Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

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Talmar
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Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:02 pm

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by Talmar » Thu Jun 11, 2020 11:52 pm

Thank you for dropping by and bumping up SD, you two! Now, to address the issues while Scene 7 is currently undergoing proofreading...
You have a very different take on Hisao. In the game he felt more depressed and bitter, but here he seems just straight up pissed off at the world. It's not a bad take, it just feels off from the Hisao we know. I suppose we can chalk that up to him actually having a friend that stuck around and "rubbing it in" rather than him just being left to his own devises to sulk like in the game. Either way, it does have the effect of making him come across as less likable.
You caught me at just before Scene 7, which is where he should appear more similar, if just as awkward, to canon!Hisao. At least, I believe it is. My friend who's doing content proofreading for that chapter is not particularly done yet, and he's having real life issues so I'm not going to press it. Sorry for the late upload though, but I'm not one to make people do things when its not out of their own volition.

And no, I'm not changing the plotline for the sake of keeping in line with the canon. It is just by coincidence that you stated your comment on this issue just before the scene where he would seem a lot less hateful and more wanting to seize control of his life again, albeit with difficulty. At least, that's the impression I'm hoping to achieve; I might be mistaken again, which is ... understandable to be honest, hahaha. I get things wrong often, and any criticism is highly appreciated, since they're ways for me to perfect myself and fix things.
(Adding playing guitar to his hobbies seems like a cheap way to get him involved with the story faster.)
Ah, this is wholly on me, hahaha. Whenever I read stuff about Hisao, I always felt like, "Dude, don't you have any sort of passion for anything, at all? Any sort of history? Like, fuck man, you're boring." I know, he has interest in physics, but ... that's it? He doesn't strike me as an academic, so that interest kinda got downplayed a lot. So I added a bit more to his background, just like how I added more to his friendships before the whole heart attack ruined it all. Yes, I know, in the gaming perspective, the fact he's a blank slate helps with the audience insert so they can feel more in line with Hisao and his actions, but I must admit, it always irked me a bit. Also, him playing the guitar doesn't really interrupt with the other canon routes in the game, so I bet its a non-harmful addition - like how he always end up in KS, he moves on from his past life. That could mean him giving up the guitar and look for other things.

And that, is one of the themes of SD. You'll see what I mean.
The amount of OCs trew me for a loop, but we have Rika ans Saki to feel more familiar and expand the setting.
Oh those names? Itsuki, Minami, Jun? Yeah, they merely serve as background characters and would probably repeat in the background whenever Hisao drops by the music hall and SD!Saki and SD!Rika gets involved, but they don't serve a direct role in the story itself. I use them to expand the world, so that the school doesn't feel empty, and also to demonstrate SD!Saki's and SD!Rika's outgoing and active personalities - being in leadership means you gotta be knowing a lot of people, y'know. And with the hectic mess that is the festival preparation, its inevitable that some background characters are referred to since these two manage everything the music club is doing.

In fact, I'm adding a new character to the Shizune/Misha soon. But that's a while later, like in the latter half of Act 1. But no, I'm not gonna do a Fragments and add, say, Ikuno, to the Student Council or anything. More like an admirer of Shizune's work ethics but had no penchant for politics so she tend to her own domain at Shizune's behest.

The fact that KS doesn't reference anything that isn't exactly directly involved with its storyline always irked me a bit. Like, for example, we know Emi is this friendly, outgoing girl, so she gotta have a lot of friends, right? Even if they're not really close friends (yes, I'm aware she pushes people away when they try to get too close, but hey, some people are fine with that and definitely good with just remaining friends), but friends nonetheless. Yet we don't see any other name in her route other than Rin, her mom, Misha and Shizune. Where are they? Why does the school feel so ... empty? 200 people is still a lot - not really a lot, but its considerable. And their inclusion could also demonstrate Emi!Hisao's character development; we know he grows to be more active and outgoing in her route, so its pretty easy to imagine him contacting Emi's friends. Heck, it could've been an opportunity to introduce Miki too, since she's in the track team alongside Emi. And yet we don't. And the school feels so empty as the result.

All in all, thanks for reading Switching Dynamics and sticking with me so far! I'll do my best strive for the upper echelons of the Renai, and with me writing this being the only barrier between me and sliding back into the abyss, I'm not gonna give up until it's done. The only question is time. So, bear with me; I got a lot planned. Still though, thanks a lot for dropping by!
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Talmar
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by Talmar » Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:03 pm

I'm back! And I'm not dead! COVID-19 plus a lot of stuff like exams and prep had occupied large portions of my schedule, and toss in the usual behaviours of ideas, that is akin to cats - they never listen to you and laugh at how helpless you are without them above your heads, led to the rather ... well, I feel like its a bit extreme delay. Not like the delay when I was rewriting, no, but this is a chapter I had already written and just needed to get fixed. And its that bad still.

Shit.
I still have to watch K-on for this fic though
Shoot. I forgot to address this. Sorry! If there's one thing I feel like I can reliably promise and not forget, its to remove the requirement of you guys watching K-On for this. Ritsu will explain everything as the story goes; after all, Hisao doesn't know anything, does he? So yeah, I'll be picking up the slack and do the legwork. Y'all can just sit back and enjoy the show.

Speaking of enjoying the show, here's Scene 7! A two-parter, cuz it's long.

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

Scene 7: Short Trip

I ponder for a moment at the crossroad, considering if I should just go back to my room and hole up there for the rest of the day, or head out to the store Saki pointed out on the map I have in my pocket. I watch as the small crowd around me turns towards the dormitories, pausing under a tree. Well, when in doubt if I want to go or do something, I consider the practical approach.

