I sat up, waited for my head to stop spinning, and lethargically surveyed my surroundings. I felt… greasy. Yeah, like someone had dumped a tub of oil on my head. Not the best feeling in the world.
What had I done last night? I was clearly hungover, but how?
The memory of her laughter shot through my head. Oh. That was how.
“Are you serious, dude?”
“Yes, I’m serious! Have you ever tried it?”
I shot an icy glare at the woman beside me. Her black suit was such a stark contrast to her short, blonde hair.
“Nope, can’t say I’ve ever tried pineapples and liver on pizza before.”
“Blueberries, not pineapples.”
“Whatever, dude. Still sounds gross.”
Honestly, I didn’t know much about Akira. I knew she was Satou’s sister and not much else. I’d seen her lurking around Nakai’s dorm a couple times after he and Satou started going out together, but other than that I’d only seen her in passing.
“Well I could prove to you that it’s not disgusting, but I seem to be missing something.”
I waved my hands around, indicating that there was, in fact, not a pizza box in them.
She shrugged. “You were taking too long.”
Akira raised up her shopping bag to my eye level.
“Mama needs her booze.”
“That doesn’t mean you had to elbow me out of the way at the register!”
“You’re such a sore loser.”
Rolling my eyes, I kept going towards the crosswalk that connected this road to the one leading back up to Yamaku.
“Hey, where are you going?”
I didn’t turn around, but replied anyway.
“Going back to school, now that you’ve foiled my plans.”
“Aw, come on, don’t be like that. It’s probably past curfew now.”
I squinted down at my watch. Yeah, it was near midnight now. Too late to go back now, or at least it was too late to get back it unquestioned.
“So it is. So what?”
“Why don’t you relax and take a load off with me? There’s that park just over there. I promise I won’t make fun of your sausage and raspberry pizza.”
I turned around and walked back in the direction of her and her shopping bag.
“Blueberries and liver.”
We set off towards the park.
This next part is where things got really fuzzy. Like, even beyond my normal definition of “fuzzy”. That must’ve been when I started drinking. Now, I’m not a lightweight, Nakai would tell you that I can drink him under the table. She must’ve had some hard stuff in that grocery bag. Maybe if that bird would stop chirping, I could focus and maybe remember… Real military-grade stuff, let me tell you…
Akira cracked open another beer and handed it to me. I took a sip and let my arm drop to the bench where we'd been for the previous hour or so. In that time we’d managed to make a sizable dent in her “groceries”, if they could even be called that. As far as I could tell, she’d only bought beer and snack food.
“So, Yuuko, huh? Can’t say I saw that one coming.”
I felt my face heat up, something I attributed to the alcohol. “Worst part is I checked out a book from the library before it happened. Now I can’t return it.”
She laughed at that before opening another beer for herself.
“You’re too scared to return a library book? Dude.”
“I’m not scared!”
“Want ol’ Akira to return it for you? I could sling down a beer or two and walk in there like nothing happened.”
I looked over at her, her suit jacket now unbuttoned and open. Her drink was in one hand, lazily conducting her thoughts as she spoke.
“Is that your solution to everything?”
She didn’t answer immediately, instead digging into her shopping bag. She pulled out a snack, opened it, and then finally responded.
“Yeah. Pretty much.”
I looked away from her. She didn’t say that with her usual “who-cares” attitude. In hindsight, it was obvious I’d accidentally hit on something she was sensitive about, but I didn’t realize it then.
“Well, that’s a pretty shit way of dealing with things.”
I took a swig.
I expected her to shoot back with some witty comment, but she was silent instead. After a while, I looked over to see her staring off into the distance. Her grip on the can had tightened.
“What’s the matter? You’ve gone all quiet now.”
She crushed the can in her fist.
“My family wants me and Lilly to come live with them in Scotland.”
I looked over at her. She still had her arm slung over the bench, staring off into the distance.
“They’ve already arranged for the flight and visas. They expect us to be at the airport next Wednesday.”
She opened another beer, the action seeming more somber now.
“Wh- Why are you telling me this?”
She turned to meet my gaze.
“Why not? You’re drunk and you’re here.”
“‘Damn’ is right, bud. I still gotta tell Hisao, somehow. You know him?”
“Nakai? Yeah, he lives in the same hall as me.”
