Iwanako: Mean Time to Breakdown {updated 2015-4-1}

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Shaztrot
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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) {u 3/06/2

Post by Shaztrot » Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:33 pm

This is great. I've always wondered why Iwanako doesn't get more attention.

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Leaty
Posts: 515
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Location: Exile

Scene Seven

Post by Leaty » Fri May 03, 2013 2:42 pm

We're doing this, we're making this happen. Thanks to griffon8 for editing this chapter for me.
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Grazing with the Herd

Quarter to six…

Queer dreams. Dreamt I was turned into a computer program and made to sing songs for people sitting in small, humid rooms. Also everybody lived in the everglades? I don’t even know…

I feel like a corpse… Waking up at this time used to be second nature. Now it’s a crime against nature.

Tumbling unceremoniously out of bed, I gingerly stand up and stretch my arms, yawning so widely that the corners of my lips ache, and then I pull a fluffy pink towel from the top shelf of my closet and drift towards the showers. The water is mercifully hot, and I probably spend ten to fifteen minutes just standing there, soaking, like uncooked pasta waiting to soften, before shampooing my hair with the premium bathing products my mother purchased for me. This is the first time I’ve used them; they’re violet-scented, just like my perfume. I dry off, spending another ten minutes blow-drying my hair, and skulk back to my room to get dressed for the day.

My old, reliable school uniform comes on almost effortlessly, though later on I’m going to want to get it starched and pressed. I put on my jewelry—earrings, bracelet, claddagh ring—then slip on my black ballet flats, walking over to the mirror to apply my makeup—nothing outrageous, just foundation, mascara, and lip gloss. I fret a little over my hair, wondering what I’m going to do with it today, before deciding on a same-side lace braid that takes three tries to get right, but looks good enough to justify the effort. As a final touch, I splash myself lightly with perfume, though my school uniform already smells of it, and check my reflection one last time before deciding I’m satisfied.

Then I have to frown. Why am I doing this? Who is this for?

Once, I might have said “for my mother”. She’s always been my role model, though I could never be as vivacious as she is. More recently, I might have said—privately—“for Hisao”.

In those days, before my world ended, I wanted nothing more than for Hisao to notice me. Even before I found the courage inside myself to confess my feelings for him, feelings I had kept inside for months prior to that day in the snow, if he would just smile at me, if he’d just say “Good morning, Iwanako”, when I walked into homeroom, it was… that was enough.

It sounds ridiculous in hindsight, but we never really spoke to each other. I was much too shy to engage him in conversation, especially with him always surrounded by his friends. If it hadn’t been for the encouragement of one of our mutual friends, Mai, I might never have had the strength of will to write him that letter. And then… what? Would I still be there right now, waiting for my ruined heart to go off like a ticking time bomb? Still sitting in class, hoping he’d smile to me as he walked by? I don’t know. Probably.

I suppose I still fret over my appearance, even though I seem to be somewhat overdressed compared to my classmates, for myself, now. Boys and confessions in the snow are a thing of the past; it’s just me now, and I don’t want to look as pathetic and lonely as I usually feel.

Or maybe that's a flimsy justification for barefaced narcissism. Lord knows it wouldn't make me all that different from the rest of my family.

I take my morning dose of medication, washing it down with a swig of Lipovitan. (I probably shouldn’t do that, but… nobody said I couldn’t.) I’m about to walk to class when I notice a piece of cloth on the floor by my closet; it must have fallen from the top shelf when I took a towel.

I bend down to inspect it; I’ve never seen it before. Then I realize, to my surprise, that it’s a new bathing suit. Yet another vaguely umbilical gift from my mother. It’s a sleek one-piece, high-necked, with a deep plunge in the back. Mostly black, but with a pink stripe above the bust. Practical yet still a little girly. More importantly, it’s ideal for covering up my scar without making me look like an aquatic nun.

She must have known about the pool here and wanted me to use it… I should at least check it out. Not like I have any other plans for today.
Image
The cafeteria has some rice balls with seasoned nori that are wholly inoffensive, so I help myself to a couple before class. I don’t see anyone I know, so, after washing them down with the last of my energy drink, I make my way to the classroom. I’m still getting stares from people, on account of my uniform, but at least I know I look my best. I try to force myself to stand a little straighter, to ignore the other students, but it’s surprising; you’d think most of them would know better than to gape at people.

Shizune and Misha are already there when I walk in to take my seat. They’re in the middle of a conversation, but Misha turns to me happily as I sit down.

“Good morning, Iwacchan~!”

“Good morning, Misha,” I say, giving her a tired smile. She’s as loud as ever, but it’s kind of nice to be greeted so enthusiastically. She goes back to focusing on Shizune, though, who merely nods at me in passing.

Molly shows up a few minutes later, accompanied by a few classmates I haven’t formally met yet. We exchange greetings as she takes her seat.

I’m reminded again of her hasty departure yesterday afternoon, and I’m mulling over the best way to ask her about it when Mutou finally enters the room and starts class, handing out the morning’s assignments. Another group activity, like yesterday.

Am I going to work with Shizune and Misha again? I turn to them, but Misha’s has her back to me and Shizune seems to be avoiding my gaze.

I don’t get a word in before Mutou returns to the teacher’s desk and gestures over to me. “Ah, Daidouji, would you come over here for a moment?”

