparently made that call. The official excuse was that the reading material may end up being changed at the last minute and they most regrettably wouldn't be able to arrange Braille versions in time if that happened."

I feel my stomach twist itself into a knot.

"That's... n-not what the real r-reason was, was it?"

Karla's eyes become distant for a moment.

"It was a load of mince, of course. Events like these are always meticulously prepared and staged. They wouldn't change stuff at the last moment and risk one of the students messing up in front of potential freshmen and their parents. I don't think we were meant to take that reply literally anyway. It was all about hint-dropping without coming across as openly dismissive."

That must have been a shock to Lilly. I wonder why she never mentioned this to me. Was she afraid that I might start getting second thoughts about applying here? After all, this kind of thing can probably happen to me too, though fortunately I don't have any craving for any tasks that put me in the public eye to begin with, so in my case they'd actually be doing me a favor.

"B-But... they changed their m-minds?"

"Lilly was really lucky that she had a supportive class. Particularly the person who was picked instead of her felt really bad about the situation and he told her that if she wanted to take it up with the faculty staff, he'd support her all the way. Several of her other classmates encouraged her not to give up either, so eventually the guy who got the assignment wrote a letter claiming he was passing up on the offer and Lilly wrote a letter asking for a second look-in. I recall the rest of the class put together a third letter with signatures of support that started with a few but eventually consisted of most of the class. The organisation committee replied that they'd consider their options. Lilly eventually managed to get us the names of one of the committee members and Hiro and I dropped him a phone call to try and work things out. Well, I'm saying 'we', but it was mostly Hiro and that man exchanging pleasantries while politely phrasing their arguments. A few days later they relented. And a few days after that, Lilly called the boy who first got the assignment and asked him to fill in for her."

Ugh! No wonder Lilly's father was so angry this morning.

"So... t-that's why..."

"Yeah. This wasn't just a minor gig. It was the opportunity for Lilly to prove herself, and if she had passed it up today, she wouldn't have gotten a second chance later."

If I had known, I might have been even more upset with her than her father was.

"I... wouldn't have w-wanted her to... g-give up that for m-my sake."

"We know that, dear. But please try not to hold it against her. This was a very important event for her, but you're even more important to her. And I think that deep down she still feels awful about what happened here last year. I've noticed that even nowadays her smile falters for just a moment when you and your ronin year are brought up. Maybe an opportunity to make amends was more important to her than an opportunity to represent her school. To be honest, I'm not sure how I would have acted in her situation."

I'm not sure what I would have done either. I probably would have handled it much worse than Lilly has. I once rushed to break up with my boyfriend out of guilt. I might have been unable to convince myself that Lilly didn't secretly hate me and might have started avoiding her. Lilly never gave up on me or our friendship.

"It's okay."

Karla gives me a weary smile.

"You know, the support Lilly received from her class really surprised me. When she first came here, many of her classmates were awkward around her. When that other student was nominated people could have looked the other way or voiced some silent support while otherwise keeping quiet. It certainly wouldn't have been the first time social justice was sacrificed on the altar of social harmony. But in the end they picked Lilly's side. Heh, I think my faith in humanity has been given a little boost. I just hope this event won't be an exception to the rule."

"An... exception?"

"If she continues doing her best and keeps up her current grades, I don't think she's going to have a lot of trouble making it through university. It's what comes afterwards that worries me. School administrations might have people in them with a similar mindset to the people on the open house committee. And even if they don't, a handful of complaining parents might still cause them to retract their benefit of the doubt."

"You worry that s-she w-won't find work after g-graduating?"

Lilly's mother gives me a bitter smirk.

"When it comes to providing the disabled among their population with opportunities, or even publically acknowledging their presence, this country is still lagging behind many other developed nations. The extent to which both schools and workplaces are segregated is... rather jarring. It's not unheard of for people who attended a school like Yamaku to end up in a segregated workshop for people with disabilities, initially as part of a transitional phase into the regular job market, only to end up staying there permanently. That's why Yamaku has been pushing you guys so hard to aim high and build up a solid educational record."

She seems lost in thought for a moment and then smiles awkwardly.

"One of my husband's motivations used to be to try and ensure Lilly's financial future to the best of his ability under the assumption that she probably wouldn't be able to find work that she liked anyway. That way, she'd still be able to live her life the way she wanted to and be happy. Of course, knowing what we do now, a job she liked and living her life the way she wanted to seem to be very strongly connected."

Something about this feels familiar. Karla has recently spoken about this subject before. Suddenly a realization hits me.

"Ummm, w-was this the r-reason you started writing that article?"

Lilly's mother smiles.

"You're sharp, Hanako. I got the idea for my article when this whole thing started. The idea behind it was to do my part to raise public awareness of this kind of thing. I didn't know back then how this whole deal was going to play out, but..."

She gives me a brief disapproving look.

"...if the school had insisted on excluding Lilly, I very likely would have added a little exhibit A to my article."

She grins.

"Now I can end it on a slightly more positive note that'll hopefully inspire people and give them hope for the future. That includes you too."

I'm not really sure how to reply to that, so I simply nod. Part of me insists that her class helping Lilly out was simply due to the fact that she's pretty and socially adept rather than a strongly developed sense of justice playing any role and that it's highly unlikely that any classmate of mine would come to my aid like that. I consider myself neither pretty nor sociable. In fact, now that Karla has brought it up, I wonder if I'll ever be able to find work myself. Who would hire a person with facial scarring like mine.

Karla must have noticed my expression and frowns.

"Are you okay?"

"Y-Yes."

She checks her watch.

"It's almost time to go back. Today's program ends at four o' clock. That's less than three hours from now. Or less than 180 minutes, if that feels shorter to you."

That actually feels like an eternity.

"Three hours..."

"It's probably gonna be tough, but I think that if you make it through all of this you'll sincerely feel better. Usually the situations that are the most uncomfortable have the highest payoff. Even if that payoff isn't immediately obvious."

My thoughts briefly return to my last chat session with Akira. Karla apologizing must have been agonizingly uncomfortable, and Akira's immediate reaction seemed luke-warm at best. But I nevertheless felt a slight change in Akira and she promised to come over for New Year and make a sincere effort to make it a fun day. Maybe this situation is similar.

I let out a pronounced sigh and then get back on my feet. Only 180 more minutes of hell left.

--------------------------------------
03
I try to take a casual glance at my watch without making it too obvious that I'm checking the time and then take a quick peek in my bag to look at my phone. It's probably been the fifth time I've checked the time the last 15 minutes. And it's probably been the tenth time during this lecture that I've checked to verify that my phone's turned off.

It's 15:10 right now. Only five more minutes. We arrived fairly early, but Lilly's mother insisted we'd take a seat near the front of the class. I've been hunched over my notes while the other people in the room were coming in. I can't shake the feeling that at least some of the people here recognized me as they passed me by.

--------------------------------------

It's 15:12 right now. I'm almost positive that the person sitting in the row behind me, a slightly thin-looking girl with a gold-colored hairpin is staring past my bangs. She was probably here last year too. In fact, I can almost swear half the class is watching me, but I'm afraid to turn my head and look around. I consider covering the right side of my face with my hand, but that will only make the scarring on the back of my hand more noticable.

--------------------------------------

It's 15:14 right now. I wonder what the point of all of this is. Even if I make it in here, I'll just be a nervous wreck each day. I'll break down before the first week is over. Why am I even here?

--------------------------------------

"In 15 minutes, the faculty head will close off today's events with one last presentation in the hall one floor down. We are hoping to see all of you there."

My thoughts are interrupted by the teacher finishing up and people start getting up. Lilly's mother has already gathered her things and motions me to follow her. Looks like she wants us to get out of the classroom before we're caught in the middle of the crowd. I feverishly shove my pen and notebook into my bag and follow Karla into the hallway which is already rapidly filling up with people exiting the classrooms. I hurriedly follow Karla down the stairs, occasionally hiding behind her whenever someone else gets too close.

"Karla. Hanako. I was hoping to find you here. Well timed."

Startled by the sudden mention of my name, I recoil in surprise. Karla turns towards the source of the voice that greeted us and smiles.

"Hello, Hiro. I didn't expect to see you here already. Is Lilly with you?"

Mister Satou shakes his head.

"Her activities have already ended, but she is still talking to her classmates at her own faculty. I did not think my presence there was contributing any longer, so I decided to come here ahead of her. She assured me that she knows how to get here on her own."

"How did she do today?"

"I think if you had been there today you would have been quite proud of her."

I'm a little taken back by the way he phrased it, but Karla simply smiles cheerfully.

"That's great, isn't it Hanako?"

"Ah... Y-yes."

"And how are things over here?"