“He and Lilly are a thing.”
I looked away, then looked back at her face. She seemed resigned, just waiting for fate to take its course. Suddenly, I found my voice rising.
“That’s it? You’re just gonna let it happen?”
“No fight? No nothing?”
“Yeah. That’s just how it is.”
I leaned in closer, the tip of my scarf folding on the surface of the bench.
“That’s fucking bullshit!”
She threw the can on the ground, hard. Suddenly, she was looking straight at me. Her face had hardened and her stare had turned icy.
“You think I don’t know that, kid? Of course it’s fucking bullshit!”
I jumped back, surprised by her outburst.
“You think I want to do this?”
I felt my blood pressure rising. My voice shot back, just as acidic and loud as hers.
“Well you certainly don’t seem to be fighting it! You’re adults! Just tell him to fuck off, or something!”
Her arms shot up from where they’d been resting. I flinched, thinking she was about to slap me, but they instead flew to her temples as she began slowly rubbing circles on them.
“God, you don’t understand.”
I was silent a moment before I spoke again.
“Just shut up. Forget I said anything.”
Her arms fell from her head, hitting the bench with a thump.
“I didn’t ask to be put in this situation, but this is just what I’m having to deal with now.”
We were silent the rest of the night.
[“Relax. Seriously, it won’t be that bad.”]
I nodded. As she finished signing, I took her hand in mine as we stood side-by-side. She was dressed in her usual semi-casual attire, but I’d chosen to put on something a little more formal. If there was any day to make a good impression, this would certainly be it.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, Hideaki answered the door.
“Oh. Hi, there.”
He looked at his sister, and then at me. I suddenly felt hot and uncomfortable in my button-up shirt, wishing I hadn’t tied the tie so tightly. If he noticed it, he didn’t feel the need to bring it up, his face unchanged. He looked at his sister again.
“Dad’s in the living room.”
With that, he left the door open and retreated back to his room, closing the door behind him. She must have told him what we were here for today.
Shizune squeezed my hand one more time before leading me into the house. As we passed by Hideaki’s room, he spoke from behind the door.
“Let me know if I need to call someone to restrain him. Or an ambulance.”
My heartbeat stuttered in my chest. Seeing my distressed appearance, Shizune let go of my hand to sign.
[“What’s the matter?”]
I raised my hands, trying to steady my breathing.
[“Nothing, everything’s okay.”]
Nodding in a way that seemed to say, “Alright, but I don’t really believe you,” she grabbed ahold of my hand and led me further into the house.
Jigoro was sitting on the couch in the living room, his eyes narrowing as he saw us come in. When he spoke, he made no attempt to hide the acidity in his voice.
“What is it?”
I gave a sort of half-cough in an attempt to clear my throat. I could feel my palms becoming sweaty as just speaking to Jigoro felt like a monumental task.
Shizune squeezed my hand again. I looked over at her, her gaze mirroring her father’s. Well, I’m trapped now. Might as well get it over with.
My voice croaked as I tried to get the words out, and I paused to try and find the right wording. Unfortunately, that gave Jigoro just enough time to interrupt me.
“God, you sound so pathetic! What are they putting in the food these days, pixie dust and ground-up fairies? Back in my day, you-”
Before I realized it, I’d interrupted him, my voice louder.
“Would work hard and then go home and eat hearty foods, so you could get up again at dawn and do it all over aga-”
“Sir! I want to…”
He stopped, his eyes narrowing even further, so much so that I thought he’d just closed them.
“You what, boy? Spit it out, I don’t have all day.”
It was completely silent in the room now. I was suddenly acutely aware of how the air conditioning was blowing, so loud now that it sounded like a storm was outside. Thoughts flashed through my mind of escaping the country and living out the rest of my days as a hermit.
Oh, fuck it.
“Sir, I want to marry your daughter.”
I turned to look at Shizune, who’d been reading my lips this entire time. She turned to face her father and gave a short, curt nod, as if saying, “Yes. He does.”
I thought Jigoro hadn’t heard me, until he slapped his knees and started laughing.
Shizune’s face fell into her trademark glare as she watched her father laugh, my proposal apparently being the funniest thing he’d heard all week. Nervously, I eyed the sword strapped to his waist, hoping I wasn’t about to be at the business end of it.