I’ve got nothing in my room. No food. Only water, and even that is downstairs. At least I heard it’s there. I don’t know where, but if there’s not even a water dispenser then I doubt the prestige of this establishment. So if I head back there, after all--

rumble

I cast a glance at my stomach, before rolling my eyes. Well, that solves the question. I’ll be back later then.

The sun is already touching the horizon when I reach the gates.

Seeing those gates again makes me feel weird. It was just yesterday that I decided that the gate is a barrier between me and my now unreachable past. And now, here I am, coming back as if I’m looking for a second round. Maybe I should fistfight the bars? I purse my lips for an instant; that would hurt like hell. Instead I just pass through the gate again, studying its byzantine crenelations and decorative patterns, and I can’t help but hope at least a small chance that things will return to the way they used to be.

Of course it didn’t. Oh well.

I put those thoughts on hold as I look around to ascertain where I am. The road here goes both ways, right and left. To my right, it seems to lead nowhere recognizable except the fact it goes even deeper into the hills. But a street sign by the bus stop next to the gates seems to say there’s a town in that direction. I shake my head; I truly am at the edge of the world, huh.

To my left, it’s a constant walk downhill, but at least I can see the destination. Hoisting my bag up my shoulders, I keep to the side overlooking the forest below as I make my way down. It’s strange though; yesterday I’m certain I saw a large number of students heading outside, so I figured today I’d be among them heading down to this town I see. Today though, everything is silent. There’s only me here, with each footfall echoing loudly in the light evening breeze.

Maybe I’m just late. The sun’s almost setting, after all.

Oh well, whatever. It’ll be a quick in and out grocery run.

With only the winds accompanying me, I start recalling my actions here so far. Two days in, and I’m already caught in some of this school’s shenanigans. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing, but a part of me is glad I’m not squatting in my room all evening. I did something to help, and that’s a good start I suppose. And Misha wasn’t kidding when they said they’re running out of time, as everyone’s working frantically to get their stalls done for the festivals this weekend. The music club was no exception; with their grand project of a performance for this festival, as Saki explained to me when we carried the boxes of instruments over to the construction site, had been something planned since last year.

“It’s a shame,” she said, although the irritation in her voice betrayed her choice of words. “We could’ve saved a lot of our budget and efforts by just using the auditorium, but even with the help of the student council the school’s administration wouldn’t budge.” They gave strange reasons why the auditorium is off limits, but sometimes there are things even Shizune can’t win, she said. I wondered what Shizune has to do with this, but I didn’t ask.

I look down the road as it curves around the slopes of the hillside ahead of me. I don’t know. Why did I choose the music club? I know I wanted to do something with my life; hell, that desire had been bottled up for the last four months I was trapped in that prison of a hospital. I don’t want to be back there, never again. But, now that I’m out, I’m here in this strange place I’ve been put in. I’ve been given an unwanted chance to rebuild from scratch, and I start with the same thing I started my old life.

Music.

Arguably it was my first passion, a hobby that I took up on my own and something I voluntarily got good in for my own enjoyment, not my grades.

My old school had split their music club into its various constituents based on genres, with the orchestra ending up as the largest. Takumi and I became part of the orchestra, primarily because initially we just needed something to pass the time and the club requirement that school had. But after a while we discovered that we both prefered another entirely different genre, Takumi and I split from the orchestra club in rebellion against the president. Afterwards, we met and took in Mai and Shin, who were left alone in the aftermath of the dissolution of the music club.

It was fun, composing our own songs, playing them. Our performances were our own, made from Mai’s melodies, my songwriting, Shin’s proficiency in editing software, and Takumi’s social contacts. All of us played something, and all of us worked to make our songs a reality. Sure, there had been troubles here and there, but we pulled through all of them together.

I genuinely thought our path was where none of us would split apart. And I knew that they thought the same as well.

Until that heart attack came and ruined it all.

My fingers instinctively touch my sternum, above where my misshapen heart beats its erratic rhythm. It’s a little more irregular; maybe it’s from helping Saki carry those boxes to the stage. Well, the Nurse did say I should do light walks, and I reckon I have surpassed today’s quota walking all over the place with big heavy crates and cases everywhere.

I don’t know. A part of me wants to blame Iwanako for breaking apart what I thought was an unbreakable circle we had going. But I keep remembering that day; the day I blew up at the one and only friend I could count on. I’m at fault as well.

I shouldn’t have done that. Try as I might to justify my actions and thoughts, it all leads to me being a depressive idiot. I didn’t have anything to do to keep my mind off of the fact I’m disabled? Why in the world did I not ask Shin, or Mai, or Takumi even, to bring a pad of paper if I can’t strum a tab or two with my guitar in the ward? I wanted to ask for help getting out. I could have just told Takumi, even though he might not be the best person to ask. I can already see him blasting off at the poor receptionist, and chuckle to myself at the sight.

I had so many things I wanted to say, yet I didn’t say any of them. Why?

In a way, I guess I trusted them, or at the very least, him, enough to believe that they’d look up what it’s like to live through a heart attack, and ending up like this. But, when he said it, I felt betrayed. And I still am. Takumi and I, we’ve been together for twelve years, and I spent a lot of it listening to his troubles, his joys, his issues. What little time I had in between taking care of my own life in the absence of my parents I dedicated to figuring out what I could do to help. He and his family had helped me countless times when we were younger. My parents were there for me only during infancy. Afterwards they slowly faded out of my life, and I was left to fend for myself. At least that’s what they said to me. Anyhow, it was the best I could do to repay the favor.

