Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#67—'A Bear Discovers Salt')

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#64—'Unseen')

Post by Feurox » Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:55 am

Wonderful work Bry! Not sure I agree with Nuke’s judgement, seems plenty descriptive to me. Rin is adorable, and you’ve always had a talent for writing her. Many thanks for writing this story!

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#64—'Unseen')

Post by EternityDragon » Wed Feb 26, 2020 3:56 pm

Been lurking for a bit, finally bothered to make an account so that I can say kind words to deserving authors.
Haven’t seen any interactions between Rin and Kenji before, but this one is very well written. Kinda nice to see the joke about Kenji repeatedly mistaking Rin for a boy from the VN show up again, but in a different form. Rin being innocent/oblivious enough to not know what whiskey is is also a nice touch.
Also, not sure if this is frowned upon at these forums, but I was reading through the stories in this thread, happened upon the alternate AtD ending indexed at #5, and noticed something. Don’t know if this was a coincidence or not, or if anyone else has pointed this out, but the opening Hisao plays (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4) is known as the Scotch Game. Funnily enough, the Scottish main character was in the room.

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#64—'Unseen')

Post by brythain » Thu Feb 27, 2020 12:44 am

EternityDragon wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 3:56 pm
Been lurking for a bit, finally bothered to make an account so that I can say kind words to deserving authors.
Welcome to our community, and thanks for the kind words!
Haven’t seen any interactions between Rin and Kenji before, but this one is very well written. Kinda nice to see the joke about Kenji repeatedly mistaking Rin for a boy from the VN show up again, but in a different form. Rin being innocent/oblivious enough to not know what whiskey is is also a nice touch.
This is me trying hard to capture Rin from the VN. :)
Also, not sure if this is frowned upon at these forums, but I was reading through the stories in this thread, happened upon the alternate AtD ending indexed at #5, and noticed something. Don’t know if this was a coincidence or not, or if anyone else has pointed this out, but the opening Hisao plays (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4) is known as the Scotch Game. Funnily enough, the Scottish main character was in the room.
No, it's not frowned upon. We're always happy to hear from people. That was a deliberate Easter egg, and I do believe you're the first one to spot it! Congratulations! 8)
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] (#65—'Unsaid')

Post by brythain » Sun Mar 15, 2020 10:53 pm

The following post was written in response to Stiles Long's writing contest. Each participant was given a list of KS character pairings and a list of locations. One of each was chosen for this fic. There were a limited set of options available to participants in the contest and it may be that this fic resembles others. Any such resemblance is coincidental.
These two have always had a special relationship, in my After The Dream universe.


Unsaid

Many years later, this would be one of the birthdays Shizune remembered. But on the day itself, it had been awkward, and several kinds of weird—and that was why it remained in her memory, until it had become an altogether different kind of memory.

It was a Friday—the sixth day of May, in the year 2005—and Shizune wondered why she was still in school during Golden Week. Normally, she’d have been enjoying a break at home, with her weird younger brother and her parents. But that year, Mother had gone away. Father had become unreliable and moody. Kid brother Hideaki now fancied himself the wisest and most steadfast person in the household, and was now insufferable.

She sighed. And now this, a note from Administration saying that a senior teacher had requested that she appear at the staff refectory at noon.

What would such eminence want with a small person like her, struggling to get along in her little padded cell called 1-1? Would they have to communicate by sticky notes? She hoped not, but she’d brought some anyway.

In a split second of vindictiveness, she wished it were Setou, that half-blind kid who kept using his defect as an excuse to touch people in unacceptable places. But no, the note was clear. {Hakamichi} it said, and that was that.

She looked at her wristwatch. 11:57:33. About two and a half minutes to go. She was standing at parade rest outside the refectory door, making sure that anyone seeing her would know that she was not a slouch.

The empty canteen’s door thudded as it opened and swung shut. A trenchcoat fluttered. A pigeon had somehow got in, looking for non-existent pickings. Shizune stirred as a lanky figure stalked towards her. Mutou-sensei?

He nodded at her, holding the position just long enough for it to become a proper greeting. [Ah, Shizune. What are you doing here?]

Mutou was an enigma to her. On the very first day she had lost her temper at the class, she’d thrown a rather childish tantrum which involved kicking the library wall several times. A tall, thin, thoughtful man had just stood there watching her until she noticed him and blushed. It turned out that he knew sign, and they’d had a little conversation, after which she’d resolved to do better.

She bowed, flinching inwardly at the fact that she’d let him greet her first. [I have an appointment with a senior teacher at noon.]

[It is noon now. Shall we go in?]

Of course. It was easy to forget that Mutou was a senior science teacher. He wasn’t one to flaunt his status. He just tried his best to teach.