Once Jigoro had composed himself, he wiped a tear away from his eye and immediately started glaring at me again.
“That was a good one, boy, I’ll give you that. You shouldn’t joke like that, though. Maybe try some new material.”
I suddenly felt my blood run hot. I tightened my hold on Shizune’s hand. Through my clenched jaw, I spoke.
“That wasn’t a joke, sir.”
He twitched as I talked back to him, his hand gripping the armrest of the couch so hard I heard the wood groan under the pressure.
“Yes it was, boy.”
Before I could retort, he started again. “And you should watch your mouth, unless you want to be thrown out of here faster than month-old leftovers.”
Maybe now would be a good time for Hideaki to call that ambulance he was talking about.
Jigoro slowly rose to his feet and started over to us. My heart sank, still beating a mile a minute. I felt my vision go dark as Shizune let go of my hand and backed away, giving us room, but leaving me to face Jigoro alone.
I looked up to face Jigoro myself, his face now only a few inches away from mine.
He didn’t say anything for a while, just glaring at me as I did in return. Finally, he spoke.
“I have business to attend to.” He emphasized the word “business”, as if it was more important than the situation unfolding in front of him.
“Do not leave.”
With that, he walked past me and her, ruffling her hair as he disappeared into the hallway.
As soon as he had vanished, I looked over to where she’d been standing, her face still red and her gaze venomous. She started over towards me, and as she raised her hands I thought she was going to give me a lecture about how I should’ve been more assertive with Jigoro or how I shouldn’t have let him blow me off.
Instead, she planted one hand on my chest, her expression unchanging. I was perplexed, not understanding the gesture, until I remembered.
She had spread her hand out over my chest, trying to feel the beating in my chest. I got her attention and started signing.
[“I’m okay, really. He just startled me.”]
After ensuring that my heart was, in fact, still beating, she walked past me towards the couch, and promptly flopped down on it.
These past few weeks had been very stressful for us both, really. It was a shame things had taken such a sour turn, considering things had gone so smoothly earlier...
I’d asked her to stop by my classroom. After hours, of course, I didn’t want to arouse any suspicion from the boss. She’d come in, looking equal parts annoyed and perplexed.
[“So, Mr. Nakai, famed chemistry teacher at Yamaku Academy, wishes to see me?”]
I smiled at her jab. I’d only been working there a few months, so I was hardly “famed” yet. Mutou had retired about the time I graduated, and put in a good word for me with the administration. I’d have to invite him to the wedding, though perhaps I was getting ahead of myself.
Swinging my feet off my desk, I stood up and paced over to the door where she stood.
[“Of course, Miss Hakamichi, famed administrative assistant at the very same Academy. I saw something today that I thought you might find interesting. Care to join me?”]
I stretched my arm out and bowed, hamming it up to the maximum.
She silently giggled and took my arm. We started down the hallway.
By the time we’d gotten to the first floor and made the first turn, she’d already guessed where we were going.
She tried the door, but found it to be locked. As she turned to me and raised her hands, I held out one hand to stop her and pulled out my set of keys with another.
I turned the small metal key in the lock, and was about to push the door open before she signed to me.
[“Oh, breaking and entering now? Shameful, most shameful.”]
I smiled again and pushed the door open.
The council room hadn’t changed much since we’d been there, but the new councils had added some tasteful decorations around the room. Shizune was unfazed, looking at me quizzically.
[“That’s it? You brought me here to reveal they added a potted plant in one of the corners?”]
[“What? No. There’s something on the plant, go look at it.”]
I pointed at the plant, a small white note taped to one of the leaves.
She eyed me suspiciously, but still walked into the room, briskly pacing over to the potted plant in the corner.
As soon as I knew her back was turned, I pulled a small box out of my pocket and began gently rubbing the velvet on it to try and calm me down.
She reached the plant and bent over to look at the small note. Any second now.
Suddenly, she whirled around, her eyes wide.
The box made it difficult to sign, but I managed to repeat what I’d written on the note.
[“Will you marry me?”]
Dropping down on one knee, I opened the small box to reveal the simple ring inside.
She stood there, frozen in place. Her hands, usually so adept at conveying her thoughts, were now still, hovering in midair. Even though she tried to keep a neutral expression, I could see a smile threatening to overpower her face.