I look up at him, curiously, before nodding and doing as he says. What could this be about? The other students are mostly chatting amongst themselves, but now a few of them are glancing over at me curiously. Apparently conscious of this, he speaks in a low voice.

“What did you think of yesterday’s assignment?”

I blink, surprised at the unexpected question. “I’m sorry?”

“Was it too difficult? Too easy?”

I don’t know what to say for a moment, until I notice Shizune in my peripheral vision, staring at us intently, and I instantly know what this is all about. Drat.

At some point, the class rep tattled on me, taking her troubles about my lackluster performance yesterday directly to Mutou. Perhaps she spoke to him as early as after lunch. Now, he’s concerned.

I might have had this subject under control in a few days under my own power, or I might not have, but it was pretty bold of Hakamichi to take matters into her own hands without consulting me. I almost shoot her a dirty look, but I stop myself at the last minute and glare at a pencil case instead.

“Err, I don’t know that it was hard,” I say, my small voice delicately holding back a storm of emotion, “but I’m a little out of practice, I think. This was never my strongest subject…”

Mutou nods, as though that was the answer he was expecting.

“You may have missed a lot of important material,” he sighs. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to assist you with today’s assignment, to gauge where you’re at. I wouldn’t want you to be lost in the woods when exams roll around. You can bring your chair up to my desk.”

“Um, yes,” I say, mentally gritting my teeth. I move to my desk to get it, clumsily maneuvering it to the front through the maze of feet and desks. Misha and Shizune are already looking over the assignment; the latter briefly meets my eyes as I pass, giving me an expression as if to say, ‘What? Blame yourself.’

I back down from her wordless challenge, resignedly passing to the front of the room. I’m not daring enough to make a big deal out of this. I place my chair beside Mutou’s desk, setting the assignment on the surface in front of me.

“All right,” he says, gesturing to the top of the paper. “Can you show me how you would answer this?”
Image
Well, that could have gone better.

The good news is that, after a great deal of arm-twisting on Mutou’s part, we were able to confirm that I haven’t completely forgotten everything I’ve ever learned in science. The bad news is that, in order to get even a passing grade on the upcoming exams, I would have to spend the lion’s share of my free time mainlining the last quarter’s worth of material and assignments. I’m trying to envision a scenario where putting myself through such an ordeal would be worth it, but my imagination is failing me.

I suppose the best argument in favor of trying in earnest to pass the exams is that I’ve never failed them before, and I don’t know if I’m emotionally prepared for whatever doing so would mean. There are many people, surely, who would see intentionally giving up on the exams as a very passive or very lazy suicide attempt. Exams are everything; without them, you're just an unremarkable worker ant.

But, faced with a shortened lifespan, is it better to carry on as normal, or should one let go of their inhibitions and live like it’s the end of the world? I don’t know if I ever could, but the idea of throwing my life away reading dry passages about wave-particle duality is painful to contemplate.

“Iwanako, you still with us?”

I blink, torn from my sullen musings by the sound of my name. Molly is blinking at me from across the lunch table, her eyebrow arched with curiosity. To my considerable relief, she invited me to sit with her and her friends at lunchtime today, saving me from another silent lunch break with Shizune, but my unfamiliarity with the other students and the back-and-forth nature of the group conversation has made it something embarrassingly easy to withdraw from.

“Y, yes,” I say, softly. “Sorry, I was lost in thought.”

Molly smiles. “Well, penny for your thoughts, then?”

“Err… It’s nothing, really,” I lie. I’m not ready to say what’s on my mind, especially not in a public setting.

She pauses, still looking over at me, before her eyebrows flicker and she takes on a wan expression. “You’re not still brooding about Shizune’s… whole thing this morning, are you?”
I feel my face blanch at the mention of the class rep. “Wh, what do you mean?”
I know exactly what she means, of course, but it’s troubling that Molly picked up on it so easily—and that she’s bringing it up, here, in front of everybody. Though my expression is guarded, I know I’m beginning to blush.

“Come on; everyone here’s known Shizune for at least two years now,” she says, rolling her eyes wryly. “It was pretty obvious what she did to bug you.”

The other classmates nod knowingly, making me redden even further. Were they watching me the whole time? I don’t want to talk about this with people I hardly know. Why are you doing this to me, Molly?

“It’s… it’s fine,” I stammer nervously. “The class representative… has a responsibility to report any problems a student is having with the subject to the teacher. It’s what, what I would have done, in her position.” I don’t really believe my own words, but if it’ll move the topic of discussion away from me, I’ll say anything.

Molly’s chocolate eyes fix me with a dubious look, but I steel my own gaze, and eventually she relents. “Fine,” she says tentatively. “I was just going to say, don’t worry about her. She’s the same with everyone.”

Doesn’t sound like she cares much for Shizune, then, which only reinforces my suspicions that the class representative isn’t well-liked. I glance over to the table I sat at yesterday, where Shizune and Misha are, again, sitting alone, signing to each other. It occurs to me that they can’t be talking about anything particularly interesting or gossip-worthy, since a lot of people in the cafeteria could probably eavesdrop on them just by watching. I can probably afford to dismiss the nagging feeling that they’re chatting about me. Probably.

“Thanks,” I say, finally. “I haven’t been thinking about it, really. What were we talking about, again?”

She blinks at me before answering. “The Festival. I asked you if you were going to help out with it.”

Huh? I cock my head at her in confusion. “Sorry, what?”