He was holding the door open for her. Flustered, she let herself be ushered into the teachers’ sanctum. It was clean and cosy, but a little garish, with a lot of orange and yellow. The furniture was functional, the kind with that plastic fake-leather upholstery, like the pieces in the dorm common area, but a little less beaten-up.

[Please, sit down at the table. I have a few things to say to you.]

Her heart sank. The only things she knew about Mutou were that he was kind, had a good reputation, and was serious about his work. She was not afraid of him doing a Setou on her. She sat down carefully and deliberately, taking care not to snag her skirt on a loose nailhead.

[Thank you, Mutou-sensei.]

[I am assuming you are surprised at the mysterious invitation, and also surprised that we are meeting under such odd circumstances.]

She nodded, just a small enough twitch of her neck to indicate agreement without interruption.

He walked over to the peeling old refrigerator. Cautiously, as if afraid of what might be lurking inside, he opened the door and reached in with one long arm. She would remember that particular detail: his white sleeve was too short, and it exposed a watch that was neat, with a bracelet of dark grey metal, not as large as a typical man’s watch.

Fascinated, she continued to look as he grasped something with his hand and withdrew it from the fridge. She noticed that, on his ring finger, he wore a slender band of dull silvery metal edged with gold. Married. She wondered what his wife was like.

He sat down. In his hands was a small, nicely-wrapped round box. It had what looked like some poorly chosen English words on it. He set the box on the table.

Shizune frowned. What was this?

[This is one of the famed Hokkaido cheesecakes from Otaru. I don’t eat such things myself, but my wife brought one back from her family business trip. She said I should give it to the ‘skinny deaf girl’ that I had mentioned to her.]

Shizune’s frown deepened. She recognized that cake. It had been considered a treat back in the days when her own mother had business trips to Hokkaido. In fact, it had been the only cake Hideaki ever appreciated.

[ I must say I never told her that you were skinny] he said, with the look of a middle-aged man trying hard to make a bad situation better by using a bad joke.

[My thanks to your wife, sensei.] There was no harm in being polite. But it was such a weird story!

[You’re very welcome! Happy birthday, Miss Hakamichi!]

[How did you know…]

She let her hands fall. Of course he knew. He was a senior teacher, and those people all had access to the student records. Why he had thought to know—that was a different matter.

Shizune sighed inwardly. She did like cheesecake, but not as much as the rest of her family. Then she had an idea.

[Sensei, perhaps we could share this cake?]

[Are you sure?]

[Yes.]

He nodded solemnly, got up and collected some cutlery from the rack next to the sink. With great care, he opened the box, unwrapped its contents, and dissected the cake neatly.

[Fifty-fifty, Miss Hakamichi?]

[Sixty-forty, sensei. You have… greater capacity than I. I am a small skinny girl.]

He grinned, plated two generous slices of cake, one a little smaller than the other, and sat down. A fork, a knife, and a table napkin appeared next to her plate. She appreciated the efficiency of it all.

From out of the blue, he signed: [Why is it you are not home on your birthday?]

She put a sliver of the cake in her mouth—it was as delicious and creamy as her previous experiences with its long-digested sisters had been—and laid her cutlery neatly down on the plate. She noticed with some detachment that her hands were trembling a little.

[I d-don’t know, sensei. Normally Father sends a c-car…]

To her astonishment, a warm tear had escaped from the corner of her left eye and was sneaking down her face.

[My wife is a strange woman. She told me that the skinny deaf girl would need cake, and to check if it was the girl’s birthday or something.]

[Yes, it is. It is my b-birthday. Thank you.]

She felt annoyingly and oddly proud that she’d managed to sign that without shaking too much. But he knew it was her birthday, so why repeat it?

Shizune tilted her head to one side and pushed up her spectacles. Another errant tear was attempting to run for it, and she didn’t want her cake contaminated by the criminal droplet.

Mutou was looking at her not with pity, but with some sort of embarrassed compassion. He noticed her noticing, and caught himself. Slowly and deliberately, he cut into his slice of cheesecake, separating out an almost perfect cube. It had a crumb left over at one corner, and he poked it back into the main slice before lifting the cube gracefully into his mouth.

She tried to smile. He was being kind. She resented that, and appreciated it, all at once. It would be good, perhaps, to change the subject.

[Thank Mrs Mutou for me, sensei. She sounds interesting and unusual.]

He seemed to perk up and shed some awkwardness, as he replied: [That she is. Women are smarter than men, and she’s smarter than most.]

It was such an unconventional statement from a Japanese man that Shizune found herself turning the cheesecake in her mouth into a little ball, savouring the nuances in the sweet crumbly stuff, unwilling to say anything for a while. Mutou sounded as if he had things on his mind too. Perhaps she should let him talk a bit more.

[Why do you think that is so?]

His mouth twisted a little as he finished chewing and swallowing. The cake was so soft that she wondered why he needed to chew at all.