"Still hanging in there. Just one more lecture to go and we're home free. We were just on our way there, weren't we Hanako?"

"Ah..."

"The closing speech in the lecture hall?"

Lecture hall...

"That's the one. Seeing that you're already here, why not come with us? There's no point in just standing around in the entry hall for half an hour, right?"

"If neither one of you has any objections."

"Not me. Hanako?"

Lecture hall...

"Hanako?"

Realizing that they're waiting for my answer I reflexively shake my head, but my mind is elsewhere.

"Good. Then let us be off."

I've been anxious and on edge ever since we set foot here on campus, but to my extreme surprise there hasn't been a moment so far where I felt an actual panic attack approaching. However, part of the reason may have been that for most of the day, I've been actively trying to block the possibility that I'd end up where Karla said we're heading right now from my mind.

That strategy's usefulness has obviously worn off, and as I follow Karla down the hallway towards... that place... my feet start feeling like someone's filling my shoes with lead.

I feel like a condemned person being lead to the execution chamber.

What am I doing?

What was I thinking?

We've reached the double doors that lead to the hall. Lilly's parents turn around to face me, and I notice an expression of concern in their eyes. I'm probably as pale as a ghost right now. Eventually Karla gives me an unsure look.

"Hanako, this is probably very intimidating to you, but if you decide to go ahead with this then the two of us will just stick close, okay?"

"..."

"Hanako?"

"I... I..."

"We won't force you if you really don't want to go in."

Please don't tempt me. It's already hard enough to just be here.

But what choice do I have? In the end this is just a lecture hall. If I'd end up enrolling here I'll have at least some of my courses in this place. If I freak out each time I go in here, I might as well not attend this faculty at all.

I haven't really changed at all this year. My mind is still as frail as ever.

Last year, after I screwed up in here, my whole life fell apart again. I don't want to go through that again. I can't go through that again.

I really want to be stronger. I want to follow in Hisao's and Lilly's footsteps and join them here. I'm tired of lagging behind. I want to move on. I'm really, really afraid, but I also want to move on, and I don't think I can move on without going in here.

But I'm probably fooling myself. If I set foot in there, my mind will probably snap under the pressure. Maybe not immediately, but definitely before the lecture's over. I'll probably end up sprinting out of there again in a panic. And then what?

Then I'll also cause Lilly's parents to look bad in front of everyone. How would they take that?

"I... d-don't w-want t-to create t-trouble for you."

"Huh?"
Last edited by Guest Poster on Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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Chapter 59 - cont.

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:24 am

"If... If I c-can't l-last in there and r-run away again, I'll m-make you l-look bad in front of everyone h-here too."

"You don't have to worry about us, Hanako. This is about you, not about us."

"B-But..."
04
"Hanako, if we were to get involved in a public spectacle then that would be... bad, but attending this lecture was probably meant to be part of your therapy so it may be worth taking the risk. If... If something happens... despite our best efforts to prevent it, then... it was something that was probably meant to happen and... we... will not hold it against you."

"Hiro..."

"R-Really?"

"Yes. You have my word. "

I look at Mister Satou and notice he seems almost as uncomfortable as I am. The idea of me panicking and them getting drawn into it is obviously making him uneasy.

"Y-You d-don't have to c-come along..."

Lilly's father lets out an indignant huff at my response.

"If you intend to go in there and tough it out then I can do no less. What is the worst thing that could happen? It certainly cannot be worse than a heart failure, and I have lasted through one of those."

Karla lets out a laugh that sounds surprisingly cheerful, even strangely happy.

"Hehehe, that's a very good attitude. I like that way of thinking."

She smiles proudly at both of us.

"Hiro... Hanako... Shall we go?"

I exchange one more glance with Lilly's father who slowly nods. And despite my terrible anxiety I find myself nodding back.

The die has been cast. No going back now.

I hope I won't end up regretting this.

We enter the double doors leading to the hall. Karla heads up the front with me following, partially hiding behind her. Hiroyuki follows close behind us.
05
The hall's already half-full, and a steady stream of people is coming in through the doors. How many people here were also here last year? How many people might recognize me?

Lilly's parents are already looking around for a suitable place to sit down.

"Hanako, where were you seated last time?"

"O... Over t-there."

"Then we will be sure to sit somewhere else this time."

"Karla, the row over there will probably be fine. If we sit too far away from the rest of the crowd we might attract attention."

"Uh, okay."

Lilly's mother gets into the row of seats her husband pointed out and gestures for me to sit down next to her. Lilly's father sits down on my left side afterwards, and I watch as the seats next to him and then the rows of seats behind us are slowly filled.

It feels like I'm standing in a giant tank that's slowly filling up with water.

In some ways, my current seat is in a better location than the one I had last year. At least people getting to their seats are less likely to notice me, and since Karla and Hiroyuki are both rather tall people they're doing a good job obscuring me from the people sitting on the same row.

On the other hand, I'm feeling more trapped than ever. I'd need to pass at least five people in order to get to the nearest aisle. If I break down now I'll literally have nowhere to go.

Lilly's parents assured me that if something happened, they'd escort me out of here with a minimum of fuss, but I wonder how well that'd go in practice.

I think there might even be more people in here now than there were last year. I shiver at the thought.

"Hanako?"

My thoughts are briefly interrupted by Lilly's father whispering my name. I try to look in his direction without turning my head too much and I notice he has his hand held out.

"Your cell phone please."

For a moment I'm confused but then I reach into my bag, get my cell phone out and place it in his hand. He briefly flips it open to verify that it's turned off, then closes it again and places it in his pocket after giving me a brief nod.

Maybe this is for the better. I turned my phone off on our way to the campus this morning, but I've nevertheless been almost obsessively checking it throughout the day. I really should have left it at Lilly's place.

The stream of people flowing into the hall has dried up, and one of the people standing near the doorway, probably the same person as last year, closes the doors and activates the large screen on the back wall before walking up to the microphone.

"I would like to welcome you all for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit us today. We hope you have been finding your visit educational and enjoyable so far..."

This sounds familiar and 'familiar' is a very bad thing right now.

--------------------------------------

"...and there are some who say that the rise of the internet will spell an end to newspapers and possibly even journalism. Let me say that one of these claims is an exaggeration and the other one is untrue. Newspaper membership is still extremely high in our country, newspapers will always continue to exist in some form or another and journalism maintains its role in society as it always has..."

20 more minutes to go. I notice that someone sitting a few rows in front of me briefly looks over his shoulder. Did they spot me? I press myself further into my seat and try to avoid his gaze to the best of my ability.

--------------------------------------

"...news organisations will have to get used to no longer being the ones to have the scoop on images of unexpected events as random passersby will often use their cell phone to take a picture of these events as they witness them and upload it to their weblog. But there is more to news than a picture of an event as it takes place..."

15 more minutes. The atmosphere in here is starting to feel extremely oppressive, even suffocating, and I'm starting to feel slightly tight in the chest. This is bad. This place is getting to me. My eyes sweep over the crowd sitting in front of me. What if I lose it? What if I start hyperventilating or something? Everyone will see. I can't even get up and walk out of here.

--------------------------------------

"...it is up to the reporter to provide the big picture of events through investigative journalism. A random witness may help the world see the where and when of an event, but the public will always turn to the true journalist for answers on questions that eyewitnesses cannot answer such as why and how..."
06
10 more minutes. I'm starting to have difficulty breathing. My thoughts return to what happened last year. I was sitting in here just like I am now. Then suddenly my phone started ringing, I drew everyone's attention, and I completely lost it. I was too scared to even turn off my phone. Eventually I cracked, got up, started running and kept running... and running... and running. The fact that I drew even more attention to myself that way didn't matter. Nothing mattered except to get away from everyone and everything. I'm still not exactly sure how I ended up where Hisao found me. It's a blur in my mind. I remember running, like a maniac, my hands covering the right side of my face. At some point I nearly collided with someone, I tried to sidestep, lost my balance, fell down really hard, the pain didn't even register until later, everyone's eyes on me again, me scrambling to get up, even more frightened, running away even harder until I couldn't run anymore. Away from everyone. Far away.

The memories of last year's events start whirling around in my head and I slowly feel a sense of panic coming up. I'm starting to have trouble breathing despite my best efforts to keep a hold of myself. This is bad. This is very bad. This is... this is...

"Hanako?"

Suddenly I feel someone taking my right hand and giving it a reassuring squeeze. I hear Karla's voice whispering to me.

"You're doing fine. Nothing's gonna happen. Just... take deep breaths... in and out... slowly. And go ahead and squeeze if you're feeling tense."

Breathe slowly. Breathe slowly.

In...

And out...

"That's it. Things are fine. Nobody's looking at you. Nobody's noticed you."