“You don’t know about the Yamaku Festival?”

I shake my head. “Apparently not. That’s coming up?”

“Err, yeah. It’s on Sunday. You haven’t heard people talking about it?”

I shake my head wordlessly. Other than Misha and Momomi, I really didn’t speak to anybody yesterday. I'm not that talkative on the best of days, and yesterday...

“Well, anyway,” Molly continues, “it’s a lot of fun… we set up a lot of games and food stands and stuff. The school, I mean. Most of us help out putting it together, or we run the stalls, or whatever.”

I nod as I take in the new information, rubbing my chin contemplatively. A festival, huh? I’m not able to easily decide whether or not I’m in the mood for one. It sounds a little… bombastic for my liking, and who would I go with? On the other hand, these opportunities are fairly rare, and if there’s a chance I could have a good time, I don’t think I can afford to pass up on it in my present state of mind.

“What are you doing for the festival?”

She shrugs. “My family is coming down to see me, so I’m not helping out much this year. I volunteered to help clean up afterward, and that’s pretty much it.”

I nod, not having much to say to that. So far, Molly’s the girl I’m most comfortable with at this school, if not quite a full-fledged friend, but if she’s going to spend that day with her family, I’ll have to go to the festival with somebody else.

Going alone is an option, I guess, but it’s not a very good one—these sorts of convivial events are meant to be spent socializing with friends, not aimlessly drifting around by yourself. Inviting my mother to the festival springs to mind, but I’d have to give her notice early, and such an action reeks of failure. Yes, mother, sorry, I can’t even convince other people to go to a festival with me, come out here and eat takoyaki with me so I don’t look quite as pitiable.

“So do you want to help out?”

“Um,” I mumble, rolling a lock of my hair between my thumb and forefinger, “what’s left to do?”

“Uh, I don’t know, actually,” Molly admits. “We delegated tasks a long time ago. All the shifts are taken, I think.”

She turns to our classmates, who have been mostly sidetracked with their own discussion. “Do you guys know what’s left to do for the festival?”

They shake their heads noncommittally and she turns back to me and shrugs. “Uh, you could always volunteer to be a backup, or something. Or you could ask Hakamichi and see what she needs help with. She’s always trying to rope somebody into giving her a hand with whatever.”

“Er, no, that’s, fine,” I say, unenthused at the prospect of doing anything with the class rep. “I’m not… really all that eager to help out, anyway. I’m still sort of overwhelmed with things…”

Molly nods, giving me an empathetic smile. “Yeah, I know. I don’t really blame you. Transferring in and all…” Then she blinks at me in sudden clarity. “Hey, shoot, I meant to ask you, why are you still wearing your old school uniform?”

I roll my eyes, sighing sardonically. “They’re out of uniforms in my size, evidently. This is all I have.”

“Oh, right, I’d forgotten all about that. Yeah, that’s a thing. The class of first-years was bigger than usual or something… I think a lot of them only got half as many uniforms as they were supposed to get. A lot of girls were complaining about it…”

“Yes, well, it’s fine,” I insist. “This uniform is… comfortable.”

The girl sitting next to Molly, a mousy girl with shoulder-length brown hair, looks over at me. “Wear the boy’s uniform, if you want. That’s allowed here.”

A cardinal sin. I can't help but pucker my face in disgust at the very idea. “Um… no.”

Molly giggles. “Can’t say I blame you.”

One of the other girls then shifts the focus of the conversation to somebody I’m unacquainted with, so I spend the remainder of the hour passively listening to the discussion, silently sipping at my tea. It feels… normal, I suppose, but I can’t help but fret that these new friendships I’m forming aren’t going to be very fulfilling. Most of the students here have, like Molly said, been together for at least two years, possibly longer. But when all is said and done, I won’t even have spent an entire school year with these people before I never see them again. Should I even bother? I don’t know.

Soon enough, lunch ends, and we return to class, Molly still chatting with her friends along the way.

The afternoon classes pass by extremely uneventfully. None of the other subjects taught are anywhere near as frustrating as Mutou’s class. By contrast, English is a course I could practically sleepwalk through. In fairness, I have always been skilled at it—I got an early start on it, since my parents speak it fluently—but, bafflingly, my English comprehension seems to have improved slightly since I was admitted to the hospital.

I suppose it must be because, from a certain point of view, I’ve spent the last few weeks “studying” English: I spent roughly eighteen hours a day doing nothing but watching movies, and the vast majority of them were Hollywood movies. My comprehension of them was in this sort of liminal state where the subtitles were as annoying as they were helpful, so eventually I just turned them off and tried to focus harder on understanding the English. Unusually enough, this seems to have been a boon, academically speaking.

It’s also during English class that the tall girl I somehow frightened yesterday reenters the room and shuffles to her seat like she’s trying not to be seen. Curiously, it seems to be working; nobody is looking at her, and even the teacher is ignoring her entrance. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing her earlier, either.

It’s a little weird. I assume it’s for medical reasons or something, but I’m not used to a student’s tardiness being accepted so nonchalantly. She’s been gone practically the whole day.

Even though I know I'm not supposed to, it's hard not to wonder what that girl's deal is.

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Last edited by Leaty on Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:35 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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Leaty
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Scene Eight

Post by Leaty » Fri May 03, 2013 2:43 pm

Testing the Waters

After school, I make my way back to the dorms and disrobe, placing my uniform in the closet, then retrieve the bathing suit I set aside earlier. In truth, I’m feeling a little lethargic, but if I don’t go to the pool now, I’m going to keep making excuses until I go to bed.