[I think it’s because she’s the youngest in her family. They’re all very competitive, so the youngest has to work hardest to survive.]

She almost laughed at him. In her experience, though, whenever she laughed, people winced as if she’d farted.

[I’m the eldest in my family. Everyone else behaves like an idiot] she signed furiously. Appalled at what she’d just signed, she added: [Sorry, just joking.]

[If you weren’t joking, I’d still believe you. I’m the eldest, and it’s true. Even my parents can be idiots.] His eyes were twinkling.

She could feel unruly criminals gathering at the edges of both her eyes now. If she didn’t take stern disciplinary action, they’d start a mass prison break. To buy time, she removed her glasses and polished them on her uniform sleeve. It also gave her an excuse not to look at him. How dare he say such things? How dare he empathize so irritatingly well? Maybe he was faking it.

She looked up. There was nothing but concern in his gaze, except perhaps a little bit of shadowy humour. She could work with that.

[You must know a lot about idiots, teaching in a high school.]

[Ha! Sometimes the idiots you find at home are worse than the ones at work.]

[Are there a lot of us who are idiots to you?]

[Oh no. Students are seldom idiots. Ignorant or lazy, but not as bad as adults.]

That struck a chord, somehow. She decided she could be blunt.

[I don’t like ignorant or lazy people either.]

[I’m a teacher. I have to like them, and make them less ignorant and lazy.]

[But sometimes, you must be surrounded by them until you feel sick and want to run away.]

[True. But there’s no running, so one should stand and fight. Somebody’s future depends on it, I always tell myself.]

[How do you keep telling yourself that? Everybody has a limit.]

He’d finished his cake. She looked down, suddenly afraid that she’d offended him. Squinting at her plate, she suddenly realized he’d given her the larger piece. Her eyes flicked up involuntarily in surprise.

[Well, Shizune, when I need to, I get help. My colleagues sometimes feel the same way, so we get a drink after work. Or we bitch about students in the staff refectory here.]

It was a very human answer, and she couldn’t find it in herself to ask him about the cake. Of course he had friends. He was the kind who would find friends anywhere.

[But what if you don’t have friends and nobody wants to help you?]

There was a long pause. His hands were frozen, as if he’d glued them to the space-time continuum that Hideaki was always going on about.

[Miss Hakamichi, can I give you some advice?]

She felt the cells of her eyes tense. She’d pushed it a bit too far. Now even he wouldn’t want to help her. He’d just ‘advise’ her and be done with it. She looked at his tie, unwilling to meet his gaze.

[You can make friends. I’m sure of it. There’s this new student coming in late on a transfer. She is interested in learning Japanese sign language, and already knows the American stuff. Maybe you can help her. She seems nice.]

She closed her eyes. She felt overwhelmed. There was too much going on in Mutou’s head that she didn’t understand. Why was he being so generous with his help? Now, this.

The watery prisoners were safely locked up in their cells for now. Slowly, she opened her eyes, still looking down. There was a fresh new slice of cake on her plate.

[ I can do that] she signed, deciding. [Thank you, sensei.]

[Happy birthday, Shizune!] he signed back.

The grin was back on his face. Carefully, she allowed hers to return as well.

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

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#65—'Unsaid')

Post by Scroff » Tue Mar 17, 2020 9:49 am

I've always enjoyed your rendition of Mutou, you capture the warm but slightly distant, passionate but restrained, facets of his personality beautifully. And here he's being as meddlesome as Nurse! Thank you for the story.

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#65—'Unsaid')

Post by brythain » Thu Mar 19, 2020 1:05 pm

Scroff wrote:
Tue Mar 17, 2020 9:49 am
I've always enjoyed your rendition of Mutou, you capture the warm but slightly distant, passionate but restrained, facets of his personality beautifully. And here he's being as meddlesome as Nurse! Thank you for the story.
You're most welcome! I'm glad you feel that way. I think of Mutou and Nurse as having a friendly rivalry about messing (or not messing) with their students.
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] (#65—'Unsaid')

Post by EternityDragon » Thu Mar 19, 2020 11:42 pm

This is well and truly beautiful. Everything here feels like something Mutou would say, with slight awkwardness and genuine caring hiding behind his every action. Having read almost every piece in the main continuity of AtD, I also know that Mutou also happens to be Shizune's uncle in this universe, which makes it even more heartwarming just to see Mutou caring for his family in his own awesome way. Thanks for the read!

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#65—'Unsaid')

Post by Feurox » Fri Mar 20, 2020 8:43 am

You continue to astound and amaze Bry, good work. Thank you for this tale! I have to echo the sentiments of Scroff, your Mutou is wonderful!