However, when I needed him the most, he turned his back and left even earlier than Iwanako did.

A few days after the argument, she came back. Iwanako knocked on the door, stepped inside with a quiet nod of a greeting, and sat there on the couch. She didn’t do anything except sitting there. I did nothing either. But I didn’t care. Deep inside, I was spitting curses at her for driving me and Takumi to the point he didn’t even respond to my calls. I didn’t say them out loud, but eventually, she got the message. After an hour of silence, she left.

A whisper of a breeze blows past me, waking me from the memory. I look up, at the horizon. Now the trio is over in Yokohama, and here I am in Sendai, in another school. A school dedicated for the disfigured, the marred, the damaged, and sometimes the unlucky. They abandoned me here and decided to cut me off from everything.

Okay, setting aside all they had done and how I’m only partially at fault for this, say if they really want to drop me off at the end of the earth with little help, what should I do?

Well, I answered that question already; in a way, I’m now part of the music club here. But, what’s next?

Should I try to get to know people here?

Every passing moment here I feel like I’m walking on eggshells.

It’s pretty obvious why some of the students are here. That dark-haired girl for example; she obviously has some serious scarring. And the countless, faceless people with navigation canes and their conspicuously unfocused eyes, they’re the blind and that’s good to know. Same for Shizune; she has her sign language. Even then, some of those who live here look like they could live elsewhere and none would be the wiser as to their conditions. Take Saki, for example. Aside from her cane, she looks as healthy as any other girl I’ve seen in my second year back in my old school. Granted, I haven’t asked her what her… What’s the word for it... Issue? What her issue is. The word disability feels wrong, disrespectful. It leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth, sorely reminding me why I’m here myself.

And that’s another problem. How do I talk to the people here about that? If I am to rebuild my life here, I’ll need to know how to make conversation with the students here, or at least with the teaching staff. I can’t rely on letting them start things off; Misha and Shizune might have done that, yes, but even I can tell that’s not going to be the case with a lot of people here, going with the unlucky part of my definition of this institute. Who knows, they could be the same as I was when I was still back in the hospital...

Actually, I’d rather keep my distance from those kinds of folks.

Whatever it is, using the term disabled sounds disrespectful, at least to me, and from my two days here it’s enough to show that most of those who aren't full of themselves like I was four months ago they’re little different from anyone else, really. Even Saki insisted that these details are trivial unless stated not to be. Take away their disabilities, and they could fit in any other school, she said.

It’s just me.

It’s nothing trivial to me; it’s not something they take as an inconvenience. For me, this heart is something that defines a certain point where I’m no longer where I usually am, and now I’m in a place I’ve never been in before.

Sort of like being exiled, actually.

And I don’t know how to take that trivially.

I know I’m not fine.

The doctors themselves told me there is no cure. It’s not something where you can spend a couple of hours on the table and come out fixed. Yet, why did everyone I knew, treat it as a phase? For four months I had been told the same thing so many times - by the head cardiologist, by my parents, by my old friends, by Iwanako … and by Takumi too - that I had grown to despise it. If they, who never felt a single brush with death, told me that it’s nothing to worry about, then the people who do know what it’s like and dismiss it would definitely tell me the same.

If that happens, I won’t be able to hold it off. I already blew up at Takumi over it.

I know I’m not fine, and that’s alright. But don’t tell me I will be fine.

Don’t ever tell me I’ll be fine.

I stop myself just in time to realize that the concrete sidewalk has ended, and there’s asphalt ahead of me. Planting my feet on the ground, I look around to re-orient myself. I’m a crosswalk now. I press the signal box to start the countdown so I can cross. Here are more definite signs of civilization; an honest-to-god town ahead of me and some cars passing by, already turning on their lights. I check my watch; it’s half past six. I still have some more time before curfew. As soon as the lights turn red and the green man appears above it, I cross over, pulling out the scrap of paper containing Saki’s directions.

The forest gives way to a more developed part of civilization as her directions take me further into the town. The familiar sight of concrete buildings reminds me a lot of Yokohama back home. I follow the main street, or at least what I assume to be it, passing by various little ramen and udon restaurants, hawker stalls and other miscellaneous establishments. Many of them have already turned on their lights, transitioning to their night shifts. Their glow dominates the sidewalks as the sun above dims in the evening sky. Among the crowd, I notice a few other students of Yamaku milling about. I don’t see any faces I recognize, though.

When I first saw the town and its modern concrete architecture, I thought the gate back there actually brought me back. For a brief moment, I thought I could find Takumi somewhere in here, as he usually spends his evenings out with his friends and me. It takes me another moment to realize that there’s no distinctly familiar sight anywhere; no landmarks that I recognize, no signposts that we mentally labeled as a place to regroup and depart from for the night. And most of all, unlike home, this town seems to be more populated by the elderly and those past middle age; a great number of those I see have wrinkled faces and hands, graying hair, and some are relying on canes, like Saki. Sure, there are the occasional young mothers with their toddler children wandering, as well as the students of the local national schools, made apparent by their different uniforms. There’s even a Shinto monk in his full garment, presumably on the way to his shrine.

I definitely don’t remember seeing a lot of that kind of people around, back in my locale. A lot of the crowd back there were working people, on their way back to their homes or heading to pubs to get drunk. There’s even one time Takumi and I saw a man in a typical white-collar suit in full drunken stupor, laughing at his similarly dressed friend, who was unconscious by a trash can. We didn’t really do anything to them, but the sight of them, and their incoherent mumbling, made us laugh a bit. The memory makes me smile, for a second.

