Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

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Ivan
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SS23 - sgtpepper

Post by Ivan »

#target
sgtpepper

#prompt
Hisao has a Charlie Brown-esque, flashback-heavy sojourn through the trappings and cliches of commercialized Japanese Christmas, before ultimately putting the focus back on what matters most to him. Can be written with Hisao by himself or with a girl or on a route of your choice, or as a post-script to a route. Should contain at least one over-the-top metaphor-laden flashback of him playing with a sled in the snow.

#the story
As the year draws to a close, the streets transform into a winter wonderland, adorned with all the magical trinkets, festive decorations, and the singing of carols. However, amidst the merriment and cheer, I find myself growing increasingly cynical towards this holiday season.

The celebration of Christmas used to fill me with joy, opening presents and spending time with family. Now, the once-sacred holiday has become nothing more to me than another reason to feel sorry for myself. This will be my first Christmas alone; without family or friends or lovers. It's quite depressing to be honest...

I remember being 8, or maybe 9, playing in the snow with my classmates. I was living the dream. The air was crisp and cold, yet I didn't seem to care. I clambered in my sled and remember yelling "3...2...1... Go!" as I was pushed down the hill. The sled was racing down, a bullet that had been shot out of a gun. My face being tickled by the wind. The atmosphere was magical. I could hear the laughter of children all around me, I could see the snow relentlessly falling, I could taste it melting on my tongue and I could feel my scarf being dragged behind me, like a flag on a windy day. I miss being like this. Being so innocent to the world that nothing ever really mattered. Before all the hardships of life. Before the incident...

The holidays are a stark reminder of the incident. It's like every time I think I forget about it, it's like a 30 second unskippable ad on a youtube video, you just can't fucking ignore it. And then the reminder of it makes me reflect; when I reflect, I get sad; when I get sad, I get scared; when I get scared, I get pissed off; when I get pissed off, I get lonely; and when I am lonely, I spiral into depression. Fun!

Have you ever stayed up till 3am, watching 5 hour speedrun documentaries for a game you don't even play, and as you stare at your computer, you wonder "How the hell did my life get here?" and you start thinking about love, life, friends, family, nature and the universe. I do all of this to distract me from the incident. Every time I sleep, BANG, nightmare again and it won't fucking GO AWAY!!! Oh great here it comes again...

Its 4:05. I'd started to get ready to leave when I finally see her. Iwanako. I never really knew her very well, but in the few interactions I've had with her, she's been quite nice to me. I'd gotten her note in maths class and was thinking for the whole day of what to say to her. Maybe something cheerful like "Wassup!" or casual like "hey." or maybe eve-
"Iwanako? I got a note telling me to wait here... it was yours?"
Fucks sake Hisao. You had one job. ONE J-
"Ahmm... yes. I asked a friend to give you that note... I'm so glad you got it."
Play it cool.
"So... ah... here we are. Out in the cold..."
and then i felt it. The bane of my existence. The missing page of the book. That feeling when all is going well and you realise it can only go down from here.
She says "You see... ...I wanted to know... ...if you'd go out with me..."
and at this exact moment, my life changed forever. Like someone had just struck me in the chest with a knife, pain hit me harder than I thought pain could hit. Fucks sake. Stupid body... You ever get that feeling when you just want to get a file and just start filing your teeth down to their gums, and choke on the powder created? Because thats what I felt.

A few weeks later, it was Christmas whilst I was in the hospital. It felt pretty damn lonely. I remember my mum and dad showed up, but no-one else did. I had to eat the crappy hospital food and it tasted awful. Like really bad. Like someone put plastic on a plate, heated it, and called it food. The doctor did get me a present, I was given a nice christmas sweater by them and I wore it alot. I wore it a little too much and ruined it. Shame. I don't currently own a Christmas Jumper because I don't have the money. Not that its worth buying anyways. I'd have no-one to show it to.

Anyways... The holidays. They kinda suck, especially because, the holiday is largely seen as a romantic occasion for couples, as they eagerly flock to restaurants, hotels, and parks to indulge in all the joys of being in a relationship; which is really the last thing I need right now after the events earlier this year.

I went through a hard breakup, with a girl called Emi Ibarazaki. We had been through it all together. We used to go on runs every morning. She was the fastest thing you'd have ever seen, despite having no legs. She had so much determination that she could do anything she set her mind to. I met her mum; I said some stupid things, she forgave me; she said some stupid things, I forgave her; we went on holiday together; we graduated High School; we kissed... alot; and then we were going to college...

I remember Emi arrived 14 minutes late with only half of her makeup on. We wandered the city and went into an array of cafe's and bars. We went karaoking and she fell asleep on me halfway through 'Kiss from a Rose'. I then think we went to the park, or back at my place? I don't quite remember much of that night. All I remember that my lips really fucking hurt in the morning, oh yeah and Emi said "You know I will always be there for you." Spoiler alert: She wasn't.

