Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#59—'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes')

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (22—'Less Taken') (20150504)

Post by brythain » Fri May 08, 2015 11:39 pm

Alpacalypse wrote:
brythain wrote:Maybe they set up a detective agency called 'Mr & Mrs S' or something.
I wish I got this reference. Kenji arc, maybe?
The surname 'Satou' is roughly equivalent in generic popularity to 'Smith' in English. If they were assassins instead, they'd be like [this]. Fortunately, I prefer detectives instead. 8)
Alpacalypse wrote:I may be starting to believe Blank's theories on your writing capabilities.
Any more of this and -I'll- start believing these theories about my writing capability... :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)

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Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (23—'Slowly') (20150520)

Post by brythain » Wed May 20, 2015 9:48 am

When I first started planning 'After The Dream', I sketched out a timeline that ended roughly in 2077.
On impulse, I pencilled in the year 2124 as the last year anything would happen in that universe.
We aren't there yet. But here is a story about Akio Hayashi, the guy who sits behind Shizune in 3-3.



Relatively Slow

I, Akio Hayashi, am always angry these days. But I let it flow through me, like lymph or blood, or poetry, or music. I read. I play the violin, gently, tenderly. I do not wish for death or destruction, or even sex with my chamber partner, the beautiful and forgetful Kagami Takahashi. I am afraid of nothing, except the random and chaotic and accidental.

What I do wish for is a different world. Quietly, I will get there. Perhaps it is the others who should be afraid. I shall bide my time. I will be a good student, though not great. I am relatively slow. I cannot afford to be jumping around or jumping into situations, because I have a single serious difficulty: I am very brittle. And I am only seventeen years old.

*****

I sit at the back of the class, invisible. On my left is Ritsu, stealthy Miss Tainaka whose damaged right hand does not make her any less potent when playing online games or a synthesizer. When we work in pairs in the classroom, she is rapid at laying out a problem while I catch up slowly and fill in the details. In Physics class, she sketches bodies, draws vectors of force; I merely add them up, numbers, descriptors, angles. Answers are simple, relationships direct. My lunchtimes are spent with her as well—I think that our relationship is like a Bach fugue, coming and going, but always regular, always predictable.

Sometimes, we have Taro along, both for group work and for lunch. Mr Arai is a lump, but he has his strong moments. He is more like Tchaikovsky. When he makes noise, it is loud. When he doesn’t, it is confusing. But underneath everything is a great, sad soul. We see much more of him now that we see so much less of pretty Saki Enomoto. Ritsu and I, we wonder if anyone will ever take her place in class, and also whether Taro will snap and start a shrine at the desk in front of him.

The person I am most afraid of sits in front of me. She is Shizune Hakamichi, our new class rep and also our Student Council president. How can someone be given so much power? She is possibly the person I avoid most, next to Emi Ibarazaki. For someone with such a large bust, Madam Hakamichi is silent and sneaky, pouncing when you least expect it with a barrage of loud rulings delivered by her big pink voice, Shiina Mikado (ridiculous person, prefers to be called ‘Misha’). I actually don’t hate Misha. Misha loves Shizune and will do almost anything for her, so it’s not her fault. Loving someone excuses much. In a weird way I love Shizune: when Ibarazaki ran into me and broke my leg, she lectured that careless bitch until green-eyed tears flowed like my pain.

On my right are more girls. Hanako Ikezawa is beautiful on my side, scarred on the side away from me. I think she’s a perfectly fine person, but she doesn’t think so. She is so nervous about other people that the thought of thinking about people is enough to force her into an early toilet break. Personally, I think she does it to get an early place in the lunch queue so that she can grab some food and disappear before the crowd. But let’s be kind; maybe Miss Ikezawa doesn’t realize that’s what she’s really doing.

Beyond Hanako is Naomi Inoue. Miss Inoue thinks every guy is hitting on her. I would do it too, because she’s very sweet when she’s not being incidentally snarky. Except that she would probably break my arm by accident or something like that. A woman with random twitches is not a good fit for a man with brittle bones. To be honest, I think the two guys in front of her have been trying to date her for ages and haven’t had any success. I think I know why too.

It’s all about the terrifying woman in the corner. Sometimes I think I live in a horror movie. In my nightmares, there is Natsume Ooe. Two eyes, one dark, one bright. It’s a classic movie trope. On the days that darkness wins, Ooe is a demon, possibly a vampire, sexy as hell. On the days that brightness triumphs, Ooe is just the chief editor of the Newspaper Club. I am not sure which is worse. She is an inquisitive hack who is as powerful as Shizune, but nobody sees that at all. Except me.

I think Natsume and Naomi have something going. Maybe they corner Hanako in the dorms and indulge themselves. I have no idea. Actually, I have ideas, but I wish I did not. You should not think about certain things when all they do is get in the way of your career.

Over the next few months, we get a replacement for Saki. He’s this asshole named Hisao Nakai. The gods gave him a broken heart. It’s not uncommon in this school, except that this guy looks as if he will collapse every time a girl looks sideways at him. He has the hots for every girl who does that. He talks to himself and I hear all his dirty thoughts.

Taro is outraged, because Taro loved Saki and now he’s got Nakai instead. Nakai prefers to work with Shizune-and-Misha, or maybe they did not give him a choice since he’s new and therefore must be inducted by what’s left of our Student Council. So Taro works with us more now. He’s too nice a person, I tell myself. When the purges begin, he will not be harmed.

Eventually, we all graduate from Yamaku Academy. I’m not so smart, not like those few people who end up in Tokyo. But I’m not dumb either. I end up in Meidai, what people call Nagoya University when they want to be formal. That is fine with me, because it’s where I want to be. It’s relatively comfortable.

*****

In 2012, my final year at Meidai, they host a symposium on innovative nanobiotechnology. I am happy to be part of it. If you have brittle bones, even if your osteoporotic mastocytosis is now under control, you can go through a lot of therapy with drugs and exercise, and still you look all wrong. I am fortunate in growing reasonably tall before the bones got bad. I could have been a dwarf.

But it’s time to really be a part of things. Akio Hayashi may be thin and brittle, but he doesn’t have to remain so any more. And he gets lots of good sex too, because the ladies love a tender, gentle, modern man. In my head, I laugh at the concept of evolutionary advantage. I’m a cripple, and yet I am relatively more viable in this society than an idiot like Hisao Nakai, whose closest male friend is that crazy Kenji Setou.