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#65—'Unsaid')

Post by brythain » Fri Mar 20, 2020 12:10 pm

EternityDragon wrote:
Thu Mar 19, 2020 11:42 pm
This is well and truly beautiful. Everything here feels like something Mutou would say, with slight awkwardness and genuine caring hiding behind his every action. Having read almost every piece in the main continuity of AtD, I also know that Mutou also happens to be Shizune's uncle in this universe, which makes it even more heartwarming just to see Mutou caring for his family in his own awesome way. Thanks for the read!
Thank you very much! Just a little clarification: at this particular point in time, Mutou only knows that his wife has a peculiar interest in Shizune. He won't know for more than a year that Shizune is related to Mrs Mutou. There's a story there, and it's hidden somewhere in Mutou's arc and in 'Pavane'. Shizune, of course, will not know for quite a while, but she's smart, and she will find out.
Feurox wrote:
Fri Mar 20, 2020 8:43 am
You continue to astound and amaze Bry, good work. Thank you for this tale! I have to echo the sentiments of Scroff, your Mutou is wonderful!
Haha, thank you! Mutou probably is embarrassed by all that. :)
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] (#66—'Contrast')

Post by brythain » Mon Apr 27, 2020 3:27 am

This piece was done in haste, a kind of concept outline. It is technically compatible with 'After The Dream', but I make no assertions of canonicity.
Disclaimer: The following post was written in response to Stiles Long's writing contest. Each participant was given a list of KS character pairings and a list of locations. One of each was chosen for this fic. There were a limited set of options available to participants in the contest and it may be that this fic resembles others. Any such resemblance is coincidental.
In the AtD-verse, Mutou got around a lot. It was his natural curiosity, coupled with a true desire to get the best out of all his students, that drove him to do many unusual things. I'll let Natsume explain. After all, it was she who came into possession of the document dump.


Contrast—A Memorial After 21 March 2009

Many years after the event in question, those who made it their business to chart the convoluted story of the Yamaku people were able to piece together this intriguing diptych. Mutou, as usual, had kept detailed records. Of all the sources that I had cultivated, in person or by proxy, he had been the most generous—he had specified individual bequests to dozens of people upon his passing, and I, Natsume of the Shimbun, to my great surprise, received a large box which included a packet of photocopies, old and slightly plastic-smelling. Mutou, with characteristic self-effacement, had made copies of letters and emails sent to him, but hadn’t kept those he had sent to others! Here then is half an untold tale, with brief excerpts pieced together in order to shine an unusual light upon an unusual correspondence. [N., Osaka, late 2030.]

*****

MM:

Sensei, you have gotta be kidding me. There’s no reason for me to say anything about Enomoto, and I have no idea why the heck you think I should. You emailed me to say that you believed I had something to say about our lately departed ex-class rep, and about the only thing I’m curious about is how you could think so. Thanks, but no thanks. Oh yeah, you probably must be quite amazed that I’m writing so good, so polite? I promised your golden boy that I’d try to be good.

*****

KR:

Mutou-sensei, may your life be prosperous. At times of such sadness, people reflect on the past and on how we may progress to a better future. This one accepts her responsibility as Student Council President to contribute a few words at the Yamaku memorial service for the late Ms Enomoto. One hesitates to ask improper questions, but one confesses ignorance as to why Sensei thinks one might have special insight with regard to the departed.

*****

MM:

What do you mean you know what she was to me? She was a pain in the ass to me, and I was a pain in the ass to her. She was always, “Miura, hand up your homework,” or, “Miura, you’re late again,” or “Miura, detention class is at 3.30 pm today.” And that’s all it was! Then she got sicker and Her Imperial Majesty took over as class rep, and I have no idea who was worse.

*****

KR:

It is surprising how Sensei might be so well-informed about such matters. Indeed, Ms Enomoto did provide some useful advice on nurturing one’s relationship with Ms Hakamichi. Also true that her father and this one’s own were comrades in a matter that one thought was unknown to the general public. Might one inquire as to the provenance of this intelligence?

*****

MM:

She told you that? Shit.

*****

KR:

Sensei inspires confidence in his students, it is clear. Perhaps this one should seek his advice as well.

*****

MM:

Okay, Mutou-san. I guess I was rude to you the last time, and I should apologise, seeing as I’m trying to reform. I remember what she said, yeah. “Don’t be sad. We all do what we can, with what we have.” It wasn’t the first time, y’know. I got angry at her that day, I called her a few stinkers and how the fuck did she have the right to say I was sad anyway—but I was sad, and she knew it. We weren’t friends, nah, we couldn’t be. But I trusted her by the time she left, that Saki who people sometimes thought was a bitch and so did I, until the day I knew she wasn’t. So, yeah, she’s gone and I do feel it a bit, and if you really want me—the real bitch, right—to write a few words, I will. You can take out the bad words too.