The crowd here consists predominantly of the old and the retired, quietly sitting by their favorite hawker stalls with lightly steaming cups of tea in their hands, gossiping or watching the world pass by them. What a strange sight, so familiar yet so alien.

Everything feels so different.

I spot the store Saki told me about, a block down the main road, sitting in a quiet offshoot of a side-street. It appears pretty similar to the convenience stores I’ve seen and been to countless times back home, and the same company sign above the entrances makes me feel nostalgic coming here. Even the bell sounds the same as I enter.

I clap the sides of my head. Right, I’m here to look for some quick food for dinner, not revel in familiar sights.

Ambling down an aisle, I scan the products for things I can afford, or at least want. I notice how the staff didn’t even bat an eyelid at a student wandering in this late. Considering how close Yamaku is, and its status as a boarding school, I guess the staff are used to students who live there coming down here for a quick trip for groceries. Seeing how different the students of this school are, I’m half expecting the cashier to be sneaking a few furtive glances my way, but as I look at the counter, she’s still minding her own business.

I shrug it off. At least that’s one less pair of eyes watching me.

With a basket filled with some confectioneries, I find the aisle for the precooked boxed meals section. Just as I reach out for a package of precooked chicken rice, I notice a partially gloved hand reaching for the same thing and pull back. She pulls hers back as well.

I look up at the owner and see the hairband girl staring at me. For a brief moment, our gazes lock. Her hazel eyes glisten in the artificial light, and they seem warm and inviting, familiar almost. But in that same instant I can’t help but notice that behind her somewhat concerned expression is a sense of fatigue. She seems withdrawn, exhausted. I break the lock by turning elsewhere. From the way she was acting today, and what she has been through, a part of me insists on not breaking the ice, but. Here’s an opportunity, man. Go for it, I tell myself.

“You can take it,” I chip in, trying to defuse the awkward moment between us. “I can take the other one.”

She stays silent, before taking it for herself, looking elsewhere as well. But she doesn’t move from her spot.

As I pick up my meal and dump it in my basket, I decide to push it. “So, uh … Hey, I know I didn’t do much, but I transferred here the other day. You remember that?”

She maintains her silence, but the slight furrow of her brows and staring at me from the side of her vision suggest she’s probably trying to remember. I take that as a probable yes; she seems to be the quiet type. “I’m still trying to get used to the place,” I continue, with a hand scratching the back of my neck, “and I figured I should try to get to know people. So, er …” Should I ask?

Eh, screw it. I’m here already.

“What’s your name?”

“Ritsu.”

Okay. That’s the first time I had heard her voice, and uh, hmm. On the other hand, I have a distinct feeling she answered out of courtesy. Where do I, uh, go from here? “Ritsu, hmm,” I repeat to myself, stealing glances at her while trying to not get her attention. I notice she only has that package in her hand, and nothing else. “Not feeling up for cafeteria food tonight?”

She looks at the package in her gloved hand and turns away. “I felt like eating something else,” she responds flatly.

Is she not picking up anything else? If I’m her I would pick up something more. “Only that though?”

Her brows furrowed even tighter, and her sideways stare turns into an irritated glare. What, I was -- oh. I pull back, holding my hands up to my chest as I back off a bit. I want to apologize for being intrusive, but she turns away instead.

Very smooth, Hisao.

With a sigh, I take my package and walk over to the previous aisle for another chocolate bar. I honestly want to kick myself or that; what the hell was that attempt?! I get angry at people for not knowing what to say around me back then, yet I don’t even know how to talk to strangers. Did all those years I spent around Takumi erode my attempts at making new friends on my own?

Probably, actually.

This is quite the revelation. Looking back as I head to the cashier, Ritsu is a little behind me, arriving as I wait for the cashier to be done.

I quickly run through my mind for ways to revive the conversation and ways to keep it up, but with it ending as abruptly as it did, I can’t think of any other ways without adding more to the awkwardness. In addition to that, maybe she doesn’t even want to talk, knowing what happened earlier today. Which, I understand; even I would bear a grudge for the rest of the day, because that’s another set of clothes to wash. The cashier takes my payment and promptly gives me back the change.

I walk outside, only to see the blackness of the night sky above me. The sun has set.

I realized a bit too late why she wanted a convenience store dinner to begin with. Ritsu left the cafeteria with that sort of situation and passive-aggressiveness, leaving her tray for someone else to deal with. So, it makes sense why she doesn’t want to face them again if she doesn’t even want to talk to me. To add to that, who the hell am I to assume she’s only going to pick that package up and nothing else? “Talk about a really bad first impression, Hisao,” I say to myself, pinching my forehead in irritation, “real nice of you.” Looking for distractions, I pull out one of the chocolate bars I bought and take a bite, just as she exits the store.

Ah. I have an idea.

With a chocolate bar in my mouth I take the other one out of my bag. I intended that to be a snack for tomorrow, but I don’t mind giving it to her if it could smooth over my mistakes, no matter how unlikely that is. Unaware I’m there I hand it over to her as she comes closer, surprising her. “Here,” I garble around the chocolate bar in my mouth, “have it.”

Her neutral expression quickly changes to a frown. “Why?”

I shrug as with the other, plastic bag-laden hand I take the bar out of my mouth. “Think of it as an apology.”