I struggle to keep my body from shutting down.

In...

And out...

--------------------------------------

"...of course, there is no need to take my word for it. If you take a look at the statistics of the last decade, you can see that they follow the trend that was just discussed."

The man in front of the microphone stops speaking and uses his remote control to show a series of slides containing graphs and numbers. He slowly and quietly runs through the slides, pausing after each one to give the information time to sink in.

The slides! This was the point where... it happened. After running away... after causing a spectacle in front of this entire hall... I somehow ended up near the place where we had lunch that day and hid away behind a small building so nobody could find me. There, I curled up until the panic started subsiding. But what came afterwards was no better...

"Nothing's gonna happen. Just breathe slowly. We're almost there."

...it was in fact much, much worse. With the panic disappearing my mind became coherent enough to realize what just happened... as well as all the implications that came with it. When I realized that I probably just burned the one bridge I couldn't afford to lose, a wave of despair came over me that was so powerful, so crushing, so all-encompassing that my mind promptly shut down again as that wave swallowed me whole. The whirlwind of horrible outcomes and scenarios didn't stop until much, much later.

I shiver uncontrollably at the mere thought of that moment.

"Only five more minutes, Hanako. Just hang in there."

"...and as with everything in life, things aren't handed to you on a platter. The only way to master a skill is to practice it since talent is often an unrefined gem at best. It is said that to truly master a skill, one needs to practice it around a 1000 hours."

"This is the last part, Hanako. He's finishing up."

Breathe slowly.

In...

And out...

"It's fine."

"Such a process takes a bit of talent and a little bit of luck, but above all it takes perseverance. The perseverance to see it all through."

"Just a little while longer, you're doing fine."

I close my eyes and try to keep my mind blank.

Breathe. Just breathe.

"My own headmaster used to say that it also takes a dull-witted mind that can weather such extreme repetition."

A polite chuckling can be heard throughout the hall.

"You're doing well."

"The Center Test and entrance exams are just ahead of you. Your perseverance, your talent, and that little bit of luck will be tested there. We at this faculty wish you good luck in the upcoming months and we hope to be able to welcome you as first years this upcoming spring. Thank you very much for coming here today, and we hope you'll have a safe journey home."
07
The speaker makes a quick bow, and the people in the hall erupt in thunderous applause that makes me flinch. Karla takes the opportunity to give me a quick pat on the shoulder.

"Hey, I guess this is it. The worst part is behind you now. We'll just wait for this place to clear out, and then we go back to Lilly and Hisao."

She smiles proudly at me.

"You've done well today, Hanako."

She grins.

"You kinda deserve an applause even more than that man in front does."

"N-Not really."

The applause around us slowly dies down and is replaced by a murmur as people start packing their things and getting up from their seats. I more or less keep my head down while the hall slowly empties out. The feeling of anxiety is still there, but the sense of panic I felt earlier has for the most part disappeared and right now I'm just feeling tired. Tired, but also baffled that I just sat through this whole thing, in this very place, without suffering a total breakdown.

Is it really over?

My mind still a jumble, I watch as the crowd forms two orderly lines and starts trinkling out of the hall. As the lecture hall empties out, the oppressive atmosphere slowly disappears as well, and I let go of Karla's hand while breathing a long sigh of relief. Lilly's father lets out a soft chuckle as he watches his wife massage her hand a bit, and I realize with some embarrassment that I must have been squeezing it really hard.

"S-Sorry."

"Hey, it's okay. I told you you could squeeze if you were feeling tense."

"Let us know when you are ready to leave. We will... hmmm..."

"Huh?"
08
Lilly's father cuts off his words mid-sentence and looks at the aisle on one side of the room. As I follow his gaze, the sense of relief I felt before is instantly replaced with a renewed feeling of terror. The man who gave the lecture this half hour has finished packing his things as well, but instead of leaving the now empty room he's walking up the aisle and is approaching us.

No...

No... no... no...

Not now... He'll recognize me... Don't get near me!

But before I can react I can feel a hand on my shoulder pressing me into my seat.

"Do not get up. Let us handle this."

Don't look at me!

I turn my head in Karla's direction in an attempt to keep my scars out of view as Hiroyuki gets up from his seat and walks up to the man approaching us, positioning himself between the speaker and me. He greets the man with a polite bow.

"Good afternoon and please excuse my niece. She has been... under the weather the last few days, and she briefly considered staying home before deciding that attending here was still more important. This day has been a bit taxing, so she is just taking some time to get her bearings back."

"I am truly sorry to hear that. If she is unwell then perhaps we could see if there's still a nurse on duty."

"I greatly appreciate your concern, but things are not quite so bad as to impose on you like that. A few minutes rest followed by a good night's sleep are all she needs."

"Then I will not trouble you any longer, and I am sorry that she couldn't experience this day the way we would have liked."

"Today may have been a bit draining on her, but it was still a most worthwhile visit. I believe this day has helped her to make an important choice regarding where she wants to go after the school year ends."

"That is encouraging to hear. Perhaps we will meet each other again at this very place during the welcoming ceremony next April."

"We may."

The man exchanges another bow with Lilly's father, and then he turns around and walks towards the exit. I watch him go, barely able to believe the confrontation I was dreading to have was averted just like that. Before he walks through the door he briefly turns around one last time, nods at us and then he's gone. Lilly's father turns to face us and gives us a satisfied nod.
09
"Well, that takes care of that."

"That was kind of close."

"Hmmm..."

With the last remaining source of my anxiety gone and the hall now completely empty safe for us, the realization that today's ordeal is now truly over finally sinks in. All the tension, anxiety and fear I've kept bottled up inside the last several hours finally gets the better of me, and I break down, sobbing into my hands, the last of my resistance gone. I feel Karla putting a comforting arm around me. I hear Hiroyuki let out a sigh, and something soft is put in my hand. It's a neatly folded handkerchief.

"I will return to the building's entrance and wait for you there. Lilly and Mister Nakai have probably already arrived. I will let them know that things went well."

"Alright, Hiro. We'll be there soon as well."

Lilly's mother chuckles softly as her husband walks down the nearby aisle and then out of the door.

"Please don't hold it against him. He's always been a little uneasy with situations like these."

I just shake my head. I'm already grateful for him doing his part to get me through today. I feel embarrassed enough as it is that he and his wife had to see me this way.

It takes longer than I thought, but I eventually calm down enough to wipe my tears and put the pen and notepad (that were more there as a distraction than a genuine attempt to take notes) back in my bag. I feel a little awkward about the crying fit I had just now, but I have to admit it did feel cathartic. With all the tension and stress relieved I now feel a bit empty and more than a little exhausted too. We get up from our seats and walk up to the double doors leading to the hallway. As we pass through the doorway, I turn around and look back one last time. When we got here, entering these doors felt like entering an execution chamber. Now, with today's assignment behind me, the place being emptied out and the threat of a repeat of last year's fiasco no longer an issue, the lecture hall doesn't really look so intimidating anymore. Rather than the place of my nightmares, it's now simply a large empty room like Yamaku's gymnasium.

Still, I'm glad to be out of there.

Without a word, I follow Karla to the faculty building's entrance where her husband, Hisao and Lilly are waiting for us. The hard part of today is behind me.

--------------------------------------
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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Chapter 59 - cont.

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:25 am

"Hanako?"

"Hmmmm?"

"Hanako, wake up."

"Hmmm... L-Lilly?"

"Hehehe, did you hear that Hiro? If I'm being mistaken for our 19-year old daughter, I must look pretty young for my age."

"You do look rather young for someone approaching the age of..."

A sharp cough suddenly drowns out the end of that sentence.

"Okay, okay, no need to say the number out loud."

Still a bit drowsy, I open my eyes and examine my surroundings. I'm inside a car. A rather large car. As I rub my eyes I slowly become aware of the fact that I'm not alone in here. There are two people sitting in the front seats of the car and even though it's rather dark I think that both are currently looking at me.

"Hey there. Are you back with us, Hanako?"

I let out a yawn.

"Are we... there already?"

"We are. I have parked as close to the school gates as I could."

I take a look outside. Despite the darkness outside I easily recognize Yamaku's front gates. I never thought I'd be so happy to see these gates again even though I know deep down that it's not good to be this attached to a place.

After the activities at the journalism faculty ended, Karla and I headed for the entrance where we were greeted by Hisao, Lilly and her father. We drove back to Lilly's apartment where we had a quick meal, and we went our separate ways afterwards. I initially planned to head back to Yamaku by train, but after we left the campus the side effects of the intense stress I endured all day long finally caught up with me, and even at Lilly's place I found myself dozing off every ten minutes. The general consensus was that it wasn't a good idea for me to travel by train, so Lilly's parents offered to drive me to Yamaku and personally drop me off. I felt guilty after all they had already done for me today, but I was too tired to keep up a four-against-one argument and relented after only a brief protest.