There’s a full-length mirror mounted on the back of my dorm room door, and for a moment before putting on the bathing suit I can’t help but glance somberly at my own nude reflection. The thick crimson line still runs angrily down my sternum, screaming for attention. I force myself to look away and put on the suit.

It fits pretty well: it’s not too tight, and it actually clings to my hips, which has been an issue I’ve had often in the past. More importantly, I can’t see my scar wearing this.

I twirl in front of the mirror, assessing myself from various angles. Honestly, I think the bathing suit looks best from behind, but all and all my reflection looks… normal. This is pretty much how I should look if I’m going to go swimming. If I didn’t know I’d just been discharged from the hospital, could I guess? Not easily. That’s a little encouraging.

I pull a sweatshirt and yoga pants on over the swimsuit, slip on some sandals and wash off my makeup in the sink, then grab my room key and head back the way I came. On the way out, I glance over at Momomi’s door, but she doesn’t appear to be in yet.

There’s still a throng of students heading back to the dorms as I make my way to the administration building, but they don’t stare at me nearly as much as they do when I’m in my school uniform. It’s kind of funny, in a way: the student body at my old school never got so excited about transfer students, but at Yamaku it’s almost treated as a spectacle.

When I get to the building, my first inclination is to go in the way I did yesterday morning to meet the nurse, but on a hunch, I decide to follow a pair of students with gym bags around the corner, and sure enough, they lead me to a less roundabout way of getting there. A pair of glass double doors opens up into a stark white hallway, with two entrances on the left side to the boys’ and girls’ respective locker rooms. Emboldened, I head in and prepare to change.

There’s not many people in the locker room yet; there’s a younger girl sitting on one of the benches away from me, but she’s checking her blood sugar so intently that I decide to leave her alone. Most of the lockers are empty, so I pick one at random and deposit my clothes and shoes inside, then pull my hair into a ponytail. There’s a basket of folded towels next to the door opposite where I came in, so I help myself to one and exit into the pool area.

The room is incredibly bright; the ceiling is at least eight meters high, and everything is painted a refreshing white and Persian orange, with a vaulted ceiling that’s more glass than metal. The floor is tiled in ceramic in intricate arabesque patterns, and the room’s periphery is a complex of decorative pillars and arches framing tall windows... this has got to be the most extravagant school swimming pool I’ve ever seen. I can see now why Mutou and the nurse mentioned it.

There are some bleachers along the far wall, so maybe Yamaku actually has its own dedicated swim team, though I find that unlikely. One girl, still in her school uniform, sits alone in the front, talking to another in what appears to be the official school bathing suit. Given that I’m exempt from physical education thanks to my heart condition, the school never provided me with one of my own, which is probably for the best.

Other than them, the pool seems strangely empty right now. A single lifeguard, a woman in her mid thirties, sits alone along the head of the pool, her nose in a biography, and the pool itself is empty, save for, surprisingly, a bald, middle-aged man doing laps back and forth down one lane. A member of the faculty?

I walk over to the shallow end, taking a moment to wonder what it is I’m going to do, here. I don’t exactly know how to swim; I enjoy the beach well enough, but I’ve always avoided going too far into the ocean. I stepped barefoot on a beached jellyfish once as a child, and the experience frightened me enough that I’ve always stayed away from seawater since.

I take a seat along the lip of the pool, letting my feet dangle in the water. Happily, it’s about twenty-seven degrees, not too cold at all. The nurse said walking around in the shallow end was acceptable physical activity, right? I can do that, I guess. I’m about to plunge into the water when I notice the two girls by the bleachers heading in my direction.

The girl in the swimsuit gives me a friendly smile as I look up. “Hiya!”

She has dark hair—lighter than mine but darker than Shizune’s—cropped to chin length, with evenly cut bangs falling just past her eyebrows, and she stands a few inches taller than me, with a lithe body that suggests she swims quite frequently.

“Er… hi,” I say, a bit taken aback by her friendliness.

“You’re that new third-year that just transferred in, right? I’ve seen you in the cafeteria…”

“That’s right,” I answer, still vexed by the attention. “I’m Iwanako Daidouji.”

“Ah, cool! I’m Aoi Sagawa. Call me Aoi.”

“Nice to meet you, Aoi.”

The girl next to her gives a tentative smile, nodding her head at me. “I’m, um, Keiko,” she says bashfully. “Keiko Kobayakawa…”

She’s slightly shorter than Aoi, and her wavy, ash-colored hair falls to the middle of her back, with jagged bangs in front and a small braid tied on her left side. She has what appears to be a graphics tablet-screen tucked under the crook of her arm; it seems pretty expensive.

“Hello, Keiko,” I say, still wondering where this is going to go. “Are you third-year students?”

“Nah, second-year,” Aoi says, smiling. “Class 2-3. We’re pretty cool, I guess. You’re in the student council president’s class, aren’t you?”

I blink at the question. “I am?”

She snorts, and even Keiko smiles a little, as if I just told a funny joke. “Haha, yeah! Hakamichi’s class, right?”

I pause for a moment, surprised. “Shizune is the student council president?”

“Um, yeah, last I checked. Mikado’s on the council too.”

