Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#54—'Night Terrors')

WORDS WORDS WORDS
User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3430
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (33—'Between') (20150804)

Post by brythain » Tue Aug 04, 2015 12:32 am

This is an odd one. It fits into the continuity of my 'After the Dream' mosaic, as in Hanako's arc.
However, it also introduces a character from somewhere else—and it has a distinctly unusual setting.



Between (T +6)

“W-what’s the surprise, husband?”

“Ah, it always makes me feel so embarrassed to think I have the honour of that title.”

This sounds incongruous, coming from the big man who has surprisingly manifested his father’s genes and grown broad and tall. His wife makes a clicking sound of disapproval.

“Tsk. You’re just evading the question, husband.”

“Always the sharp one, my wife.”

“I’m not embarrassed to be your w-wife.”

“Aha, I heard that hesitation!”

“It was n-not hesitation!”

Hideaki Hakamichi grins, and his wife of almost one year wipes the scowl from her face even as she punches him in the shoulder. He attempts to very gently grapple with her, but he’s always been afraid he’ll grip her too hard and bruise her flesh. She, on the other hand, has no such reservations these days—a far cry from the days when she felt awkward about being touched or touching another.

Their gentle, almost fluffy, tussle degenerates into a pillow fight. And then it degenerates further. At the end of everything, as they lie exhausted and naked and entangled with each other, Hanako Ikezawa closes her eyes and tries to hold on to one thought even as she strokes him gently: what is the secret he’s hiding from her?

*****

She’s always been curious. It’s not that she’s actively inquisitive about everything… well, perhaps some things inflame her curiosity more than others. That, and her natural inclination to hang back and wait for things to develop, eventually has brought her to this awkward situation.

She is standing in the corridor outside their bedroom in the house at Saitama. The large house sometimes seems woefully empty—firstly because her sister-in-law doesn’t live here, preferring the more austere environment of the school staff apartments, and secondly because her loud and forceful father-in-law is gone from this earth, leaving a void in the fabric of the world.

On the other side of the wall, she can just about overhear her husband. She hadn’t intended to spy on him, but his voice is loud and her soft footsteps have gone unheard. He seems to be talking to someone, and it’s an interesting conversation even though she can only hear his side.

“Well, that would be nice, Hana. Although we’ve never met before, my late father did mention your late grandfather and what an interesting character he was. Several times, if this one recalls correctly. Also, I have kept all your letters.

“What? Ah, sorry, this line is of poor quality.

“I see. Thank you very much for all the trouble you have gone through.

“I am sure it was of much more trouble than you admit!

“She won’t know until we’re in the air.

“Yes.

“I look forward to meeting you. It is so strange to be meeting someone you have known of for a long time, but never dreamt of encountering in real life.

“Yes, indeed. Go well.

“Ha, that much I learnt from my father.

“Thank you. Goodbye, Hana.”

He terminates the call. Hanako can imagine his large, firm finger swiping the tabphone into silent submission. She wonders what that was all about, and still feels guilty for not letting him know she was there. In her mind, she excuses herself a bit: she had been too slow to get to the bedroom door, and she had been taken unawares.

As the door opens, she quickly adopts a brisk walking pace and heads towards it. The big man steps into the corridor and sees her. His face lights up with genuine pleasure.

“Hana, wife! You’re home early today. Would you like to hang out in a café with your husband?”

She wants to know, more than ever, what secret he’s keeping, why he’s talking to someone else named ‘Hana’. But she can’t bring herself to be a journalist in her own home. So she musters her reservoirs of sweetness and smiles. “Of course I would, dear.”

*****

The printouts say “TOKYO-NRT to JO’BURG-JNB”. She looks at them in stark disbelief and wonders if she’s losing her mind. There are two persons travelling, in this strange alternate universe she’s discovered, unable to suppress her journalistic instincts altogether. Or maybe –he– has lost his mind, she thinks.

Who’s this ‘Hana’ person he keeps talking to? The documents have ‘IKEZAWAHANAKO’ on them, and ‘HAKAMICHIHIDEAKI’ as well. The characters in Japanese, the letters in English, they all tally. The flight, however, is a private jet, with ownership apparently European. ‘Van der Merwen’ is certainly not a Japanese company.

But she loves him, and she’s quite certain he loves her. He’s braved the blade of Jigoro Hakamichi and the scorn of his peers to win her. They have the deathbed blessing and the blessing of Hideaki’s formidable sister. The one unfulfilled wish she’s had is that there are three parents—now four—missing from their family unit, and the wish of ever seeing them will never come to pass.

So, to keep the familial peace, and because of love, Hanako Ikezawa keeps her counsel and does not confront her young man. Perhaps, she thinks, It’s meant to be a secret. It’s February 2030, and they’ve been married less than a year, which excuses much.

*****

“I l-love this. A l-lot.” Hanako tries to control her breathing, but with little success.

Larenty grins. The stocky animal specialist had once possessed honey-blond hair and a youthful, boyish look. Now he looks more severe in aspect, his faded hair and dark-rimmed spectacles giving him the air of very intense gamekeeper.

“Didn’t quite enjoy the ostrich, though, Mr Larenty.”

“Ah, just call me Shan. Ya, the ostrich, she’s flighty. Those ten seconds were good, but maybe a bit intense?”

“Y-yes.”

Unable to restrain himself further, Hideaki guffaws. He knows as the laughter leaves him that he’s made a big mistake, but it had been either that or a couple of broken ribs. Some things can’t be stopped easily.

His wife glares at him. She was enjoying the giraffe a lot more; the crazy ostrich running at what felt like 60 km/h had terrified her, and the dismount into Hideaki’s waiting arms had embarrassed her a lot. Public displays of affection in front of strangers have never quite been her thing.

Shandor Larenty instinctively raises a hand halfway to his mouth. “Well, birds aren’t very bright, they can’t appreciate a good natural rider the way a mammal can. You, Mrs Hakamichi, are light and flexible in the seat. Ridden a horse before?”

“Ah, not really. A friend of mine enjoys riding, and she tried to get me to join her once, but I wasn’t very good. Um, if I call you Shan, you can call me Hanako?”

Shan looks helplessly at Hideaki. “Bit confusing, that might be,” he mutters softly.

Hideaki grins and changes the subject. “Wife, that Warlock of Lilly’s is a huge black monster of the kind that haunts Scottish lochs. Only she can ride him, you know? And that’s because she can’t see where he’s taking her!”

“It’s not n-nice to make fun of your cousin.”

“Sorry. She doesn’t mind me, though.”

“She’s known you all your life.”