I sign up for a Master’s course. The academic environment is okay with cripples as long as they can work long hours and enjoy research. Now and then, I’m still with Ritsu, who is a drone operator alternative transportation engineer in downtown Nagoya. She says it’s only for the money, and at night she hangs out in a nightclub band or something. That kind of life, crowded with random bodies, is not for me. But when the nights are cold and quiet around 4 am, it is nice to have a non-random body to share the loneliness with.

*****

Ritsu Tainaka. I look at her nametag again. The name seems so alien if you read it to yourself about twenty times. Most names do. Her nametag is on a lanyard. The lanyard is red and white and green, the colours of one of those evil conglomerates that own Japan. I don’t mind that someone owns Japan, as long as they’re Japanese. When I say this to foreign exchange students at Meidai, they don’t find it unusual. They should. Some of my peers seem to think that if Americans own us, it’s fine.

Her lanyard is on the desk. Her blouse is on the desk. Most of her clothes are on the floor, with her hairband. Her golden-brown hair is all over the place, a sea of dark copper, with her faint scent of strawberry sweat rising into my nose. She likes it when I am behind her. I rub my nose against the back of her ear and kiss the back of her neck. Her bra falls down her arms as she pushes back against me, forces part of me deeper into her.

“Careful,” I whisper. “Gently.”

She begins to move her backside slowly. We are experts at doing things slowly. We’ve done things that way for years now.

I grunt softly. Somewhere inside her, she is humming to herself. Sometimes the hum escapes. I stroke her carefully, my long thin fingers running across her belly and her breasts. She’s learnt to appreciate a soft touch. She knows that I am defenceless if she should decide to apply some muscle, some force, but she lets me do what I do. I try my best, because it is a privilege.

“Aaaaah,” she says, as we find a good fit together. “Aaaa… hmmm. Mm.” It won’t be the first thing she says, nor the last.

When we’re done, we find we’re not. So we do what we can until we’ve had enough. For some reason, there’s one moment when I think of Saki instead. It’s a terrible thing. Anyone in my head would probably hate me because I’m like this. The funny thing is that Ritsu knows it happens, and it turns her on. Maybe it’s never enough, it’s just that we get tired and sleepy.

Such things jumble my thoughts. They only get unjumbled when she’s gone to work and I am alone and I take the train to campus and work on my little projects. I want to rule the world. Not all of it—I just want to rule enough of it so that it doesn’t kill me by accident.

That, and marry my childhood sweetheart. So clichéd, that is, so very clichéd. But we like to think of it that way, both of us.

*****

The breakthrough comes in 2022. I do not know exactly what I’m feeling: I am excited, and worried, and I don’t have any words for the other things I feel. Ritsu and I put our little son to bed that night, and then we sit down together and have some tea.

After thinking, and over-thinking things for a while, I reach out and stroke her copper hair, still neatly bound behind its ever-present band. Her eyes dart mischievously to mine. “Oh,” she says, “I think you must have had an interesting day. You don’t normally start with my hair, and certainly not before trying to get my hairband off.”

“They did it.”

“Who?” It’s an old joke we have. The foreign band called ‘The Who’ is one of our favourites. Also, the TV show that reminds us of our old teacher, Mutou.

“The nanobiotechnologists. The ones that were trying to cure bone cancer.”

She isn’t sure what I’m talking about. But Ritsu is a fast thinker, even if not very organised in some ways. “Bone?” she asks, her mind already thinking about what might be connected to that word. “Does it mean they can make your bones stronger? Rebuild my hands?”

I have always been relatively slow to talk, slow to think. I am not stupid, just desiring to be exact. It confuses people. It takes us four hours to get to climax this time. But it’s all right, we’re happy and the kid is asleep.

*****

It’s 2077. The children are no longer with us. In fact, even the grandchildren will soon no longer be with us. Ritsu and I are in the second intermediate gallery of Hakamichi Station.

“Bones,” she says lovingly. “Who would have thought it?”

I stroke her platinum hair, paler and more lovely than snow or silver. Mine is darker, more like polished iron. But neither of us has the glassy brilliance of hair that our host has.

We are heading for ninety, an age that would have meant being old in the decades past. In our robes, we look respectable, like feudal nobility. The materials, however, and so much else—they are different.

Standing behind my wife, I feel her naughtily lean back against me, deliberately rubbing against me for a fraction of a second. My response is more forty than ninety years old. I feel very, very slightly embarrassed.

“Bones indeed,” I reply to her, more to distract everybody and myself.

The treatment we once had, and the subsequent treatments we volunteered for, have had an unusual effect. We’ve had seventeen different experimental treatments, aimed at lowering fracture risk, changing bone strength and density, preventing inflammation of joints and nearby tissues—and sometimes, aimed at countering the side-effects of prior treatments.

Rika Katayama, an old associate and fellow-traveller in the field, bows gracefully and smiles at us. “Ritsu, Akio, if I might ask, how do you feel today?”

“Slow,” I say slowly. It has been so many years that it is now an in-joke. The two ladies laugh gently, like windchimes.

“Horny,” says Ritsu, never having lost her knack for scandalizing or scandalous remarks. I snort, unable to restrain myself. Rika doesn’t blink.

“This is not an eighteenth treatment, as you know. But it might feel like one. This one is grateful for your volunteering.”

“Akio and I, we are professional volunteers. One study every four years, carefully chosen.”

“It seems somewhat indelicate to ask. But this one wonders if you had something in mind when you chose such treatments. Your bodies are ideal for what lies ahead.”

“Ah, no,” I reply. “As long as we could be of use, would not be likely to suffer, and some positive benefit might accrue, we were happy to offer our bodies.”

“It’s not as if our bodies were any good with most other things!” my mouthy partner exclaims.

“Well, this humble functionary of the Foundation is glad to have you on board. Captain Tezuka has already boarded and has undergone three weeks of preparation more intense than your experience will be.”

Humble functionary? I almost snort again, except that it would be rude. The Katayama-Hakamichi Alliance owns everything in this location except perhaps some of the people. But of course, Rika is merely expressing a fact. In her present role, which comes to an end within the month, she is only the current chief executive of the Foundation.

“There is one last inconvenient thing we have to settle before we begin,” she says. I sense Ritsu perk up, the prospect of something unusual arousing her. “There is an interview, for the public. Someone you also know has insisted on it.”

I feel unease, the sense of a person who slinks down a dark tunnel only to realize that in the distance a train is gathering speed. When the legendary head of the AS Network steps into the room, I almost laugh as an old tension unwinds.