She looks at me as her frown softens, and gingerly takes the bar out of my hand. As we wait for the road crossing sign to chance, she stays at a not so considerable distance from me. The girl’s already eating it quietly, taking bites off of the bar.

I never really found scenes of someone eating to be particularly cute, but I discover that this girl seems to be an exception: She clumsily holds the bar in her hands, both of which are enveloped in black wrist braces that limit her fingers’ movements and nibbles at the bar with a soft frown. All the while she tries to hold on to her plastic bag. Overall I find it very cute.

Now that she’s closer, I can finally take a good look at her. Ritsu’s somewhat shorter than I expected from the few times I spotted her in the distance - almost as short as Shizune. Her distinctive muted yellow hairband holds up a considerable amount of her dirty-walnut bangs, as her hair is swept back behind her head, leaving her forehead exposed. Two longer locks of hair at the ends of the hairband touch her shoulders, flanking her overcast face. She stills wears her uniform, but has taken off her jacket and tied the sleeves around her waist like a skirt. And unlike Shizune and her black leggings, she wears none at all, with only a pair of socks to tie it off.

Her eyes though, remain the most enticing feature. I don’t really know how it concerns me but it does. I saw the incident back in the cafeteria, and by her reactions to the girls she left to deal with her spilled tray, she probably made enemies in the past. But here, I don’t see a juvenile delinquent as my initial impression of her was, one I expected to have little regard for the rules. But I don’t see a bullied person either, who would hold on to hope that things will be fine one day.

Despite the brilliance in her eyes, I see an exhausted and broken girl. She doesn’t want to be here, yet here she is.

Like me.

I take a deep breath before continuing. “I saw what happened earlier today.”

Ritsu stays silent.

“Sorry for annoying you like that.”

“I don’t mind,” I hear her mumble.

“And since you told me your name, I’m Hisao. Hisao Nakai.”

She merely nods, finally tearing off all of the chocolate bar’s wrapping.

A short moment of silence fills the emptiness between us as we walk back, surrounded by the din of the crowd. Speaking of that, the crowd hasn’t lessened at all; instead, it seems that as the night progresses it gets denser. The sky above gives way to the dark night, lit only by the stores’ and restaurants’ windows, display glasses and doorways. I check on Ritsu as she’s jostled closer to me by the denser mass of people, pushed together so that her shoulder touches my arm. I don’t pay it any mind, and by the looks she’s too preoccupied with the chocolate, or something else on her mind, to notice it either. I don’t want to try to talk over the din of the night walkers, and I’m certain I’m not going to hear her low volume as it is. So, we keep the silence on the way back, and before long we reach the road crossing.

The sign turns green, and we cut across at an even pace to the other side. Once we’re freed from the crowd, she steps away from me, pausing at an arm’s length. Every now and then, I catch her glancing at me, but there’s no intention other than suspicion in her eyes.

I don’t blame her to be honest. I did a bad back there.

Nevertheless, through our entire walk back to campus, I don’t try to strike up a conversation, mainly because of that awkward note earlier. I also just prefer to quietly immerse myself in the peaceful evening air. The notion of missing curfew slips my mind if we’re returning this late already, and to be honest, I’m not sure what I had in mind to spend the evening of my second day here. But Ritsu doesn’t seem to mind. Sure, she’s staring at me as if expecting I might come up with another insensitive quip, but she’s the first person in what feels like an eternity that doesn’t immediately try to make my issues an issue.

Everyone I can remember always tries to put up an apologetic face whenever they’re around me, and wishes me the best of luck in recovering. Pitying me. Shin told me to not be so full of myself. My parents told me I should wake up from this nightmare. Takumi told me it’s not that big of a deal.

Looking back, I’m getting an inkling of how Shizune and Misha tried to say the same by taking me off on a tour of the place. And what Saki said was undeniable; she thinks it’s nothing big either.

Ritsu’s the first person who doesn’t try to repress what I’ve been through, solely through her own decision to not speak.

It’s a strange feeling.

It is as if her presence and quietness alone is enough to convince me to lower my guard. I look at her and back at the sky above.

It’s liberating.

Down the road, I can see the town below light up against the darkness of the night. The hill upon which the campus sits on is high enough to tower over everything down there, and there are distant city lights on the other side of some far off hills. I presume it’s Sendai. It reminds me of Yokohama at night when I was back home.

Home.

As I take another bite of the chocolate, I ponder on that word for a moment. Home, the world I can no longer reach. Do I miss it, when I passed through that overly fancy gates of this school? Am I trading the prison that was the hospital room, for a much bigger prison the size of an academy? I don’t know. I don’t want it to be that way, but I don’t know if what I’m doing is against what I want. As the streetlights of the school up ahead light up, seemingly as if to invite me back, I can’t find an answer.

I will be here for only a year. But do I want to make it as comfortable as I can? I mean, why not. Any sense of semblance of a routine can get my mind off of the hell I have left behind.

Do I want to leave them all behind?

Perhaps the time in the hospital has wiped away a lot of the fond memories of my past life. All I can remember are the arguments and the gradual but inevitable betrayals before it. What were we doing before the heart attack? I can recall Shin mentioning a concert and him waving around tickets for all of us with a somewhat proud smirk on his face. And before that, only a few shattered remains, indistinguishable from imagination.

For such supposedly fond memories, I thought only of myself.

Without most of them, why would I miss Tokyo? Sure, I might miss hanging out with them in that classroom, and maybe doing it again will help me remember. Anything else though? They left me behind in that hospital, abandoning me to rot and fester as I tried to make amends. Why would I want any of them back?