Hideaki looks up at his wife, perched on the tall animal’s back, smiling. “That’s true. But we haven’t seen her very much since we got married in Edinburgh!”

“Are you comfortable up there, Mrs Hakamichi?”

“Y-yes.”

“Another round with Mara?”

“Okay!”

Hideaki leans back against the stout wooden planking and watches his wife canter off on the back of Mara the giraffe, the grand old lady of Larenty’s small family of animal friends. Casually, he asks, “Is Madam van der Merwen coming down?”

“No, she isn’t. But she’ll meet you up at Timbavati. She just got in from Europe a couple of nights ago.”

*****

‘Madam van der Merwen’ is a bit of a surprise to Hanako. For a start, she isn’t a large foreign woman. She’s a delicately-featured not-quite-Caucasian lady with a pert little nose and a slightly rough edge to her social graces. She’s physically tough. She’s also around Hideaki’s age.

“Hey, I’m Hanna,” she announces casually, offering a firm handshake. Safari dress isn’t very formal, but their host is in an old turtleneck and naturally distressed clothing, with what looks like far too many pockets.

Catching sight of Hanako’s expression, Hanna van der Merwen tilts her head and offers a wry half-smile. “Ya, I’m a bit messy, me. Got an old-fashioned love of real film and heavy cameras. You Japanese make good ones. This here’s a Nikon, served me well many years.”

“May I have a look, Miss Hanna?”

“Miss Hanna? You’re talking to me, Mr Hakamichi?” Their host dissolves into a round of half-stifled laughter and then stops abruptly. “I’m just plain fokken Hanna, and I’ll call you Hideaki, and she’s—umm, no, I can’t call your wife Hana too, that would confuse everybody—Hanako it is.”

She looks shrewdly at Hanako. “I don’t really know your husband, but we were penpals for a long time. His father and my grandfather were business associates, and at one point Oupa Conrad was trying to get me hitched to your man. That’s because he thought of your late father-in-law as an honourable person. ‘Bit mad, maybe, but a boer’ is what Oupa used to say.”

Hanako nods. She’s not that comfortable with this personality, who feels at times like Shizune Hakamichi with Miki Miura’s voice. Yet Hanna van der Merwen seems like a genuine, direct sort of woman. It must have been Hanna whom Hideaki had been speaking with over the phone. Confusing indeed.

*****

The Hakamichis fall in love with Timbavati almost immediately. Shrewdly scene-setting, Hanna van der Merwen has ensured that they’d arrive after their leisurely five-hour drive just as the evening sun washes over the savanna bushland.

Timbavati Nature Reserve, to give these six hundred square kilometres of land their proper name, is not small. Over the years, it has absorbed smaller neighbouring tracts and even grown a little. However, it’s still dwarfed by Kruger National Park, against which it nestles boundary-free like a tiny child with its mother.

Fifteen tourist lodges are craftily hidden in the varied terrain. There’s a sixteenth—the old van der Merwen lodge once beloved by Hanna’s late grandfather.

“He loved his retreat much, Oupa Conrad did. He’d come here to be human, used to say that his business taught him the animals were more human than the humans.”

Hanako starts a little. Their host walks soundlessly when she chooses, even on creaky hardwood floors that have stood the test of many long years. She turns towards the strangely lilting voice.

Hanna smiles. She’s beginning to like the slightly skittish mannerisms of her penpal Hideaki’s wife. Mrs Hakamichi’s a beauty, clearly. The old scars all over the right side of her body and face are a pity, but you can get used to those. It’s the nature of the person that counts, just as it is with gemstones. The good stuff is always hidden inside.

Hideaki looks up from his guidebook. His gentle boom, so very different from the squeaky dryness of his adolescent voice, rumbles forth. “Hanna, the book says nothing about this lodge we’re in.”

“Heh, that’s as it should be. Lodge #16 is all it is. It has a mystery, a secret that I hope to show you later. I’ll leave you both to it, there’s plenty to discover, and people find the sunset hour romantic.”

She winks before she leaves, and Hideaki finds himself blushing a little. There’s something intensely animal about Hanna van der Merwen. She’s not voluptuous. She’s just very physical, very biological or something. He shakes his head like a wet dog, confounded by awkward chemistry.

“Bath before d-dinner, husband?”

He nods and smiles at his lovely Hanako. In the dancing light, the flowing water, and the aroma of old wood, they rediscover a certain kind of primitive pleasure in simple things. Yes, they are indeed a little late for dinner.

*****

It takes three days before the great mystery of Timbavati is revealed to them. The van der Merwens have never been people to force nature to reveal itself, except when it comes to mining and the things of the mine — minerals and seams of ancient rock. That is how they made their money, after all.

But Timbavati, Lodge #16 in particular, was designed to allow humans a tiny foothold, a pied-à-terre in a land not meant for humans. The old lodge was emplaced and designed as a hide, insulated from its surroundings for one special purpose. That purpose is occasionally fulfilled.

“Quiet. It’s going to happen soon, my friends.”

Nestled in the odd little balcony extension, Hanako feels her husband cradling her in his large arms. They’re looking out through thin slits in this tiny room. Pressed in next to them, Hanna’s disconcerting presence whispers in tones that seem made for stealthy hunting.

It’s twilight on the veldt again. And down a narrow defile they come, loping easily and almost insolently, as if to say, “Here we are, and that is all you need.”

They’re white, not a bleached and sterile shade, but almost cream, their skins like the ghosts of old parchment and dead light. White lions, six of them, six of the famous white lions of Timbavati.

Behind their suddenly inadequate timber slats, the Hakamichis hold their breath. For three days, they’ve eaten light and washed only in Timbavati water. Hanna’s told them it isn’t necessary, but it’s something that the van der Merwens have always done in this place.

In the ethereal glow of the last sunshine, the large flanking lioness turns. Although the big male in front looks superficially more threatening, Hideaki senses a sharp intelligence, and something odd about the female’s eyes.

Hanako, of course, knows what it is at once. “Like Natsume,” she says silently to herself. The white lioness has heterochromic eyes, one bronze-green and one almost dark blue at the edges, perhaps brownish-grey in most of the iris. The same fierce intelligence that glares from her old friend’s eyes is also in the eyes of the huge cat.

“Here I am, and I know you’re there, and I hardly care. But your presence is noted, human things.” This is what the giant cat seems to say, in her lazy but somehow perspicacious stare.