Things just started to fall apart. We didn't break up with a fight or in tears, we just lost feelings for eachother... Well, she lost feelings for me. I feel like the fact the breakup wasn't a tragedy almost makes it worse, like all I felt back then was emptiness. All I feel now is emptiness. I want to be angry at someone, but I don't have anyone to direct blame at. Other than myself. I think back to last year...

The weather outside pretty much sums up my mood. Cold and empty. Emi told me that she had something that she wanted to say to me. I've brought some roses. My hands are freezing but the thought of her is all I need to warm them. I spot her across the park in her winter attire, looking beautiful as ever. I yell "Emi! Hey!" and she comes over. I present the roses, exclaim "M'lady" and perform a mocking bow. She's not laughing like she would normally do. She just smiles and hesitantly takes the flowers. "Look. Hisao. There's something I need to tell you." I respond with a witty comment "That you're madly in love with me?" She just responds with "Seriously, please listen." Her tone takes me aback. She is dead serious, yet speaks so calmly. "These last few months have been a tough time for us. We've not seen eachother as much, as life just got in the way. We've slowly drifted apart, and i think it might be time to say goodbye. I think the spark that was once there between us has been slowly dying and I'd rather just put it out of its misery than let this fire slowly die. So, Hisao, this is my goodbye to you. I enjoyed all the fun times we had, and I'll never forget you. Thank you."
I was lost for words, and before I could even comprehend the situation, she was gone. I was shattered. Broken. I think back to this moment almost every day. Should I have ran after her? Said something? I can still smell her perfume...

Anyways, it's cold, so I go into the local teahouse. Maybe some tea will lighten the mood a bit? I take my seat and then I see her.
Emi Ibarazaki.
Son of a bitch.
Those piercing eyes, soft hair, cute smile and a happy-go-lucky attitude.

The sight of her hits like ecstasay. My stomach does a 180. My mind goes numb. I want to run away. She can't see me right now. She mustn't see me right now. She looks like she's doing good for herself. Her tongue looks soft. I miss when it would fight mine... Is that her boyfriend that she is with? I hate his haircut. He looks like a prick. I bet he serenades her. Can't blame him. I wonder what he looks like nude... What am I saying?!? My life is a disappointment. I haven't made any friends, not gotten a great job, not socialised. I'm a failure. This is bad. Very bad. It'd be daft of me to cry. I think I'm gonna go- "Hisao?!" I hear from behind me from that same-old singsong voice. I freeze...

"Hisaooo?" She is right infront of me. Looking at me with those big green eyes. I can smell her perfume. I manage to mutter "Hi Emi" under my breath.
"Are you alright? How are things going?" She sits opposite me. She is so cheerful.
"Could be better." I say solemnly. I try to slow my breathing.
She responds with "awww. What's up?" Great Hisao. Now you've made her care. You're just the fucking best.
I say between breaths "To be honest, things haven't gone great recently." My breathing isn't slowing.
She says "What's gone wrong?" I feel tears start to build.
My voice trembles "Life just isn't quite what I thought it'd be when I was younger. My job's a joke, I'm broke and my love life is DOA." I barely manage to speak without bursting into tears.
She simply says "Well. I am going to give you some advice." I wait...
"Life is tough. Face it. But there is beauty to it. If life gives you lemons, you could make lemonade, or you could squeeze the lemons back in life's eye because life is a bitch. I think what you need to do is look at the good things and stop focusing on the bad. Take whatever bad thing that is holding you back, and just let go. Hakuna Matata." My breathing slows. Her voice is calming.
I say "How do you let it go?"
She says "You could try to ignore it, try to run from it but the only way to truly let go is to come to terms with your problem"
"Come to terms with it?" I question.
"yeah! Theoretically, if you were upset at a breakup and wanted to let go, but you couldn't, you could try to speak to your ex-partner about it and she may help you move on." Yeah she definitely has read me like a book.
I give up "How did you know...?"
She starts giggling "Hisao! We were together for so long, I know you better than most people!"

My mind is a weird mix of emotions. Why can't Emi be mean about it? Why is she so nice? I can't move on if I don't hate her.
I stammer "Why don't you hate me? Why did you break up with me..." I trail off towards the end.
She laughs "You can be really silly sometimes. Hisao, break-ups aren't about venom and spite and hatred. Just because someone breaks up with you, doesn't mean that they hate you. Sometimes it just means that seasons changed, and the love went cold. Some people break up to prevent more pain in the future. You shouldn't be upset that someone broke-up with you. If someone breaks up with you, it just means that it wasn't meant to be."
I just say "Damn, I never thought about it like that... " A 3 second silence proceeds. My mind wanders to the person Emi was sitting next to.