“Who?”

“The pink-haired girl? Laughs a lot?”

“Oh… right,” I say, blinking again, startled. How did I forget to ask Misha for her full name? “Y, yes. They’re both in my class.”

“Right. Cool,” she nods. “So, um, you like swimming?”

“Not really,” I say with a wan smile, “but my mom bought me this bathing suit, so I figured I should at least learn how. I’m supposed to be exercising mo—”

“Wait, whoa, you don’t know how to swim? Oh, cool, can I teach you?”

“What?”

“I’m an awesome swimmer. I’ve been doing it since, I was like, two. It’s the only sport I can do for a good amount of time, ’cause of my anhidrosis.”

“Your what?”

Keiko rolls her eyes with a lopsided smile. “She overheats if she isn’t refrigerated.”

Aoi grins. “Haha, yeah. It’s like, I don’t sweat. At all. So my body can’t regulate its temperature correctly. If there’s no air conditioning, I burst into flame. So that’s why I like swimming.”

“Uh… Wow.”

“But, yeah, so I could totally teach you if you wanted. You know this pool is salinated, right? Not chlorinated. So you kind of taste like kimchi until you take a shower, but it’s way less harsh on your skin. It’s new technology. Well, newish. I think.”

“Er—”

“But, yeah, usually everybody is at their club meetings around now, so there’s never anybody here. Just me and Keiko. And Keiko never swims ’cause she’s a stick in the mud.”

“She’s lying,” Keiko says sweetly. “I swim with her on Thursdays.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, she swims once a week. The rest of the time I’m alone.”

“Sure, except that I sit right over there every other day of the week. And chat with you. Constantly,” Keiko adds.

“I—”

“Shoosh, Keiko, you’re not helping me convince her.”

“Why are we trying to convince her?”

“Because, come on, it’d be awesome.”

“Maybe she wants to join a club or something, you don’t know that.”

“Hey—”

“Why would she want to join a club? The only clubs that still have openings are all crap. She’s not going to join a club.”

“The art club has openings—”

“Oh, sure, weirdo central, I bet she’s just dying to join that club.”

“It isn’t that bad and you know it.”

“You say that, yet you do all your drawing over here—”

“Okay!”

My interjection is finally loud enough to buy me a moment of silence, and I use it to sigh before answering the underclassmen. “If you want to teach me how to swim, that’d be great, thanks. I need to start exercising more, anyway.”

A spur-of-the-moment decision, perhaps, but there’s nothing binding me to it. And, frankly, I would like to learn how to swim. The alternative is running, and I’m prone to very uncomfortable shin splints.

My answer seems to catch Aoi off guard for a moment, but then she pumps her fist in the air as the realization dawns on her. “Woot! You won’t regret this!”

“Hopefully…”

“Don’t worry,” Keiko says, smiling at me reassuringly. “We’re not as lame as we sound. I suppose I’ll get back to doodling…”

She returns to her seat by the bleachers and sips thoughtfully from a can of milk tea as she sits down and resumes whatever it is she does with that tablet. Judging by the intensity in her expression, she’s doing something more serious than ‘doodling’, but I’m at a loss as to what that could be.

“She’s always doing that,” Aoi sighs. “She’d be doing it in class if the teachers would let her.”

“What does she draw on that thing?”

“Manga, if you can believe it. Don’t ask if you can see it, though. She’s totally my BFF and even I’m not allowed to look.”

“Forbidden fruit, huh?”

“Yeah.” She leans close, cupping her hand to her mouth. “(Personally, I think it’s probably something really hot and steamy. Keiko might look sweet, but she’s really a sicko…)”

I nearly fall into the pool. “W-what?!”

“So!” She claps her hands together. “Swimming lessons! Let’s get started, ’kay?”

Aoi spends the next hour giving me instruction more than actually having me do anything; she insists upon my walking around the pool until I’m “comfortable” with it, as if I’m a six-year-old afraid of the water, then she tells me to drift toward the deep end and practice “not drowning”. Though it looks elementary when she does it, my motions aren’t nearly as successful, but eventually I’m able to tread water, however clumsily. When she’s satisfied I can do it for an entire minute, she lets me return to the shallow side and spend the remainder of the hour practicing arm strokes.

All in all, I wish I had started this earlier.

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Last edited by Leaty on Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:47 pm, edited 9 times in total.

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) {u 5/03/2

Post by Helbereth » Fri May 03, 2013 11:10 pm

Well, I started writing this post like three hours ago(then I took a nap), so perhaps some of the issues have been mentioned, but I'm not about to go changing things now.
“All right,” he says, gesturing to the top of the paper.
I'm reasonably certain you meant Alright.
But, faced with a shortened lifespan, is it better to carry on as normal, or should you let go of your inhibitions and live like it’s the end of the world?
Instead of using the secondary pronouns 'you' and 'your', you might consider the personal pronouns 'I' and 'my', or the non-specific 'one' and 'their'.

Since your narrator is the main character, and the story is told through their eyes, having them use secondary pronouns in the exposition can sound like they're preaching directly at the reader. That's something more common in third-person perspective. Instead, the personal or general forms make it sound like they're talking to themselves, or just about anyone in general.
looking slightly confused..
Is that an attempted ellipse, or an extra period?
To my considerable relief, she invited me to sit with her and her friends at lunchtime today, saving me from another silent lunch break with Shizune, but my unfamiliarity with the other students and the multidirectional nature of the group conversation has made it embarrassingly easy to withdraw from.
This seems like a place where the sentence just goes on too long. Though grammatically correct, you might consider:
"...Shizune. However, my..."