*****

KR:

Sensei knows everything? This one tried to kill herself once, and Ms Enomoto stopped her. Ms Enomoto was not close, she was senior, and respected, and feared. But she said, “Katayama, if I may, Rika? Don’t be sad. Don’t be sad. We all do what we can, with what we have.” And since that day, this one’s thoughts have turned far away from the idea of ending oneself. It is a story one should not have to tell, and one will not. But one will tell “Saki’s Story” fairly and as well as one can, because it is well deserved.

*****

MM:

Mutou, you want me to speak? At the service? You’re out of your fucking mind, boss. I can’t put five words together without feeling the urge to be rude. Spoil the mood, I will.

*****

KR:

It is the role of the Student Council’s president to lead the school in such moments. One humbly accepts the responsibility, as earlier agreed. Thank you, Mutou-sensei, for focussing this one’s thoughts in fruitful directions. One thus has been able to find the right words for this sombre occasion, words that are reflective of the departed lady’s true nature.

*****

MM:

I did it, didn’t I? Wasn’t too soppy? Well, it was honest, and if you said you saw tears in my eyes, I’d deny it. But yeah, not so bad. I still don’t know why you said I loved her. I didn’t. I did try to kiss her once, the day after she told me not to off myself, but she gave me that sad look she was so good at, and said, “I’m not yours, won’t be anybody’s, I don’t want to tie my death to anyone.” I guess I’ll miss her, after all. Thanks, boss, for making me do this shit. Never thought I would.

*****

KR:

Mutou-sensei, this one wishes you a long life. It is strange that one can feel so strongly about a stranger; it is stranger that one can feel that a stranger once became a friend. When Aoi and Keiko persuaded Rika to become President, this one was surprised to receive email from Osaka—friendly advice on the school, the teachers, and dealing with Ms Hakamichi and Ms Mikado. Over time, one feels one almost knew Ms Enomoto. But the question of why she emailed in the first place—that question arose. One can only conclude that Sensei had a hand in it.

*****

There was a note appended to the stack of letters. In it, Mutou himself expressed wonder that two very different people had both been so similarly treated by the late Ms Enomoto. As her one-time classmate, I can attest that she could be hard but fair, generous but cryptic, and a leader by example. When her disease removed her from our class, it was a loss. Shizune knew this, and also that she could not replace Saki easily as class rep. However, the story of how Miki, of all people, came to be called upon to speak at the memorial service—that was one thing I did not know. And I never would have guessed that Saki and Rika had any dealings with one another. When Saki passed away on 2009-03-21, there were many things we did not know. Twenty years later, we miss her yet again, and more. [N.]

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

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#66—'Contrast')

Post by Feurox » Mon Apr 27, 2020 8:08 am

How fitting, after all our (my) talk of monuments, you should choose the same as me. Memorial services are solemn, but somehow freeing affairs.

Honestly, it's Mutou's silence that speaks volumes in this story. That final paragraph touched me immensely. Somehow, with the focus being on Saki's remembrance, I'm reminded of a very famous gravestone you are no doubt familiar with, the dear departed Keats, who's name was writ in water.

Anyway, very moving, and a good example of how we reflect and react to death in real time. Brilliantly done, as always sir. Thank you for a moving and wonderful piece.

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#66—'Contrast')

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Thu Apr 30, 2020 8:25 pm

This was an interesting format with the constant suggestion of things that have happened elsewhere, offscreen. It makes you wonder what Saki was like before she passed away. It's also interesting to see that she was quite the alpha personality, if the story is anything to go by, which is different from other versions of the character.
An Unusual Friendship (Misha x Hanako Route)
Riposte (Rika Mini-Route)
One-Shots Thread (Random Smut/Meme Stories)

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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#66—'Contrast')

Post by brythain » Fri May 01, 2020 12:30 pm

Hanako Fancopter wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 8:25 pm
This was an interesting format with the constant suggestion of things that have happened elsewhere, offscreen. It makes you wonder what Saki was like before she passed away. It's also interesting to see that she was quite the alpha personality, if the story is anything to go by, which is different from other versions of the character.
Thanks very much! I'm not quite sure, but I think AtD Saki is best demonstrated here (which, strangely enough, is one of my Taro stories).
Feurox wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 8:08 am
How fitting, after all our (my) talk of monuments, you should choose the same as me. Memorial services are solemn, but somehow freeing affairs.

Honestly, it's Mutou's silence that speaks volumes in this story. That final paragraph touched me immensely. Somehow, with the focus being on Saki's remembrance, I'm reminded of a very famous gravestone you are no doubt familiar with, the dear departed Keats, who's name was writ in water.

