Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/6/2021)

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MoashLannister
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/3/2021)

Post by MoashLannister » Tue Jun 15, 2021 7:02 am

Chapter 14: Leap

Another day had almost gone by, with only a scant few hours left. As I lay on my bed, looking up at the empty ceiling, that was the only thought that I could muster. Another day, and I’d gotten no closer to reconciling with Rin.The rift between us seemed as large as ever. I thought about what my mother had said about letting time settle this, but all I felt was the fear that time would simply widen that rift to the point where I could no longer reach her.

“Maybe you’re wrong,” I whispered to my mother, despite the fact that she wasn’t there. “Maybe it’s just making things worse. Isn’t that what you want? For things to become so bad that I don’t have a choice but to break it off with her?”

I felt immediately guilty about blaming her like that. Her advice was genuine, and perhaps it might have been helpful for a regular problem that regular couples face. But our problem and our relationship was anything but regular.

I heard a knock on my door and groaned. It was probably Kenji, who's been doing that a lot since I’d gotten back, talking about whatever goes through that insane mind of his. A few times, I’ve let him in just because I couldn’t deal with being alone with my thoughts, but now it wasn’t even worth the effort. Listening to him wouldn’t fix my problems, so why did it matter?

After a few minutes, there was another knock, and it was then that I finally noticed something odd about it. A single loud knock as opposed to the battering Kenji usually gives, and I didn’t hear his usual diatribe. Only silence. Not to mention that it sounded too different to be a knock using someone’s hands...

No, there was no way it could be.

Another few minutes passed, and a third knock came. Still no voice accompanied it. At this point, my body tensed up even more, and without thinking I sat up and got off my bed. My heart was torn between hoping it was her, and wishing it wasn’t.

I walked to the door, and froze with my hand on the handle. My breath felt heavier, as if it was burdened by an intangible pressure. Closing my eyes, I opened the door.

Opening my eyes, I see her standing right in front of me. Rin was looking at me, but it was almost like she was looking through me instead. Before I could even react, she walked past me and entered my room, saying nothing.

“Rin…” I muttered as I turned around, seeing her immediately lay down on my bed. Normally, such a sight would have been the highlight of my day. Now it just made me feel awful, wondering just what was her intention in coming here, after so long without so much as a word.

With a sigh, I nearly slammed my door shut in frustration, but managed to restrain myself enough to close it gently. I walked back to my bed, step by agonizing step, getting closer to Rin. It felt as if I was walking on a tightrope, that at any moment I’d just plummet to the ground without a safety net.

Something as simple as walking towards someone shouldn’t feel as horrifying as that. It would have been absurd if it wasn’t so real.

As I finally reached the bed, I looked down at Rin. She was facing the wall, eyes shut as if she were trying to sleep. Her hair and clothes were a mess, and her expression was troubled.
The subtle movements her body was making made it clear that she was very much awake, though I almost wished she was asleep.

“Why are you here, Rin?” I asked gently, not even caring if she gave me a satisfactory answer. I just wanted her to respond with something that wasn’t silence. Unfortunately, she didn’t react to my question.

“Rin, please…” I said again, almost begging, and again I was met with nothing. I’d cry, but I’d long since run out of tears.

I was so close to her, just mere inches apart. And yet I felt as if we were in two separate worlds again, that I was no longer her anchor to reality. In some ways, it was even worse than her time at the atelier, because this time I understood her fear all too well. The fear of losing me, of the person who she loved more.

But regardless of my understanding, I could do nothing about it. Despite my promise to chase her wherever she went, Rin was in a place I simply couldn’t go. A place where I would never belong.

I almost wanted to scream. Like that time I lashed out about not being her muse. I thought I was past that point, and yet the urge to yell was there, to try and force her to listen to me.

I’d come so far, and yet in that moment, I felt as if I hadn’t even taken a single step.

Without saying anything, I lay down on the bed beside her, my back to hers. I felt so tired, but with her so close to me like this, it was hard to sleep.

I lost all sense of time as I wavered between being asleep and being awake. Though I hoped that exhaustion would force me to sleep eventually, Rin’s presence prevented me from succumbing to it. I wondered if Rin was asleep by now, or if she was still pretending to be.

If it was the latter...what could I even do? What should I even say?

I knew that her being here was uncomfortable for her as well, as it meant she had to acknowledge my problems, whether or not she wanted to. Did her desire to be with me simply outweighed that? But her silence and unwillingness to address it continued to keep me at a distance. She was skirting the line between letting go and holding on, but that was unsustainable, for both of us. Sooner or later, a choice had to be made.

And then a thought came, a dangerous thought that I would never have considered earlier. Should I...force her hand?

It would be cruel of me, to force her to choose, but that was going to happen anyways. She has to decide whether to keep me in or cut me off from her life, and simply remaining like this was too painful for both of us. A part of me wanted to just go to sleep and ignore that idea, and while it was extremely tempting, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

“Rin,” I said, louder than I intended. “I need you to talk to me about this.”

All I’m met with is her silence.

“We can’t keep going like this, I can’t…” I stopped myself before going any further, trying not to stray too far into hopelessness. “If you want this relationship to end because of...because of my heart condition, that’s fine. I don’t ever want to hurt you, and if that’s all I’m doing by being with you, then I’m willing to let you go.

“But if you don’t want me to go, then we need to talk about it. Not tonight, I don’t think either of us are ready for that.” I paused again, wondering if she was even listening. It would be pointless if she wasn’t, but even though I didn’t know, I still continued. “Tomorrow night. Please come here so we can talk, like how we did before this all happened. Try to remember those times. We were happy then, right?”

Those memories of our time together were something I treasured above everything else, yet recently I couldn’t find any enjoyment in remembering those times, only more sorrow. Like a photograph slowly being drained of color, of warmth.

“If you don’t show up tomorrow night, then…” I felt my eyes getting wet as I prepared myself for what I was about to say. “Then I’ll consider our relationship over.”

Saying those words was like a knife through my chest, yet I felt as if they needed to be said. We couldn’t stay as we were now. We needed to change, even if it meant that we might permanently be apart.

Again I was given no response, and my exhaustion began to win out. I closed my eyes, knowing I won’t open them again as I fall asleep, something that I both needed yet did not want.

“Goodnight, Rin. Please know that I love you. I’ll always love you.”

These were the last words that I said, and if the worst truly were to happen, those would be the final thing I would have said to her in spite of it all.

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I let out a groan as I awoke, opening my eyes to see the wall. I sat up in surprise. I was looking at the wall, and alone in my bed, which should have been impossible since…

Getting up immediately, I looked at the entrance to my room and saw that the door was completely shut, no crack or opening to suggest that someone with difficulty closing doors had left. Or even that someone had entered in the first place.

As I rubbed my eyes, I tried to recall what happened last night. It all felt so surreal, but I remembered her entering my room. The words I’d said out of desperation, the ultimatum that I gave her.

Those memories felt real, but at the same time I couldn’t help but question if they weren’t something I simply wanted to have happened, instead of what actually happened.

“Tonight…” I muttered. The deadline I’d set for the both of us, to either move on together or move apart. I’d said that we wouldn’t have been ready yesterday, but would tonight really be any different? I had my doubts that I was, but I supposed there really never is a time to be ready to talk about such a thing.

But I still had the rest of the day to worry about, and I started by getting my medications over with. Swallowing pill after pill, I consider simply staying in my room all day until night came, but I quickly dropped that idea. Trying to see Rin is out of the question, as I’d already told her she had until evening to think things over.

As I finished the last of my medications, I continued to wonder about what to do. I decided to go for a shower at first, wanting to refresh my body, if not my mind. Thankfully, Kenji didn’t appear to spoil that experience, and I managed to wash myself and change in relative peace.

After that, I walked out of the boys’ dorm, my destination still unclear. My first instinct was to go to the cafeteria, but I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry and it was a little earlier than when I usually ate breakfast.

Instead, I found myself walking around the school buildings, my feet walking as if they had a will of their own. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but after a while it became clear where I was heading, and why. It was the same place I’d headed during the first time Rin and I’d had trouble with my condition.