I don't remember anything about the trip back so I must have slept like a rock until we finally reached the school gates.

"Well, I guess this is where we part ways. I'll drop you a mail or call later this week to wish you luck, okay?"

"Uh?"

Luck? Oh right, mock exams.

"Oh... ah... T-thank you."

I probably should say goodbye here. Lilly's parents are probably eager to get home as well.

On the other hand...

They still have quite a trip ahead of them. They've made a large detour just to drop me off here. And that's on top of everything else they've already done today. A simple thanks feels insufficient for all of that. I don't have much I can give back, but...

"Uh... M-Mister Hiroyuki... K-Karla... uh..."

"What is it?"

"C-Can I... g-get you s-something to d-drink before you h-head back?"

Lilly's mother frowns.

"Are you sure that's a good idea, Hanako? You've had a really intensive day and you're probably still tired. You don't have to stay up on our behalf."

"I know, but I... I w-want to d-do something back. To s-show my appreciation."

Karla and Hiroyuki exchange a long glance until eventually the latter gives a curt nod.

"We will be honored to accept your hospitality."

"Well, it's decided then. Lead the way."

During this year, Miss Yumi has told me several times that if others go out of their way for me, I shouldn't wallow in guilt when I can't return the favor, but I should focus on being appreciative of those efforts instead. I feel like I'm finally starting to get the hang of this.

We get out of the car and make our way to the girls' dorm. As we enter the building I take a quick peek into the common room. I had been hoping to claim a quiet corner there, but the place is a lot more crowded than expected. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised seeing that this is a Sunday's evening. Even some of the 3rd years seem to be hanging out here despite the rapidly approaching mock exams. I could check out the kitchen area. Or...

Maybe it'll be alright if I...

"Hanako? This place seems a bit rowdy, don't you think?"

"Umm... T-this w-way please."

Feeling a bit awkward, I lead the Satous to the hallway outside my room. This is the first time either of them sets a foot inside. The only times I spoke to Karla without Lilly around, which were the time she agreed to sponsor The Broken Quills and the time when she visited Yamaku to interview people for her article, we made use of the common room. I didn't count on having visitors when I left here yesterday. I'm a little uneasy about them seeing the inside of my room. On the other hand, Naomi and Jun were able to hang out in my room without being put off by its plainness.

I take a deep breath and unlock the door to my room.

"G-Go on in. I'll b-be right b-back."

I hurry to the kitchen without waiting for a reply and start boiling water for the tea. While the water's heating up, I realize that I may have just left a very poor impression by walking off just like that. I was able to avoid their initial reaction to my room this way, and they'll have some time to practice a polite 'nice place you have here', but it's not exactly the way a proper host would act. This is certainly not the way Lilly would have handled things. But then again, Lilly isn't as horribly socially stunted as I am.

It feels like ages until the water reaches boiling temperature, and after filling a tea pot from my cupboard with hot water, I hurry back to my room.

When I enter my room, I find Karla and Hiroyuki sitting on the bed. Neither of them says a word as I fill two bowls and hand one to each of them before sitting down in my desk chair.

"Uh... P-please enjoy.

Lilly's father gives an approving nod.

"Thank you."

"Yes, thank you."

"N-No, I... uh... I should b-be the one saying that."

"Hmmm?"

"Uh..."

I fidget, not sure how to go about this. After what feels like an eternity, I finally push myself to say what I've been wanting to say since we arrived here.

"M-Mister Satou... Mrs. Satou... T-thank you... f-for supporting me t-today. I'm... r-really thankful. It's b-because of you... that... I made it... through."

Lilly's father shakes his head.

"Our contribution was but small. I think that for the most part your own perseverance was what saw you through."

I shake my head.

"I... m-might h-have b-been able to attend... one lecture... on m-my own... or maybe t-two, but... I probably... w-would have g-given up afterwards."

Karla scratches her head.

"You know, all things considered, that therapist of yours did take quite a gamble in sending you there on your own."

"Perhaps she was never meant to go there on her own and today was not just about confronting her apprehensions. Perhaps another point behind today's assignment was that there was never the need to face this challenge all by herself. That her support was a mere phonecall or e-mail away."

"You really think so?"

"It would make sense. If I remember correctly, Hanako's ronin year was a one-time opportunity. Come next spring, Miss Takawa will no longer be able to jump in when Hanako is faced with a daunting situation like today. Perhaps this was also for her own reassurance to see if Hanako would be able to reach out to others when faced with a challenge that might be too much for her to face on her own."

"Hmmm. What do you think, Hanako?"

I never really thought about that. I simply assumed Miss Yumi had gone crazy when she told me to visit another open house day. She of all people should know how likely it was that something, an event or simply the place itself, would act as a trigger and cause an anxiety attack. She did seem extremely pleased when I told her about having called Lilly who offered to come with me.

"I... d-don't know. It's definitely p-possible."

"Hehehe, in that case you had passed her test even before this whole day started."

"I'm n-not sure. I d-don't really feel like I... p-passed anything today."

"Even though you made it through today without dropping out half-way through?"

"I won't b-be able to function as a s-student there if I k-keep feeling the way I felt today."

"I think it was perfectly normal for you to feel the way you did today. I mean, things went really bad last year so it's perfectly natural to feel anxious the next time you go there. Any person would be uneasy. But I think... no... I know it'll be easier next time."

"I... d-don't know."

"My wife is correct. It will be easier next time. As you focus on your exams the upcoming months, remind yourself that despite last year's incident, nothing has happened today. Nothing has happened today, and nothing will happen the next time you go there. It may be difficult to convince yourself of that right now, but you still have over four months to let it sink in. Give it some time."

I wonder if it's really that simple.

"I..."

I feel a lump in my throat that I manage to swallow with supreme effort.

"I was... l-looking forward to finishing elementary s-school at f-first. I... used to h-have friends t-there, but after my accident I... l-lost all of them. L-Life there b-became very hard. I thought... entering m-middle school w-would be like a... n-new start. But... once I s-started g-going there, it only t-took a week f-for me to...t-to realize that n-nothing had changed. The p-people were d-different, but everything else was... the s-same."

"Oh, Hanako..."

Karla looks heartbroken and even Hiroyuki gives an understanding nod.

"Your anxiety is understandable, maybe even logical. But what you should remember is that history does not always repeat. Sometimes a situation merely appears to be similar to one from the past, yet it is very different beneath the surface. I believe this is one of those situations. I recall my own middle school years, as well as my own high school years, as being very stressful. There was always intense pressure:To keep up, to stay on top, to do well on every test, to meet extremely high expectations, to never disappoint, to excel, to reach a place only the nation's finest could reach… Always. I was probably not the only one expected to uphold a legacy. Not everyone handles that kind of pressure well. It is not uncommon for people to take their own stress out on others. That does not excuse their actions, of course. University, on the other hand, was different for me."

"D-Different?"

"I fondly recall my own university days, and most people I've known at work consider those times the most stress-free times of their life. Without the pressure to get into a particular university and without the pressure of a full-time job yet, people could - for a while - relax, be themselves and live the way they wanted. The atmosphere was always more welcoming and friendly. School uniforms were no longer required, so suddenly there was much greater diversity - and greater acceptance of diversity. The environment was very different from middle and high school. It will probably be different for you as well. You should expect to get some initial awkwardness and stares, as Lilly did when she started attending, but people might get used to you quickly enough."

Hiroyuki looks a little awkward.

"I will confess that when I first met you, I caught myself staring a little as well, despite Lilly's urging not to."

Karla smiles sheepishly.

"I kind of did too at first. But that doesn't mean people aren't interested in getting to know you."

Hiroyuki gives me a quizical look.

"Did you not catch yourself staring at other students from time to time when you started attending here?"

I probably did. Especially when others had easily noticable conditions like missing limbs. I guess I'm not that much better than everyone else.

Karla gives me a warm smile.

"You know... Your facial scarring may stand out a little, but you get used to it really quickly. I... don't even really notice it myself anymore. And it's not very easy to spot from a distance because of your hair. I get that you were probably worried that people would recognize you today, but I don't think anyone did."

"That... teacher might have."

Hiroyuki shakes his head.

"He did not. I assure you."

How can he be so sure about that?

Lilly's father looks pensive for a moment and then takes a deep breath.
10
"I know this because he told me so himself."

WHAT?

Hiroyuki's words hit me like a truck, and I reel back in shock. Karla lets out a gasp and gives her husband a bewildered stare.