“You know Ooe-san from the Network, this one believes?”

“You believe right.”

Her eyes are still mismatched, and danger still lurks within their depths. She is old, but still healthy. I remember back in 2012, when someone said people born that year might live to be two hundred years old. That was not exactly correct.

I take a deep breath and look out of the window into the dark field. The speckling of brilliant lights outlines the black shape silently dominating the horizon. They of the Foundation have decided to name her ‘Yamato’, and nothing will ever be the same again.

*****

It must be late, whatever the year, whatever the time. I’m never angry these days, my blood cold in my veins. At the sluggish pace of a thought a minute, Ritsu communicates her desires and her interests, her thoughts and ideas, her love and curiosity to me. I reciprocate, just as slowly, but with the passion of a lifetime.

It will be months before Rin Tezuka issues the command to turn and emerge. By that time, relativity will have made us both faster and slower, older and younger, than anybody back home.

“These are the voyages of…” I think at Ritsu.

“Nothing’s gonna stop us now,” she thinks back, always relatively fast with a joke.

Our bones laugh together, their ruthenium-toughened cancer-proof cores vibrating in the harmony of the spheres. A new world awaits, the first of humanity’s colonies under a different sun.

But we’re in no hurry. We’ve always been relatively slow.

=====
alt index
Last edited by brythain on Thu May 21, 2015 12:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (23—'Slowly') (20150520)

Post by Alpacalypse » Wed May 20, 2015 1:17 pm

Huh. So that's a thing.
I really don't know what to make of that, other than "naw, sweet!"

Impeccable writing, but I think that's more or less as standard now.

Wait, I got it. Who decided that Rin (I assume) would make a good captain for humanity's first space colony ship? That just seems impractical.

And telepathic cryogenic tubes. I think. I'm slightly confused.
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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (23—'Slowly') (20150520)

Post by brythain » Wed May 20, 2015 1:30 pm

Alpacalypse wrote:Who decided that Rin (I assume) would make a good captain for humanity's first space colony ship? That just seems impractical.
SPOILERS:

1. Go to the very end of the last part of Hideaki's AtD arc here.
2. Look for the paragraph near the end that begins, "Do you, privileged readers of the late 21st and early 22nd centuries..."
3. Now compare it with the very end of the last part of Rin's AtD arc here.
4. Read the last paragraph of that piece.
5. Yes, it is a thing. As for whether impractical or not, consider the requirements of the job. :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (23—'Slowly') (20150520)

Post by Blank Mage » Wed May 20, 2015 8:57 pm

You know, you're kind of the crippled fan fiction equivalent of Arthur C. Clarke...
And we're back.
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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (23—'Slowly') (20150520)

Post by brythain » Thu May 21, 2015 2:19 am

Blank Mage wrote:You know, you're kind of the crippled fan fiction equivalent of Arthur C. Clarke...
That's interesting. So far I've heard Ray Bradbury as well. Quite the honour; thank you!
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (23—'Slowly') (20150520)

Post by HipsterJoe » Thu May 21, 2015 6:31 pm

brythain wrote:
Blank Mage wrote:You know, you're kind of the crippled fan fiction equivalent of Arthur C. Clarke...
That's interesting. So far I've heard Ray Bradbury as well. Quite the honour; thank you!
Volume wise he may be more of an Asimov...

I think Apacalypse summed up my feelings quite well with slightly confused, but "Naw, sweet!" This piece had a nice poetry to it and Akio's slowness was conveyed through the text.

Was Rin given nano-treatments when she got her cybernetics?

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (23—'Slowly') (20150520)

Post by brythain » Sat May 23, 2015 9:26 am

HipsterJoe wrote:
brythain wrote:
Blank Mage wrote:You know, you're kind of the crippled fan fiction equivalent of Arthur C. Clarke...
That's interesting. So far I've heard Ray Bradbury as well. Quite the honour; thank you!
Volume wise he may be more of an Asimov...

I think Apacalypse summed up my feelings quite well with slightly confused, but "Naw, sweet!" This piece had a nice poetry to it and Akio's slowness was conveyed through the text.

Was Rin given nano-treatments when she got her cybernetics?
You guys are burning through my favourite authors... :)

The nanobiotechnology arc, although some people might not like it, seems to me to be something that will be part of human life by the end of this century. I managed to get in on the beginning, and I now have former students working in the field. So... well, if you read Rin's arc in 'After The Dream', there are hints at some of those things. :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (23—'Slowly') (20150520)

Post by NekoDude » Mon May 25, 2015 8:26 am

brythain wrote:The nanobiotechnology arc, although some people might not like it, seems to me to be something that will be part of human life by the end of this century. I managed to get in on the beginning, and I now have former students working in the field. So... well, if you read Rin's arc in 'After The Dream', there are hints at some of those things. :)
I too see this as inevitable, and it's one of those situations where I can imagine Miki being the first to volunteer. She still has the wiring in place for a hand, and knows how to do everything two-handed. Less advanced, current-generation prosthetics are already coming into play in my own story, but I would fully expect most characters who could use them to opt for permanently attached solutions when they become available. Emi may stay with what she's doing for a while, because the utility value of being able to change feet is so high for her.
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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (23—'Slowly') (20150520)

Post by brythain » Tue May 26, 2015 12:29 pm

NekoDude wrote:
brythain wrote:The nanobiotechnology arc, although some people might not like it, seems to me to be something that will be part of human life by the end of this century. I managed to get in on the beginning, and I now have former students working in the field. So... well, if you read Rin's arc in 'After The Dream', there are hints at some of those things. :)
I too see this as inevitable, and it's one of those situations where I can imagine Miki being the first to volunteer. She still has the wiring in place for a hand, and knows how to do everything two-handed. Less advanced, current-generation prosthetics are already coming into play in my own story, but I would fully expect most characters who could use them to opt for permanently attached solutions when they become available. Emi may stay with what she's doing for a while, because the utility value of being able to change feet is so high for her.
That's a good point, re Emi's and Miki's differing views. What would win Rin over in the end would be the idea of arms as artistic tools, rather than as appendages that she never had conscious need for in the past. Also, Lilly would likely reject implants, because she'd not see appreciate the need for them.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (24—'Support') (20150609)

Post by brythain » Tue Jun 09, 2015 2:25 pm

When doing research for 'After The Dream', I played through all the KS endings repeatedly.
Sometimes I got confused and started mixing up endings from different routes.
Then I realised that this was a great way to generate possible stories...