As I walked over to the track, I saw Emi running at full speed, a determined look on her face. Emi seemed to notice me as I walked towards her, though she didn’t slow down to talk to me. I was fine with that, and simply watched as she ran lap after lap without much effort. Even in the chill of winter, it seemed an act as effortless to her as breathing.

Eventually, she slowed down during the last couple of laps, finally stopping to catch her breath before walking towards me. Emi looked a little frustrated, though there was an element of curiosity in it as well. The fact that I’d decided to go to the track probably surprised her a little, considering it had surprised me as well.

“Morning,” Emi said as she stopped a few feet in front of me, bouncing a little. “You’re up early, Hisao. Can’t sleep?”

“Yeah. Though I’m starting to wonder why I’m here instead of in my room,” I responded, trying to lighten the mood, even trying to give her a smile. Unfortunately, all I could manage was a very forced grin. “Done running?”

“Nah, I still got a few laps, but you looked like you needed to talk.” Emi began stretching before pointing to the bleachers. “Why don’t you wait there till I’m done? It’ll only take a few minutes.”

“Actually…” I looked down at my attire, which was my casual attire. Hardly something to exercise in, even if I was wearing sneakers. “Mind if I join you?”

The look of shock on Emi’s face would have made me chuckle in any other situation, as she almost leapt back in surprise. She blinked a few times and rubbed her eyes, as if she were dreaming.

“Did...did I hear that right?” Emi said with suspicion. “You want to exercise? You, Hisao Nakai? You refused to run after the first time!”

“Well, I guess I’m willing to try again,” I said noncommittally, hoping she didn’t take it as a desire to run with her every day. Honestly, much like my decision to go to the track, I’ve been speaking and acting in the moment. “Just...nothing too extreme, alright? I’ve got enough to worry about.”

I didn’t really say that last part with any amount of solemnity, but Emi seemed to flinch a little at it before grumbling something to herself. She then turned around to the starting line of the track, motioning me to come along, which I hesitantly did.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but fine,” she muttered with disgust, though I knew it wasn’t for me. “We’ll do a couple of laps, and I won’t go full speed. But you’re going to have to follow me, alright? No half assing this, or I’m leaving you in the dust.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I grumbled back sarcastically as we reached the starting line. I added, in a more sincere tone, “Thanks, Emi.”

“If you’re going to thank me, I expect a nice cake in my future,” Emi warned as she began to stretch, which I tried to mimic. As we stretched, she asked, “So, why now? Honestly, I’d given up trying to get you to run after we talked about Rin freezing up for the first time.”

“I guess I was finally in the mood,” I said in a rather unconvincing tone, much to Emi’s displeasure. Much less sarcastically, I asked her something that had been on my mind ever since I got out of bed. “Hey, did you see Rin this morning? Was she in her room?”

“No, I just sort of headed here the moment I woke up,” Emi admitted. She seemed to be done stretching, and waited for me to finish. “Why do you ask?”

“Just curious,” I answered without elaborating, the lingering question of whether what happened last night really happened in my mind. The rational part of my mind said it did, and yet there was still that bit of uncertainty. Emi looked at me with impatience as she was waiting for me, and I added, “I think I’m ready. On three?”

“Fine.” Emi turned around and took up position next to the starting line, with me walking up to her side. I waited for her signal, mirroring her pose as I prepared to run for the first time in a long while.

“One…” she said, and I felt my body tense up, then very quickly she said, “Three!”

Emi took off immediately as I registered her ploy, already gaining some distance between us. I got over my shock and annoyance and quickly took off, trying to catch up to her. I felt the wind blowing against my face as I ran, my legs doing their best to keep a quick pace.

“Come on, that's all you got?” Emi taunted, though in an encouraging tone. I sped up just a little, worried that my heart might act up at any moment. The extra effort seemed to be worth it as I managed to catch up to her a little, though I knew that was mostly because she allowed me to. If she had been so inclined, she no doubt could have lapped me with ease. Maybe even two times to show off.

“Good, keep it up for three laps.” Emi ordered as we turned the corner, barely halfway through the first one. Already I was beginning to feel fatigue beginning to set in, my legs slightly wobbly, but I knew once I’ve gotten into this Emi wasn’t going to let me quit until she was satisfied.

The two of us went silent as we passed the first lap, and near the end of the second I could feel my stamina reaching its limits. Around the first turn my breath got even quicker, my speed slower, and my legs felt as if they were going to give in. I could even feel my heart beating at a rapid rate, and prayed that it wasn’t going through another episode.

“Hey, you alright?” Emi said in a worried tone, actually slowing down to run side by side with me instead of constantly being ahead. “If it’s your heart then we should...you know...stop.”

“I’m fine. We’re near the end, anyways,” I insisted, feeling no pain in my chest. Despite my dislike of running, and the temptation of stopping early, something made me want to finish the full three laps. Maybe it was my hatred of leaving things half finished, or perhaps just wanting to ‘run my problems away’ as Emi liked to do, but I pressed on without any objections from her.

We passed the second and third turns without incident or chatter, though Emi sped up a little as we neared the finish line, probably wanting to get first after knowing I was doing fine so close to the end. I crossed a few moments after her, slowing down to a crawl before stopping to catch my breath, feeling exhausted.

My body was sweaty despite the cold, my legs wobbled from how much they’d gone through, and I almost wanted to sit down on the ground to recover. But my heart hadn’t acted up, and was in fact slowly going back to its normal pace. That was all that mattered to me.

“Not bad for someone who hasn’t run in a long time, I guess,” Emi said offhandedly, bouncing around with lots of energy to spare, in contrast to my sorry state. It seemed as if she could run a few more laps, and probably would have if not for my presence. “I’d say you’ll get better at this, but that’s assuming you even want to do this again.”

While it wasn’t phrased as a question, there was definitely a hint of curiosity to Emi’s statement, though it’s not the opportunistic excitement of her previous attempts to get me to run with her.

“I think I might.” I said, to both her and myself. Much like me wandering here, I gave my answer without much forethought, simply telling her how I felt about it at that very moment.

“Going to tell me why?” Emi asked, immediately getting closer to me and giving me a curious stare. Clearly she wasn’t going to take anything less than a proper answer, and I let myself recover for a little while longer, trying to come up with the right words to say.

“I suppose I just want to prevent something like what happened to me during my trip, getting a heart attack from a measly collision and a fall,” I responded with a sigh. I walked back to the bleachers, Emi following behind. “Of course, that can still happen no matter what I do, but I guess reducing its odds is a good thing to do, even if it’s by a small amount.”

“Hey, you’re making running sound like it’s not worth much,” Emi complained as I took a seat at the bottom row, with her opting to remain standing. “And if you think it’s such a small chance, then why would you even bother running in the first place, Mr. Pessimist?”

“I guess...I owe it to Rin to try what I can,” I admitted. “I’ve been content with just taking my medication, because it was enough for me. I thought I couldn’t really do anything if my heart started going haywire, and maybe I’m just overthinking things, but I think that sort of mentality got passed on to Rin.

“She always liked to act like my heart condition wasn’t there, and I encouraged that by not really talking about it because I was afraid it would upset her. I didn’t pretend that it wasn’t there, but I was treating it like it was no big deal, right up until I got sent to the hospital. It shattered the illusion she had about me being fine, and I couldn’t help but think I enabled it because it was convenient for the both of us.”

My frown deepened as I said those words out loud, feeling guilty now that I’ve managed to put it into words. The fear of seeing Rin freeze up at my condition had ended up making things worse in the long run, when the reality of the situation made it unable to be ignored. I couldn’t help but think of what would happen if I had pressed the issue earlier. Would we have been better off than we are now, or would she have distanced herself from me regardless?

An irrelevant question to my current situation, asking about a possibility that has long since passed, but one I couldn’t help but wonder about. Had I done the best I could, given the situation, or had I been too complacent?

“So you’re trying to make up for it now?” Emi asked, her tone serious. “I guess if one good thing can come out of this mess, it’s that you’re seriously trying to get in shape now.”