"Wait, what? Hiro? You... talked to that man?"

"I did. I went after him after I left the lecture hall and I... apologized for last year's incident on Hanako's behalf."

"Why? It wasn't really Hanako's fault, was it?"

Lilly's father chuckles briefly.

"Karla, do you still remember the night we met in Inverness? There were quite a few questions you asked me during our first outing, but there was one that seems relevant right now."

Lilly's mother thinks for a moment and then nods.

"You were profusely apologizing for your colleagues' intoxication and the inconvenience they were supposedly causing me while I was driving you guys to your hotel."

She softly snickers a bit.

"I think you apologized to me every time one of them even let out a single burp. I asked afterwards why you were taking responsibility for things that weren't your fault. I... uh... was curious why the Japanese were always apologizing so much."

"And I replied by asking you why westerners apologized so little when something went wrong."

They both chuckle briefly at the memory before Hiroyuki continues.

"What we concluded that night was that westerners see an apology as an admission of guilt, so they often apologize only when they feel they were in the wrong somehow. To the Japanese, on the other hand, an apology has a much broader meaning. It is often not an attempt to shoulder the blame, but a simple gesture to say: 'What happened is most regrettable. Let us put it aside and move on.' That was the kind of apology I made today. I did not assign any guilt to any party. It was not expected either."

Lilly's mother thinks about that for a moment.

"How did he react? Did he...?"

"The apology was appreciated and accepted, of course. We spent some time talking, and I learned how he experienced that incident last year."

Lilly's father turns to me.

"As I said before, Hanako, he did not recognize you today. Things went very quickly last year. What he remembered was a cell phone going off and eventually a girl with long, dark hair running out of the room with another girl following her shortly afterwards. But girls with long, dark hair are extremely common in Japan, so he did not make the connection when he saw you today. I think most people in attendence there will fail to make the connection as well. It has been a whole year, people went through a stressful exam season, and human memory is a fickle thing. Do you still remember what the people sitting next to us were wearing? I myself have already forgotten even now."

"I'm... n-not sure."

"He was a bit put off by his lecture being interrupted and confused why someone suddenly ran out of the room, but in the end it was a minor incident. Things went back to business as usual and people's phones going off at inopportune moments is something that is not uncommon in this day and age. It is not something he would forever hold against someone, especially not after an apology. When we parted ways he told me to wish you well with your exams."

I'm completely dumbfounded by what I'm hearing.

"They k-know and they... still w-want me to attend t-there?"

Hiroyuki chuckles.

"Of course. The birth rate in our country has been declining for some time, and as a result the competition for pupils between schools has intensified over the last few years. They would be crazy to refuse a competent student over such a minor incident."

A stern expression appears on his face and his eyes stare directly into mine.

"Hanako, the students and student hopefuls there obviously do not remember last year's incident in specific detail and the school is more than willing to let bygones be bygones. Everyone else, it appears, has already moved on. The one thing that remains is for you to do the same. You cannot allow this matter to distract you any longer."

"I..."

I'm not really sure how to respond to that. My mind is still trying to sort everything out, but I know what's being expected of me, so I give a meek nod.

"I'll t-try."

Lilly's parents give an approving nod, and we spend some time just sitting there and finishing our tea. After I barely manage to suppress a yawn, Lilly's father shoots a glance at his wife.

"I suspect our host is getting tired. It would be best for us not to wear out our welcome."

"Uh, Hiro...?"

Karla leans in and whispers something in her husband's ear. He gives her a puzzled look.

"Are you certain?"

She nods, takes the notepad out of her bag and hands him a piece of paper.

"For good luck."

"This once then. This paper is hardly ideal."

He takes the piece of paper from his wife and starts meticulously folding it. None of us say a word as the paper in his hands slowly starts taking a different form. Eventually, he gives it one scrutinizing lookover and then hands it to me.

I look at the origami figure in my hands with an unsure look. It's a bit rough, but still recognizable.

"A... lion?"

Karla smiles and nods her head.

"Where I come from a lion is considered a symbol of courage. It felt like an appropriate memento of today. Be sure to keep it close in the upcoming days as a source of inspiration and as a reminder of how brave you can be."

"I'm... n-not very brave at all. I'm s-scared of a lot of things."

Hiroyuki shakes his head.

"I think you are confusing being brave with being fearless. Being fearless is not a healthy trait. Fear is a human defense mechanism and those who know no fear tend to have their lives ruined by their own recklessness. Being brave is being afraid... and still going forward in spite of that because the end results are worth the anxiety of the moment. Being brave is facing your fears. You have shown that you can do that. "

"..."

Karla and Hiroyuki get up from the bed and put their bowls on my desk.
11
"If it is okay with you we will be taking our leave. It is still quite a ride back."

"Shall I drive us back, Hiro? You can take a nap in the car. I don't have to get up early tomorrow morning."

"Very well. Hanako, thank you for your hospitality."

"Thank... you... too."

Karla gives me a little pat on the shoulder.

"Hanako, there's one more thing we'd like to ask you. Do you have any plans for the upcoming New Year's Day? If you don't then... we'd be pleased to have you over again."

Her husband scrapes his throat.

"You will be expected to study, of course, with the Center Test being less than a month away at that point. But whatever breaks you allow yourself that day can be spent celebrating the start of the new year with us."

"Akira's promised to come over as well. She'd be very pleased to have you too. We all would, actually."

I blush a bit. Fortunately, Akira already clued me in on the possibility, so the invitation doesn't come as a complete surprise, and it doesn't take me very long to answer.

"Okay."

"Really?"

"R-Really."

"Wonderful. Sleep well tonight and good luck this week."

"Thank you."

I accompany the Satous to the building's entryway where we say our goodbyes and part ways. Rather than immediately returning to my room, I linger near the door and watch Lilly's parents walk down the path to the gate until they're out of sight. They're an odd couple if I ever saw one. Hiroyuki's walking slowly and carefully, but in a dignified manner despite the fact that nobody can see him. Karla's trying to match his pace and his manner of walking, yet there's a spring in her step that she can barely conceal. Yet despite their differences, they seem capable of connecting with each other, like earlier this evening when they briefly brought up the day of their meeting.
12
I return to my room, take off my clothes and put on my nightgown. I suppose I should go to bed now. Three weeks ago I made a studying schedule that covered all days until the mock exams. If I want to do better than last year, I'll have to make an effort to stick to it.

I don't think I'll be able to sleep easily tonight though.

Something Karla said earlier today pops back into my mind.

What really matters won't be whether you're feeling worse right now, but whether you'll be feeling worse at the end of the day.

I'm feeling different alright. I'm not sure how exactly I'm feeling, but it's a lot different than the mood of crushing despair I felt at this point in time last year.

I think the best way to describe my mood would be 'restless'. Even though I feel tired, countless thoughts keep whirling around in my head.

- It will be easier next time. -

- Nothing has happened today. -

- Nothing will happen the next time. -

- History does not always repeat. -

- The atmosphere was always more welcoming and friendly. -

- A greater acceptance of diversity. -

- The apology was appreciated and accepted, of course. -

- Human memory is a fickle thing. Do you still remember what the people sitting next to us were wearing? -

- When we parted ways he told me to wish you well with your exams. -

- Everyone else, it appears, has already moved on. The one thing that remains is for you to do the same. -

- Move on. -

- The one thing that remains is for you to do the same. -

-...for you to do the same. -

"Ugh..."

I rub my temples in an attempt to slow the torrent of thoughts.

Did everyone else really move on the day afterwards? Can I really pretend that nothing happened last year? Will things really be different? It seems hard to believe.

- You still have over four months to let it sink in. Give it some time. -

Can it really be that simple?

I don't want to lose another year to this.

- Let it sink in. -

I look at the study schedule on my desk. I have six hours planned for tomorrow. Nothing happened today, so maybe I can stop fretting over this until the mock exams are over. Nothing happened today, so maybe there's no immediate need to worry over it. Graduation is still four months away. Mock exams are in four days. Maybe I can stop worrying about this for four days.

Nothing happened today.

I take a pen and write a big '9:00 a.m' in bold letters on my schedule.

I'm going to make an effort to do well on the mock exams this year and focus only on the immediate future for the time being.

Because nothing happened today.

With my resolution for the upcoming week made, the thoughts surrounding Kasshoku slowly start dissipating, only to be replaced with something else.

Something much more personal.

- Akira's promised to come over as well. She'd be very pleased to have you too. We all would, actually. -

I didn't think I'd get through today's activities scot-free, but to my surprise that's how things played out. I think that for the most part I have the Satous to thank for that. They came all the way there to see their daughter participate in a literature recital, but when they heard of my predicament they quickly adjusted their plans, and Karla spent the entire day acting as my support. And after Lilly's activities came to an end, Hiroyuki joined us and then went out of his way to smooth things over with the faculty and get me a clean slate. Then they drove by Yamaku to drop me off and give me a pep talk.