They have presence. They’re like the spirits of the place, come to solid, dangerous life. “The mystery of Timbavati,” Hanna breathes, the air barely stirring as they listen to her. “White lions, and that is Fahari, the great goddess of them all. You’re privileged that she’s looking at us. She normally wouldn’t bother. ‘Fahari’ means ‘glorious’ in Swahili. The little very white one at the end, with bright blue eyes? She has an amusing name — you’d call her ‘Lily’, like your cousin. The lilies bloom richly in this area, as you’ve seen.”

“How do they hunt? Aren’t they a bit… obvious?” mouths Hideaki, not really understanding why he’s asking this.

“If you mean how does a fokken white cat hunt in the green, well, they’re very good. I think they’re better than normal ones. They’re like ghosts. They come out of nowhere, and then you see the blood.”

*****

It comes out of nowhere, the question. It hits like an unexpected ghost striking from another world.

“How did you get… injured?” Hanna asks Hana. Hideaki winces inside.

There’s hesitation. The Hanako of 2030 is not the Hanako of twenty years before, but it doesn’t mean a complete lack of self-consciousness. Yet, the shared experience they’ve had of the lion-goddess has covered the quotidian normality of life with a divine presence. In such in-between places, contact can occur and transactions can be made that wouldn’t pass elsewhere.

“I was b-burnt. Badly, as a child.” Then, with greater confidence, “My mother died saving me. I can’t remember much of it, then there was the orphanage, and then Yamaku later on, and now… this husband of mine, my former classmate’s brother.”

Hanna’s life has been one of daring the uncomfortable and pushing at the boundaries of the impolitic and painful. It’s in every shot and scene she makes. But this has been a new thing for her too.

“I’m sorry. It’s just that you’re such an interesting person, and I thought Hideaki was bad enough.”

“I-interesting?” This thought is a novel one.

“Ya. These last few days? You’ve had experiences in parts of Europe I’ve never been to. Andorra, I always thought it’d be like Switzerland, but I never knew about the mountain temples and stuff like that. I should go there one day. And Edinburgh. They’re really called the Dunedain?”

“Ah, no. That’s Lilly’s, my friend’s, joke. It’s the old name for Edinburgh. Dun Edain, I think.” The unfamiliar syllables come more readily now. For some reason, Hanako feels comfortably uncomfortable.

“What’s it like to write about food and culture all the time? Maybe I could shoot some of it?”

“Later this year, in July, we’re doing Carcassonne. W-would you like to come along?”

“Your husband coming?” Hanna fires a cheeky grin in Hideaki’s direction.

“No.” Hanako is firm on this point. She has a professional life, and sometimes, it doesn’t coincide with his.

“Great! I’ll make my own arrangements and we’ll sort things out.”

“What the women do, Father used to say, is something you shouldn’t mess with,” says Hideaki solemnly.

His wife punches him firmly in the left deltoid. “He was right some of the time!”

Hanna van der Merwen watches them with amusement. They’re people of two worlds, maybe more. They’re in some ways a lot like her. Yet, there are a lot of hidden depths in the portrait that they make, and Hanna’s instincts are to plumb those depths, and capture every nuance in a frame of light and darkness.

In the room, the women come and go, says an old poem. Life is all about the women. Hideaki knows that even his late and sometimes misogynistic father kept that truth within him. Outside, a lion roars. Inside, you can’t tell if the lion is white or not, nor the colour of its eyes. But somewhere, walking between the worlds, along the lines of fire and shadow, the goddess of the savanna stalks.

=====
alt index
Last edited by brythain on Sat Feb 13, 2016 8:47 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3430
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (34—'Lanyard') (20150805)

Post by brythain » Wed Aug 05, 2015 11:32 pm

The word 'interlude' comes from mediaeval Latin meaning 'between plays'.
It was around the mid-1700s that it came to mean a pause in the action of a story.
I wasn't quite sure what this one was, but I think it does indeed qualify as an interlude.



Lanyard: An Interlude

Hanako paused, making sure to jot everything down on her legal pad. Her first real scoop since she had joined the Newspaper Club, and it had fallen right into her lap. Literally! She paused, wondering if her journalistic rights extended to taking pictures, but decided to snap a shot anyway for posterity’s sake. Hanako was content to walk away and report back to Natsume, until she remembered that a personal interview would probably serve her article well.

She looked up at the balcony. She looked back into her hand, as if afraid to see that what it had held had vanished. No, it was still there, the item she’d retrieved from where it had landed as she’d sat in the shadow of the Administration Block: a gold-threaded visitor’s lanyard, with a photograph and namecard. It was a rare find: such items were issued only to very important visitors.

She’d have to bring it straight back to the school office. She felt guilty about taking that shot now. Would the owner of the lanyard even deign to grant her an interview? Would her boyfriend kill her? It would be fun though; he'd never said much about this.

*****

Hisao was on his way back from class when his phone unexpectedly rang. He checked the caller ID and a familiar set of digits stared back at him. Oh gods, he’d forgotten to call home. Again! And for the second month in a row! He contemplated letting the call pass before slowly opening the doom-laden device, as if it were a bomb that needed to be diffused. With a tentative motion, he brought the phone up to his ear.

“Hello?” he said cautiously, as if approaching a lethal poison-spitting monster and trying to befriend it.

“Hicchan!” came his mother’s dramatically swooping voice. “Why haven’t you called home? Again!~ And for the second month in a row?! Are you so busy that your parents are beyond your concern? I know Father wants you to get into Todai, but as I keep reminding him, that Iwanako girl almost killed you and now you’re in an invalid school, and too much pressure will…”

“Mother?”

“… cause you to… Hicchan? Did you say something? Aww, you greeted me! Mother is happy!~”

Oh gods, Hisao whispered in his heart, she’s gone and reminded me again of why I’m so afraid of Misha. He steeled himself for further drama, but as he soon found out, such steel as he could forge in that short time would not be enough.

“Where are you, Mother?”

“Here, of course! At Yamaku! My second time here reminds me how nice a place it is!~”

“Here?” Oh no. Why? Why?!

“Yes! I liked it so much that I asked around and met this wonderful Hakamichi person and others and before I knew it, I was a board member! Isn’t that great, Hicchan?~”

“Mother! Why did you do that? I’m fine here, you don’t need to look after me.”

“Aw, Hicchan, don’t be like that. Mother only wants you to be happy. Besides, Hakamichi has a darling daughter, doesn’t speak very much, but she’s cute and she’s your age! I’ve invited her to join us for lunch!~”

Hisao buried his head in his hands. He already had a girlfriend. She wouldn't be happy to have Mother and Shizune—and probably Misha, damn it all—at the same table for lunch. His doom was upon him, and he knew it in that uniquely Japanese sense.