“Nothing too extreme. I’m doing this to avoid going to the hospital, not to find an excuse to go there,” I insisted, trying to keep her expectations moderate. “I’ll push myself every now and then to improve my stamina, but only when I feel absolutely certain. That alright with you?”

“Well, I guess I won’t be signing you up for any track meets,” Emi quipped before extending her hand, giving me a cheery smile. “I’ll do my best to keep you in tip top shape, so even a car running you over will feel like nothing. That includes managing your diet, you know?”

“Considering our frequent trips to the Shanghai, I think that’ll be just fine,” I snarked back, earning a pout. “Thanks, Emi. It means a lot to me.”

“Hey, I’m helping both you and Rin, so it’s a win-win for me,” she said enthusiastically. “Maybe she’ll be so impressed with your health that she’ll talk to you again.”

“About that…” I glanced uncomfortably to the side, deciding it was time to reveal what happened last night. “I think I should tell you that Rin visited me last night, when I was about to go to sleep.”

“Wait, what?” Emi’s eyes widened as she immediately leaned her face in, both her voice and expression demanding answers. “What did she do? What did she say?”

Looking awkwardly down at the ground, I slowly recounted what I thought happened yesterday. About the choice I ultimately gave her, about how she disappeared before I woke up, and how everything felt so vague. I even mentioned that it could have been a dream, though she didn’t seem to buy that for a second.

“So that’s why you asked me if I saw Rin this morning,” Emi muttered in realisation. “Damn it! I should have visited her room before coming here.”

“I’m pretty sure that it was real,” I conceded, trying to reaffirm both Emi and I. “But I didn’t know when she left, or if she even headed back to her room or not.”

“But what you said…” Emi sounded extremely worried, and I couldn’t really blame her. This affected more than just Rin and I. “Are you really going to just break it off if she doesn’t show up? After all you’ve done to get close to her?”

“We can’t continue as we are now,” I answered calmly, closing my eyes and clenching my fist. “If we do, we’ll be even worse than when we started. If she doesn’t show up, then it’s probably what’s best for her. The last thing I want is to be a burden to her, even if it means I’ll have to disappear from her life.”

Emi didn’t respond, and there was a moment of quiet between the two of us. It’s not that we didn’t have anything to say, it was merely that words couldn’t accurately depict what the two of us were feeling.

“What about us then? What about Hanako?” Emi asked at last, a slight tremble in her voice.

“I hope we’ll still be friends, but it’ll have to be separate from your friendship with Rin. The same goes for the others.” The answer I gave was much more difficult than I thought it would be. Thinking about what would happen if Rin decided not to see me again was utterly depressing, but it was a scenario I needed to prepare for, otherwise it would just break me even more.

“Do you think she’ll show up?” Emi asked. In some ways, the only question that really mattered.

“I don’t know,” I admitted, hating the lack of certainty. It would have been easy to say I had faith in her love for me, but that would have been unconvincing to both her and myself. The doubt I felt was something I couldn’t deny, much as I wanted to. “I guess I’ll find out tonight.”

“I hope she does show up, Hisao.” She sounded like she was trying to sound optimistic, and I appreciated it. “I really do.”

All I could respond with was a nod, getting ever closer to the time where I’ll get my answer from Rin.

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With our run over, we decided to clean up before heading to the cafeteria for breakfast. The fact that I had to shower again so soon was mildly annoying, but I didn’t want to spend the whole day in sweaty clothes.

As I hopped into the shower and turned on the hot water, a voice from outside immediately made me groan.

“Hey, man,” Kenji’s voice was oddly soft, yet no less obnoxious than usual. “Got the usual for me? I need my fix.”

“...What do you want, Kenji?” I asked, uninterested in dealing with him but knowing that silence wouldn’t do anything to get him to go away. “I’m really not in the mood.”

“Right, right, the payment,” Kenji responded with a giggle, once again caught up in his own delusions. “You know I’m good for it, but I can give you some nice intel in the meantime. Something’s been brewing in this place.”

I wanted to just dismiss him, but his rambling about having information made me wonder if he could actually be useful for once.

“Tell me about yesterday,” I said, trying to play into his fantasy. “Did anyone come in and out of my room?”

“Heh, oh boy do I have a story to tell you.” He sounded extremely excited, and for once I was interested. “So, here’s the scoop. Dark hour, no moon in sight so the feminists were prowling, trying to find holes into our territory. Our safe haven.”

...I suppose expecting a comprehensible answer was asking too much of him, but I continued to listen anyway.

“Of course, our defenses were made to withstand things like the goddamn A-Bomb, so they couldn’t easily get in.” His voice grew louder with every word, as if he were a storyteller reaching the tale’s climax. “But then they did it. They goddamn did it. They managed to get through by disguising themselves as one of us, man. Now they could be anyone. But I know you too well, so I know you ain’t one of those vixens in disguise.”

“I assure you I am not,” is all I could really answer to such a ludicrous claim. “So who managed to get through? A girl?”

“Damn straight, homie,” Kenji all but shouted, and I was thankful that no one was in here to listen. “She had the look of a man, with her short red hair and muscular frame. But I’ve learnt to detect them using my own telepathic waves, and she was definitely just a chick in disguise.”

“Oh, she certainly tried to pretend to be a gentleman, knocking on the door a few times. But when that failed she used her psi abilities to force the door open and did who knows what in that room. Trust me, we need a minesweeper to scan this entire building, otherwise it’ll be the end of masculine civilization as we know it.”

There it was. Proof that Rin had in fact visited me yesterday, that it wasn’t all some desperate event that I dreamt up. Granted, it was Kenji giving me this information, but he also didn’t have a reason to lie or make it up and it went in line with what I’d experienced myself. In spite of his eccentricities, I believed him.

That assurance made me feel a little better, though not enough to dispel my many worries. I quickly finished my shower and put on my clothes, opening the stall door to see a completely naked Kenji right outside.

“Thanks, Kenji,” I said as I walked past him, completely ignoring the sight of his...masculinity. “I think this might be the first time you’ve ever helped me.”

“No problem, man,” he responded, and he sounded almost sane, at least until he added. “Make sure to give me my cheque in a black envelope. Those damn feminists control all the postage systems now.”

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I entered the cafeteria, which was as empty as usual these days, though that wouldn’t last long with winter break nearing its end. After that it would only be a few months before finals and graduation, followed quickly by college.

Those things haven’t even been part of my mind since I got back, but they were going to happen, and soon. I haven’t even thought about what college I wanted to go to, or even begun studying for finals, instead abandoning preparations for the future in order to mope on the present.

Another good reason why Rin and I couldn’t stay stuck like we were now. We wouldn’t be able to focus on our futures if we were, unimportant as they seemed right now. Though I didn’t know how well I’d be able to study knowing our relationship was over. Not all that well, most likely.

Feeling my stomach growl, I went to grab some breakfast. I grabbed two bread rolls and some butter, a few hard boiled eggs, some beans and orange juice. Probably the biggest breakfast I’d had in awhile, probably due to the exercise.

Once I got what I wanted, I scanned the area for Emi and the others, and found her near the corner of the cafeteria. Alongside her was Miki, though Hanako or Rin weren’t present. I headed over there, and they noticed me as I neared them.

“Well, speak of the devil,” Miki said, waving at me as I sat down. “We were just talking about you. Or rather, I was talking about you. Emi mostly complained about how she had to hold back so much.”

As Emi looked away with an innocuous smile on her face, I began eating my breakfast, starting with the beans. “I assume you’ve told her about everything?”

“Pretty much,” Emi replied with a shrug. “Hanako too, when I was heading back for a shower. She’s looking after Rin this morning, so she just got some food for the both of them and left. I’ll probably go see how they’re doing after we’re done here.”

“That’s good,” I responded, feeling extremely relieved that someone was with her. “I’ve talked with someone in my dorm. He’s not exactly the most reliable source, but he did hear Rin knocking on my door last night.”

“So, you really did say that to her, huh?” Miki said in a casual tone. “Gotta admit, that’s a pretty ballsy move to do that, especially when she’s acknowledging you for the first time in...what, a week or so?”

“Yeah, but I think it had to be said,” I answered quietly but firmly. “We can’t keep dancing around the problem anymore.”