They really went out of their way for me today.

I take the little origami lion from my nightstand and run my fingers over it.

I'm not really sure what to think about all of this.

I wonder what the Satous are to me.

Even Naomi and Jun noted that I don't just seem to be a mere friend of their daughter. Karla diplomatically referred to me as an official friend of the family when my friends asked about it. Hiroyuki called me his niece today, though that was probably because I don't look half-foreign.

I've known them both for over a year now. Karla has always been very friendly and kind to me. It's taken a little bit longer for me to warm up to Hiroyuki, but I think today proved that he has a good heart underneath his strict exterior.

Or is it simply the fact that they're still grateful about last year? I kind of wish that 'debt of gratitude' that Lilly's father spoke of in the past wasn't there anymore. All it does is muddy the waters. Are they still trying to pay me back?

I'm not sure.

They seemed really sincere today, but...

It kind of clashes with the way Akira has always felt about them. I'm having a difficult time picturing the people who were in my room less than an hour ago to coldly leave behind their own children, yet that seems to be what happened in the past.

But apparently Karla recently apologized to Akira, and Akira seemed pretty shaken despite her tough talk.

I'm not really sure what they are to me - or what I am to them.

I open one of my desk drawers, reach inside and pick up the piece of paper hidden underneath several books. The piece of paper they gave me nearly a year ago. I take it out and sit down on my bed.

With a single signature, I could trigger the biggest change my life has undergone in a decade. A few strokes of ink on this paper and I'd once again have a family.

A mother...

A father...

And two loving sisters...

At least on paper...

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Would they be able to truly accept me as one of them, or would I always remain an outsider?

And more importantly: would I be able to truly accept them?

Would I be able to address Hiroyuki and Karla as Father and Mother?

It feels sacrilegious, and I feel a sharp pang of guilt just thinking about it. My thoughts dwell on the parents I once had. The ones I lost eleven years ago.

Mother... who loved to do my hair each day, always telling me how beautiful she thought it was. Who liked to cuddle with me in bed on Sunday mornings and who lost her life trying to protect me.

Father... who asked me for a new drawing each week to pin to his computer monitor at work. Who played games with me on Sunday afternoons and who taught me how to play chess.

Would they feel happy for me or would they be hurt and feel like they were being replaced?

It hurts me just to think about it.

I wish I could talk to them one more time.

I look over the form in my hands once more, sigh softly and put it back beneath the books in my drawer, away from where the people who've been in my room this year could find it.

I lie down on my bed and look at the starry sky outside my window. I think I'll keep the curtains open so I won't risk oversleeping tomorrow morning. Maybe counting stars will help me sleep.

I get underneath the covers, taking the nearby plush puppy and teddy bear in my arms. As I start counting, I start murmurring the words Hiroyuki spoke earlier.

- Nothing happened today. -

- And nothing will happen next time. -

- Nothing happened today. -

- And nothing will happen next time. -

This has to be the world's oddest lullaby, but strangely enough it seems to work.

- Nothing happened today. -

- And nothing will happen next time. -

My eyelids slowly grow heavier.

- History doesn't always repeat. -

- Nothing happened today. -

- And nothing will happen next time. -

Before I drift off to sleep, for just a brief moment, I feel something. Something I don't feel very often and never expected to feel after today.

- Nothing happened today. -

Before I doze off, I feel...

- And nothing will happen next time. -

...a sense of hope.
13
Last edited by Guest Poster on Tue Sep 23, 2014 5:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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Chapter 60

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:25 am

Chapter 60
01
"Mother, what time is it?"

I take a look at the display on the dashboard of the car.

"Nearly half past nine. Looks like we've arrived here right on schedule. They said they were going to call it a day around this time, didn't they?"

"Yes. When I called her earlier today, Hanako said that they're trying to limit their late-night studying because of Naomi. They started this morning around half past seven, and they've been cramming for most of the day. Naomi's supposed to stick to nine hours of sleep each day, so she'll probably need to go to bed soon."

"Well in that case let's not keep them waiting."

We exit the car and head through the parking lot to the front gate. I give my daughter a sidelong glance.

"You still remember how to navigate this place?"

"It's been a while since I've walked this campus, but I should be okay. I have spent three years of my life here after all."

Lilly smiles as she continues.

"That feels like such a long time ago already."

"Nearly a year. Time flies, huh?"

"It sure does. I feel a little nostalgic walking around here again."

"Ever felt like going back?"

My daughter flashes me a playful smile.

"Sometimes. Just not yet. And not as a student."

"Hahaha, point taken."

"University took some getting used to, but the way things are now I wouldn't want to turn back the clock. Besides, moving on is a part of life."

"Let's hope that Hanako feels the same."

My daughter remains silent for a moment and then nods.

"Hanako's situation is different from my own. Yamaku has been much more than a mere boarding school to her. I've been trying to put myself in her shoes, but I don't think I'll ever be in a position to know exactly how she feels."

"Well, the school's probably not going to allow her to stay for another year, so let's hope she's gonna pull through where she stumbled before."

"She has already made it through the National Center Test again. If she's... emotionally ready for it, I'm certain she'll do fine on her upcoming entrance exam as well. It's possible I'm engaging in wishful thinking, but I have the impression that she's a little more ready for it this time around."

"I got that impression as well when she dropped by at New Year's Day. Hey Lilly, I've been thinking... Maybe everything that's happened was meant to play out this way. Hanako's had a lot of baggage to sort out, and I can't help but feel that she needed the extra time. What do you think?"

"To be honest I've been considering this as well, Mother. Although it still doesn't change the way I feel about what happened last year."

"You know... My own mother used to tell me that God works in mysterious ways. It often involves bad things happening and people getting hurt, but in the end you find out that there's been a long-term benefits game played. Heh, kind of reminds me of your dad in that respect."

Lilly giggles.

"Isn't that blasphemy, Mother?"

"Hey, it's a compliment!"

I scratch my head as we reach the entrance to the main building.

"Lilly, this doesn't look like the girls’ dorms. Heh, are you sure you still know your way around here?"

"Hanako still has her set of keys to the library, and she and her friends have been studying there after closing hours. She promised to keep the doors unlocked for us."

"Let's not keep her waiting then."

I follow Lilly into the main building, watching with a bit of fascination as she uses the nearby handrails and walls to navigate her way to our destination without breaking stride. I really shouldn't be impressed anymore by what's essentially a second nature to her, but sometimes I can't help myself. When we reach the door that leads to the library, Lilly delivers three measured knocks on it. We wait a moment, but there's no response.

"Unless they're sitting right in front of the door, I don't think they could have heard those, Lilly. Let's just go inside. Hanako said that the door would be unlocked, right?"

"Yes."

We quietly open the door and go inside. I notice that only one corner of the library is lit, and in that corner, sitting at one of the tables, are three girls. Even from this distance I can make out Hanako's long, flowing hair, Naomi's bleached hairdo and Jun's brown hair underneath a red cap. The table they're sitting at is almost completely covered with books, notes and writing implements. Only one corner is occupied by other things, namely a collection of bowls, thermos bottles, a few bags of snacks and the leftovers of a takeout meal. Near the table is a small electronic heater against the chilly temperature in the room. I whisper to my daughter.

"They're sitting at the table at two o' clock. You know, they look so busy, I feel a bit guilty for imposing on them."

We approach the table until Naomi notices us, gets up and gives us an enthusiastic wave.

"Mrs. Sponsor! Welcome!"

Hanako, who was sitting with her back to the door, gets up and walks up to us.

"Hi Lilly. Hi Karla. It's good... to see you again."

Lilly walks up to her best friend and gives her a loving hug.

"Hanako, congratulations once more on succesfully passing the National Center Test again. You've done really well."

Naomi gives us a mock-offended pout.

"No congratulations for us? All three of us are still in the running, you know? Last year I already dropped out at this point."

I grin.

"All three of you did great. When the three of you spent the weekend at our place I could already see how well you all work together. All of you succesfully passing the Center Test merely confirms this once again. You've brought great honor to The Broken Quills, and your sponsor is very pleased with all of you. Now all that remains is to finish what you've started. Onwards and remember: The quill may be broken..."

"...but it will never be silenced!"

Lilly giggles as Hanako, Naomi and Jun finish my sentence in perfect unison. This is probably the first time she's heard the club's official motto.

"Keep fighting the good fight, you three."

"YES MA'AM!"

In contrast to Naomi's excited cheer, Jun merely giggles.