“Where exactly are you right now, Mother?”

He heard his mother sigh softly.

“Ah, Hicchan, I seem to have a slight problem. I seem to have lost my lanyard, how embarrassing!”

=====
alt index
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3430
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (35—'Courtyard') (20150812)

Post by brythain » Wed Aug 12, 2015 9:06 pm

I don't know why scenes from this continuity keep popping up in my head.
This is a sort of sequel to 'Lanyard', my previous post.



Courtyard: Another Interlude

Misha pouted like a lost puppy in front of Shizune. Still claiming to be ill and feverish, Shizune signed the universal sign for ‘get out of my room, I’m sick’. Misha slowly closed the door behind her, careful not to make too much noise.

Student government had some big announcements today, and now Misha would have to shoulder the burden of breaking one particular piece of news. Misha pulled a sugary iced coffee out of her bag and downed the whole drink in one cold, luxuriously long swallow, before starting towards the exit. It was going to be a long day.

It had all begun months ago, when Hisao’s mother had joined the school board. She had taken a liking to Shizune—or perhaps, Shizune’s father, but that was not something a responsible Student Councillor would speculate on—and worse, she absolutely adored Misha. This feeling was not reciprocated.

If only adults could behave like adults! Misha sighed to herself, as she self-consciously patted her helmet-like new hairdo. The moment she’d had that appalling realization of how similar Hisao’s mother was to her, had been the moment she’d decided never to grow up like Hisao’s mother. Mrs Nakai had ringlets. And drills. And a trill in her voice that made Misha feel absolutely wretched.

No more pink hair. Subdued brown would do. A tinge of fuchsia, perhaps, but that was the furthest she’d go for her own identity. Why was the world so unfair? Misha sucked on her tongue and wearily headed towards the school office. That’s when she noticed the crowds, and remembered what else was happening.

What an awful day! But what a great opportunity to get someone else to do something interesting! She allowed herself a single cheerful smile.

*****

Hisao ran over to the mass of students huddled around the board where the test scores were being posted. Of course, Lilly’s class would have their scores distributed directly, but for the rest of the students, it was a free for all to track down the digits that represented their scholastic aptitude for the year.

Hisao managed to find his scores without too much difficulty. He had a trio of high As in math, physics and chemistry. Further down, there was a nice A in world history—Yuuko would be happy. His eyes skipped to the bottom before zooming up again. He had an expected C in English, another C in Integrated Studies, and a miraculous C in Physical Education. Unfortunately, he also had a C in Japanese Classics, not much mitigated by a B in Japanese Language—tsk, his mother would be fuming.

Great. Just great. He then took a second look to try and find his girlfriend’s scores amidst the throng. Thank the gods, he thought to himself, that the university entrance exams were easier than the Yamaku Academy diploma.

Suddenly his spine stiffened as someone tugged at his sleeve. “Hicchan!~ I need you!~”

He was on the verge of replying, “Yes, mother?” when he realized that the voice was a little lower in pitch and altitude. “Hi, Misha!” emerged instead.

“It will be fuuuuun~, Hicchan! You’re still a Student Council member, right?~”

“Err, what do you mean, Misha?”

“You are authorized to make announcements, and it’s only right~ that you should make this one!”

“Which one? I have to meet Hanako in ten minutes!”

“This one, Hicchan!~” Misha grinned, shoving a yellow ‘announcement to be made’ form into his open hand.

“No, wait!” Hisao managed to blurt out. Even to himself, it sounded plaintive rather than commanding. “How about Shizune?”

“She’s indisposed, so you should do it! Bye, Hicchan!~” Misha laughed, freed of this burden and already elbowing her way through the crowd. Her own results were the last thing on her mind.

Hisao looked down at the announcement form, which had already been stamped with Shizune’s ‘Hakamichi’ emblem. It read: [The school’s valedictorian for academic year 2007/8 is Hanako Ikezawa. Graduation ceremony this year will be on Wednesday, 5 March, as planned. The student body is to be seated by 0930 and the event is expected to last approximately 90 minutes. In a departure from the usual ceremonial order, members of the board will be present on stage to honour the occasion.]

Dumbfounded, Hisao felt his heart skip a beat and his chest seize up for a mercifully brief moment. He felt a mixture of pride and anxiety at the thought that Hanako would have to make a speech. She's the valedictorian, not Shizune! However, he felt nothing but anxiety at the idea that his mother, and possibly Shizune’s father as well, would both be on stage with their eyes boring like gimlets into his girlfriend’s defenceless back. But it wasn't in his nature to be selfish—a small part of his brain whispered, What do you think Shizune is feeling like right now?

=====
alt index
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3430
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (36—'Cabin Fever') (20150821)

Post by brythain » Fri Aug 21, 2015 1:53 am

This is a tongue-in-cheek but nonetheless sincere tribute to our colleague dewelar on the conclusion of his masterpiece, Developments.


Cabin Fever

Hanako arrived at the tea-room only a few minutes after lunch, as usual. What was unusual for her was arriving alone—these days Hisao normally accompanied her. Today, he was in bed, afflicted by some sickness.

Hanako quietly crept into the seat across from Lilly. While the two had shared many tea-room lunches before Hisao had arrived, it was suddenly foreign to not have him there, almost as if the tranquil peace of the tea-room had evaporated like the scent of tea.

Lilly was the first to break the silence. She cleared her throat a little too loudly, as if feeling awkward. “How is Hisao doing?”

Unhappily, the other girl replied, “He’s s-still unwell. I think it’s the flu, but he tosses and turns and keeps muttering ‘cabin fever’. What’s ‘cabin fever’? I’ve never heard of it.”

*****

Hisao shivered as he tucked the folds of his jacket closer to his frame, hoping to shield his body from the biting cold wind. It hadn’t been the best idea to go outside in this weather, but the cabin fever had got to him. Hisao’d decided a walk in the cold would be a necessary evil. He’d been content to freeze by himself until he discovered the thing on the bench.

Was it a pile of clothes someone had left out by accident? He stamped his feet, then walked closer. A faint cloud appeared to hang over the dejected-looking pile, as if a miniature map of a dying nuclear plant had been made into a diorama.

The pile stirred. Hisao flinched a little, and then, impelled by curiosity, placed one hand on a likely spot. It was a large brown overcoat, he realized, with someone much smaller inside.

Much more cautiously, he attempted to see who lay within. The scent of whisky clawed gently at his nose as he brought his face closer. Gingerly, he peeled open the overcoat. You never knew, he thought, it might be Kenji waiting with a can of pepper-spray.