“Fair enough,” Miki remarked before her expression turned into a frown. “I hope it goes well, Hisao. You guys are like one of the only reliable things in my life, so I’d hate to see it fall apart.”

“Is that seriously the only reason?” Emi asked, sounding incredulous.

“Now you’re just looking for an excuse to be angry,” Miki replied, reacting to Emi’s comment with more annoyance than usual. “Obviously, I also want their relationship to be all happy and stuff. That really doesn’t need to be said.”

Trying to defuse the tension between them, I turned to Miki switched topics. “So, how’s your family situation going?”

“Oh, you know, my testimony got pushed up to about a week from now,” Miki mentioned in a manner not too dissimilar to discussing something mundane like the weather, though her voice grew angrier as she went on. “So I’ll be heading back home for a few days, to watch my parents fight and try to take care of my siblings before telling a court who I should give them to. Honestly, I’m starting to think an orphanage might be the best option. At least they’d pretend to care about them.”

Emi and I looked at her sudden display of vitriol in mild surprise, which even Miki seemed to realize was completely unlike her, as she shook her head with an annoyed groan.

“Sorry, I got a little heated there, huh?” Miki said in an attempt at a cheery voice, trying to brush it off with a smile. “It’s just things deteriorating back at home, is all. I didn’t really want to vent because you and Rin are having your problems, so I’d feel a little bad adding to the pile.”

“We all have our problems,” I responded, trying to sound understanding of her situation, which I suppose I did considering I also had a deteriorating situation on my hands. Though Miki was arguably in a worse position, considering she had far less control. And from what I could tell, she had little to no hope for a happy ending. “No shame in letting it out. God knows you guys have been taking my problems extremely well, all things considered.”

“Eh, everyone else’s problems are always preferable to our own,” Miki answered with a dismissive shrug. “So, you’re gonna be running with Emi every day?”

I ate some more of my breakfast while pondering how to answer that question, all while Emi gave me a rather intimidating stare. I suppose now that I had shown interest, she was going to make damn sure that I kept to it.

At the same time, I couldn’t see myself running every morning, at least not where I am now. The reason I ran today was mostly on impulse, but a regular routine was a different thing entirely, and any motivation I had for it would disappear if Rin and I seperated.

“I don’t think I can handle every day,” I said at last, causing Emi’s frown to deepen. “But I do want to run, so I’ll probably try to go when I feel like I can, and ease myself in a little. Who knows? Maybe at some point, I actually will run every day.”

“You’ll be doing that once I’m through with you,” Emi mumbled under her breath before getting up. “Alright, I think I should go see if Hanako needs a break or something. We’ll probably be with her until it’s bedtime.”

“Fair enough,” I responded, managing to give her a smile. “See you later, Emi. And thanks for helping me...and Rin.”

“There’d better be a ‘you and Rin’ after today. And don’t you dare drop out of running now that you’ve asked me to help you,” Emi demanded before rushing towards the door, leaving her tray on the table.

“Just the two of us now,” Miki noted as I took a sip of my juice. “And I think it’s gonna be that way till you decide to head to bed.”

“Don’t have anything better to do?” I asked, partially as a joke but also wondering if she really didn’t have more important things to do than spending all day with me.

“Well, I did have plans with a guy,” Miki said, her smile widening so much that it was obvious she was lying. “But I figured you need my attention more than he does, especially if the status of your relationship is all coming down to whether she shows up at your door tonight.”

“I appreciate it, Miki. I really do,” I replied gratefully. “I definitely think things would have been infinitely worse if you guys weren’t around to help us.”

“Hey, in the end whether or not you two will stick together isn’t up to us,” she said with a hint of in her voice. “And honestly, if I had to pick between trying to fix your relationship or my parents’...easiest choice in my life, really.”

“Are they really that bad?” I asked. Even with my issues concerning my parents, I’ve never had the disdain for them that Miki seemed to have with hers.

“They weren’t the best folks even when they were together,” Miki explained with a long and uncharacteristically angry sigh, the frustration making her seem like Emi. “The divorce was sudden since I thought they at least liked each other, but it seemed that was a load of shit too. They pay the bills, give me and my siblings money, and just expect us to grow up by ourselves. No cooked meals, no family outings, and I swear if I had two hands I could count the times I’ve heard the two of them say the word ‘love’.”

“Wow,” was all I could really say. “That sounds awful, Miki. I can’t imagine having parents like that.”

“Well, maybe I’m making a few things sound a little worse than they are, but most of it is true,” Miki conceded, seeming to have gotten most of her anger out of her system. “I don’t like to talk about them much, especially when Hanako’s around. She lost her parents while I still have mine, as shitty as they are.”

“I suppose so.” I said, and we finished our breakfasts in relative silence, both of us wanting a break from talking.

After we’re done, we went to discard the food trays before exiting the cafeteria. Miki seemed content to just follow me without inquiring about where I’m going.

“I’m heading to the library,” I told her as we turned a corner. “Get some books to keep my mind off things until tonight.”

“All books ever did was give me a headache,” Miki said with a chuckle. “But maybe I’m just reading the wrong kind of books.”

The two of us entered the library, which looked extremely empty save for the librarian, who seemed rather bored at watching over a mostly empty room. I went for the fiction section and passed a few shelves before finding the genre I wanted, one that I admittedly never read much of.

I picked a few books at random, Miki taking one as well before moving to the usual corner to read. I took a seat at my usual bean bag, and Miki sat where Hanako would sit. I opened up one of the books I’d chosen and began reading.

It was a novel about two people from different parts of the world meeting as children, growing up together. There were a lot of differences due to their culture, heritage and beliefs. In many ways, they were as different as two humans in the entire world could be. And yet they became friends, and eventually lovers.

“Whoa, this is some mushy stuff,” Miki noted, far louder than she should have considering where we were. I looked away from my book to see that she was actually blushing. “You read this kind of stuff, Hisao? Never really took you as the type.”

“Not really,” I answered before going back to my book, detailing the struggle the two leads were facing both from outside pressure as well as internal differences. “Fiction in general isn’t something I really read a lot of, though Hanako has helped me appreciate some every now and then. But this...this is relatively new territory for me.”

“Well, looks like I’m getting to a good part, so I guess I’ll shut up and try to focus.” Miki said in jest, though it seemed more likely she wanted to let me read undisturbed.

Time passed by as we read in silence, though I occasionally glanced at Miki to see if she was getting bored, which she thankfully wasn’t. The book covered a lot of the characters’ lives, with the last quarter being when they’re in their thirties and having several children, all while retaining most of who they originally were when they met. By then, a lot of their differences had been sorted out, and any external problems were handled or were irrelevant.

That wasn’t to say there weren’t problems, especially in regards to their children. One took after one parent’s beliefs and culture while disregarding the other’s, one had extremely difficulty trying to reconcile the two different viewpoints, while the last didn’t care for either.

And yet, they were still a relatively loving family, with the occasional civil argument at the dinner table. Near the end, I wondered if the author of this book was basing it off his own relationships, the relationship of people he knew, or was simply putting up an idealized romance with no personal basis whatsoever.

Still, regardless of being idealized or not, it ended with the relationship stable and happy for the foreseeable future. Something that made me feel a little better, though it was gone the moment I closed the book.

Thankfully, I had other books to help me recapture that momentary feeling of satisfaction, and i grabbed another from the ones I’d picked out. Once again, it mostly centered around a couple and their relationship as it slowly grew and changed.

It was around halfway through that book that I questioned why I was reading romance novels, when it was something that I hadn’t really done before. Reading had been source of comfort for me ever since my first hospital stay, but I didn’t think I’d ever read a single book that was focused entirely on romance, though a few did have romantic elements. Even then, those elements I’d mostly ignored or never gave too much thought too.

Perhaps it was because I wanted to feel that romantic bliss I had before everything seemed to fall apart, even if vicariously. Reading these moments of affection between characters I was learning about reminded me of the time when I tried to grow closer to Rin, and the period where we had been a loving, if unorthodox, couple. I desperately wanted that back, but for now I simply settled for having someone fictional experience that while I read on with a longing feeling in my chest.