She strode back over to me, still trying to convey total and absolute nonchalance. I couldn’t help but smirk a little as she tried to fight the urge to smile.
She plucked the ring out of the box and placed it on her finger. Suddenly, I saw an all-too-familiar glint appear in her eye.
[“So, what if I say no?”]
Placing the box back in my pocket, I didn’t have any difficulty responding.
She looked up at the ceiling and tapped her chin, pretending like she was seriously considering it. Finally, she looked back down at me, beaming.
Back in the present, Shizune gave a silent sigh.
[“Well, he didn’t throw you out.”]
[“Right. So that means he’s at least open to the idea, right?”]
[“He’d better be. I’ll elope with you if he’s not.”]
I gave a dry chuckle at that. Jigoro seems like the kind of father to track us down if we did something like that. I might not be able to bluff my way out of that one.
[“It’s not all bad. This couch is pretty comfy, at least.”]
She smirked at me.
[“Glad you like it, considering you’ll be sleeping on it tonight.”]
All of the sudden, there was a light on my face. It was late, I knew that much. If I had to guess, it was probably 1 or 2 in the morning. Dinner had been tense, but Jigoro hadn’t said a word since our earlier confrontation. Shizune and I had watched some TV afterwards, but she’d gone to bed a while ago.
I blinked and squinted at the light, apparently coming from some kind of flashlight.
“You. Wake up.”
Jigoro’s gruff voice shocked me back into full consciousness. I bolted straight up, smashing my head on the metal casing of the flashlight in the process.
“No, I’m the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Of course it’s me, you fool.”
I didn’t really know how to respond to that, so I just kept quiet.
“We need to discuss something. Follow me.”
The beam disappeared down the hallway. I followed him mindlessly, not sure where this was going. We stopped at a door on the far side of the house. Opening the door, he entered and left it open for me to presumably follow.
Bookshelves lined the wall of what appeared to be Jigoro’s warmly-lit study, with a large oak desk occupying most of the floor space. A large armchair sat behind the desk, with a smaller chair directly in front of it. The desk was overflowing with assorted papers and office supplies, but on a platter in the middle rested a small box and two glasses.
As he sat down, I saw my cue and went to sit in the smaller chair. It was hard and uncomfortable, while his chair looked large and plush. It also seemed to be quite a bit taller than my chair, which gave him the vantage point needed to properly look down on me.
He opened the box on the platter, picking up a pair of tongs that’d been obscured behind it and methodically placing two chunks of ice in the glasses. He reached under the desk and pulled out a bottle of dark liquid. It was unopened, but he cracked the seal and poured us both a glass of it.
“Sir, I don’t dri-”
“You will tonight.”
Oh well. A little won’t kill me. At least, I hope not.
I took a small sip of the alcohol, trying not to grimace as it burned my mouth and throat. Seeing me partake, he also took a sip, swallowing it like it was plain water.
“1989 Vintage. Not that you would notice the difference.”
1989? That’s the year…
“Let’s get something straight. We’re not drinking to you. Judging by the look on your face, you probably think you were the only person on Earth born in 1989.”
...Shizune was born.
I nodded dumbly.
Jigoro sighed, obviously already regretting his decision to bring me here.
“Where are you from, boy?”
The question didn’t register immediately, and I rushed to get the answer out after it finally clicked.
“City boy, huh? Nothing wrong with that.”
That was probably the first positive thing he’d ever said about me.
He took another sip.
“Know anything about this region?”
“Of course not.” He paused. “I’ll tell you a local story, then.”
He cleared his throat and began.
“Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a couple. They loved each other very much. The woman was deaf, but she desperately wanted children.”
Is this a story about me and Shizune? I felt myself grow hot at the mention of kids. If Jigoro noticed this, he didn’t mention it.
“The husband was unsure, but he wanted to make his wife happy. And so they had a daughter. She was born healthy, but after a few months they realized that she had been born deaf as well.”
I swallowed. I understood who the story was about now.
“They were both distraught, but the child was otherwise healthy. So, they had another child. He was born healthy too, but there were complications.”
Jigoro looked away from me, then continued.
“Her condition deteriorated, and she died a few months after giving birth. The husband was distraught, but vowed to raise the children just as well as if his wife was still with him.”
He looked back at me, seemingly studying my expression before speaking again.