Support

It was a thing that we talked about on cold nights, Shizune and I. Somehow, I was still alive after all those years, and I was happy that she had chosen to marry me in the end. But the missing thing was that we had no children.

On a bad night, she’d sign, [If you had married someone else, you would have had children.]

On a worse night, she’d sign, [If I had married someone else, I might have had children.]

The only reason I knew which was worse was that she’d look wistful on a bad night and sad otherwise.

Most of the time, we didn’t regret it. She’d changed from a pretty, busy person to a beautifully pretty busy person. On the nights that she was home, she was slender and warm and my best friend ever. Sometimes, she’d tie me up. It would be just like old days. If I were fortunate, she’d let me tie her up. I couldn’t help but appreciate all that, although some people might’ve said I was being sexist. How could I avoid it? Each time I failed to die, I was thankful when I woke up next to Shizune Hakamichi.

We shared a little apartment in Yokohama. Well, perhaps not so little. We were well-off. We did fine because she was a genius at making money, claimed she’d learnt it from her father. I had learnt not to even think of disputing that. In my spare time, I handled the mineral side of her investments, using advice gained from many discussions with my old sensei, Akio Mutou. He in turn took nothing but donations for Yamaku, and my wife agreed to that wholeheartedly.

We had a good life.

We did.

And then it wasn’t.

*****

Shizune had always been careful about the big plans and a little careless about small things. When I entered the house one day, she hadn’t logged out of her e-banking account.

I had always respected her privacy. But this occasion caught me blindsided. I walked in. The screen faced me, its brightness dimmed before going completely black. But there was an obvious pattern of payments, from an account I did not know. I turned away, but it was too late.

She was dressed in a bathrobe, home early for once. I looked at her, not knowing what to say. My heart throbbed oddly. I had a strange thought: if I died now, I’d never know, and everything would be all right.

[You saw.]

I nodded. My hands wouldn’t move.

She sighed softly. [I guessed you’d find out one day.]

I looked at her, still not trusting my hands to sign.

She walked past me, padding quietly across our warm wooden floor to the terminal. As she approached, the screen lit up. She made no attempt to conceal what was displayed. She waved a hand, inviting me to look again, suddenly looking dispirited and tired.

I had permission. I had no secrets. I had thought she had no real ones from me either. But this was a big one. Tens of thousands of yen every month, a large investment. I looked. No, I stared.

[What’s this?] My hands finally twitched. I looked at my hands. They looked old.

[It’s nothing.] Her hand moved slowly, making a single sign.

[It’s a lot of nothing.] I forced calmness into my hands, but I felt no serenity.

I pointed at one entry in the column of identical numbers, and it opened up. I pointed at another. And another. The payee was always the same person.

I hadn’t seen that person for many years. In fact, I hadn’t seen nor spoken to her since she’d screamed at me, torn my shirt, and kicked me out of her room months before our graduation. After that traumatic incident, I’d thrown myself into Council work, and fallen in love with Shizune.

What was this about?

I looked at my wife, hurt and confused. My heart turned over in my chest. Without my medications, I’d probably have been about to drop dead.

[Tell me.] I implored her with my hands, but she shook her head.

[I made promises. I can’t tell you.]

[We made vows.]

[We did.]

She never told me.

*****

Somehow, I lived.

It was a year into the darkness of the second part of my life. After classes, I’d go up the mountain, past the fallow dandelion field, into the silent forest. As always, I was unobservant. Perhaps I should have noticed the footprints, but I didn’t.

There was only the marker. It marked dust, and a single band of gold, and nothing else. My barren marriage, over now, made into a tiny shrine in the hollow trunk of a Sadness Tree. I’d learnt about such trees from Rin Tezuka. It turned out she had trees for everything. I hadn’t seen her since graduation either.

In the shade, something moved. To my depression-twisted eyes, it was a ghost from another time; as the sunlight emerged from clouds, it became the merely unbelievable, the completely incredible.

Blonde hair, tumbling. Blue eyes, like mirrors of the bright sky. Once, the sight might have set my heart racing again. That day, all I could think of was ghosts. But words sprang to my lips tumbling and uncertain, and I muttered to myself, dazed: “Lilly Satou?”

Laughter. “What? I was told you might be here! How are you?~”

The voice was all wrong. My rusty brain began to grind silently, filling in cognitive blanks. The last time I had heard this voice… No. Yes. Ringlets. Contact lenses? The last time we’d spoken, she’d already cut her long hair short.

“Misha?” The unfamiliar name forced itself to the surface. She’d had pink hair then. But if she had dyed her hair one colour, surely she could have dyed it another.

“Hicchan!~ You recognized me!” She actually sounded glad.

“You look very different.” I sounded grouchy, unyielding. That blue-eyed gaze was creeping me out.

“Aww… well, I’m attached now, and my partner enjoys the exotic look.” She tugged absent-mindedly at her hair. “I didn’t do it to look like Shicchan’s cousin. Didn’t think of that!”

“What are you doing here?” I asked flatly. The wounds were still raw. If anyone was entitled to use her name in conversation, it was probably our old acquaintance Misha. And yet, hearing it filled me with pain.

She must have sensed something. She moved slowly across the broken ground, stopping an arm’s length away from me. Her eyes widened. “Don’t be like that, Hicchan… You’re not the only one who’s sad! I received an email from Hideaki. He told me everything, and he had some instructions.”

It was my turn to stare at her. “Instructions?”

“Yes. Things she didn’t want to tell you before. I guess she didn’t think it would matter any more, once…” She let her voice trail off, downbeat.

“Why –are– you here now, Misha?” I asked. I would have reached out and grabbed her by elbow, except that I could not bring myself to be even that close to violence.

“Hicchan… I need to bring you home. There’s a lady you need to meet.”

I could almost see red lightning. My heart throbbed like a cancer of the soul. I remember falling to my knees as my tears began to flow.

*****

I was still not dead. Far from it, and yet so close. Misha and I sat in the café outside death’s gate. She’d driven us there, to Saitama, in her boxy little car. I could smell her hair, her heat, the leather of the upholstery. In another life, I would be feeling horny and embarrassed. Instead, I felt fortunate to be alive; at the same time I felt dead inside.

You might ask how such a thing could be possible. I do not know. I’m only telling it the way it happened.

“Are you ready, Hicchan?” She sounded worried. Her usual trills had become less frequent over the years, I’d noticed. Misha had grown up. So had we all.