Another reason might be that I wanted an answer, to be reassured that the outcome of our relationship would be a good one. Romance novels usually ended with the couple together, with a bright future ahead of them. It was what I wanted for me and Rin, to have our relationship be like that instead of the way it was now. Even if we were different from most couples, both real and fictional, I desired that one similarity.

As I finished reading my second book, one with a similarly happy ending to the first, I began hoping that every one that I picked had endings of that nature. Some novels had bittersweet or even bleak endings, and I felt that reading one of those would just be too painful to bear.

Thankfully, all of the books I’d read so far were free of those endings, even if some were less happy than others. Perhaps in any other situation, I would have considered them too saccharine to stomach, but now I welcomed the sweet tone of these books.

Partway through the third book, a question popped into my head.

Are Rin and I only halfway through our story? Are we near the end? Or have we already passed that, and I’m merely trying to salvage a pathetic attempt at an epilogue?

I was near the end of the third book when Miki called for me, though I was so immersed in it that I almost ignored her. Looking up from my book, I saw that she was finished with the one book she’d picked out.

“I was wondering when you’d peek out of your book,” Miki said with a smirk, shaking her head slightly. “You’re almost like Hanako. I’ve had to call her a few times because she was reading some story or other.”

“Sorry,” I said as I placed the book down, trying to give her my full attention despite wanting to read the resolution to the story. “I hope you’re not feeling too bored, waiting for me to finish.”

“Nah, I just finished myself. You may be slow on the track, but when it comes to reading, you have no problem getting a lap or two on me,” she teased with a wink before. “It’s just a bit after noon, and I’m feeling kind of hungry. How about we grab something from the cafeteria before you continue your little reading binge?”

It’s the afternoon already? Time seemed to fly when I was reading.

“Sure,” I said as we both got up, leaving our books on a random table before heading out of the library.

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Lunch went by uneventfully, and before long we were back at the library where I continued to read through romance novels. Miki read alongside me, but she was clearly there just to keep me company rather than having any actual interest in reading, trying to make me feel less isolated.

That said, I had heard her chuckle occasionally before lunch. Wondering what had amused her, I skimmed through the book she’d finished and realized that it was rather...raunchy in nature, though nothing extremely explicit.

The hours of the afternoon flew by quickly as I immersed myself in story after story, desperately using it as a means to escape my problems and wondering if this was how Hanako felt every time she read a book. Regardless, I was glad for the momentary reprieve from my fears.

Of course, such a thing couldn’t last, and eventually evening came around. Miki and I put all the books back in their places before leaving this time, and she called Hanako and Emi to come meet up one final time today, to have dinner and to update the two of us on how Rin is doing.

“She’s been in her room the whole day, surprise surprise,” Emi said as we ate our dinner, which mostly consisted of several types of onigiri and drinks. She’d also decided that we should eat at the track bleachers for some reason. “She’s mostly been laying down on her bed, but she also doodles from time to time, though they all just look like scribbles to me. We made sure she ate something before coming here.”

“Did she talk about anything?” Miki asked before popping an entire onigiri into her mouth.

“S-she responded to our questions, and occasionally commented about things when we were eating lunch,” Hanako answered, taking smaller bites while sipping on her drink. “R-Rin seemed like s-she was thinking about something. S-She always had her eyes closed, b-but it felt like she was actively trying not to open them.”

I tried to be optimistic and think that she was at least considering coming over to talk tonight.I silently ate my onigiri, looking up at the evening sky. The orange faded away to purple, the end of a day close by. For me, today felt like it was going to be the only day that mattered moving forward.

“Well, glad to hear she’s doing well,” Miki said once she’d swallowed her food, patting me on the back. “Good luck tonight, Hisao. I’d say something more profound and shit, but I’m not really good with words. Still, I think things will work out nicely.”

“Thanks,” I responded before letting out a sigh without meaning too. “I guess I’ll learn how she feels tonight.”

“I-I’m sure she’ll come,” Hanako said, a confident look on her face. “I-I believe in her. In the both of you.”

“Same here,” Emi added, her confidence more brash but just as firm. “Don’t worry about it, Hisao. Seeing you two act all mushy the past few months, it’s like you two are meant to be, you know? I know she won’t ever want to forget you, no matter what.”

I wondered for a moment if their faith was really genuine, or just something to reassure me with. Looking at them though, I could tell that they meant what they said, and their assurances bolstered my waning optimism. If Rin and I truly reconciled, it would be because of them just as much as it would be because of us.

They were wonderful friends, and ones I appreciated being with regardless of the situation. Perhaps when things were less dire, I’d try and show that appreciation. Maybe a trip to the Shangai, or something fancier.

But that was for another time, as I felt the need to go back to my room to wait for her.

I got up and told them I needed to go, and left after waving goodbye. The sky got darker as I made my way back to the dorm, fully transitioning to night just as I reached the door. I never specified a time, just that it would be at night. A small part of me hoped that she was already outside my door.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t there when I reached my room, though I’d expected as much. I opened the door and went in, leaving the door open a small crack she wouldn’t have to knock. After that, I simply went through my nightly routine, starting with taking my medications.

My medications...I hadn’t been taking them in front of Rin, always doing it whenever she wasn’t looking at me. I realized now that that had been a mistake, avoiding the topic for the sake of not hurting her. Perhaps if she had seen it, I could have eased her into the reality of my condition and this entire mess wouldn’t have had to happen.

I couldn’t hide from her anymore. Just as I’d accepted everything about her, everything she might be, she needed to do the same for me.

But would she?

MoashLannister
Posts: 34
Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 11:19 pm

Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/3/2021)

Post by MoashLannister » Tue Jun 15, 2021 7:02 am

Once I’ve finished, I set my medications down on the table and pulled out the photo of us and our friends during the festival.. I sat down and stared at it. Rin had a copy of it as well, and I wondered if she’d ever so much as thought of it. Looking at all of our faces, it reminded me of happier times, and I let out a silent prayer that those times would return.

The next few hours passed by slowly, too slowly for me, as if they were days in the disguise of hours. I did what I could to occupy myself, such as some more reading, or looking through my phone, but each moment that passed added a miniscule amount of dread to my mood.

A miniscule amount, insignificant by itself. But over time it began to pile up, until it couldn’t help but feel significant. Small momentary thoughts turned into questions and imaginary scenarios. Of her never showing up, of us never talking to each other again.

How much longer until imaginary turned into reality? What was the line that separated the two? An hour from now? A minute? A second?

I looked at my phone again to check the time, and it was getting close to midnight. No doubt curfew was currently being enforced, if a bit more laxly due to the absence of so many students. There was no chance of me falling asleep tonight, as I wanted to wait for her until the very last moment.

Turning to look at the door, I saw no change. It was exactly the same as I’d left it, and I felt disheartened.

And then it moved, and for a split second my heart felt as if it stopped.

There was a slight creaking sound as the door slowly opened, and I got out of my chair and walked towards it, wanting to rush over there as fast as possible. Behind the door was Rin, looking down at the ground.

Like last night, she looked like a mess. Her hair was disheveled and disorganized, and the clothes she was wearing were full of wrinkles. Her face, or rather what I could see of it, looked tired and uncomfortable.

“Rin…” I said, unable to say much else.

Wordlessly, she entered the room and walked past me. Closing the door, I turned around to see that she was sitting on my bed. She didn’t lay on it like last night, staying still as she continued to look down at the ground.

I didn’t know what to feel in that moment. Relief for her coming here, concern at how her eyes are locked on the ground, confused as to what to do now that she was actually here. Emotions were at war in my head as I walked towards the bed, stopping for a few moments before slowly sitting down beside her., Rin didn’t react to my presence next to her.

Silence followed, neither of us saying anything, or making a move towards the other. We just sat there side by side, almost as if we were in separate planes of existence.

It was Rin who broke the long heavy silence. “I tried to forget about it,” Rin said softly, still looking down. Her voice was quiet, sounding exhausted. “About your heart, about that day you fell down and didn’t get back up. But then I couldn’t without forgetting about what happened that day, so I tried to forget that too. But I also couldn’t forget that day without forgetting the entire time we were at your parent’s house, so I tried to forget that too.