“I take it you understand the true meaning of this story.”
Bowing my head, I closed my eyes.
“Then let me get something straight.”
I looked back up at him.
“Shizune and Hideaki are the two lights of my life. But my wife, Mayori, was also the light of my life. A light that burned out too soon.”
“Far too soon.”
He took another sip.
“It was nobody’s fault. I realized that years ago, but I still feel like it could’ve been prevented.”
I couldn’t look at him now, as if looking into his eyes would destroy the moment.
“The moral of the story is that marriage is about give and take. That’s a given, but what isn’t a given is that it’s a give and take forever. Would I give up Hideaki or Shizune, even if that meant I’d still have Mayori?”
I suddenly realized I’d spoken for him. He continued, seemingly pleased I’d interrupted this time.
“But that doesn’t mean I didn’t love her. I see her reflected in both of them everyday. But as they grow up, I feel like I’m losing her all over again. And once again, I can’t stop it.”
His final words weighed heavy on me. I felt the knot in my throat grow larger, as I tried not to let it show.
“She would be so proud of Shizune. She…”
“What is it?”
“I-... I think she’d be proud of you too.”
The silence was different now. I looked up at him, but his expression was unreadable.
He gave a great sigh.
All of the sudden, emotionally vulnerable Jigoro was gone, and business Jigoro was back.
“If you mention a word of this to Shizune, she’ll be spending her wedding day scraping you off the walls. Understand?”
“Yes, si-” Suddenly, the last part of his sentence clicked. I looked at him incredulously.
“Her wedding day?!”
“Yes. You’ve clearly convinced her you’re serious. You even had the nerve to face me. That demonstrates something, at least. I can’t object.”
I jumped up, but he held out a hand to stop me.
“Stop. We may be past the era of asking for things in return for the bride, but I still must ask you for something.”
He paused, then continued.
“I want your word.”
“Your word that you’ll always treasure her. No matter how rough times get, no matter what.”
His hand, previously held in a perfect impression of a cop stopping traffic, fell to a gesture resembling a handshake.
“I promise, sir.”
I took his hand, our shake firm and short.
Good stuff dude.
Main Index (Complete)—Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/Akira • Hideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of Suzu • Sakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
Feurox wrote: ↑Sun May 31, 2020 5:09 am A delightful read. The flashback was a good moment, and helped to split up the Jigoro scenes so it wouldn’t send so obvious he changed, but really, I get the impression he was going to say yes even from the first scene. I think Jigoro opening up was a little hamfisted, but it’s a good premise I haven’t seen done much, and I enjoyed it.
Good stuff dude.
Thanks fellas, I appreciate it.
Lilly adjusted her hands, the tips pointing towards the ceiling. Her thumbs, pressed against one another, formed a shape that looked more like a diamond than what she was going for.
Hanako quickly made the shape with her own hands to remind her of the next step, then spoke, trying to tell Lilly the next step.
“N-Not quite, your fingers need to be… c-curve them down...”
Lilly’s face clouded with confusion, her hands uncertain. After a while, she spoke again.
“Maybe it’d just be easier if I felt how you make it.”
Lilly reached out and felt for Hanako, her touch landing on the girl’s thigh. Gently working her way up, she soon found Hanako’s hands. She gently felt around, making a mental note of how her fingers were arranged and how they were bent.
“I-I’m sorry. I’m bad at… e-explaining things…”
“It’s alright, it’ll be easier this way.”
Finally, Lilly felt confident enough to pull back and attempt it again.
“How does that look?”
“It looks great, Lilly.”
Hisao’s voice startled her, she’d been so focused on Hanako that she hadn’t noticed him come in. She thought to greet him, but instead of speaking she felt in the direction his voice was coming from.
Sure enough, she soon felt the boy’s torso under her fingers. She moved upwards, feeling for the beat of his heart. She could feel his heartbeat increase through his shirt as she tried to remember the movements. Finally, she stretched out her fingers and softly smiled.
Her hands formed a heart, and they rested on the chest of the one who’d stolen hers.
Feels nice to inspire something short and sweet like this.
It's also one of the best stories I've read from you.
My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
Sore wa himitsu desu.griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Title: Hours, Minutes, Seconds
Prompt: "Someone is/has been distributing mysterious presents at Yamaku academy. People who open them find that they contain memories. Whether the memories are good or bad (and whether or not people dare to open them) is up to you."