"We'll do our best, Mrs. Satou. By the way, would you like some tea? We still have some left here."

"Ummm... Jun? I'd... rather make some fresh tea for them."

"Here?"

"In the dorms."

"So we'll be calling it a day? Well, it'll be good to relax for a bit before Naomi has to take her beauty sleep. We'll need to be up early again tomorrow."

"I second that."

The girls load their supplies into their backpacks, and after Hanako has put the heater into the storage room and locked up the library we leave for the girls’ dorm. Upon reaching the hallway outside the dormitory's kitchen, Hanako turns to us.

"Uh... p-please make yourselves comfortable. I'll go and make us some tea."

"Hanako? Would you allow me to assist you? It'll be good to relive some of the good old times while I'm here."

"Okay, Lilly."

As Hanako and Lilly enter the kitchen to prepare our drinks, I turn to Hanako's studying companions.

"So how are things holding up for you two?"

Naomi shrugs.

"Okay, I guess. I've had a few seizures over the last weeks, but they weren't as dramatic as the ones I had last year. They were more like blackouts than shortouts. I lucked out and didn't have any on the days of the Center Test itself. That nine-hours-of-sleep-a-day-schedule is a pain, but at least my seizures are much more infrequent now than they were the year before. I'll just have to try and study as efficiently as I can."

"That sounds like a plan. You know, this is just my personal opinion, but seeing how extremely focused Japanese exams are on rote memorization, I don't think pulling all-nighters is going to make much of a difference. When you're sleep-deprived the memory is often one of the first things to go."

"I still think nine hours is overdoing it, but for now I'm stuck with it. Hanako and Jun aren't allowing me to cheat, and if I don't follow my schedule then I think the head nurse is gonna have me kicked out of here before I can even make it to examination day."

"So the school has no objections to you studying here?"

"They probably wouldn't allow me to participate in any supplementary lessons, but they don't seem to have a problem with me studying on the school grounds. Good thing too. Gotta keep Jun and Hanako motivated."

Judging from Jun's obvious eyeroll at Naomi's last remark, her position of team motivator is a self-appointed one.

"So where do you sleep during your stay here?"

"Usually in Hanako's or Jun's room. I brought my own futon along with me. I usually switch every night."

"Usually?"

"Heh, don't tell this to anyone else, but I've pulled a Hanako a few times too."

I laugh. What a weird saying.

"You'll have to explain that term to me."

Jun grins.

"Pulling a Hanako is the practice of curling up on one of the library's beanbags and taking a nap there. Naomi and I have named the practice after its inventor - much to her embarrassment."

"Haha, I'll avoid bringing it up then. By the way, wouldn't it be safer to let Naomi sleep in Hanako's room all the time? Your... conditions... are not exactly compatible, are they?"

"It's not that bad. If Naomi has an episode while staying with me, I simply call a nurse and let her handle things. It's not like we're sharing a bed or something."

"Yeah, I also don't want to impose on Hanako too much. She likes her privacy, you know? I don't want to wear out my welcome just yet. I think I'm already stretching her hospitality enough as it is."

I give an understanding nod. Hanako's dorm room is the closest thing she has to a home. I get why she's usually reluctant to let people enter there.

"Yes, this seems like a good compromise. By the way, you're studying for different exams right now, aren't you?

Jun nods her head.

"I'm aiming for a study in information technology. Its entrance exam involves a lot of mathematics, so it's radically different from the one Naomi and Hanako are studying for. I think I'm the only girl in school heading in that direction right now, so rather than seek out some guy I don't know very well but who's also into IT-stuff and spend nearly twelve hours a day in a room with him, I decided to join these two. They often can't help me when I don't get a mathematical problem, but the atmosphere's pretty good and that's very important too."

Naomi grins.

"Yup. If we screw this up it won't be due to a lack of drive. All we have to fear is a stroke of bad luck."

Given that the event that forced her to drop out last year could easily repeat itself this year, I admire Naomi's spirit.

"Perhaps I can help with that. Lilly and I bought some good luck charms today. I'd like each of you to have one. It's not much, but maybe it'll help a bit. Please take them."

I open my bag and take two charms out of it that I hand to Jun and Naomi. Both of them look quite surprised.

"Awww, that's so sweet. Thanks."

"You really shouldn't have."

"It's okay. Like you said, there's still a bit of luck involved. Hopefully it'll be good this year and all three of you pass your entrance exams."

"With the Center Test behind us, we're already half-way there. We'll just take it one day at a time, right?"

"Right."

Our conversation ends as we see Hanako and Lilly walking back into the room. Lilly has a tea pot in her hand, and Hanako's holding several bowls and some snacks. I throw another look at Naomi and Jun.

"Want to join us for tea?"

Naomi shakes her head.

"I can't go drinking caffeine this close to bedtime. Sorry. I'm gonna go and get myself a soft drink and then take a hot shower. Best thing to do before hitting the sack."

"I still have my mail and a few forums to check before bed, so I think I'll pass as well. Besides, I assume you came here to spend time with Hanako. It's probably more appropriate that you spend some time alone with her."

"Well, good luck in the upcoming weeks, you two."

Jun and Naomi give me a polite bow, exchange a few words with Hanako and then walk off. I turn to Hanako and Lilly.

"Do you two want to find a spot in the common room?"

"It's... a little crowded there right now. Can we go to m-my room instead?"

"I'm fine with that, Hanako."

"Me too. Let's go there. Do you want me to help either of you carry something?"

"It's okay."
02
We make our way to Hanako's dorm room where Hanako and Lilly sit down on the bed, and I take a seat in Hanako's chair. We take some time to relax, and I take this opportunity to give Hanako her good luck charm too.

"T-Thanks."

"To be very honest, I don't think that someone who has passed the National Center Test twice is in great need of it, but hopefully it'll still help."

Hanako fidgets a bit, still not really comfortable with praise.

"I'll k-keep it close."

As Hanako puts the charm on her nightstand, Lilly takes a sip of her tea and then poses the question that's probably been on her mind for some time.

"Hanako, it must be tough to spend so much time cramming once again. Are you... looking forward to the end of examination season?"

Most students around here would probably immediately say yes. But Hanako's situation's probably a little different from most. She's got a good head on her shoulders, that much is certain. Nobody ever believed her failure to pass her entrance exam last year was due to a lack of academic skills. The actual issue that became a spanner in the works had nothing to do with studying. That's both a relief and a worry. It means she has a good chance to make it in this year, but only if her heart is in it this time. If not, no amount of studying will help.

Hanako doesn't immediately answer. She closes her eyes and takes her time to think about Lilly's question.

When I accompanied her on that open house day nearly three months ago, I was worried that we were going to get a repeat of last year and that she'd be too worked up to focus on studying. But a few days later we received word that she passed her mock exams this time with an overall score of seventy six, and when she stayed at our home on New Year's Day, she seemed nervous, but not downright anxious or depressed. Maybe she managed to bounce back this time after all.

"I'm... not really sure. I'm trying not to think too hard about the f-future and just concentrate on studying. I think that's... best for now. I've been trying to take inspiration from Naomi."

Lilly looks puzzled at that.

"From Naomi?"

Hanako nods.

"Naomi was forced to drop out last year b-because of a seizure. She's had some seizures since she came here to study with us. N-Not all that many, but... j-just enough to remind us that the risk is still there. She says she's dealing with the uncertainty by c-concentrating on the present and just trying to get through this one day at a time without worrying about what m-might happen the day afterwards. I'm... trying to do the same. I'm... n-not sure how well I'd do at university, but... I want to pass m-my exam, and I'm t-trying not to look or worry about things beyond that. I'll have t-time to t-think about it afterwards."

"Hehe, you're a tough young lady, you know that? I think you'll do fine."

She fidgets a little again and softly shakes her head, but there's a small trace of a smile on her face.

I give Hanako a conspiring look.

"You know, you do make me wonder about something. Does focusing completely on the present and living from day to day mean you're not preparing anything for Valentine's Day? That's in two weeks, isn't it?"

Hanako blushes at my remark, then smiles and shakes her head.

"N-Not really. Hisao said... that the best Valentine's gift for him from me would be if I passed my exams and b-became part of his everyday life again."

Lilly nods.

"There's a lot of truth in that statement. Gifts are nice, but no gift could compare to simply having you there with us again."

"We... d-decided to not to do gifts this time and d-do something together after... everything's over. To celebrate both Valentine's Day and White Day. And... m-maybe my... exam r-results too."

"Like a vacation?"

"Maybe. We haven't really talked about it much yet."

I snicker.

"Lilly's already having a field day with all the courtesy chocolate for her male classmates. The fact that there are more males than females in her class means it's almost like a day job."

Lilly grins.