“Each time I tried to forget something, there was something else I needed to forget, like someone trying to pull a thread sticking out of a sweater, but then all it does is make more threads appear that you have to pull. So you keep on pulling and pulling, but once you’re done you don’t have a sweater left to wear.”

“And did you try to forget about...me?” I asked, knowing that question was dangerous.

Rin simply nodded, her frown deepening. “I tried, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to lose the sweater, just bits and pieces of it, but even now it’s so torn and tattered, and the threads that I pulled out are starting to go back in. Sweaters aren’t supposed to do that, Hisao.”

Hisao...how long had it been since I’d heard her say my name? It should have made me so happy, and yet the way she said it only reinforced the solemn atmosphere in this room.

“Memories don’t work that way, Rin,” I said, trying to keep my voice gentle. “You can’t just forget about something like that, no matter how hard you try. Even if it was a painful experience, I couldn’t forget about the first time I had a heart attack, or how I discovered that I had arrhythmia. They are awful memories, and there was a time that I hated them, but I couldn’t forget about them. I don’t think I would have wanted to.”

“Can’t we forget about it?” Rin asked, finally turning her head to face me. “I want to go back to before I found out about your heart. About how you can die. We can go back, can we? Like using a time machine, except we’d be using our minds instead of an actual machine. Then I won’t feel this thing in my chest that I don’t know about.”

She sounded hopeful, as if she wanted me to buy into that idea that we can simply forget it all. Turn the clock back several months before I even mentioned my condition, and live out our relationship in blissful ignorance. Without thought, I placed my hands on her shoulders, and I looked her straight in the eye. She had sparked an emotion that I’d thought I would never feel towards her again up until now.

Anger.

“No, we can’t,” I said loudly as I glared at her, which caused Rin to shy away from me. “We can’t just pretend like it never happened, that I don’t have what I have, alright? My condition...it’s a part of me, even if I want nothing more than to throw it away. It’s something I’ve accepted, and it’s something you have to accept if you want me…”

“Hisao…” Rin closed her eyes, as if she didn’t want to acknowledge my words. Her body was trembling as I continued to hold her, unwilling to let her go until she finally opened her eyes, until the reality of the situation finally forced her to.

“I don’t want to accept it,” she responded, a tear coming down her cheek. “It’d be accepting that you can die right now, or tomorrow, or the day after that, or the day after that until you actually die. I don’t want to think about that, because it’d be like you’d be dead already, except you’re still here which somehow makes it worse even though I can talk to you and touch you and kiss you. I don’t want to wake up and then think about you, because it’d be sweet like candy but then the aftertaste would be bitter like medicine, which is so strong the aftertaste is the only thing I can think about...and then…”

Her words trail off, and she opened her eyes just a little to look at me, her face one of pure misery. I wanted to pull her close and hold her tightly, tell her that everything would be alright, but I knew that wasn’t what I needed to say right now. She wouldn’t believe me if I did.

“Rin, tell me the truth,” I said, and looked at her with all the sincerity I could muster. “Is being with me, knowing about my heart condition, too painful for you to be with me?”

She didn’t answer immediately, but her eyes did widen at me as tears continued to flow down her cheeks. Silence followed as she stared at me, her gaze emotional yet thoughtful, as if she were pondering that question herself.

“I don’t know…” Rin answered, shaking her head again. “I don’t know, Hisao…”

“You have to know,” I replied, gently this time. “You’re the only one who can answer that question.”

“But all the answers are wrong, like a test someone gave you where you can only fail, even though the one giving you the test wants you to pass’” I could hear frustration at the edges of her voice, and her frown almost looked like a scowl. “Being with you is painful, but if I’m away from you for too long I’ll think about you too, and whether or not you’re ok or if you still want me. You’re like the sun now, except not the kind that makes me warm and sleepy, but the kind that burns my body if I get too close but freezes if it’s not there. When I slept next to you yesterday, I felt happy, then sad, then worried, then happy again. On and on and on, like a ferris wheel that didn’t stop. But when I’m not with you I just felt this...nothing…”

She went silent immediately, and shivered at the mention of this ‘nothing’ that she felt, looking afraid.

“Rin…” I wanted to say something, but the words weren’t coming out of my mouth. It was as if I knew the feelings I wanted to convey, yet I couldn’t figure out how to put those feelings into words. Something needed to be said, and soon. I took a deep breath and stared at her. “Look at me, please.”

She hesitated, but ultimately looked into my eyes once again, focusing on me.

“I love you, Rin,” I said, my voice shaky. “And I’m sorry things can’t go back to the way they were. I’m sorry that I wasn’t strong enough to talk about my condition until it was too late. And...and I’m sorry that I can’t promise you that I’ll be with you until we’re old and gray.

“But even without my heart condition, that isn’t something I can promise you. Maybe my heart condition will kill me in fifty years, or ten, or two, or maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll walk down the street and a car will run me over, or a plane crashes straight into me. Or a meteor hits the earth and we all die.”

“Like the dinosaurs?” Rin asked, her tone still hesitant. “I told Mama I wanted to see a real dinosaur to paint, and she said a meteor killed them all. It made me sad, but she bought me a toy dinosaur for me to use. Like using a marble statue to paint a real life human.”

“Just like the dinosaurs,” I replied, nodding my head. “We can’t control when we die, Rin. Sometimes it just...happens, and it may not be fair, but that’s life. And what we can control is whether or not we want to be with each other, regardless of that.”

“But even if you die from a car crash, or getting hit by a plane, or a meteor, I wouldn’t have to think about it until it happens, like how people don’t think zombies will eat their brains until they dig out of their graves.” Rin saidt. Although it felt as if we were going around in circles, I let her speak anyways, for her to fully let out all of the thoughts and feelings bottled up inside her.

“But your heart is something I can’t not think about, even when I don’t want to think about it. You might fall down and I won’t know if it’s the kind of fall that you’ll get back up, or the kind of fall that makes you stay on the ground until someone helps you or you die. And I wouldn’t know what to do even though I need to do something…”

“Then maybe, you need to get used to it,” I suggested, inching closer to her. “Like how you’re used to doing things without your hands. If you spend more time with me, knowing my condition, then it’ll get easier. I won’t hide anything about it from you anymore, if you’re willing to accept it, little by little.”

“Hisao…” Rin seemed to consider it, though she still looked uncertain.

“Rin, I can’t promise that I’ll be by your side as much as you’d like, until we’re old and had our fill of life,” I said firmly despite the fatigue, the stress, the anxiety. It was like finding a calm in the middle of a storm. “But what I can promise is that I want to be with you, every second of every day, regardless of how long I have left. No matter what might happen, that is what I want more than anything else. If I want to live this life, then I want to live it because you’re in it.”

It was a promise from the depths of my heart. As a man of science, emotional statements like that were things that shouldn’t be considered the truth, merely something that we wish it to be. And yet I could not see it as anything but the truth, as fundamental as the laws of nature itself.

“Hisao...I want to believe you.” Rin sounded hopeful, like when she’d suggested we forget about my condition. But this hope felt more genuine, if uncertain. “I-I want to be with you, every second of your life, even if I can’t. I want to turn one second of your life into a hundred, a thousand, like someone stretching time like it’s a piece of gum, except time really can’t be stretched like that and…”

She stopped herself and simply looked at me. Despite her silence, it was clear from the look on her face what she wanted. Rin was on the edge, and she wanted me to catch her when she fell. The question she gave me wasn’t spoken, but I got it nonetheless.

Can I trust you?

I simply nodded, and that was all it took for her walls to break down. Rin fell forwards towards me, her face landing on my chest. She wasn’t the only one that finally broke down, as I wrapped my hands around her and hugged her tightly, tears streaking down my face.

“I’m sorry…I’m sorry, Hisao...” Rin said, her voice muffled as she continued crying into my chest. “I know that leaving you alone was hurting you, and it also hurt me as well, like stabbing someone with a knife that doesn’t have a handle…”

“It’s alright, it’s alright,” I responded reassuringly, brushing her hair with my hands. “I forgive you.”