“Get your hands off me,” mumbled the body within, as the overcoat suddenly attempted to sit up.

“Argh!” Hisao jumped back in shock, his heart working overtime.

The overcoat fell open. The blonde girl inside wasn’t wearing very much. “Gods, it’s bloody freezing! Ow, my nipples. What the hell are you looking at?!”

The overcoat closed. The moment passed. Hisao fell, in slow motion, to the ground.

He had no idea how long he’d lain there. His eyes were closed, and all was darkness. He heard snatches of conversation, or perhaps, monologue.

“Don’t be dead.”

“Damn, if you died, my sister would be miserable.”

“Then again, she’s off to bloody Scotland, so better you died.”

“No, wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

“Wait, this is January, and we left in August.”

Mortified, Hisao opened his eyes. But, but… his mind told him, it’s only September!

There was nobody there.

*****

Back in the tea-room, the social temperature had given up all attempts to greenhouse itself and fallen back into the frost. The big question on Hanako’s mind was why Lilly had decided to come back from Scotland after all.

Perhaps, she thought, she’s come back to take Hisao away from me. Her face twitched at the idea. Inside, the sickening sense of losing something precious began to uncoil.

“Did you say something, Hanako?”

“I w-was just wondering about your plans, now that you’re b-back.”

Lilly sighed. She herself hadn’t clearly understood why she’d come back, except that it was clearly the right thing to do if one wanted not to be controlled by one’s eccentric and capricious parents all one’s life.

“Well, besides it being freezing in most of Scotland in January, there’s the sense of having abandoned my two best friends. I missed you both very much.”

“That’s n-nice to know.” And I bet I know which one you missed more. Hanako shut her eyes tight, silently scolding herself for thinking unworthy thoughts. But what if they were true?

*****

Hisao tossed and turned. Unbidden, she rose up in his dreams again. He’d never imagined Akira this naked before. Her abdominals were lean and hard, as his eyes panned up across her front. He tried to look her in the eyes and avoid all other distractions.

“Well, that is a pretty pickle,” she muttered, looking distastefully down at him. He muffled a shriek and covered his privates.

“W-why are you here, Akira?”

“I don’t know. This is your dream, not mine. Not mine at all. And if you have to dream of me stark naked except for some ribbons, you’re either very ill or you’ve been a very bad boy.”

“No, no…”

“Well, let me cut to the chase.”

The way she said ‘cut’ froze his marrow, and other essential parts of his anatomy. He stared at her, unable to respond.

“When you wake up for real, you’ll suddenly realize that my younger sister has decided to become an independent spirit. She’s back in Yamaku, a fact that hurled you into this pit of self-indulgent, self-induced, psychosomatic illness.”

This didn’t sound very much like Akira, but Hisao couldn’t have cared less. Lilly was back? Oh yes, Lilly was back. He let out a soft groan.

Akira nodded grimly. “You’ve been going out with Hanako, sort of, for a while. She’s become a much more open person, but you should be able to guess what might happen in the days ahead. Maybe.”

Things wouldn’t be the same again, Hisao realized. He and Lilly… Hanako and he… they’d had something. Different things. Similar things. He realized he was sweating.

“Yes, you’re a bit of a sweater, I’ve discovered. Anyway, there’s the legless wonder who keeps trying to get you fit, and the voiceless wonder who keeps trying to get you to do stuff. You’re in serious, serious trouble. And if you find Misha sitting in your room, whatever you do, do NOT comfort her.”

Suddenly his room felt even more claustrophobic. “Cabin fever,” Hisao muttered.

“Personally, I think the legless wonder is your best bet for a long and healthy life. By the way, prying into the private life of Satous is more trouble than it's worth.”

“Cabin fever,” Hisao muttered once more, desolately.

*****

“There he goes again,” whispered Hanako to Lilly. The two of them were in the school sickbay. Head Nurse Kaneshiro looked curiously at them and then shook his head.

“Well, best you both go off and get some rest. I’ll let you know when he’s well enough to talk. Meanwhile, we’ll just await further developments.”

=====
alt index
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
dewelar
Posts: 1220
Joined: Sun Jul 14, 2013 6:09 pm
Location: The Fifth Thing

Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (36—'Cabin Fever') (20150821)

Post by dewelar » Sat Aug 22, 2015 12:12 am

Heh...I am honestly not sure what to make of that :). I'm grasping a few pieces around the edges, but perhaps a good night's sleep will help me to delve more deeply. If nothing else, I appreciate the shout-out :wink:.

Now, back into hibernation for a bit longer...just need to kick this bear out of the cave...Wait, that's not Jigoro, is it?
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3430
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (36—'Cabin Fever') (20150821)

Post by brythain » Tue Sep 01, 2015 12:26 am

dewelar wrote:Heh...I am honestly not sure what to make of that :). I'm grasping a few pieces around the edges, but perhaps a good night's sleep will help me to delve more deeply. If nothing else, I appreciate the shout-out :wink:.

Now, back into hibernation for a bit longer...just need to kick this bear out of the cave...Wait, that's not Jigoro, is it?
No no, my Jigoro piece was much earlier. :D
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3430
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (37—'Course Selections') (20150901)

Post by brythain » Tue Sep 01, 2015 12:28 am

This one is odd. I think it must have been an attempt to write something for the second anniversary of the now moribund Yamaku Library thread.
I hope it comes back to life.



Course Selections

Emi glanced down at her schedule again in disbelief. When the career questionnaire had gone around, she’d figured it would be just another useless instrument aimed at putting up some numbers for show—stuff about the school's “graduate success rate” or something like that. Now, she’d apparently been signed up for Pirating 101. Best of all, it was going to start in about 15 minutes’ time.

She looked up at Nomiya-sensei in disbelief, then turned round to look at Rin. “Rin? Did you sign me up for this?”

“You weren’t around. And I’ve been practicing your signature with my toes. So I said to me, ‘What would Emi do?’ and I remembered you wanted to be a pirate. So I wrote down ‘Pirating’ and tried your signature out.”

“Aaaaaah! I was only joking!”

“There’s not been a lot of that recently. You’ve been all blue and not your favourite blue, more like blue when you’re too cold and your veins aren’t doing a good job.”

It was as if she’d been slapped. Emi felt her face crinkle up involuntarily. With some effort, she held back her tears and straightened her face out, blanked her expression. “Fine. I’ll go for that damn course. We’ll have words later, Rin Tezuka.”

“That would be nice, Emi. There’s not been a lot of that either, recently.”