They still hold a part of the blame. I know I’m responsible. I tried to fix things, but I can’t. Not without them.

But. Looking down the hill, at the now distantly quiet town below, I feel a twinge. Two days here and not even a couple of hours in the town, and I already miss the constant bustling of that metropolis I called home. The lack of the sound of cars I’ve always slept to back home feels hollow here. My own brain is trying to fill in the void, trying to make sense of the emptiness and fill it with something familiar, clashing with reality.

Do I want them back? Do I want any of them back?

I cast a glance at Ritsu. She’s been quiet all this while, and has stopped casting glances at me. Perhaps she’s enjoying the silence as well. Maybe she’s comfortable with me so far, maintaining the silence. Maybe it’s the only silence she can afford, and back in the campus she’ll be besieged by friends as loud as Misha. I can’t help but wonder. Does she miss her past life?

If there is one, that is. Maybe she lived here for most of her life. I wouldn’t put it past what Yamaku is proclaiming to be; the Nurse did mention they had junior high and lower schools somewhere on campus, or maybe elsewhere.

I look to her to ask, but quickly shut my mouth. Perhaps it’s best if I keep this up.

If I can find her again later, I might be able to find out. Not sure why I want to know. Maybe it’s a sense of camaraderie I’m looking for?



The silence feels somewhat comfortable too.

As we approach the pseudo-baroque iron-wrought gates, the school appears unearthly still, aside from the minute fizzing of the streetlights and the single shining window on the main building. We walk past the main faculty and make our way to the dormitories. I watch her as she ambles her way to hers, turns around to look at me before nodding subtly, and disappearing inside.

Well, I don’t know if that’s the conclusion I’m looking for, but I guess I have no choice but to comply. It was honestly a bit clumsy; I recall being more capable of talking than that, but I think what followed was a good enough recovery. She has been present in my mind since I first saw her, and to reach out today? Not bad. I had no plans to either.

I look at the sky one more time, but the clouds had gathered now. A whisper of a wind blows past me, chilling me somewhat. I sigh, and walk inside.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Talmar
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by Talmar » Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:04 pm

*****

I put the cup of instant noodles on the counter, and press the activate button on the electric water heater. The pantry of this building I’ll be living in took me some time to find; someone in the common room pointed out it’s opposite of the laundry, but I had no idea where the laundry room was, either, and asking again might have made me appear a bit daft. So I left them to their own devices in front of the TV, and wandered the first floor of the dormitory.

Turns out, at the other end of the fork at which the entrance hall terminates, is where the laundry room sits, as well as the kitchenette, as the label above the door insists.

For a building with barely above 50 inhabitants, the boys’ dorm can get quite loud, even at night. Up above, through the small window in between the ceiling cabinet and the countertop as I reach out to take a look outside, I can hear someone typing loudly on a keyboard, some boys up there arguing quite vehemently at each other, and the holler of laughter of some guys playing a video game together. As for the pantry itself, it is unexpectedly empty, which is fine by me. I’ve already changed into my night clothes, and meeting someone down here wearing this would be somewhat awkward. Well, not for them, probably, but it will be for me; I’m only wearing a simple t-shirt and a pair of shorts. The impression from my almost botched encounter with Ritsu still lingers, and I don’t need another.

The heater clicks, and I pour the hot water into the cup. As I wait, I take a look around the kitchenette. For a place designated as a shared cooking room for guys, it is surprisingly both clean and well-stocked. Last time I let Shin handle anything in the kitchen back home we ended up having to clean up the spilled curry. From what his sister said, that, or some other mess, happens every time he walks into the kitchen. There’s a toaster and a microwave sitting in the far corner, on the surprisingly ornate looking marble countertop under the ceiling cabinets that stretches for the entirety of the far wall from the door. A cursory examination of them shows they’ve been in use before; the stove is a little dirty from usage - probably from noodle cups - but it’s not that bad. The toaster on the other hand is brand spanking new. Several boxes sit in the corner, one of which is labeled to contain a yet to be installed stove.

It’s not a really big room. Then again, I feel like comparing it to the kitchen I’m used to back home isn’t really fair play. But I can work something up here if I want to - if they get around to installing the stove, that is. A clock hangs on the wall by the door, quietly counting the moments as they pass.

I walk around, keen on keeping up my exploratory momentum. Across the hallway are the double doors leading to the laundry room. I saunter over to take a look. Inside are two who I assume to be my neighbours, sitting quietly as they wait while the washing machines whirr and rumble. One of them’s wearing a Walkman headset, and the other is reading a book. The former spots me poking my head in and waves. I wave back, before noticing an unused washing machine at the back.

Oh right, I meant to wash my clothes today.

I look back at the clock, and then at my cup sitting by the water heater. Well, that can wait for a while. I quickly head upstairs to my room and pick up the basket of dirty clothes in the laundry bag I was given in my closet and make my way downstairs. Along the way I can hear almost inhuman noises from Kenji’s room, but seeing how he was yesterday, I figure it’s best to not disturb him.

When I finally reach the laundry room again, the machine’s already taken, and a new neighbour appears; it’s another familiar face, the bandage-eye boy yesterday, now wearing a proper eyepatch. He’s sitting on the benches, absorbed in a book. I put my basket next to his own, which is empty, and go to get my cup of instant noodles before coming back to sit next to him. I know I didn’t want anyone finding me like this, but here’s one familiar face and it feels rude not to drop by to say hello. Well, here’s hoping he remembers me. “Hey,” I start.