“Maybe I’m not good enough…” Rin said hesitantly, sounding extremely remorseful. “When you fell...had a heart attack...I didn’t do anything…”

“You’re good enough for me.”

“Maybe I’m not strong enough to help you…I wish I could take away your...heart condition, but I can’t.”

“You’re strong enough for me.”

There wasn’t anything spoken for a while afterwards, just her head pressed against my chest, and me soothing her by holding her tightly to me. Each of us needed to process what we said, and what we had to do in order to move forward together.

But, as painful as it was, we had finally moved forward. The roadblock that had paused our relationship was slowly breaking apart.

“Rin…” I murmured, looking down at her. She had been still for the past couple of minutes, and I wondered if she was sleeping. I wouldn’t put it past her, since I was getting close to passing out myself. “Maybe we should sleep now, and talk more tomorrow.”

I felt her nuzzling her head against my chest, up and down. It seemed she was awake, though unable to do much more than nod.

“If you’d like, you can sleep here,” I mentioned as well. “Just like yesterday. Just like we used to.”

Another nod from her, and I let out a deep sigh. Tonight had been long and grueling at points, but it was all worth it, as we’d begun to reach a resolution. If our life was like the romance novels I’d read today, we were not at the end just yet.

Rin pulled her head back and looked at me, still frowning. She looked calm, but there was a certain forlorn look in her eyes, as if she was longing for something.

“Hisao, I want to be close to you tonight,” Rin said, and despite how tired she looked, her voice was very insistent. “You know how when you’re teaching me physics, you said bonds between molecules are the closest things in the world? I want to be even closer than that, even though it might merge our bodies together, but we’ll still have two arms like a normal person.”

I chuckle at her odd analogy, just another one of the things I’d missed about her.

“Alright.” I responded, nodding. Rin quickly pressed her lips against mine for a brief moment, and in that instant it felt as if everything was alright.

“Help me take off my clothes,” she requested, and I obliged. From the moment she said that, I knew where this was heading. If there was any night for physical intimacy, it would be this one.

I started with her shirt, pulling it up and exposing her bra before wrapping a hand around her to unhook it. The straps fall off her shoulders and the bra falls down onto the ground. I slipped my hands down to undo the rest of her clothing, pulling down her pants and underwear until she was completely naked.

She was...beautiful, and a little bit different from the last time I saw her naked. Her hair was a little longer, her body looking a little less thin. It was all signs that she was changing, but she was still Rin Tezuka, the woman I loved more than anything.

“Thank you, Hisao,” she said before slipping back onto the bed, leaning her back against the wall. “Can I...take off your clothes?”

The request was odd, as I was always the one who took off our clothes in moments like these. Her feet were raised in preparation, and I simply nodded in response.

The next few moments were awkward, as she attempted to pull down my pants with her feet. I sat deeper in the bed, moving my body to help her as much as possible as her toes grab hold of my pants, slowly pulling it down my legs. She repeated the action with my underwear, leaving my bottom half completely naked.

“Thank you, Rin.” I said, my tone and body a little more stiff than I would have liked.

“I want to help you,” Rin responded, in the tone of voice that told me that she was speaking to herself as much as to me. “You’ve helped me so much, with my art, with who I am. The me I am now is because of you, even though parts of the new me hurt more than the old me. Now I want to help you, who you are and who you’re going to be.”

“You’ve helped me enough, staying by my side.” I reassured her, but Rin shook her head.

“I need to help you more,” Rin said, as her toes tugged at the edge of my shirt. “Right now, all I am is a Rin that can be with you, and sometimes not even then. But that’s not good enough for me, or you, even if you say it’s good enough, like saying you’re fine but you’re not really fine. I want to be a Rin that can take care of you, that can help you with your heart problem, even if I can’t get rid of it. Like how you take care of me. That’s the kind of Rin I want to be.”

Those words touched my heart, and I smiled as I let out a sniffle, though there were no tears.

“You can be that Rin, I’m sure of it,” I answered. “Thank you, and...I love you, Rin.”

For the first time in a long, long time, I saw it. Her smile, as shaky as it was, left its impression on my heart. It was the most precious sight I had ever seen, and once again I felt as if everything was going to be alright.

“I love you too, Hisao,” Rin whispered. “I will always remember that, because that is who I am.”

No more words were said afterwards as she took off my shirt, exposing my scar for her to see. That seemed to stop her for a brief moment, but she immediately closed the distance between our bodies and rested her head on my chest, her ear pressed against it as if to listen to my erratic heartbeat.

I wrapped my arms around her naked body, dragging my fingers against her skin. Once she seemed ready, her head turned upwards to face me, giving me that same look of longing.

I lean in and kiss her on the lips, which she eagerly reciprocates, responding far more forcefully than I’d expected. We continued to kiss as my hand slid down her back, neither of us wanting to separate our lips after such a long time apart. Even as I felt the need to part our lips, it was only until that feeling became too urgent to ignore that I reluctantly did so .

Rin lowered her head and knocked it against my chest a few times, and it took me a second to realize that she’s silently asking me to lay down, which I did. Rin then straddled me, her eyes never looking away from mine as she positioned herself on top of me.

I placed a hand on her hip to steady her as she lowered herself down, Rin letting out a whimper as I slowly entered her. She sank further and further down, until finally I was as deep in as I could go. Rin began to move upwards, then downwards, in a slow rhythm that set my heart racing nevertheless.

It reminded me of the last time we did this, on the roof so long ago, the sun setting as we reveled in each other’s bodies. She’d told me to stop thinking then, and while she might not have put it into words, it felt as if she was asking the same thing of me now. At least, that’s what I thought she was telling me.

That she was here right now, with me. Perhaps it was the same for her, reaffirming to herself that she was choosing to stay with me. Or maybe I was simply overthinking things, which was all the more reason to do as she said. Or didn’t say. To stop thinking and enjoy the moment.

My hands reached up to her chest, squeezing her breasts. She let out a moan in response, which I couldn’t help but adore.

What happened next was a blur as we continued to let out passions guide our actions, the sounds of our act filling the room. Our moans goaded us further and further, and I couldn’t keep my hands still, wanting to savor every part of her body.

“Rin…” I moaned as I felt my endurance about to give out. She simply gave me a nod in response, continuing to move. Not long afterwards, my mind blanked before immediately snapping back, all the fatigue I’ve been holding back hit me all at once as I closed my eyes. Despite really wanting to, I forced myself not to fall asleep just yet.

She fell on top of me, her head just below mine. I couldn’t see her face, but I could imagine that she looked exhausted. Feeling her shiver, I awkwardly tried to pull a blanket over us for warmth.

“Hisao…” Rin mumbled, her voice barely audible. “...I want to tell you something. A lot of things. But I don’t know how even though I know the words. Like knowing how to sail a ship but not knowing what direction to sail to.”

“I know, I feel the same way,” I responded as I gently rolled us until we were side by side. There were a million things I could have said to her right now, but ultimately I didn’t feel like it. I wanted this night to end as we were now, our bodies as close as they could be, the rift between us starting to mend. “We can do that later. Right now, we should sleep.”

“Mm…” Rin murmured, seemingly reaching the end of her ability to stay awake, though not without one final word. “Thank you, Hisao...for staying…”

It was the last thing I heard before falling asleep, which made my slumber a pleasant one, especially with her next to me.

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

“...sao.”

I didn’t know how late in the day it was, but Rin calling my name was what finally stirred me awake. Opening my eyes, I saw that she was still right in front of me, with a worried look on her face.

“Is something wrong?” I asked, placing a hand on her cheek, which she nuzzled. It’s funny how things are already starting to go back to normal, though I reminded myself that things have inevitably changed.

“I wanted to wake you up, Hisao,” Rin said, now pressing her head against my chest like last night. “I wanted to see you open your eyes, and I wanted to hear your heartbeat, even though I know that’ll happen even if I wasn’t looking at you. It’s like watching a bird fly away even though you’ll know it’ll fly away no matter what.”