Anyway, very moving, and a good example of how we reflect and react to death in real time. Brilliantly done, as always sir. Thank you for a moving and wonderful piece.
I think my version of Mutou is best characterised as someone who, having experienced pain and loss, always tried to soften such impacts on other people. And to that end, he wasn't above manipulation. But he tried his best to help others, which is all we can say for ourselves when the time comes for other people to ask, "Where is his monument?"
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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brythain
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Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#67—'A Bear Discovers Salt')

Post by brythain » Mon Jun 08, 2020 2:21 am

This piece is part of my random (and totally not canonical, and sometimes contradictory) series of fragments of a certain KS parent's infamous autobiography. You can find the other two (so far) as 'A Bear Discovers Fire' and 'A Bear Discovers Tears', also in this thread.
Disclaimer: The following post was written in response to Stiles Long's writing contest. Each participant was given a list of KS character pairings and a list of locations. One of each was chosen for this fic. There were a limited set of options available to participants in the contest and it may be that this fic resembles others. Any such resemblance is coincidental.
A Bear (Almost) Discovers Salt
being an excerpt from the secret sections of ‘The Autobiography of Hakamichi Jigoro’ (2008 Edition)

My name is Hakamichi Jigoro, and I am writing this in ink, using the traditional style. This is to make clear the difference between the document I am creating here and the one that is my official autobiography. The reasons for such a difference may become obvious to the discerning reader. If you are not so discerning, too bad.

(Editor’s Note: In this English edition, I have attempted to preserve the nuances and atmosphere of the original. Sadly, in Mr Hakamichi’s case, the potency of his words and the forcefulness of his directions with regard to editorial policy render such attempts challenging at the very least, and often impossible.)

*****

I have a story, which, unusually for me, is difficult to make plausible. I struggle with this little piece of my life, because as in most things of reality, there are always bits that fail to make sense to a rational observer. It is like having tiny fragments of eggshell in the omelette you have cooked, despite knowing full well that you were impeccable in shelling the egg and extracting its vital contents.

As readers of my autobiography thus far will know, I have a daughter who goes to an elite school in Sendai, which is relatively far from home. This distance is not much of an obstacle for me: I have a machine that can abbreviate the journey satisfactorily, and I know how to drive like a man. However, I seldom have desire, opportunity or time to do this frequently—Shizune comes home occasionally on short breaks or holidays, and I have the sprout, her younger brother, to keep me company. I have learned to be otherwise self-sufficient, as a man should be, and as a man who has to shoulder the burden of single parenthood, even more so.

It was thus with great displeasure that I realized one morning, that having made an unaccountable error in my personal schedule (I never make errors in my corporate schedule), I would have to rush over to Yamaku Academy for a perfectly routine regular briefing from the Head Nurse. In this day and age, I had assumed that such briefings could be conducted remotely, by Facemail or whatever they call those things. Nothing doing. That salamander dropping of a healthcare functionary is punctilious and legalistic to a fault; he said, “Mr Hakamichi, such confidential briefings have to be done man to man, for the security of our vulnerable students.”

Hah! I almost said to him, “Well, if your security was so great, they would not be vulnerable!” Fortunately, I remembered that I had made a large contribution to that security, and grudgingly persuaded my corporate entity to rate it highly for the local press. To make negative comments would thus have been in bad form.

My esteemed readers, you would probably guess that the phrase ‘man to man’ was what really gave me pause. When I had first admitted Shizune to the Academy, the Head Nurse (or Chief Nurse, or Exalted Nursing Officer, whatever) had been a lady, as it should be. Since then, I had not realized this person had been replaced with a man—and a singularly flippant one, from his tone of voice.

I grit my teeth, and took comfort in the thought that at my manly velocity, I would have just enough time to plan a scathing line of verbal response to whatever this Nurse person had to tell me. Shizune might disapprove, but the sooner she figured out what was what, the better it would be for her in the long term. You cannot let so-called professionals run your life. You should run theirs.

And so it was that I found myself roaring up via the Tohoku Expressway towards Sendai-Miyagi at dawn. When I finally came off the interchange, I felt a twinge of sorrow. It had not always been smooth sailing between Mayoi and myself, but Sendai especially could bring out memories that I found somewhat debilitating—memories of time spent watching the sea with her from various places along the eastern coast.

It had been on one of those occasions that I told her I imagined I could look out on a particularly clear day and see Hawaii. I remember her laughing, and her comment: “Hakamichi, the line is ‘on a clear day you can see forever’. And ‘forever’ is a very powerful word.”

You see? Even a strong man can be undone by words. But enough of that, and back to the tale at hand.

I drove up to Yamaku, where the black-rimmed label on my windshield afforded me swift access. There was some time wasted as I entertained various measures designed to ascertain my identity. But at least the gatekeeper was efficient in applying them, and I nodded at him as a token of my esteem. As I entered the relatively small parking area, I steeled myself for sights that men were not meant to see. My daughter may have a problem, but it is not as visible as the problems of others.

The signage in the school must have been designed for the legally blind who could still see shapes. Large red crosses with white borders marked the way to the Medical Centre, and I was able to display a confident and manly stride as I made my entrance to the central administrative building.