It’s a little unsettling when a place that’s usually so busy is seemingly deserted overnight. Obviously, this shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to me - it’s not like the students were all going to sit obediently in class an entire, extra half-day before scattering to the wind, going home for the winter holidays.
I, the fool, had assumed that the last day before the end of the term would be the chosen day, where extremely important information would be relayed, information that my fellow students would sorely be missing when it came time for the next exam, but to my immense disappointment I discovered the already half-day of Saturday had also been written off by all the teachers as well.
The first thing I’d decided to do upon returning to my dorm that afternoon was to look very closely at my train ticket, hoping it had magically decided to change its departure date to today, but I had no such luck. Not because the ticket hadn’t done so, but because something else caught my attention first.
A little cardboard box sat at the foot of my door. It looked to be about the size of a novel, and had no writing on it at all. If it wasn’t for the tell-tale manilla packing tape wrapped across it, I wouldn’t have known what it was, it looked more like a loose brick than anything else.
On the off chance that there was some reasonable explanation on the bottom of the package, I picked it up, only to find more tape across the length of the bottom.
Now in my room, on pure autopilot, I sat down on the bed with the box in my hands. Whatever it was, it was light, but as I handled it I heard something sliding around inside. I couldn’t imagine what could possibly be inside.
I set the box under my bed and folded my arms behind my head as I laid back, staring up at the ceiling. Let’s go over the scenarios, here. Why would I get an unmarked box with something inside?
I hadn’t ordered anything myself, so that thought was out the window. Anyway, if it was a piece of mail, how was it supposed to get sent anywhere without a packing slip, or at least a written address? That fact pretty much ruled out the thought of it being someone else's mail as well.
It could also be part of some school tradition or maybe a gift from someone. But who would give something to me and not tell me? Kenji might, but it would’ve been far more typical of him to be waiting outside his room for me if he had something to show or give me.
Was I sure I was the only one with a box? I hadn’t been looking very closely at my neighbor’s doors as I had passed through - if it wasn’t just me, maybe I and whoever else could at least work together and try to figure this out.
I decided that was the most imminently useful idea, and got up for a little bit of investigation.
My investigation didn’t take long. I didn’t bother going to all the other floors, but there were no other boxes in the hall.
It had already started to get dark as I walked out of the dorms again. Perhaps a walk would let me focus on what the next step was in this plan.
It was unbearably hot in the Student Council room. I would’ve preferred to be back outside in the cold, as I was clearly dressed for exposure to such weather. I stared across the table at my captors - unsurprisingly, Shizune and Misha seemed completely unaffected by the heat, Shizune making quick work with her pen. They had very wisely chosen not to wear multiple layers, their coats upon the suddenly very useful coat rack.
I had finally gotten tired of the cold and wandered inside the vast, empty lobby of the school out of boredom, only to almost instantly run into Misha. However, unlike every interaction I’d had with Misha in the past, this time she was all business - she told me Shizune wanted to talk to me about something and to follow her, without as much as a single “Hicchan” or laugh. It was a little ominous to see her so deflated and grim for a not-so-obvious reason.
Shizune finally finished writing on the piece of paper we’d been having our conversation on, and turned it around to face me.
[“I have reason to suspect this might be a prank by a student.”]
My frustration showed through a little in my response. [“Okay. What does that have to do with me?”]
I saw a little glimmer in her eye and the beginning of a smirk on her face. [“Nothing, unless you’d like to make a surprise confession.”]
I decided to change the subject before we got totally sidetracked. [“So did you and Misha get boxes as well?”]
[“Of course. Everyone who’s still here seems to have gotten one.”]
As I read her answer, I looked up, only to see Shizune suddenly deep in thought about something. Suddenly, she snapped her fingers and got Misha’s attention, and then began furiously signing at her.
Misha snapped out of her trance and began to babble as she signed back.
“Huh? Oh, I’m sorry Shicchan, I meant to tell you it was getting close to time! We can still make it!”
While I was watching this sudden spectacle, Shizune grabbed the paper back from me and scrawled something hastily. In the sudden commotion, I bravely dared to open my mouth as Misha grabbed her coat.
“Misha, what’s going on?”