Also, don't be afraid to use a comma after break words like 'and', 'because' or 'but', as they help break the sentence into easy-to-handle chunks--it helps with pacing.
Susano’o
Is that intentional...?
...but those people are bores.
I think she means 'boors', which is an insult meaning 'uncultured', rather than calling them sedentary.

The only other issue I see is a rather consistent use of 'I' to start paragraphs, which is technically alright, but has a tendency to overwhelm the reader with a character's narcissism. That might actually be fine considering the internal monologue about the possibility of her being a narcissist, but in that case it should be reduced to parts of the narrative meant to highlight that kind of trait.
Last edited by Helbereth on Fri May 03, 2013 11:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Scene Nine

Post by Leaty » Fri May 03, 2013 11:39 pm

Grudge Matching

Aoi and Keiko have errands to run before heading back to the dorms, so I say my farewells and dry off to the best of my ability, retrieving my clothes from the locker room and heading back the way I came. I’m left with a good feeling about the adventure, though. The two of them are a little immature, but they’re friendly enough. Aoi is a bit too hyperactive, but I can’t help but like her anyway. Keiko on the other hand seems a bit introverted, but kind of adorable.

I thought there would be more students headed back to the dorms from their club meetings, but it seems like fewer people than I had expected. Maybe they’re all working overtime on that festival? It sounds like kind of a big deal… Maybe it really will be a good time.

As soon as I step into my hallway, I hear Susano’o barking emphatically from behind Momomi’s door. Like clockwork, the door swings open, and the German shepherd looks at me with a dopey doggy smile.

“Good evening, Rocky.”

Momomi smirks at me from the doorway, a steaming mug of coffee in her hand. She’s wearing the same bathrobe I saw her in yesterday—it appears as though she doesn’t like to wear her school uniform any longer than she has to. She’s still wearing the same sunglasses as before, but they’re pushed to the top of her head, holding her hair back like an Alice band. I can finally see her eyes; they’re a very dark grey, nearly black, but surprisingly, there’s nothing wrong with them, no cataracts or protrusions or anything. They’re so… normal. It’s almost as though she’s really looking at me.

“Hello, Momomi.”

She takes a sip from her mug, still smirking. “You’re back later than I expected. Did you join a club?”

Why does it matter? Is she keeping tabs on me?

“No,” I answer, “I just decided to go swimming.”

“Ah, good. Wouldn’t want you to make any rash judgments or anything.”

“Rash… judgments?”

“Yes. There were certain… groups at this school I thought you might wind up being unfairly coerced into joining,” she says, a hint of derision seeping into her voice. “You wouldn’t have liked them, I don’t think.”

What? What groups could she be talking about?

“What had you so concerned?”

“Well, no offense, but you come off as the kind of girl who’s easily pushed around—“

“Hey—!”

“—and there are girls at this school, who will go unnamed, who love nothing more than to push people around. I was worried that, as a transfer student still… unfamiliar with the way things go at Yamaku Academy, somebody would try to take advantage of you.”

I stare at her quizzically for a moment, wondering if she was legitimately concerned for me, or if she’s just messing with me herself. Nothing she says sounds sincere; there’s even a small, niggling doubt in the back of my mind that she’s actually blind, but that might just be the effect she has on people.

Too curious to let the subject pass, I decide to take the bait. “What clubs in particular shouldn’t I join?”

Momomi grins, sipping thoughtfully from the steaming mug in her hand. “I probably shouldn’t say.”

“What?!” I say, flabbergasted. “Why not?”

“Well, because then you’d know who I was maligning, and then those people might hear about it, and then I’d surely get into an immensely undesirable confrontation with those people where I’d be very hypocritically accused of being a corrupting influence on you,” she answers, nonchalantly taking another sip. “Take my word for it, it wouldn’t work out for any of us.”

“Then how am I supposed to know what club I shouldn’t join?”

“Well, tell me, are you even planning on joining a club? It’s not mandatory here, you know. I know some people say you may as well, stranded in the boondocks like this, but those people are boors.”

“Well, er, I don’t know, I hadn’t given it much thought one way or the other. I enjoyed the club at my last school.”

“Oh~?” She quirks an eyebrow, suddenly seeming unsettlingly interested. “What club was that, Rocky?”

“The ikebana club. I was the president… Well, I was, but then we merged with the tea club…”

Ha! You’re kidding, right?”

“N, no…”

“Kyaaahahahaha!” Her laughter is sharp, almost metallic, like that of a stage villain getting away with some kind of serious crime. “Hell, I knew you were a sweet girl but I didn’t realize you were a princess.”

I can feel the heat rising in my cheeks, and I turn away, embarrassed. “Why… why are you making fun of me? I… that’s… that’s just what I like to do.”

“Sincerely? Sincerely. You sat for an hour every day in a kimono pouring tea and fiddling with flowers, and you not only unironically enjoyed this, but you found enough like-minded girls to turn it into a club? I just… I can’t… I can’t… I’m baffled. I can’t believe that anybody being honest with themselves would actually want to do that.”

There’s a strange expression on her face; she still has an amused smile, but the corners of her eyebrows are pointed downward, as if she’s vexed. It’s like she’s genuinely flustered by what I’m saying.