He looks up and immediately backs off in an exaggerated manner, as if I materialized out of nowhere. “Oh it’s you!”

“Yeah,” I said, taking a forkful of noodles and blow on it to cool it off a bit. He quickly relaxes, resuming his previous posture. “Was thinking of taking that washing machine before you did.”

He turns to the washing machine ahead of him. “Ah,” he falters, and grins guiltily. “Sorry about that, hahaha.”

I wave it off. “No worries, I can wait.” I eat the forkful. “Speaking of, I didn’t get your name yesterday.”

“Oh right …” He closes his book between the palms of his hands. “It’s Shouhei by the way. Shouhei Mizushima,” he says with an extended hand. “Thanks for the help.”

“Hisao Nakai,” I reply as I accept it. He gives it a firm shake. “Again, don’t mention it.”

He stares at me curiously for a moment before continuing. “You’re the new guy they’ve been talking about, aren’t you?”

Huh? “Who, me?”

“Yep.”

“Who’s they?” I ask, partly curious and partly suspicious. I don’t like it when someone talks about me behind my back.

“You know, the top brass.” He shapes a triangle in the air with his fingers and point to the top as if to demonstrate a hierarchy. “Student Council folks”

“Student Council?” This is new. I didn’t know there’s one here.

In an instant he furrows his brows as if I just crawled out from under a rock and asked what’s the Imperial era right now. “You’re telling me those two dragged you around and never mentioned it?” Wow.”

Those two? Does he mean the dynamic duo? “Shizune and Misha?”

He snaps his fingers. “YES! Those two! They never shut up about getting people in the Student Council, you know? I guess when we heard you’re coming a week ago, those two were revving up to take the spot to give you a tour.”

“Really.”

“Pink hair man. Not that inconspicuous.”

“So hold the phone.” I put my cup down on the empty seat beside me. “Student Council?”

Shouhei shrugs. “Never been part of it, but I heard from a friend of mine called Saki it’s officially all class representatives put together. In reality though, it’s just those two who do most of the work.”

Oh so that’s what Misha meant by work when those two couldn’t lead me to the clubhouse annex. Now I feel bad. And it appears that he is Saki’s friend; this is news. “Ah, what happened?”

“Dunno exactly,” he answers with another shrug. “Heard there was a massive fight last year, and it had been this way ever since.”

“Ouch.” I pick up my cup to continue eating. “How big was it back then?”

“Pretty big. Saki said last year they pretty much had all class representatives as well as club presidents present. She was part of it the entire time.”

“The entire time?” I ask as I eat another forkful.

Shouhei stops, before nodding, looking elsewhere in a thoughtful pose. “She’s been here for years, for some condition she has. I dunno man, I don’t feel like asking unless she wants to tell us about it herself.”

I’m getting a feeling Shizune might be involved in the breakup. “Did Shizune join the Council last year?”

He pauses momentarily, before nodding uncertainly. “I think so? Not sure.”

Hmm.

Our conversation falters as I think of something to fill in the silence. Shouhei seems rather friendly, compared to most other boys I’ve seen, who were either apathetic or outright refused to talk. Or in Kenji’s case, a potential nutcase I’d rather avoid. And he doesn’t seem to know much about the Council that I’m curious about to continue that conversation. My mind wanders for a moment to yesterday, when we nearly collided with each other. “Uh, hey, Mizushima,” I speak up, uncertainly.

“Call me Shouhei,” he replies, looking up at me from his book.

I shrug. “Okay, Shouhei. Got a question.”

“Fire away.”

“What was in that box?”

“Oh that?” He gives me the book he’s been reading to show me. Advanced Guide to the Keyboard.

“A keyboard?”

“Yep,” he confirms with a nod. “You know, the musical one?”

The name pops up like a piece of partially buried landmark. I take a moment to dig up the memory, finding myself back in my bandroom. Mai mentioned an instrument she wanted to play as part of the band, but later gave up on it to Takumi. “Oh right, that one. The one that looked like an electronic piano?”

Shouhei looks at me with wide eyes, surprised. “Oh you know?”

“Used to be in a light music band in my old school.”

“Oh nice!” I give the book back to him, and he puts it aside to focus on me, now with a brighter smile. “Any good songs you guys played?”

“Hmm.” I cross my arms to sit in thought for a while. What did we play a lot back then? Other than the usual tuning practices and the occasional original tracks we composed together, I don’t remember much. No, it feels more like I can’t. Just how much did my time in the hospital wipe out? I shake my head slightly, followed by a more confident one. “Sorry, can’t remember.”

“Been a while, huh?”

I shrug, again. “Yeah.”

“How long have you been with them?”

I raise two fingers. “2 years.”

He leans forward a little more. “Wait, so your entire senior high so far?”

I nod. “Yeah. Some of the best friends I had,” I answer, before smiling wistfully. If only they thought of me the same.

“What happened?”

I pause, before shaking my head. “It’s a long story.” Another pause. “What about you?”

“My current band or before I came here?”

Pondering on the choices, I pick the latter.

“Hmm.” He puts on a faux thoughtful pose, one hand under his chin and another crossed under the former’s elbow. “Was part of it for a couple of months, until I lost this eye.”

“You lost it?” What?

He snickers guiltily. “It’s a long story,” he says, mirroring me. I can’t help but chuckle.

Now that I notice it, it’s a little different bandage than yesterday. “So you’re here because of the eye?”

Shouhei nods, uncertainly, while also shrugging at the same time. “Sort of. Depth perception and all that can get messy.” He pauses. “What about you?”