Misha suddenly recalled I was there, and said, “Oh! Shicchan wanted us to leave tonight, and she told me to remind her when the last train would be coming! So we’ve got to go!”
Shizune had slammed the paper back in front of me, containing mostly the same information, but with an addendum at the bottom - [“I’m deputizing you. If you see or hear anything about this, here is Misha’s cell phone number and the home phone number. Get someone to keep me posted.”]
She then rushed over to the coat rack, and suddenly I got the impression that I had better leave, unless I liked the idea of spending the winter break in a soon-to-be locked Student Council room.
Emerging back into the cold outdoors after my detour inside, I still didn’t have a lot of concrete thoughts. It was relieving, in a way, to know that this box wasn’t some metaphysical illusion or some kind of personal, targeted prank.
However, that didn’t get me any closer to a solution. Perhaps a smarter man than I would’ve just thrown the damned thing away, or left it for whatever responsible mysterious force to perhaps come back and pick it up, but neither of those were particularly satisfying options to me.
I’d let my mind distract me from my walk again. It was really and truly dark now, and the whole world seemed to be holding its breath, waiting for the inevitable and cliche winter snowstorm to begin. At some point while I was inside, some outdoor lights had come on, and I could see a vague shape resembling someone else currently sitting on a bench a few hundred meters away.
Closer inspection revealed it was Kenji. Maybe this really was all an elaborate prank by Shizune to make me talk to Kenji so she didn’t have to. Her “deputizing” me was just springing the trap.
Kenji had a small bottle with him as I very cautiously took a seat beside him. He didn’t notice me, bringing the bottle up to his mouth for a drink, so I cleared my throat.
“Dude, that doesn’t help. How am I supposed to know who you are just by how you clear your throat?”
I tried very hard to not let a defeated sigh slip out, and simply said, “Kenji.”
“Oh, Nakai. What’s up, man?”
“That’s what I came to ask you. I thought you would’ve gone home by now.”
“Nah. Too much work to head out when everyone else is. I’ll catch the train out on Monday or something.”
So far, this was the most reasonable conversation I’d ever had with Kenji. I almost didn’t want to ruin it by sparking his paranoia with sudden unexpected questions about boxes.
While I was thinking, Kenji took another drink from his bottle. Maybe that’s what was in his box - the mysterious, new one, that is. I finally broke the silence.
“Did you get a box this morning, Kenji?”
He paused mid-drink, and I braced myself for the deranged statements that were sure to follow. He lowered the bottle from his mouth.
“Yeah, I did. Stupid thing was right in front of my door, I nearly tripped over it this morning. Had to skip class all day after that incident.”
Another drink from the bottle. Surely his box couldn’t have been more than a few inches tall - though this was Kenji we were talking about. It finally began to snow. He spoke up again.
“You want some?”
“No. Alcohol doesn’t mix well with some of my medicine.”
“What? This isn’t booze, I’m just drinking some water.”
I fixed him with a suspicious expression I was sure he wasn’t able to fully appreciate. He began to talk again, motioning with the bottle as he talked.
“Come on man, where’s your sense of grandeur? Would it be cool and dramatic if I was just sitting here, on a cold winter night, by myself, and I was drinking from a little sippy cup of water? No!”
I’d always thought that “grandeur” and “Kenji” were words that went together a little too well, but I didn’t lend voice to this thought.
“It’s like - have you ever seen that film where the old guy dies and they spend the whole film trying to figure out his last words? And they give up, but at the very end they reveal that Rosebud is the name of his sled? His damn sled?! That’s what I’m talking about. You gotta live your life like you’re in Casablanca.”
“I… don’t think that’s what that film is called, Kenji.”
“Whatever. You know what I’m getting at.”
He stood up. I was expecting him to stumble and pretend to lose his balance, but he seemingly already forgot about the theatrics he’d just been so valiantly defending.
“Now come on, let’s go open that damn box.”
I’d been back in my room for 10 minutes now, lying back on my bed, engaged in a staring contest with my phone. Click the wheel, the cursor went down to Misha’s number, click the wheel in the other direction, it goes back up to Shizune’s.
“Well, come on.”
I looked down at the box and then back up at Kenji. He’d cut straight to the chase when we came back to his room, shoving the box into my lap as quickly as he could, like it contained the plague.