"At least that means that in a month, on White Day, I'll get plenty of presents back."

"Yeah, your first White Day at a new school ought to be one heck of an experience. Expecting any confessions or love chocolate?"

Lilly smiles and shakes her head.

"Not at the moment. Fortunately, courtesy chocolate is quite tasty too."

"You seem pretty sure about that. You're positive you're not going to get at least one box of special chocolate..."

I pause a moment for dramatic effect and then continue while throwing a sneaky wink in Hanako's direction.

"...in return?"

Lilly's cringe isn't as obvious as I was hoping for, but it's still noticeable enough to draw Hanako's attention and she lets out a gasp, followed by a broad smile.

"L-Lilly?"

"Mother... I think you may be jumping to conclusions."

"Maybe. But I notice that you're not telling me that I may be jumping to the wrong conclusions."

"I'm not sure how I'm expected to react to that."

I shrug.

"If you really want to keep tight-lipped about it, then I won't keep badgering you. But if there's anything you do wish to share, this might not be a bad time. What's probably not a good idea is to keep dancing around the issue. You're sharing a room with two journalists who have a nose for that kind of thing and being evasive is like a putting up a big, fat 'investigate me'-sign that cannot be ignored."

"You certainly are curious."

"If I wasn't, I wouldn't have studied journalism, dear. But I don't think I'm the only one. Hanako looks kind of interested too."

Hanako fidgets a bit, not really happy to be drawn into the conversation, but obviously not ready to deny her interest either.

"If L-Lilly doesn't want to talk about it..."

"It feels a bit like I'm being ganged up on here."

Lilly sighs softly.

"I don't think there's a lot to tell, but if you want to speculate I will tell you whether you're warm or cold."

I turn to Hanako.

"When I came to pick Lilly up today, her cupboard was filled with little boxes containing courtesy chocolate. It's still kind of early, but I guess she wanted to get it out of the way. The amount of boxes happened to be the same as the amount of males in her class."

"I'm surprised you can recall the exact amount of boys in my class, Mother."

"Well, I did accompany you to school for a while, remember? Anyway, all that courtesy chocolate was standard store-bought stuff. But there was also a half-full box of cocoa powder in your cupboard and that's not on your usual shopping list. So I got curious, and while I was in your room I noticed a box partially filled with chocolates under your bed. I guess you're making those chocolates yourself, but you're not finished with them yet. I thought it was impressive, by the way."

Hanako smiles.

"I think so too. I'm sure it'll be appreciated by the… recepient."

"I take it that she didn't tell you that she was planning this, Hanako?"

"No. This is a surprise to me too."

I grin at my daughter.

"Warm or cold, Lilly?"

Lilly gives us a weary, almost resigned smile.

"You are rather warm, Mother. But like I said before, your conclusions might be a little premature."

Hanako turns towards her friend.

"You're... not sure yet whether to actually give them or not?"

"It's not meant to be a veiled confession. More like a sign of... above average appreciation. I'm still debating with myself on whether it's the right time or not. If it isn't, I'll make do with just the courtesy chocolate I have. Although... to be very honest... just courtesy chocolate wouldn't feel completely right either."

I rub my chin.

"So you also have courtesy chocolate for him, and if you decide it's 'the right time' then you'll give him your home-made gift somewhere in private, isn't that right?"

"Something like that."

"If the courtesy chocolate I saw on the table was all you have stocked for next week and you also have a batch for the person we're talking about then that person must indeed be a classmate of yours or the numbers wouldn't add up. I don't see you excluding one guy in class with this kind of thing. That narrows things down a bit. Heh, seeing that he's in your class, I've definitely already laid eyes on him before. Now I just need to determine what guy you'd be most likely to go for."

"..."

Lilly looks a bit uneasy at my deduction and doesn't answer. This is probably going way too fast for her. Hanako, on the other hand, suddenly gets a tiny sparkle in her eyes.

"Lilly? Is it that boy?"

Sounds like Hanako is in on some information I don't know about.

"Assistant-reporter Hanako, if you have some exclusive information that could help us solve this mystery then now would be a good time to share it. Lilly did say that we were free to speculate, didn't she?"

Hanako giggles a bit at the way I addressed her, but still looks to Lilly as if waiting for permission.

"Um... L-Lilly?"

"To be honest I already regret saying what I just said, but go ahead, Hanako."

After a moment of hesitation, Hanako turns to me.

"During the... open h-house day, you told me that one of Lilly's classmates was chosen to... represent their class, but he threw his support behind Lilly instead. I believe that Lilly... invited him f-for dinner the week after. Now I'm wondering if they're... the same person."

"You invited him for dinner at your place?"

Lilly nods.

"I did. My participation in our faculty's events wouldn't have been possible without his support. I wanted to show him that I appreciated his efforts, especially since he's not the most extroverted person in class, and we hadn't really interacted much with each other prior to the ordeal with the committee. So I extended him an invitation into my home and cooked him dinner. I felt it was a good idea to get to know him a little better because I was curious about something."

Hanako almost immediately gives an understanding nod.

"You... wanted to know why?"

"Heh, you wanted to know if his actions were motivated by pity or by something else."

Lilly gives us a sheepish smile.

"I hope you two don't think any less of me for this kind of thinking."

"Seeing how your school year started with more than a wee bit of awkwardness, I can't really blame you."

"Fortunately my fears turned out to be unfounded. We've been on fairly good terms ever since."

"And now you're gonna give him some hand-made chocolate."

"As I said, I'm still thinking about it."

"You said earlier that you didn't know whether it was the right time or not. You think it's too early? I recall that Hisao enrolled at Yamaku in June and by the time you guys came to Scotland he was already in a relationship with Hanako. Things went pretty quickly between the two of you, didn't they?"

Hanako blushes a bit, but then smiles and nods.

"We s-started d-dating only six weeks after w-we first met each other. I... really s-surprised myself with that."

Lilly grins.

"You surprised me too. But it's not about that. It's just... there's an eventful time coming up, Hanako. Within just a little less than two months, you'll probably be moving in. I want to help you get settled and take some time getting used to life with a roommate. It'll be a change for me too, though certainly not a bad one."

"Uh... Y-you really don't have to t-take me into account."

"Well, she does have a point, Hanako. Assuming you make it into the same university as Lilly, there's no guarantee of a smooth start. Things took some getting used to even for Lilly. If I were in your position, I'd appreciate the ability to have some peace and quiet in a private place with nobody but Lilly and maybe Hisao around. You don't know in advance whether things are gonna get stressful or not."

"B-But..."

"On the other hand, Lilly, it almost sounds like you're trying to keep some sort of schedule here. Which is pretty pointless because you can't plan stuff like this. Ever. Let's assume you go through with that Valentine gift. He might not reciprocate immediately or even not at all. He might bide his time to send you a gift of his own on White Day or he might decide that a month is too long a wait. He might decide to take things slowly and schedule a date or he might give you a confession on the spot. That's just a fraction of the scenarios that could take place. Which one is most likely in your opinion?"

Lilly looks sincerely flustered

"That's... difficult to say."

"Heh, get what I mean?"

"I think I do. But... even so, I'd like to think on it a little bit."

"Hmmm."

My gut tells me that this isn't all there is to it. Lilly seems more reluctant about this than I was expecting. Is it just because she wants to make sure she's available for Hanako at the start of the next school year. But even if Lilly were to get involved with someone I don't think it would really influence the amount of time and support she'd try to give Hanako. The guy would understand, wouldn't he? He'd better. After all, I don't think Lilly would be serious about someone who...

Right... that explains things.

"Lillian?"

"Ah... Mother, why are you addressing me with...?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"You can."

"What if you got involved with someone, and then it turned out that he and your upcoming roommate didn't mix very well with one another?"

"Ah..."

Hanako'd probably make an effort to keep her skittishness under control, but it took her quite some time to really warm up to Hiro and me. Probably over a year. I can imagine that not everyone would have the patience to deal with Hanako's awkwardness for months on end or longer. I see Lilly tensing up for just a moment. Looks like I hit the bullseye. Hanako looks very uncomfortable too.

"L-Lilly, you'd never... w-would you?"

"I really think we're getting ahead of ourselves."

"Yeah, we probably are, but I can imagine why it's tempting to just hold off the boat for the time being and not get too attached to someone before you know for certain he gets along well with your friends. It can save you a lot of heartache."

"I think the same is true for family, Mother."

Yeah...

I really wonder how things would have played out if Hiro and I had done things differently in the past.

"...I guess so."

I don't think I was entirely succesful at keeping the melancholic tone out of my voice as Lilly's ears perk up and a concerned frown appears on her face.
Last edited by Guest Poster on Sat Sep 20, 2014 6:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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