*****

Yuuko bustled around, fine wisps of brown hair beginning to escape around the edges of her ears. She quickly ran her hands through her long tresses, wishing that she’d thought of bringing something to tie the mess up. The mess, she thought to herself, of my life, my work, my hair, my everything. She sighed and went back to placing signs on easels around the careers section and tutorial rooms attached to her beloved library.

She could feel her blood pressure building. It was why she’d studied at Yamaku. It was why she always referred to Yamaku as if it were some other place. Yuuko Shirakawa the Student had been a very different person from Yuuko Shirakawa the Librarian. She’d had short hair then. She’d had less mess then.

She knocked over a stack of books and felt like crying. But she was used to not crying when she needed to not be crying. She just kept everything inside, in the mess.

“Aaaaaah!” she yelped, as a bony finger poked her in the shoulder gently.

“Oh! I’m so apology making. I am not polite. Questioning if honourable person knows where Miss Shirakawa?” said the young man with darkly golden hair.

His moustache seemed to twitch a bit, as if eager to laugh along with his eyes and lips, and yet afraid to join in. Yuuko could empathize with that, if that was what it really was.

“Ah, you are English? Related to Miss Satou, maybe?” His Japanese was terrible, and Yuuko suspected her English was probably better than that. “I am Miss Shirakawa.”

“Ah, Shirakawa-san!” He bowed deeply and gracefully. “I am humble instructor of course 1-0-1 on Mental Possession Wrongdoing, name is Robotosu. No connection to anyone here, very sorry.”

She was sure he was mistaken about the course title, but automatically returned his bow, ashamed that she hadn’t bowed first. “Robotosu-san?” «I can speak a little English if you prefer?»

«That’s very kind of you! The course I’m supposed to be facilitating is Intellectual Property Misdemeanours 101. They call it the Piracy Course, I hear?»

She suddenly thought of several things at once. A quick glance at one of the namelists in her clipboard made it a certainty.

«Mr Roberts, can I, um, tell you more about Yamaku and its student body?»

«That would be wonderful! But you can call me Wesley» he replied, looking at her with eyes full of mystery.

«One of our students, Miss Ibarazaki, is a big fan of yours» said Yuuko shyly. «Also, I have a copy of Mr Goldman’s book, can you please autograph it for me?»

«Oh, most assuredly!» He smiled at her, and she smiled back.

*****

My head is throbbing, and I have a massive hangover when I wake up. Oh God, what did I drink last night? A quick glance at the bottle of Scotch in my hand answers that question pretty quickly. A second glance around the room reveals that I am most certainly not in my room, and by the look of it, not anywhere near Yamaku either. As I get up to wash my face, I see a note with neat handwriting telling me not to forget my pills, with my rainbow cocktail of drugs nestled in the folds of the napkin.

I look around. A man must be careful, waking up in a strange place. This appears to be a house. It is a very strange room I am in, indeed. It seems to be a feminist’s room, full of feminist propaganda posters, repurposed to be a young child’s room, and then allowed to age. Very funny. I will kill whoever did this to me.

Suddenly there is a knock on the door. The bastards are here to get me? Well, Kenji Setou will go down fighting!

“Aaaaaah. Come in,” I snarl softly, arming myself with a bolster and a fountain pen.

The door opens, but I won’t be lured into charging out. At least here I am in a defensible position, and I don’t know what is outside.

What! They send this mockery of a person to deal with me? It is a young boy, maybe ten or twelve years old, with his hair tied up in ribbons like a girl. He has inappropriately bright clothing, I think at first, but actually his clothes are the same colours as my scarf. My scarf! Thank God I still have it with me. It has steel wire in it and can be used as a weapon in times of trouble.

“Setou-san? You need to be ready in ten minutes for your leadership session with Hakamichi-sensei.”

“Leadership? Session?”

“Yes. You were signed up for ‘Leadership 101: The Japanese Way of Manhood’, by your school’s career counselling department.”

“I signed nothing! I do not put my name down where just anybody can see it!”

“I have here a copy of the document you signed. Please be down in eight minutes. Hakamichi-sensei does not allow lateness. He trusts that you will be manly enough.”

“I am manly enough, damn it!”

The boy looks at me quizzically, nods silently, and leaves. He shuts the door behind him gently too. Very polite. But very odd. And this Hakamichi-sensei? He sounds like a tough guy. Ha. Maybe I will learn something.

I grit my teeth and put myself in order. ‘The Japanese Way of Manhood’? We’ll see about that. At least it’s not some fake Western ‘Japanese Way of Sisterhood’ like that horrible ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’.

*****

Is this what being a pirate is all about? So cool! So handsome! Oh go slap yourself, Ibarazaki, thought Emi to herself. This is ridiculous. Now I want to be a lawyer. Emi Ibarazaki, Ace Attorney. It sounds nice!

She looked at Mr Roberts’s team. “But it’s inconceivable,” she whispered to herself. Next to her, Rin stirred.

“ ‘You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means’— that’s what the old guy, Montoya, said. I like these people. They say things I’ve always wanted to say but I never knew how to say.”

Emi wrinkled her nose at her friend. “Right. Now shush, Wesley’s talking again.”

*****

Across Yamaku, little knots of seniors had formed during the lunch break. They were all avidly discussing the crazy new careers initiative. Somehow, jumpy and boring little Miss Shirakawa had come up with a whole bunch of interesting courses and course facilitators out of nowhere. Some of those courses were even being held off-campus, it was rumoured.

Maybe there was something to be said for libraries after all, most of the students concluded. You never knew what might happen in a place made for storing and ordering the ideas in people’s heads.

*****

“Again, boy! Come at me with the blade like that! It is supposed to follow through, to stick to your enemy, not stick in your enemy! You are not one of those feminist fencers, you are a superior samurai! It’s a cutting blade, not a fishing rod!”

Kenji set his face grimly and nodded. Yes, he was indeed learning a lot. He would have to buy a Hawaiian shirt and learn to write his own biography.

All the sadness of the last semester had been burnt away. For the first time in months the friend he’d had, who’d fallen off the roof to his death, had been moved to one side of his mind. There’d be time for that later. In this moment, he had to be a man.

“Yes, sensei,” he barked. “I understand, sensei!”

“Good, good. For a blind cripple, you are picking it up well. You should meet my niece. She’s deadly even though she’s a blind feminist fencer who uses a sword-stick that’s more like a long needle.”

*****

Deep in a room within the Yamaku administration office, Principal Yamamoto sat behind his heavy old desk. It had been a difficult time for the school. In a school like this, sure, you expected some casualties. But drinking and dying from it? Unheard of. Never to be repeated. A terrible and dishonourable thing.