I was stopped a second time, but some scanner successfully read the card that had been ziptied to my wrist, and the guard waved me through. Security indeed. It was like visiting my corporate headquarters.

Ahead of me, I saw many cripples of all kinds. Some lacked feet, others hands. Some had interesting mechanical augmentation. There were all kinds of odd-looking people. I thought I caught a glimpse of Loud Pink, my daughter’s little friend, but by the time I had cut through the crowds like a bear through a tent, they were nowhere to be seen.

“Hello!” I yelled politely as I walked into the Medical Centre. “I apologise for being on time for my appointment with your Chief Nurse, Head Nursing Officer, the man who is in charge of this medical outfit!”

A young lady at the counter blanched prettily and smiled. “Good morning! Please wait, sir, and I will get Head Nurse Kaneshiro for you.”

“No need, no need,” said a very irritating voice. It sounded nasal, inconsistent in volume, a little miserly in roundedness, and had the nature of a radio commenter’s voice pronouncements from one of those westernized talk shows.

“Hakamichi-san! I am very pleased to meet you,” continued said voice. It seemed to be coming from a gangly young man who had a few bleached white hairs in his otherwise dark mop. His shirt was too tight for one with such limited muscular assets, and his trousers were also too tight. He wore no tie. Fortunately, much of the rest of his physique was concealed by a white medical coat.

I was in a formal suit, treating this as a professional work meeting, so I was able to feel distinctly superior. “Ah, Kaneshiro-san,” I said frostily, noting his perfunctory bow and doing marginally better so as to highlight this lapse to him. “Please be kind enough to tell me what you have to tell me about my daughter.”

“Oho, I couldn’t be so rude as to do that in public! Come into my office,” he replied, gesturing loosely at an undistinguished door to the left of the counter. “It’s down this corridor, and it won’t take very long.”

Such nerve! I had driven up to Sendai, a journey of more than four hours including various pauses and inconveniences, and “it won’t take very long” was all my thanks? I kept my counsel, however, as I had a full day of Sendai-related errands to accomplish, and I did not mind the brevity of our encounter.

He held the door for me. Did he think I was unfit? Was he being polite? I gave him the benefit of the doubt and preceded him into the corridor. He waved his pass at another door and it slid open. I prepared to breathe the same air as this eccentric fellow, who looked as if his socks were also too tight and smelly to boot.

His office was actually fairly neat. A stack of files lay in his in-tray, next to a fairly modern computer terminal. A set of papers clipped loosely together were the only blemish upon the clear surface of his work area. A line of curious machines hummed to themselves along a counter-top, and an examination bed—currently vacant, with its privacy curtain drawn back—sat tidily in one corner. The door glided shut behind me.

He propped his backside against some shelves and regarded me with one eye. His fringe appeared to be assisting the partial occlusion of the other. He raised his eyebrow, which made him appear to lose both eyebrows, and whispered in a creepy and unmanly way, “What do you know about loss of balance in young people with congenital deafness?”

“Nothing!” I said, projecting my voice firmly between his eyes. “You can tell me all about it now, in short and informative sentences.”

I have long found that the best way to learn things from professionals is to make them talk, wait for the important bits, then cut out and leave. Also, be unyielding in your dedication to brevity and concision.

“Well, we have an awkward situation. Your daughter is acting as if she has loss of balance, but she has nothing to suggest she should have.”

It is not often that a man is left hanging like an unflushed toilet. I did not exactly leave my mouth open, but it was very nearly so. The response I made was calm and neutral: “What exactly has been observed?”

“Something strange,” said the Head Nurse, with a twitch of his half-hidden eyebrows. “It mirrors similar behaviour in her best friend. They act clumsily when together, less clumsily when apart.”

“What do you propose to do?” You see, this is the way to handle professionals. Let them make professional decisions, but have knowledge of what those decisions are likely to be.

“We have therapists who can address underlying psychological causes.”

“You have a suitably trained professional in mind?”

“I have several. This meeting is just to collect your formal approval of such a step.”

You will notice, of course, that by asserting formality, I had made the upstart medico behave more formally himself. This was, however, not to last.

I have good hearing, trained by a well-disciplined lifestyle. From some distance outside, I heard the faint sounds of irregular behaviour. Someone seemed to be imploring someone about something, both voices being female. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little amber light flash on the Head Nurse’s desk. So did he.

“Oops!” he squeaked in something approximating the collapse of a baritone into soprano mode, thus shattering my illusions of personality reform. “I seem to be having…”

“Head Nurse,” I enunciated sharply, interrupting his shoddy excuse-making, “let us ignore the poor external discipline, and…”

Outside, the altercation had become a mellifluous string of words in a warm mezzosoprano. The only reason I could describe it thus was the distant memory of my wife’s voice.

“I saw him go into the office! I’ll just drop in, it’s all right, he won’t mind! I have to get his autograph!”