Kenji took a sip from his flask, his theatrics seemingly having returned. I ripped the tape off and looked inside.
This doesn’t make any sense.
“It’s a book, Kenji.”
“What? Come on, man, stop playing around. What’s inside?”
“It’s a book.”
I put the present in his lap for him to confirm.
I sighed and let my phone fall onto my bed. I wasn’t sure what I’d even tell Shizune. “Oh, don’t worry, the packages just have undefinable and unknowable items that only make sense to their intended recipient.” That certainly wasn’t going to make Shizune happy - she could do a lot of things, but individually interrogating every student that had just happened to remain at school on one, singular day and getting them to explain what their present meant to them was impractical, even for her.
I was lucky that Kenji had suddenly been so forthcoming - I never thought I’d see him pause while talking, considering his next words before talking. Seeing such a sudden change in his demeanor was more jarring than I would’ve expected - and he wasn’t the only one who had seemingly been affected by what was inside their present. It had clearly brought up memories for everyone - good or bad, recent or distant.
I’d taken a little sip of the flask the fourth time it was offered. He was definitely a little tipsy now, if the burning taste in my mouth said anything. Maybe he’d switched the flasks when I wasn’t looking.
Kenji looked up at the ceiling for a little while, finding his words.
“It wasn’t a bad time, you know. The good didn’t really erase the bad, it just didn’t seem to matter that much at the moment.”
Kenji fumbled a little around on the table and picked it up, and there seemed to be a genuine sense of fondness in his expression.
“Stupid book. None of that would’ve happened if I’d just turned it in on time.”
I turned my head a little. My other arm dropped off the bed and pulled my present onto my lap. The suspense of what could be inside was killing me, in the sense that I wanted to know but was also trying to not appear like I couldn’t wait, and failing. I ripped the tape off the package.
Inside was a slip of paper that appeared to be blank. I flipped it over, reading the words written on it.
“Yeah, I like you too.”
I set the paper on my nightstand and went to sleep.
Merry Christmas to you, Mirage. I haven’t written Katawa Shoujo fanfiction in a long time, but I recalled that you liked my Jigoro story, so I perhaps unintentionally structured this one like that, focusing on an underutilized character being used for something outside of their normal role in the game’s story. If I was writing it again, perhaps I would've focused more broadly on everyone instead of allowing my usual bias and preference for Shizune, Misha, Kenji, and Hisao to dominate so heavily.
I really liked that, Sarge! It was an interesting prompt and you got me engaged in the mystery and the ending was a neat little bit of storytelling. Good job!
Sharp-O's One-Shots! - Preludes, pilots, and prolonged arcs
Monomyth - Taro's tale of life, love and silly heroics (Complete - 107,909 words + tie-ins)
Miraimyth - In the future year of 2018; there's new students, new problems, and the same old Yamaku. (Complete, Standalone, Miniseries)
Thank you very much for the story!
It certainly was not what I expected, but I liked it a lot.
You know, one of the hardest things about writing for me is to find something to write about - a prompt if you will. So when it came to coming up with one for this year's SS, just for fun I asked ChatGPT to give me one. I didn't expect to get anything decent, but the very first thing (with a few minor changes) was this one.
I was almost tempted to write something myself for it, but then I thought if I did that I would only get what I expected from it.
So I decided to submit it and let myself be surprised.
And it worked. I certainly did not expect Kenji to be one of the very few to open the box.
My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
Sore wa himitsu desu.griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
I'm glad you enjoyed the story! I wouldn't have known the prompt was AI-generated, I thought it actually fit in with the themes of the game pretty well, though I'd be the very first to admit it's been a while since I played all the way through a route.
Part of what lead me to write it about Kenji was the fact that one of the few scenes from the game that's really stuck in my head for years now is the one where Kenji and Hisao meet in the park during Shizune's route - Kenji takes off his glasses, and Hisao somewhat idly realizes that Kenji isn't some alien creature or anything, he's just an obtuse guy who's not that bad, really.
I'd be very curious to see your take on the prompt - I almost wrote a list of what I thought everyone's presents would've been, but I was having trouble with everyone except Kenji. Again, if I was writing it again, I think I would've broadened my coverage a little more, so even just elaborating on what you think everyone would've gotten would be interesting to me.