He listened to what the man on the other end of the line had to say. Nodding in sympathy, he framed a reply: “Yes, Nakai-san. We are indeed thankful for your very generous donation. Your son’s legacy will live on. We have dedicated the new careers education programme to his memory, and we have been using the funding to attract high-quality instructors and facilitators. We regret your loss deeply, again. We are grateful that you have allowed your son’s future to be shared with the friends of his final days, so that they also can have a better future.”

He paused, listening to the melancholic voice of the unfortunate boy’s father. What a gift, and the gods knew how undeserved it was.

“Yes,” he continued. “It is a priceless gift you have given to us. It will not be used irresponsibly. Thank you once more, Nakai-san. Thank you.”

=====
alt index
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
Valjean Lafitte
Posts: 363
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2014 6:44 am

Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (37—'Course Selections') (2015090

Post by Valjean Lafitte » Tue Sep 01, 2015 7:17 am

Brythain, you magnificent crazy bastard, I read the above story on the bus ride home from work a while ago and it really put a huge smile on my face. Thanks for brightening my morning. :)

The funny thing is, as soon as he said his name was Wesley, I actually imagined him looking like that Wesley, yet didn't make the Wesley + Roberts + piracy connection! Likewise, the Goldman reference went straight over my head, despite being a huge fan of The Princess Bride. Oh, and the thought of Emi becoming lawyer cracks me up for some reason, even moreso than the idea of her becoming an actual pirate. :lol:
"I wonder what is it about the rain?"
"Everything."

User avatar
dewelar
Posts: 1220
Joined: Sun Jul 14, 2013 6:09 pm
Location: The Fifth Thing

Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (37—'Course Selections') (2015090

Post by dewelar » Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:14 pm

This was fun. At first, I was trying to figure out where Yamaku got the money to hire a robot teacher, but it became pretty obvious quickly :). Also, for some reason, the last section brought this song to mind.
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3430
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (37—'Course Selections') (2015090

Post by brythain » Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:27 pm

Valjean Lafitte wrote:Brythain, you magnificent crazy bastard, I read the above story on the bus ride home from work a while ago and it really put a huge smile on my face. Thanks for brightening my morning. :)
SPOILERS
Haha, I'm so glad. I had fun writing it, since I'm a fan of that particular book and movie too!
dewelar wrote:This was fun. At first, I was trying to figure out where Yamaku got the money to hire a robot teacher, but it became pretty obvious quickly :). Also, for some reason, the last section brought this song to mind.
Oh that's a terrible, terrible, terrible song (hey!) / It's so very wrong, very wrong, very wrong (hey!) :D

I actually had a few more cameos in mind, but I didn't want to make this into 'After The Fall' (name already taken, so sad)... :lol:
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
Skeeve
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2015 1:47 pm
Location: Southwestern East Canadaland

Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (37—'Course Selections') (2015090

Post by Skeeve » Thu Sep 03, 2015 11:57 am

Is it a bad thing that I really *really* want to take both of those classes?

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3430
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (37—'Course Selections') (2015090

Post by brythain » Fri Sep 04, 2015 12:09 pm

Skeeve wrote:Is it a bad thing that I really *really* want to take both of those classes?
The funny thing is that I based both those classes on classes I've actually attended. :D
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3430
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (38—'Thinking') (20150910)

Post by brythain » Thu Sep 10, 2015 4:41 am

One of the evening scenes from the original KS game always gets to me.
You might guess which one after reading this.



Thinking

Rin slowly walked towards the Thinking Tree so that she could clear her mind. It had been one of those weeks again, when everyone seemed to want to talk to her about something. As Rin drew closer, she could make out the silhouette of another human sprawled against the tree. Rin frowned: she’d come to get away from people, not to talk to more of them. In her normal nonchalant way, she plucked up what others might’ve considered courage and decided she hadn’t walked this entire way just to head back.

It was The Boy, she saw, as the half-light of evening finally allowed her to sketch the purple outline of his face. He seemed oddly calm, his slow, soft breathing almost mesmerizing to watch.

Even closer, she realized he was muttering something to himself. Talking in his sleep. Rin frowned again: you either talked or you slept—it was odd and not very nice to do both at the same time. Not unknown either, but, hmm, perhaps worthy of collecting.

She bent over quietly to listen, and then folded herself gracefully into a kind of squatting position, before delicately curling her body into what a casual onlooker might have mistaken for an armless Buddha. The ground felt cold beneath her, but firm and dry. That would be good: fewer things to clean up. Or it might be bad: fewer interesting colours to examine.

Softly, he said, “Damn feminists. All of them. School’s full of them.”

Rin thought he sounded very, very tired. She herself made no noise as she adjusted her sitting position.

“What’s a man supposed to do? What can I do? Blind bitches and assassin fembots. Can’t fight forever.”

Silently, a single tear welled up at the corner of his eye and escaped down his face. It left a trail of phosphorescence, like a slug.

“Can’t trust my neighbour, he’s virtually married to the feminist dictator. Can’t trust anyone.”

How sad. Rin knew how it was to have to trust people. She trusted Emi to help her with certain unmentionable things, for example. But if you couldn’t trust anyone, that couldn’t be good. She sighed as quietly as she could.

“Except Tezuka. He’s a great guy. Doesn’t talk much, always sounds sensible. Managed to infiltrate the enemy base too.”

What? Rin found herself smiling, although she didn’t know why. Very gently, again not knowing why, she touched her lips to his cheek. He smelt of simple things: food, musk, an unidentifiable scent.

Noiselessly, she got up. Enough thinking for the day, she thought to herself. Time to go do something about tomorrow. And, of course, The Boy.

=====
alt index
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3430
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (39—'Reflecting') (20150917)

Post by brythain » Thu Sep 17, 2015 12:37 am

Sometimes, a cat is just a cat. Sometimes, Rin sees things the rest of us wouldn't.


Reflecting

Hisao shouldered the heavy bag laden with an additional student’s homework. Even though his girlfriend was ill, the work had to get done at some point. Plus, Hisao had a little surprise planned for the unlucky girl as well, in order to brighten her mood. Hisao grabbed the bento lunch in one hand and clutched the bannister with the other as he walked up the stairs. Then he paused in front of her door before knocking.

*****

Rin stared at the orange cat with emerald eyes that mirrored her own. Rin blinked, and the cat blinked back. What a cute cat, she thought. Although I’m not sure if ‘cute’ means ‘Emi-ish’ or something different.