Of all places to find a fan. I am not well known in the crude world of the public domain, but there are certain circles in which I am recognized for my talents. Resigned to my fate, I sucked in my abdominals so as to maintain appropriate posture, and waited for the next few seconds to pass.

The door behind me slid open. As it reached its full aperture, I had turned to present a respectful front. One should always display the cut of one’s suit to maximum advantage, so as to honour the tailor’s efforts.

“Oh!” said a lady with reddish-brown hair and a full but slender figure. (As I look at what I have written, I see the contradiction but cannot say I was wrong.) “What a large person!”

Behind her, the younger lady from the counter said, “Madam Nishizume… !” before the door glided shut again and cut her off. I reflected on the day as being full of frustrations and interruptions, but remained largely in control of my emotions.

There is a long story told elsewhere, which may also appear in these memoirs, about my relationship with a certain Madam Nishizume. You might think that we did not know each other, from the first part of our encounter here so far. Yet, you would be wrong.

The flippant-faced medico coughed softly. “Madam Nishizume?” he said, with altogether too much of a dubious note.

I stepped nimbly to one side, forming the third corner of an equilateral triangle. “Madam,” I said addressing the lady, “I shall indeed do you the honour of signing my autograph. Where would you like it, and what inscription would suit your needs?”

“Ah!” she said, ejaculating for a second time. She fumbled around in her handbag, pulled out a sheet of fairly high-quality writing paper, and offered it to me. “Mr Hakamichi, is it not? I have admired your work, and never once had the courage to ask this of you.”

This is all true. I also admired, in return, her attempt to make it seem as if she and I were total strangers in front of the unnaturally inquisitive eyebrow twitcher. I whipped my pen out from my inside breast pocket—sadly, a traditional brush and ink will not suffice for this function—and directed it towards her paper. “Inscription?”

“Your illustrious name,” she said, “and any other writing you wish to honour me with.”

Very gracious and polite, as always, Madam Nishizume. I signed my name in semiformal calligraphy and appended a brief note about roses, thorns, and how the two were meant to be together. I did wonder, briefly, about why she had written the odd poetic note in one margin: “Three pots. Sake. Daikon.”

As I wrote, I kept an eye on her face. As I suspected, the subliminal tics of her facial muscles showed that she harboured intense emotions. A woman to be wary of, perhaps, but what a woman!

The operation complete, I began to return my very useful titanium-shafted writing instrument to my pocket. Then I realized what else I should do. “Nurse,” I said, “May I also sign the documents concerning my daughter?”

An odd look was crossing the oleaginous orderly’s pale face. As if his teeth were glued to his lips by stress, he replied, “Yes, of course. Please, sign here, here and here.”

I relieved him of the loosely-clipped sheaf of papers, read through them rapidly, and signed as he indicated. Then, with economy of movement, I pocketed my pen and returned the papers.

Turning to the flame-haired woman who was watching us, I smiled and said, “May I walk you out, now that my business is done?”

To my surprise, she smiled back daintily and replied, “I have business with Head Nurse Kaneshiro, today. It is my loss to not have the pleasure of your company.”

I wondered why on earth she would have business with the pale-faced loon. But I realized on quick reflection that it was probably something to do with her own daughter, the legless wonder that my Shizune detested.

“Very well, Madam. This has been a pleasure. Head Nurse, thank you for your service.”

I straightened up to allow my suit to relax into its ideal hanging, and tapped the door button. On my way out, I wondered about the chaotic aspect of the medical centre that had allowed this fortuitous collision of appointments at the Head Nurse’s office.

It was then that I thought I heard an explosion of manic laughter from that office. I shook my head. What an inappropriate response to the sad situation of a crippled daughter! And why on earth would Madam Nishizume be laughing with that man?

In our lives, there are always inexplicable things. One should just soldier on, a proud samurai in an uncertain battlefield.

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

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Feurox
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Re: Alt Dreams [One-Shots] (#67—'A Bear Discovers Salt')

Post by Feurox » Fri Jun 12, 2020 8:56 am

It always amazes me how your Jigoro can be both profoundly an impatient ass, and well, profound. That last line is oddly inspiring, (doubly so for readers who are familiar with your Jigoro!)

As always, your SPAG is impeccable, and your mastery of the form is awe-inspiring. The lines drip with humour, but also something real and removed - it's hard to put your finger on it exactly, but I find myself thinking that about much of your work. Your Jigoro comes across as someone who's rooted in tradition, but deep down, will always pursue what he thinks to be right and just. It's an odd balance, he's torn somehow between a nostalgia for the past and his own pride in what's right, like tradition versus an evolving world... As I said recently, your stuff often has me thinking about monuments, and what we leave behind... I'm sure it's a reflection of those themes that makes me curious about Jigoro as a character, (and your Mutou actually!).

Anyway, as I say, very good as always chap!

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