“You can call her.”

Her fingers slid across the screen of her tabphone, like skaters on ice. The pattern triggered a callbot, or something very much like it. Then a green light began to pulse. It flared twice, then turned blue and faded to black.

“She’s on her way, Hicchan.”

It would have been amusing, if it weren’t for the circumstances. Even my parents no longer called me ‘Hicchan’. Nobody called me that. But the idea of expressing disapproval to Misha on such a petty matter felt like I’d be kicking a kitten.

In retrospect, I could possibly have guessed who Misha’s mysterious lady was. I could not have known. I’ve always been dense about human matters. I sipped cold tea as Misha let her parfait melt. And then, she walked into the room.

“H-Hisao?”

She had a grey overcoat folded over her arm. Her long-sleeved blouse was in some kind of thick white material, patterned with embroidery. Her hair had grown longer. The scars had faded further. She was still slim, perhaps even a little thin. Her face was beautiful, despite the old burns. I stood up, and found myself moving towards her uncontrollably.

“Hanako?”

And then we were in each other’s arms. A tsunami of emotions battered my walls and tore them down. I could feel the tension in her muscles melt as her cold left cheek borrowed warmth from mine.

“How… why… missed you… forgiven… long time…” I couldn’t have told you who said what, and when.

At some point, we got turned around. I found myself looking at Misha over Hanako’s soft shoulder. There was sadness in Misha’s blue-tinted gaze. She was looking at us, and perhaps beyond us.

*****

“Thank you,” Hanako said much later. “Thank you for looking after us, for all these years.”

“What did you tell her, Hana?”

“When she was old enough, you were already m-married to Shizune. I told her that her father was g-gone forever.”

I stayed silent. We were sitting in the park.

“Would you like to meet her?”

I had not expected that. I did not expect the sudden escape of words from my mouth either. “Then I’d be making you a liar. I can’t have that on my conscience. I need to be honest with you, even though I’ve already lied to you without meaning it.”

Her face showed confusion, but also the determination to accept whatever was coming. Could she forgive me so much? Would she forgive the rest? The truth is a double-edged blade.

“It was not I who looked after you. It was Shizune. Every month, without fail.”

She looked surprised, I could see, but not shocked, and certainly not as surprised as I had expected. Almost musingly, she whispered, “It was a lot of support.”

“It was.”

“I always wondered how you could afford it.”

“The Hakamichis were doing well.”

She looked into my eyes. I felt awful. She kept looking. I wanted to look away, but chose not to.

“Misha told me a few days ago. Shizune did it on your behalf. Mari was your child and mine, and Shizune believed that she had a d-duty to you. She loved you.”

I felt like weeping. Instead, I found myself muttering: “I don’t deserve any of this. It is unforgiveable, what has happened. You should hate me. Shizune was too kind. Misha…”

“You didn’t know, Hisao. I didn’t tell you. I was angry, and later I was bitter. The first few years were very hard as a single mother. Then the support cheques began to arrive. I guessed they were from you. I became grateful, but I didn’t want to r-ruin your life.”

So many wrong things. The wrong time, the wrong deed. The wrong blonde with the wrong eyes. In my pocket was a crumpled note from our friend Misha, already far away. I could remember every word on it.

Hicchan, Shizune loved you. But she’s gone now, and the duty of the living is more to the living than to the dead. The living need you more. Shizune would be happy. She would have kept supporting them. Take care!

I looked at Hanako Ikezawa. She looked back. I think we were both frightened at what might happen next, but her eyes were brave.

“Miss Ikezawa, is there… can there be a chance… for us?”

The skin around her eyes creased. Light danced there. Deep inside, the memory of a smile that I loved returned to me across too many years.

“I think so, Mr Nakai,” she said, reaching out to me.

=====
alt index
Last edited by brythain on Sat Dec 12, 2015 3:54 am, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (24—'Support') (20150609)

Post by Blank Mage » Tue Jun 09, 2015 2:54 pm

Well, I didn't see that coming.

I kind of want to see this further explored, because it's so ridiculously complex from a developmental standpoint. So, we have TimeSkip/Misstep/SingleMom!Hanako (possibly) starting a (secret?) relationship with TimeSkip/Hanako/Shizune!Hisao, although Hisao (probably?) still loves/misses Deceased!Shizune, even though (evidently) their relationship wasn't altogether loving, by the end.

If you had introduced Lilly into this story, I would need to start a character relation chart just to map out the potential interactions and drama. It sounds wonderful.

(Note: Thousands of yen isn't that much money, but realistically, any more than that and Hisao would almost certainly catch on very quickly...)
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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (24—'Support') (20150609)

Post by brythain » Tue Jun 09, 2015 9:39 pm

Blank Mage wrote:Well, I didn't see that coming.

I kind of want to see this further explored, because it's so ridiculously complex from a developmental standpoint. So, we have TimeSkip/Misstep/SingleMom!Hanako (possibly) starting a (secret?) relationship with TimeSkip/Hanako/Shizune!Hisao, although Hisao (probably?) still loves/misses Deceased!Shizune, even though (evidently) their relationship wasn't altogether loving, by the end.

If you had introduced Lilly into this story, I would need to start a character relation chart just to map out the potential interactions and drama. It sounds wonderful.

(Note: Thousands of yen isn't that much money, but realistically, any more than that and Hisao would almost certainly catch on very quickly...)
I enjoyed writing that. And Lilly was sort of pseudo-introduced into the story. I was actually pretty shocked, because I was at a mall the other day and I saw this Asian girl who had dyed her hair and wore tinted lenses — she looked like a cosplay version of Lilly Satou except that she had Misha ringlets/drills!

(Also, 'thousands of yen' is easier to say than 'tens of thousands of yen' or 'hundreds of thousands of yen'. I just imagine USD prices with the decimal point removed. However, I've made the tiny change to make it clearer. :D )
Last edited by brythain on Sat Dec 12, 2015 3:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (25—'Leaving') (20150616)

Post by brythain » Tue Jun 16, 2015 1:18 am

This is partly inspired by thoughts over at the Yamaku Book Club of what an alternate KS might have looked like.


Leaving

Friday, 6 April 2007

Lilly’s hands deftly manoeuvre the cup beneath the kettle’s spout as she settles back in the tea room. A skilled observer might have noticed Lilly’s nervous tics, as she sits pensively waiting for the tell-tale knock on the door. A loud thud on the door causes Lilly to flinch, as Misha strolls in unaccompanied.