Rin plopped herself down on the pavement and continued to watch the cat. The cat cocked his head, so Rin cocked her head back. The cat got up and left, so Rin got up and followed right behind.

Left behind, right behind. Rin wondered at those words. They sounded kind of half-assed to her. The cat ambled on. Rin followed.

*****

Something made Hisao uneasy. Again, he withheld his hand. He frowned, and carefully placed his ear against the door. He could barely make out the sounds coming from within.

Bit by bit, he made out some words. His girlfriend seemed to be moaning.

“Lost, all lost, dammit Hisao I never should’ve trusted you. Dad, where are you? Mom? I can’t do this anymore!”

He lurched back from the door. Surely he hadn’t heard that right?

*****

She wasn’t sure where she was. The cat had led her at a sedate pace through quiet neighbourhoods. Then it had hopped on a bus. Rin had been surprised, but she’d followed it anyway. The bus driver had merely ignored the cat, but he’d given her a friendly smile when he’d noticed the Yamaku Academy student card on her lanyard.

Now the cat sat licking its paws, unconcerned and seemingly content to appreciate the warmth of the bus floor. Rin sat in the nearest seat, watching the light play across the stripy brown markings that streaked across the orangeness of the animal.

Occasionally, the cat looked up at her with its big green eyes. Then it would return to its grooming and preening. Rin found that amusing.

*****

Very cautiously, Hisao reached out again for the door handle. He’d heard somewhere that loud noises could shock dreamers and give them palpitations, so he’d decided not to knock. There was near-silence coming from the room, and he was getting worried. He could barely make out soft mumbling, and the occasional weak moan.

*****

The cat licked its tail a little, then got off the bus. Rin looked around, having completely forgotten where she’d been. The autumn leaves were falling. She reached for one of them, remembering she’d once tasted — or painted, she could never remember which — a deep-fried maple leaf.

The leaf was orange. So was the cat. Perhaps this was an autumn cat. An akineko, or somesuch. Rin smiled; she wasn’t sure why, but it felt right.

The cat walked past stern Mr Ishikara at the gate. The gatekeeper said nothing. He remotely unlocked the pedestrian gate for Rin, but ignored the cat.

Rin smiled at Ishikara-san, eliciting a puzzled frown, or perhaps only a forehead-wrinkle of perplexity. She didn’t care. Things were coming together.

The cat stopped, sniffed, kicked at a small pebble, and turned towards Rin’s dorm. More autumn leaves whispered across the path, blown by a gentle breeze. The sky wasn’t completely blue, but blue enough for late autumn, Rin followed, happy to be led by somebody who knew where it (he? she?) was going.

In the distance, she thought she saw one of her acquaintances make the crossing from the men’s block to the ladies’ block. Hisao Nakai, that was his name. He seemed to be carrying a heavy burden. Perhaps books, probably his girlfriend’s homework. She smiled again. Cats never carried such baggage.

*****

Hisao tightened his grip and pulled down on the handle. But before he could nudge the door open, he heard a low female voice whisper, “I wouldn’t do that, if I were you. But I’m not you, so I might. Which doesn’t make sense.”

He let go of the handle, embarrassed to be caught doing something so suspicious in the ladies’ dorms. “Er, hello, Rin.”

She let out a peculiar sound. Except that it wasn’t her sound, but something that came from behind her leg. He looked down and saw a little orange cat with a blue collar. It had big green eyes, of a very familiar shade.

“Step away from the door, Hisao. This cat means business.”

The words sounded odd, coming from Rin Tezuka. Hisao hesitated, then stepped back. The cat strolled over, sniffed at him, then sat down and looked up expectantly.

“Rin? What does your cat want?” Hisao had never known what to do with cats. He didn’t mind them; he only found them mysterious.

“Not my cat. I think it wants to know what you’re doing hovering outside the door to Emi’s room. Even a helicopter couldn’t do that they way you’re doing it.”

Aiming to not startle the cat, Hisao knelt and looked into its eyes. It blinked lazily, then sniffed at the bento box. Not wanting Emi’s lunch to be contaminated by cat saliva, he moved the box away. The cat withdrew, looking disappointed and perhaps a little insulted. It lifted a paw and batted at the box.

Hisao stood up. “There, Rin. It knows what I’m here for.”

“That’s interesting. Do you know what you’re here for?”

“I’m passing Emi her homework and her lunch. I made it for her myself.”

The cat looked interested. It turned to look at Rin.

Hisao watched as Rin stared back at the cat. The cat opened its jaws and yawned, then made an odd chirruping sound. Rin frowned at it, then stopped scowling and laughed.

“Ah. How interesting.” She shook her head violently, as if to dislodge apples from a tree.

“What?” asked Hisao.

“Emi’s not in.”

“Yes, she is. I can hear her.”

“Well, she’s not. But you should open the door now. She’s hungry.”

There was something very strange about this whole thing. Hisao shook his head slowly, confused, and opened the door a few inches.

The cat bounded into the room. Rin chuckled. Hisao jumped.

“Go in,” said Rin, her eyes still sparkling with good humour. “Emi’s home now.”

Hisao nodded uncertainly and opened the door. The cat was nowhere to be seen.

Emi sat up in the bed and looked at him, rubbing her eyes and yawning. Her tousled hair made her look more adorable than ever, Hisao thought.

“Hi,” she said, looking at him blearily. “Thanks for bringing me my lunch and the homework.”

Hisao’s jaw dropped open a little. “How’d you know I’d brought you lunch?”

“Didn’t you tell me?”

“No. I don’t think so…?”

“Whatever it is, it smells nice. Be a good boy and bring it over.”

He grinned and moved towards her. For the first time, he realized how catlike the green of her eyes was. Rubbish, he told himself. It’s only because I’ve just seen a cat who looked like that. I wonder where it went.

“Did you see a cat enter the room ahead of me?” he asked.

Behind him, in the corridor, Rin laughed as if she’d just heard the most entertaining joke ever.

=====
alt index
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
Hesmiyu
Posts: 177
Joined: Wed Jun 17, 2015 7:07 am
Location: England, United Kingdom, British Isles, Europe, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy

Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (39—'Reflecting') (20150917)

Post by Hesmiyu » Thu Sep 17, 2015 3:59 am

Reading the bit before the story made me think of when neo saw the deja vu cat in The Matrix. Didn't expect Emi to be an animagus. What the cats back paws be like?
The line below is false.
The line above is true.

Being disabled is just differently abled differently labelled.

My art: http://ks.renai.us/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=10190
Swim story(Currently 11 chapters long) http://ks.renai.us/viewtopic.php?f=52&t=10221

Post Reply