“I see…” I responded as she continued to press her ear against my chest. It seemed that this is her way of taking care of me, or at the very least confirming that I was alive. “Do you know what time it is?”

“It’s morning, but not morning because it’s later than that,” Rin answered, pulling back her head to face me. It seemed she was satisfied with hearing my heartbeat. “But it’s not noon since noon hasn’t happened. Like a body of water being bigger than a sea but not as big as an ocean, so people call it a sea even though it’s not.”

“Late morning then.” I couldn’t help but chuckle at unorthodox analogies, just another one of the many things I missed about her. “Emi’s probably going to chew me out for not running with her.”

Rin looked at me with a curious gaze, but as much as I’d loved to just stay in bed with her, I got up and got off the bed. Walking towards my desk, I went to take my pills, making no effort to hide what I’m doing from her.

As I took my pills, I kept an eye on Rin as she sat up, gauging her reaction. She looked slightly uncomfortable, though her gaze never wavered away from me, even as her body shivered a little. It was a good sign that she was continuing to look at me, even if it was obviously not a pleasant experience for her.

“Are you alright?” I asked, just in case.

“Mm, I’m alright, but also a little not alright,” Rin answered. “You need to take those, right? I know, even though I’ve never seen you take them before.”

“Yeah, they help keep me alive, though they’re not a perfect cure,” I answered truthfully, unwilling to sweeten my words. “They have a lot of side effects, but I’ve gotten used to them by now. I used to take them when you weren’t looking.”

“Mm, but now you are…” Rin noted. I nodded in response. “It’s hard to watch you, even though it’s so easy to watch you doing other things, like doing nothing, or eating food, or sleeping…”

“Or when I’m kissing you?” I interjected, a small smile on my face.

“Yes, although it’s hard to watch you when you’re kissing me because you’re so close to me,” she said, eyes still focused as I continued to take my medications. “But I need to watch you do this. It’s hard now, but it’ll get easier and easier, like someone riding a bike for the first time even though I can’t ride a bike since I have no hands. I need to accept all of you, even the part that might take you away from me.”

“Thank you,” I replied as I finished the last of my medications, feeling a little cold from the lack of clothes. “Most mornings I’ll probably wake up a little earlier than usual to go and run with Emi. The exercise will help keep me in shape. Make my heart stronger.”

“I thought you didn’t want to run with Emi. Are you changing your mind, like how I sometimes change my mind about wanting one paint but then get another, even though I didn’t think about getting that other paint until I dip my brush in it?”

“It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t see the point up until now,” I explained as I sat back down beside her. “Even if I stay in shape, I didn’t think the time it might buy me would be worth it. An extra week? An extra month or year? And it wouldn’t be enough if something really terrible happened to set off my heart.

“But I was only thinking about myself. Now that you’re with me, any time I can buy is worth it, if it allows me to spend more of it with you. Even if my chances are increased by only a tiny fraction, I’d still want to improve it, for your sake.”

Rin leaned over to rest against me.. “Thank you, Hisao.”

“So,” I asked, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her close. “What do you want to do today?”

“Be with you,” Rin answered immediately. “For a lot of reasons. Because I’m sorry, because I want to see you again, because I want to talk to you again. I have a lot of reasons, but they’re all for the same thing, like fueling a car because you want to go to many different places.”

“I’d love nothing more,” I replied.

We spent the rest of the day in my room. Sometimes we talked about important things, sometimes about more mundane topics, and sometimes we didn’t do anything but look at each other as we leaned on one another. Regardless of what we did, the mere presence of her was enough to brighten my mood far more than before.

We were returning to how we once were, but I knew that we needed to be stronger than that. But for now, I was content with simply enjoying time with her again. Slowly but surely, we were moving forward together. There was still a lot of work to be done, but I felt as if the hardest part was behind us.

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Razoredge
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/6/2021)

Post by Razoredge » Thu Jun 17, 2021 7:32 pm

Another pleasant reading, a long one yes, but it was very pleasant. I really like the light at the end of the chapter. I don't know what you planned for the other chapters, but I really like what you did on this one. That amount of hope you give to them after what they went through in the previous chapters. And just for that, I want to thank you. I don't know what will happen in the next chapters, maybe they will stay happy together, maybe they will have a harsh breakup, I don't know. But that amount of hope was something needed, after what happened. As usual, your writing quality is just awesome, I'm kinda jealous to be honest. We're talking about Rin, I don't know if she really realized what happens with Hisao, but she shows some actual signs of comprehension, and that's really good, especially for someone like Rin. But I do hope they will stay happy together. If it doesn't happen, I'm sure you will write something really good, even if it's really sad. Once again, thanks for another great reading.
Lilly = Akira > Miki = Hanako > Emi > Rin > Shizune

Stuff I'm currently writing : Beyond the haze : A Lilly Satou pseudo-route, Lullaby of an open heart : A Saki pseudo-route & Sakura Blossom : A way with Hisao

lividjava
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/6/2021)

Post by lividjava » Fri Jun 18, 2021 10:05 pm

God reading this has been absolutely wonderful, everyone is written true to form and its just... idk everything just fits

ShizuneFan2019
Posts: 99
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/6/2021)

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Fri Jun 18, 2021 10:56 pm

Hey there! I've wanted to read your story for a long time, but I've been so busy with life and writing my own work (that's Precious Friendships) that I couldn't make up any time for it. This weekend I have some reading time, so I decided to take a break from writing and read your story instead, both as leisure and to increase my vocabulary.

To be frank I'm quite impressed! The early chapter grammatical errors are admittedly a bit annoying, and I really don't like the use of past tense throughout the story, but nonetheless it's well-written. In my own story, I've written about almost all of the main characters in the game, with the notable exception of Rin, who I don't understand at all and thus cannot write anything about her. Your story gave me a lot of insights about her personality, and made me realize why I haven't been able to include her in my story. (Correct me if I'm wrong) Like many real-world artists, Rin is philosophical, imaginative (I found a lot of metaphors in your story), takes things slowly, and sort of deviates from the social norms. That's quite opposite to Shizune who I write about: Efficient, strict, self-restraining, and leading. Since I'm the Shizune kind of person, it's difficult for me to process Rin, but your story helped me a lot in this aspect. Maybe I'll write one chapter about Rin, but I'll need to absorb a lot of things from your story in order to do that. If I do, I'll reference some of the events in your story too, if you don't mind.

Edit: I'm now reading Chapter 14. Since it's quite long, I'll leave my comments here first. I'm very glad that we're in a similar, if not the same, wavelength, on most of the characters.

Hisao: I really love how he slowly matures after getting into a relationship. I also love how Rin's personality affects Hisao, and I agree that this is the way to go when writing about him.
Hisao's family: I absolutely agree with Hisao's mom's concerns about her son getting a girlfriend who is unable to take care of him. This is what I always have in my mind as well: If they're to make a family, it'll be extremely difficult.
Rin: The accident you depicted, along with her response, is quite similar to what happened in Sisterhood. Like in Sisterhood, if she wants her relationship to stay around, she will have to grow like Hanako as well.
Miki: Enjoying it. I think we both agree that "bantering" is the best way to write about her. I wish you made her conversations even more casual, though.
Emi: Running to avoid problems. I'll have to use this fact in my story too. We both agree that dessert is a girl's best friend.
Hanako: The only part of the story I feel awkward about, probably because my impression on Hanako has been largely shaped by Sisterhood. I just cannot see how she became so forward in such a short amount of time as to requesting others to be friends and inviting others to her room. That said, I appreciate the idea of Emi's cheerful personality rubbing off on Hanako.
Iwanako: The idea of splitting her name is brilliant, given that "Iwai" and "Nanako" are valid surname and given names. We both agree that "forward" is the best way to write about her.

Now being able to grasp her personality a bit, an interesting issue I want to learn about Rin is how she came up with all these traits. I've been able to figure out, at least partially, the other girls, but not Rin. For Shizune, it's her deafness and her father; for Lilly, it's mainly her upbringing; for Emi, it's her accident; for Hanako, also her accident. I hope I can find my answer in the remainder of your story, and this could be one aspect you may look into while writing.

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