“I… I liked it. I don’t know. I’d been friends with everybody in the club for years. It was just an excuse to lounge around and chat,” I say, defensively.

“Uh-huh,” she says, still incredulous. “Well, whatever. We don’t have an ikebana club here, and there's only two girls in the tea club—of whom both are complete mouth-breathers, so you'll probably want to steer clear. The next closest thing is the photography club, and they’re really less a club than a collective of social rejects perpetually fighting over a closet-sized darkroom.”

An unusual insight from a girl who ostensibly can’t even appreciate photography. Momomi doesn’t seem to have anything nice to say about anybody; it makes me wonder what she’ll say about me when I’m not around.

Actually, she didn’t have anything good to say about Shizune yesterday, did she? She said ‘you poor thing’ when I brought it up… And Aoi did mention Shizune was in the student council…

“The club you don’t want me to join is the student council.” It’s more of a statement than a question.

Momomi blinks for a moment, pausing before answering. “And what makes you say that?”

“It is, isn’t it? You don’t like Shizune.”

Setting the mug down, she crosses her arms, her brow furrowed. “I’ll neither confirm nor deny that.”

“Fine,” I say, crossing my arms as well, though the posture surely has no effect on her. “Then tomorrow, I’ll join the student council,” I bluff.

“What do I care? Do whatever you like.”

“I will,” I say petulantly.

“…Damn it,” she says, losing her patience. “Fine. Yes. You shouldn’t join the student council, no matter how much she tries to push it on you. You’ll just be doing chores for her all day. There’s only two people on the student council and she still asks for more responsibilities anyway.”

“What? There’s only two people in the student council? Why?”

“Because Shizune is on the student council. Come on, try to keep up.”

It’s frustrating how caustic Momomi is, but it’s kind of endearing to see that somebody dislikes Shizune even more than I do. I’d like to know why, especially since Momomi would seemingly not get a lot of exposure to her as a blind girl, but I doubt I could wring the information out of her without getting to know Momomi better.

“Er… I appreciate the concern, I guess,” I offer, “but it’s misplaced. Shizune doesn’t seem to like me. She won’t even speak to me. I didn’t even know she was student council president until a girl told me an hour ago.”

Momomi’s eyebrow quirks at this, and to her credit she does seem genuinely surprised. “Goodness. Really? My, that’s unusual… She’s usually very forward about it.”

“You… you know her pretty well, then?”

“I do know her, yes.”

“And… you don’t like her.”

“Do you?”

I frown, not liking the taste of my own question. “I don’t know her that well,” I finally answer, diplomatically.

“Mm-hmm. Well, apparently you’re the kind of girl who just likes to ‘lounge around’, so if you don’t know if you don’t like her, you’ll know soon. Shizune’s a real piece of work.” She sighs and bends down, aggressively massaging the skin of her dog’s face and neck with her hands. He silently accepts the cruel and unusual treatment, his eyes still on me.

“So, I take it you’re not in a club?”

She gives me a wan smile. “Nope. Not anymore.”

“So you were in one before?”

“Don’t you have a shower to take?”

A pregnant pause passes between us before a moment of clarity clicks into my head, and I can only laugh. “Yes. I suppose I do.”

“See you tomorrow, Rocky.”

She briskly shuts the door, and, sighing, I head for the bathrooms.

There’s something about speaking with Momomi where I just know she’s deliberately being unkind, but I can’t help but find speaking to her fascinating. There’s… a kind of defiant strength about her, even though every word she says seems to drip with spite. It’s the only explanation for why I spoke to her for so long.

I can’t help but think about our conversation as I soak in the shower. Her dislike of Shizune, and her reaction to my having been in such a girly club… I feel like there’s more to this, but I’m too tired to figure it out.

Why did I join the ikebana club? It feels like a lifetime ago. I can’t recall the thought process which led to my choosing that club over all others. And yet I was eventually put in charge of it, a role I held until my heart attack ripped me out of that reality. What was my purpose? What did I set out to do?

It was all in vain, whatever it was. I’m here now, for whatever reason, and I need to figure out what that means.

I’m feeling better, though. About some things, anyway. Aoi and Keiko seem nice, and Molly has been friendly. Even Momomi is interesting, if nothing else. Shizune’s the only person I’m having trouble with, but at least I don’t seem to be alone in that regard.

I suppose that for now I’m going to let the science class situation resolve however it will, and continue swimming after class, at least until I decide I’m sick of it. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try going into town. If I can just keep doing things this way, one day at a time, maybe things will turn out okay in the end. Maybe.

Wrapping my hair in a towel, I return to my room and put my nightgown on, getting the day’s homework out of my bag. It doesn’t look any more appealing than it did when it was assigned, but the path of least resistance is just to sit down and suffer through it, so I get started.

As long as I don’t bite off more than I can chew, I’ll be okay.

______________________________________________________________________
<-|-|- Previous Chapter ~Table of Contents~ Next Chapter -|-|->
Last edited by Leaty on Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) {u 5/03/2

Post by Helbereth » Sat May 04, 2013 12:07 am

Leaty wrote:
Helbereth wrote:I'm reasonably certain you meant Alright.
Apparently that's not actually a word. I looked it up and was very surprised.
I'll just leave this here.