Her flinching isn’t enough to upset the cup, but she silently scolds herself for it. This conversation was inevitable; it’s been coming a long time, and the only blessing in it is that Shizune is not here.

“Misha?”

“Lilly! Aww, if only you could see yourself, the light’s behind you and all your hair is shining like gold!~”

“Misha.”

“Sorry! But what did you want to talk to me about?”

Misha’s voice is cautious under the layered enthusiasm. Lilly sighs. She’s never been one for the long stories or the blunt refusals. She hates giving offence, but she knows she’ll have to learn to do that one day.

“Please close the door and take a seat.”

As Misha complies, she fills a second cup from the set of five on the table, then sets it before her friend.

“I’ve been thinking about my role as vice-president of the Student Council.”

“Really? No, wrong! I mean, of course, you should do that whenever you want to!”

There’s apprehension under the bubbliness. It makes it harder. There’s a term for it: collateral damage. But Lilly isn’t sure that that is what this is.

“I’m submitting my resignation letter to Shizune later today. I thought I should let you know first, since you got us speaking together for a while. It isn’t working out, Misha.”

“No… Ri’chan, why?”

Lilly notes the old informality. Misha uses it rarely because it’s something Lilly dislikes. But Lilly knows the other girl thinks that way, that she’ll always be ‘Ri’chan’ in Misha’s strange head. This isn’t an insult, but something spontaneous. The other thing here, the far larger thing, is a plaintive sadness. It’s an echoing pain behind Misha’s words, the pain of being abandoned.

“I can’t, in good conscience, continue to serve Yamaku as an institution the way Shizune wants me to. I’ve tried to mediate between the other members and Shizune, but my cousin seems to think I’m just stirring up dissent. She thinks the others left because of me. Frankly, it’s because of her management style.”

“Lilly, that’s… very sad. You and Shi’chan, you work together so well!”

They used to, at least. There’s a heavy sensation in her gut. Deliberately, she raises the teacup before her and takes a slow sip to wet her suddenly-dry lips. She can hear the soft creak that tells her Misha has slumped slightly in the chair opposite.

“You can’t say it wasn’t coming, Misha.”

“Aww…” —this second ‘aww’ is one of pain, not of delight — “… the Student Council can’t work without someone like you!”

“I’m sorry. I am sure my cousin is talented and disciplined enough to do the work of five normal class representatives. You don’t have to tell her that; it’s already in my letter.”

“But Shi’chan’s very sad about how things are, already!”

“Knowing her, she’s more angry than sad, I think.”

“Please, reconsider?”

Lilly sighs. Here come the words that she promises she’ll only use once, now. She doesn’t ever want to have to use these words again on anybody—people she’s loved before have used them on her, and they are simple but ugly words.

“No, Misha. I’m leaving.”

=====
The events of some alternative version of ‘Katawa Shoujo’ play out between these two parts.
=====

Friday, 15 February 2008

A cold wind cuts through Hisao’s jacket, causing him to shiver. Although it’s only been a year since Iwanako confessed to him at this spot, it’s felt more like a lifetime ago. A gentle tug on his arm brings Hisao back to attention as he remembers that the girl hanging on his arm doesn’t share his memory.

*****

“Things go in cycles,” he finds himself saying to the girl with the light-brown hair. “People leave unexpectedly, people appear in your life unexpectedly, people leave again.”

He hasn’t realized he’s spoken aloud until he notices the vapour swirling from his mouth. The dark trees around him deaden sound, just as they did a year ago. The difference is the golden gaze that warms him as she looks up into his eyes.

She nods, uncharacteristically silent in the frosty morning. A short walk away, the school buildings are nearly empty.

“Hi’chan,” she whispers, even though there’s nobody around to hear them. “Why did you bring me here before meeting your parents?”

He’s been thinking very hard about that. He thinks he has put it all together, but he still has to deliver the package—and it’s a heavy one.

“Last night, Valentine’s Day in Tokyo?”

She giggles softly. “It was wonderful, Hi’chan!~ I never knew you could be so romantic.”

They’d spent the evening at a very small, well-hidden restaurant in a side-street. They’d spent the rest of the night in a tiny cubicle at a cheap hotel. It had felt like their own personal home, a little fortress of contentment, for a few hours. Even in this morning’s cold, the memory of her apple-blossom scent stirs his blood.

He smiles. “I was already wondering if you wanted to spend the rest of your life with me. And then I asked it out loud and you said you did.”

“I’m happy I said it, Hi’chan!” she says firmly, but her gaze is searching, wondering perhaps if he’s having second thoughts.

“I’m not taking that back, Misha. But I just wanted to show you where it all began. If not for Iwanako, who was my childhood friend long before she told me she felt something more, I would never have gone to Yamaku. I would never have…”

They both know it, at that moment. He should be ending the sentence with ‘met you’. But for a flickering instant, under the chill shadow of dark trees, they were both thinking of ‘met Lilly, and been abandoned by her, and then had a relationship with Shizune’.

“… met you.” He says it anyway, and she’s grateful for that. She’d never realized that being there for him for more than eight months was something she could do. But she’s done it, all unknowing. And he’s come to appreciate it, all unthinking.

The messy dark-brown hair tilts towards the mousy light-brown hair, now bereft of alarmingly-coloured dye and outré styling. Under the shadow of the trees, their waxen lips touch, but the warmth of their breathing makes them one for a while.

“Hi’chan,” she whispers cheekily up into his ear, “Shizune and Kenji are dating~, did you know?”

She can feel him grin, even if she can’t see it. “Well, that’s a thing.”

“What kind of thing~, Hi’chan?”

“We could have a foursome, one day, perhaps?”

She pulls away and gently slaps him, her warm glove on his cold cheek. “Gender fluidity is one thing, Hi’chan! But!”—she stops suddenly and raises a gloved finger—“Very important, but! Sometimes, one person just wants to be with another, just the two of them, for a long while.”

They’re at arm’s length now, and she sees the delight spreading over his face. In the rising sun, he looks golden, his dark hair like old copper. He’s beautiful, even that cursed little tuft that looks like a baby dragon trying to escape.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Misha,” he says firmly.

She grasps his hand in hers, just as firmly. In the growing brightness they leave the dark little wood and walk together—toward the open south which is the city, and the world, and forever.