“Huh?”

“Why are you here?”

I flinch, and shut up for a moment. Do I want to tell him? I mean, probably not. Yet, he’s so carefree about his sight issues. Saki’s influence? I’m not sure. “Just something involving my insides,” I say instead, hoping my response fills in the silence quick enough.

“Ah.” He gives me a strange look, as if he realizes he said something he shouldn’t have. I restrain the desire to scratch my head in irritation at the concept; he’s trying to be friendly and he hoped I’d reciprocate, but … I didn’t, and instead I put him in an awkward spot.

I look at him. He’s biting his lips, looking away. Okay, maybe I should. Maybe I should just give a hint of something at least. I look around for any spying eyes; the Walkman boy is still quietly rocking his head to the music he’s listening to. The book boy’s gone, but his basket is still here, and so is his laundry in the still-alive washing machine. I wave a hand to get Shouhei’s attention and tap on my sternum three times. “Here.”

“Ooooh, okay,” he says with recognition, before smiling awkwardly. I return my own smile. There’s no way he’d know exactly what my condition is, but if this school is what the doctor told me it is, then students with heart issues should be commonplace. Even if we are young. Maybe that’s why they’re here to begin with. I nod and lean back against the wall.

Shouhei turns back to his book, but now with a sigh. Hmm? “What’s wrong?” I ask, concerned.

He looks back at me, alarmed. “No,” he answers with a somewhat frantic shake of his head, “nothing’s wrong. Just some troubles.”

“Uh-uh.”

For a moment pressuring him to talk doesn’t seem like a good idea. But it doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like seeing issues when I think I can help. If he really doesn’t want to talk about it, he’d know to tell me something else. To which I’ll comply of course. He flattens his grin into a straight line and stares ahead at nothing in particular. In the end, he speaks up again. “Okay okay, I’ve just … I’ve been having some trouble with the music club here.”

I recall the hectic scene at the music hall and their stage outside. “I can see that.”

Shouhei closes his book, puts it behind him in a pocket before resting his elbows on his knees. “Nah, not really related to the music club as a whole. Maybe it does. Not sure. Anyhow, it’s our issue, mostly.”

“What’s it about?”

“Well, you see, the music club operates by -”

I raise a hand. “I got that introduction from Saki.”

“Oh you know her already?” He takes a moment. “Okay. Well, my band, we’re meant to be playing in the performance for the festival. We’re a four man group; one lead guitarist, one bassist, one keyboardist, and one drummer. You’re getting this?”

I nod. “Mhm.”

“Okay, so you can guess I’m the keyboardist. We practiced a lot since we were accepted to play in the festival. Things were going well. But … back in April, the lead guitarist came down with a fever, and then he had a stroke. He had been hospitalized ever since.”

I grimace. “Ouch.” I’m not wholly sure what I can offer aside from one word comment to that revelation. A stroke? At our age? I guess this sort of thing can happen here in Yamaku.

He notices my reaction, and laughs awkwardly. “Yeah … you pointing at your sternum reminds me of it. He does that a lot.”

“He had a heart condition like me?”

Shouhei nods.

“That wasn’t the end of it,” he continues. “A few weeks later, the drummer got a call from her family; they’re moving overseas, permanently. Something about her dad got a job in Korea. So she vanished that month, leaving only me and Mao the bassist.”

“Ah, that definitely sounds bad.” I pause. “Any luck finding new guys?”

He shakes his head with a wry grin. “No luck. Yamaku isn’t exactly a big school. Finding one that fits the bill, let alone talent … is a really hard job. I’ve been asking Mrs. Sakamoto every few days if there’s anyone interested, if at all. But no such luck.” He looks up. “And with the festival coming up just this weekend …”

Before I can come up with a proper reply, his washing machine beeps loudly, and he heads over to empty it. “Well, here’s your turn,” he says, both hands carrying his basket. His book sits on top of the pile. “Thanks though, Hisao. Really needed that vent.”

“If you need to just rant about anything, I’m here to listen.” I offer. He grins at that, before leaving.

For a few moments, I sit there with the empty cup in hand, now that he’s gone. I smile a bit. Now that’s a bit better, compared to that mess with Ritsu. Now I’m wondering if I should get involved.

I stand up and put my load of laundry in, before pushing in the coins.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

1003powerloki
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2015 6:11 am

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by 1003powerloki » Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:56 am

First contact, established! Sorry for no commenting early, real life and all that.

It seems that a few we are setting up a parallel between Ritsu and Hisao, in order to pay off with them learning and growing from their similarities. K-on spoilers Of course the difference between the two should be noted since Ritsu used to be full of energy and probably in the future she'll recover her old self on a healthy manner (since, lets adimit it, she used to be very lazy about everything(which then again is not a bad thing)), as for Hisao, who knows if he'll want to reconnect with his old friends, since the experience jaded him in a cycle of internal bitterness and broke his relationships.

Anyways. I just hope we can get to see Ritsu and Hisao toguether and properly happy, after all it seemed that Ritsu didn't mind his pressence, so that is something. sorry for the ramble, great chapter
Achivements 1)Getting the scene 'Slow Recovery' without a walktrough. 2)Getting every good ending on first try. 3)Playing without spoilers. 4)Playing without knowing the game was an Eroge.
Endings in order: Emi(GE) Emi(BE) Shizune(GE) Shizune(BE) ACT1(BE) Rin(GE) Rin(BE) Rin(NE) Lilly(GE) Lilly(NE) Hanako(GE) Hanako(BE) Hanako(NE)

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