It's a dialogue thing.
Helbereth wrote:diatribe on I narcissism
Thanks, I hadn't realized I was doing that. I'll try to be more aware of that in the future.
I'm guilty of having done it in TD early on quite a lot... I eventually figured out ways to construct sentences without starting with 'I', and usually only permit myself a few instances of starting a sentence that way (never a paragraph) in each chapter.
Did you pick up on the reference to Tomorrow's Doom?
The pool description? Yeah. The saline water threw me off, though (Aiko complains about the chlorinated water burning her eyes, and needing a shower afterward to remove the chlorine smell). I had a moment of giddy bliss reading your description, even though it took me a bit of math to figure out that 8 meters is ~30 feet. I'm also almost sure you described Joyce as the lifeguard.

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) {u 5/03/2

Post by griffon8 » Sat May 04, 2013 12:13 am

Leaty wrote:
Helbereth wrote:I'm reasonably certain you meant Alright.
Apparently that's not actually a word. I looked it up and was very surprised.
Darn right. Just because you think you're saying 'alright', doesn't make it correct. It's like people thinking they say 'must of' instead of 'must've'.
Leaty wrote:
Helbereth wrote:Is that an attempted ellipse, or an extra period?
The latter.
Oops. :oops:
Leaty wrote:
Helbereth wrote:I think she means 'boors', which is an insult meaning 'uncultured', rather than calling them sedentary.
Fixed. I should have picked up on that one.
Sheesh, I should have as well. :oops:

Obviously, I'm a little rusty in the editing department.
I found out about Katawa Shoujo through the forums of Misfile. There, I am the editor of Misfiled Dreams.

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) {u 5/03/2

Post by Leaty » Sat May 04, 2013 12:27 am

Helbereth wrote: The pool description? Yeah. The saline water threw me off, though (Aiko complains about the chlorinated water burning her eyes, and needing a shower afterward to remove the chlorine smell). I had a moment of giddy bliss reading your description, even though it took me a bit of math to figure out that 8 meters is ~30 feet. I'm also almost sure you described Joyce as the lifeguard.
Heh. Well, technically salinated pools are chlorinated, they're just cleaner since the chlorine self-recycles. And yeah, I intentionally kept it vague but that lifeguard is pretty much supposed to be Joyce.

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Re: Testing the Waters

Post by Eprlide » Sat May 04, 2013 2:27 am

Another good chapter for this story. I can say I've been here since the first post and I haven't been disappointed yet. However, one minor thing bugs me.

I know I used Iwanako's last name from your story to use it within my own (which I should probably get back to), but now I can't help but think you're doing the reverse.
Eprlide wrote:"Reo." She responds as Reo puts away her phone. "You're really forgetful today, huh?"
Leaty wrote:If it hadn’t been for the encouragement of one of our mutual friends, Mai, I might never have had the strength of will to write him that letter.
http://vndb.org/v925

I couldn't help but connect the dots, even if this was just coincidence.
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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) {u 5/03/2

Post by Helbereth » Sat May 04, 2013 2:45 am

Leaty wrote:
Helbereth wrote: Stuff I said before.
Heh. Well, technically salinated pools are chlorinated, they're just cleaner since the chlorine self-recycles. And yeah, I intentionally kept it vague but that lifeguard is pretty much supposed to be Joyce.
The only description that threw me is that of the floor tiles, but Aiko isn't much of an art-buff, so her not identifying the pattern more clearly makes perfect sense. Though the difference between seeing it for the first time, as Iwanako does, and describing it after almost every day for three years, can muddy the description... Either way, I'm glad to see some of my meta bleeding into other tales.

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Re: Testing the Waters

Post by Leaty » Sat May 04, 2013 10:36 am

Eprlide wrote:
Eprlide wrote:"Reo." She responds as Reo puts away her phone. "You're really forgetful today, huh?"
Leaty wrote:If it hadn’t been for the encouragement of one of our mutual friends, Mai, I might never have had the strength of will to write him that letter.
http://vndb.org/v925

I couldn't help but connect the dots, even if this was just coincidence.
Haha, nope. Mai is actually a canon character. Hisao brings her up in Lilly's path.

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) {u 5/03/2

Post by Comrade » Sun May 05, 2013 1:45 pm

Its good to be back after a long break from fanfics and to see more updates. Good job
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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) {u 5/03/2

Post by Reese8 » Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:57 pm

I was planning to post here anyway, but it seems that one can't subscribe to a thread without posting in it (I've not found out how to do so, at least). I've been lurking for a while (and I posted some anonymous things back when that was allowed), but it was the desire for notifications of updates to this story that pushed me into registering. I really hope that this isn't dead, as it's quite good. :)

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) {u 5/03/2

Post by neio » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:38 pm

Reese8 wrote:I was planning to post here anyway, but it seems that one can't subscribe to a thread without posting in it (I've not found out how to do so, at least).
At the bottom left of the page, there's subscribe and bookmark topic. Of course if you're like me and you use View your posts to keep track of threads, there's not much you can do but post.
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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) {u 5/03/2

Post by Reese8 » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:43 pm

neio wrote:
Reese8 wrote:I was planning to post here anyway, but it seems that one can't subscribe to a thread without posting in it (I've not found out how to do so, at least).
At the bottom left of the page, there's subscribe and bookmark topic. Of course if you're like me and you use View your posts to keep track of threads, there's not much you can do but post.
Oh, I didn't look that far down. Thank you!

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