=====
alt index
Last edited by brythain on Wed Jul 15, 2015 10:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (26—'Zoological') (20150622)

Post by brythain » Mon Jun 22, 2015 11:44 pm

This piece can probably be assumed to be in the same continuity as 'Leaving'.


Zoological

Friday, 13 April 2007

[Shicchan, we really don’t have enough people to do all this work!]

Misha’s usual bubbliness has faded. Her drills are limp, and so is the rest of her. She’s tired, so very tired. The Student Council room, once a hive of activity where a dozen people would have been working on school projects, is now a dry, empty shell. Shizune’s cousin Lilly had been the last to go; even after tendering her resignation, she’d stayed on to make sure the paperwork was done.

[Between us, we can do it all. We don’t need help from slackers,] signs her friend grimly.

The Emperor’s Birthday festival is in two weeks’ time, after which there’ll be plenty of time to relax—if they survive the ordeal of running the school on a skeleton crew. In Misha’s fatigue-fogged mind, a little squeak of animal cunning stirs.

[Shicchan, maybe there are people who aren’t slackers and could be entrusted with duties?]

A skeptical look greets this question. [And where would we find such miracle workers?]

[We could put up a poster? A call of duty? Team Yamaku needs you? Maybe?]

Shizune looks at Misha’s flagging fingers and shakes her head in resignation. [If you have the time to put up such a thing, why not just start Student Council recruitment half a year early?]

[I’ll do that!] Misha signs frantically, galvanized by the opportunity to get out of the deathtrap situation that they’re in.

[You do that] Shizune signs. [I have work to do.]

She bends over the backlog of reports, purchase orders, forms and receipts. Misha looks at her friend’s bowed head, sighs softly, and tiptoes out to look for help.

*****

“I can do a Shizune. Something blue-black with anger. Not happy. Needs things done. Always doing things. Pointing a finger, yesss.”

“Awww, Rin-chan, you make things sound so bad! Just make a nice picture of Shizune asking people to join the Student Council? A big one?~”

“I don’t know if it’s nice, Shizune asking people anything. She normally asks me not to sit on the table, or not to eat in the Art Room, or not to sleep in public.”

“Please?~”

“Hmmm. Are we friends, Misha?”

“I think we are!~”

“Friends don’t tell each other what to do. Unless they need to do it. And they don’t tell each other not to do what they need to do. I think.”

“I can’t do a nice picture, Rin-chan. But you can… if you want?”

“Funny you should ask. I want to do Shizune. I have an idea. I always do.”

“That’s great, Rin-chan!”

*****

Monday, 16 April 2007

My name is Moriko Kapur. My estranged father called me Molly, and registered me as such. As if the lack of legs did not already make me stand out (ha, bloody ha) in any normal community, he had to use a name difficult to pronounce in my motherland. In that respect, I share exactly one problem with the outgoing vice-president of the Student Council.

She and I talk fairly frequently. After all, code-switching between reasonably sound English and fluent Japanese is a rare talent around here. So here I am, sitting in the tea-room to which I am sometimes invited and always made welcome.

“They’ve put posters up, Lilly. It’s rather interesting, both the mode of communication and the content.”

“How so, Miss Kapur?” That’s an old joke. I called her ‘Miss Satou’ once and couldn’t stop laughing at the teacherly images it conjured up. She replied with ‘Miss Kapur’ and kept a completely straight face. She won that one.

“For a start, the unsighted are excluded from this recruitment drive unless their friends tell them about it. I wouldn’t say it’s directed at you, though. Perhaps it’s merely Misha-esque thoughtlessness.”

She frowns a little. “One can’t blame Misha for everything. She has a good heart. But what is on those posters?”

“There’s an image of Shizune in a tight black costume with a golden lightning-bolt on her prominent chest. The black colour makes her look strong, mysterious, dangerous. Imagine the feeling of the school gates at night. The gold makes her look dynamic, powerful. Imagine sunlight warming a room. She’s waving a finger, asking people to come to the aid of the school.”

Lilly laughs. Under her melodious chuckle is a trace of bitter dissent. “It sounds melodramatic—my cousin as pantomime villain.”

I place my slender brown hand on her pale arm. “It actually almost persuades me to sign up.”

Her frown returns. “What ever for?”

“To show Shizune Hakamichi what true efficiency is. Frankly, she needs taking down a peg or two.”

“Moriko Kapur, are you going to unleash your hidden talents of administration at last?”

We laugh together. Then she places a hand on mine. “Don’t be too cruel to Shizune. She doesn’t know what you’re capable of, you know.”

“As my class representative and my Council president, how is that possible?”

“You’re very good at hiding in plain sight, Miss Kapur.”

“It’s a skill that I’ve had to cultivate in this country. You and I, we’re a little outstanding in a crowd, I’m afraid.”

*****

[We have quite a few applications now, Shicchan!~ So exciting! Here’s the first box! I’ll just go out and pick up the second box.]

Shizune sighs. [Probably a bunch of second-years having fun.]

[Awww, don’t be depressing. At least people are responding, just like we wanted!~]

Shizune carefully replaces the attendance sheets back into the filing cabinet before moving onto processing the applications for student council. She filters through the names until she finds one that catches her eye.
That’s odd, she thinks, why would she want to apply for Council? Shizune waves Misha over, who bounds across the room with her usual energy. A giant grin creeps across her face before she drags Shizune out the door.

*****

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Misha translates for both parties as they sit in the quiet patio behind the administration block.

[So why would you join the Student Council?]

“Well, I think it’s high time that someone did something to improve school efficiency and effectiveness. We don’t have clear key performance indicators, and that is intolerable in a well-organised institution.”

[Are you saying the Council has been derelict in its duties?]

“Oh no, nothing like that. Nothing so innocuous. I’d say the Council has been inefficient first, and ineffective second. You’re the class rep of 3-3 as well as the President. That’s been the case since Saki stepped down a few weeks ago. Misha is your translator, as well as the Vice-President. We don’t know if she’s speaking for herself or for you. And meanwhile, all the other class reps are no longer members of the Council, which means you have to make things up and then transmit messages to them, instead of having them with you in the decision-making process.”

Moriko can almost see the steam rising from Shizune’s neat little ears. She memorises every detail of Miss Hakamichi’s rising anger, because all she wants to do is support Lilly, who would rather avoid confrontation than provoke it.

[You are saying that you can do a better job?]

“Not really. I think you could do a better job if you asked Mutou-sensei to make me class rep of 3-3 and got me in to help. Lilly isn’t likely to come back, but we can persuade her assistant class rep, Amahide, to sign up at least until the end of the year.”

[That sounds like a plan.]

“You agree?” That’s a surprise. Moriko has never thought of Shizune as amenable to reason in general, although she has been known to be reasonable at times.

Shizune smiles grimly. [We do what we can, with what we have. A friend taught me that.] She doesn’t add what’s in her mind: …before she didn’t want to be my friend anymore.

*****

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Well, the experiment isn’t working as well as I had thought it might. What matters to me is that things are ticking over fine, and that Shizune now understands what effectiveness is all about—short-term efficiency is one thing, but getting the job done in the long run is much better. She’s still annoying at times, though.

Today turns out to be one of the few surprises in my otherwise boring life. The new kid, Nakai, who now sits in Saki’s old seat? It turns out that he has big cobblers.

Lilly wanders into our classroom, looking for Hanako and me as usual—we’re the group I think of as ‘half-coloured girls’—and is ambushed by Shizune and Misha, who are on her case as usual about late documentation. Lilly’s a stickler for rules herself, one of her least attractive but most useful traits, and she correctly points out that the paperwork isn’t due till the end of the day.

I nod, to Shizune’s exasperation, and am then treated to one of her blistering attacks of sarcasm, translated reluctantly via Misha. I can see the poor girl suffering as she attempts to interpret the slashing gestures.

[So you support her too? Such an enlightened position, from a much higher perspective, no doubt.]

“Well, if I took off my legs, I could just about come down to your level.”

[If everyone thought like you, we might as well run a zoo. Your key performance indicators would be excellent.]

“I think I could run a zoo better than you could run a school. There is a reason the deadlines are so hectic, and it isn’t the class representatives.”

Lilly is about to speak up—we all know the class reps have far too much work to do at this time—when Nakai interrupts. “Hey, Shizune, cut Lilly and Molly some slack! Molly, she’s been very hardworking, and still she finds the time to show me around. And Lilly is very helpful to new students too!”

Oh dear. I could’ve told him that this approach would put him in Miss Hakamichi’s bad books for the rest of the year, but it’s too late for that now. Misha gives him an unhappy smile as she translates this to Shizune. Lilly’s mouth is slightly open, surprised by this unexpected support.

In the doorway I see Hanako watching the scene like a deer caught in the headlights. Swallowing convulsively, she makes a silent break for it, and I don’t blame her one bit.

*****

Much later, Lilly and Hanako and I decide to take Hisao out for a meal at the Shanghai. He deserves it, poor guy. It’s the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

Nobody’s more surprised than I am when Hisao has a doomed relationship with Lilly, spends a while with Shizune, and then ends up with Misha, of all people. And I, well, I’m still good friends with Hisao—and I forgave Misha years ago. She wasn’t ever a bad person. Shizune and I still don’t speak much; ha, she doesn’t speak at all. But we do share some business interests.

That said, I look back to those years as I think of what shaped me and what I’ve become. Nobody would have thought it. But here I am.

=====
The events of some alternative version of ‘Katawa Shoujo’ play out between these two parts.
=====

Friday, 21 March 2014

Rin was getting tired. Hisao had dragged her from the floor to hop onto a bus into the city. She stared at the canopy of trees as Hisao kept talking about something. She was too tired to really pay much attention, except to pick out a couple words here or there. Something about a reservation, then another something about lunch. Rin forgot to eat again. She was in the middle of contemplating a plate of curry until she caught the word “pedicure” escape Hisao’s lips.

It sent thrills up her spine. ‘Pedicure’ — the idea of someone immobilizing your feet and doing things to them. Wonderful things. Beautiful things. She couldn’t help it. She groaned in the anticipation of pleasure.

“Um, Rin-chan?” said Hisao’s wife uncertainly. Misha, that was her name. Misha, who was always warm and confusing. And pink. She’d never been able to paint with that colour. She wondered why not. It was like thinking of cotton candy and jellyfish all at once. Maybe that was why.

“Pedicure,” Rin said, tasting the sound of the word behind her eyes. Her toes squirmed. She wanted to kick her shoes off and say, “Do me!” but she didn’t know if that would be a problem. And she didn’t want today to be a problem.

“Yes!” Hisao flicked some hair back from his damp forehead. It was a warm, humid day, and the curry was spicier than usual. “A pedicure. Mori said they do pedicures for the elephants after lunch. She thought you might be interested.”

Right. Moriko, the girl who had as much leg as Rin had arms. But why would elephants want to watch a girl with no legs have a pedicure? It was all so confusing. It was a Misha kind of day.

Actually, she wondered why she was down here in Okinawa with these two. They were all friends, true, but in her experience, once people paired up, like bookends, they didn’t do well with a third party. Not counting the baby, who had fallen asleep in Misha’s arms.

And why a place full of animals? A zoo? She’d never understand people.

*****

It was noisy and hot as they sat in the shade and watched the elephants. Rin wondered what it would be like to watch a pedicure. She felt disappointed when she realized that it wasn’t Moriko getting the pedicure, although that would have been strange. She felt sad when she realized she wasn’t getting one either.

The elephants were getting the pedicures instead. They were having their huge nails trimmed and painted. It was interesting, like watching icons being painted, but it just wasn’t the same.

A slim, dark-skinned lady slipped into the seat beside her. Rin looked up.

“Hello, Tezuka! Misha said you might want to see this. Have you seen elephants before?”

“No. Not real ones. They’re big.”

“They’re Indian elephants. Or perhaps half-Japanese by now; they’re very smart and can understand quite a few words and phrases.”

“Like the baby?”

Moriko grinned. “Smarter than most babies. Artistic too. You’ll see.”

It wasn’t until some time later that Rin thought she understood. As the bus carried them out of Moriko’s zoo and back to their hotel, she turned to Hisao and Misha. The baby looked curiously up at ‘Aunty Rin’.

The elephants were all leg and no arms. But they’d been painting pictures. Expressing themselves. Thoughtfully, slowly, happily. Majestically, even. Rin had never had to use those words all at once. She was drunk on heat, and words, and curry, and excitement.

“I want a trunk,” she said.

=====
alt index

Afternote: I actually find that I do identify with Molly/Moriko Kapur quite a bit. My father taught me to count in Punjabi and my mother taught me to count in Japanese, although my parents are neither Punjabi nor Japanese. Sometimes, truth is indeed stranger than fiction, no matter how strange fiction might seem.
Last edited by brythain on Sat Dec 12, 2015 4:01 am, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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