"If you don't mind me asking, who is that you are sitting with?"
"Oh, that's Kenji!"
Wait... not that Kenji? Surely...
"Don't worry, we are just friends ahaha." She winks at me mockingly. "Hey Kenji, come over!"
Kenji perambulates over in an orderly fashion. "Good evening. Is that you Hisao?"
I am completely flabbergasted. The last time I saw Kenji, he was ranting about how the feminists were going to take over the world, and now he is speaking properly and is acting... normal.
"Hi Kenji..." I blurt out.
He responds "Hisao, how are things?"
Emi butts in "Hey! I already asked him that!"
Kenji says "Oh, Hisao do you mind if I take a seat here?"
I respond "No Kenji, no I don't."

This brings me back to a cold rainy day, when we were all still at Yamaku. Emi had planned a picnic, despite the fact that it had looked like it was going to rain. It rained. The rain left me, Rin and Emi all soaked, we had to abandon the picnic. I wonder what happened to Rin... We went inside a teahouse, not too desimilar to this one, and we ate there instead. Until that day, Emi was very focused on keeping track of my eating, but she said that the day was a "cheat day" so it was fine.

I feel bad about dissing Kenji's haircut before. It's actually not that bad, though it does make him look like an e-boy. I ask about what had happened to the students at Yamaku, I never really stayed in touch with anyone. It turns out that Lilly ran away to Scotland, Shizune is now a CEO of a major company, Hanako is in university studying paleontology, Misha is training to become a teacher at Yamaku and Rin found a new passion in Table Tennis of all things. She plays with the racket in her mouth, and is on Japan's paralympic sports team! Kenji says that he and Emi both go to the same running club, and that Kenji is surprisingly fast.

Us 3 talk for so long and my face hurts from smiling too much. I do not remember the last time I smiled so much it hurt. Is this what Emi was talking about? Have I come to terms with the breakup?
"Hisao? Hisaooooo?"
"What?" I say. I zoned out.
Kenji says "I was wondering if you would like to spend Christmas at my place, unless you already have plans..."
I respond a little too quickly "Yes, I would love that."
He responds "Okay, it is settled then."

The evening slips before I know it, into night. Kenji announces his departure and I am left with just me and Emi.
She says soon after "Well... I think it's time for me to go then. It's been nice speaking to you Hisao."
I say "If you ever change your mind about the relationship thingy, I'm always here."
she said l"I'll keep you posted" And she leaves.

Despite my reservations, I can't deny that there are moments of beauty and charm amidst the chaos of Christmas. The city's vibrant lights and decorations create a magical atmosphere, and the festive spirit is contagious, even for a cynic like me. I won't be spending this Christmas alone. I will be surrounded by friends. I'm ecstatic. I may be single, but things are looking up. I think I may have moved on from the breakup. Looking back, I don't think I would have changed a thing between me and Emi. You know that feeling, after you've had a long-ass day, whether you've spent it working, doing sport, having sex or any physical excercise; and you get a wave of euphoria wash over you. I feel like that. I feel good. And if she ever wants to come back, there'll be a smile on my face and a key under the mat.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

#Random notes because why not

I had to learn what Charlie Brown was for this
I spell-checked this once so pls tell me if there are any errors
I have never written anything before wahahaha so this was a fun first time
Tell me if i did the prompt wrong wahahaha
Im 15
Uhhh merry christmas sgtpepper, you should chat to me

Thats a wrap

Merry Christmas one more time because 3 times is good luck ;)

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sgtpepper
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Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by sgtpepper »

Posted my story today, for none other than Mirage himself - "Hours, Minutes, Seconds".

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sgtpepper
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Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by sgtpepper »

Thank you Ivan, I appreciated your story. Part of the joy of Secret Santa is seeing how people interpret gift ideas and seeing where they end up - in a way, I think it it reveals what other people think about you when they do so. You seem pretty new here, so my best advice is to just keep going. Merry Christmas!

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by Mirage_GSM »

I do know what Charlie Brown is, but to be honest it would not have helped me much in this context. All I know are a few comic strips of kids being philosophical with each other. ^°

Hisao is a bit of a saint in this one. I have been in a similar situation before - my GF breaking up with me after four years for similar reasons - but if she had done it the way Emi did in this story, I doubt we'd be on speaking terms today...
And Hisao comes and says she's being nice about it :lol:

Anyway for a first time story with such a difficult prompt this was excellent writing!

Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.
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Hacksorus
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Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by Hacksorus »

Victim: brythain
Prompt: "A restaurant scene in which one cast member is introducing others to a cuisine (or dish) that they have never tasted before. And it's Christmas."

I went ahead changed "Christmas" to "Holiday season" because I'm late as usual. In my defense I actually worked on Christmas this year (thanks Japan lol).

Despite Hanako and Lilly having always been my favorites, I've never attempted to write them before. Hope you guys like it! And any constructive feedback is always welcome too of course.


Has my sweatervest finally met it's match? Lilly told us not to worry too much about formality, but standing in the entryway of this fancy restaurant in downtown Edinburgh I wonder if I should have tried a little harder.

I can't imagine Hanako is faring much better. Despite looking very sharp and businesslike in her outfit that Akira recently helped her pick out, she probably feels inadequate too. It's been a while since the last time she's used me as a human shield from the gazes of others, but here she is. I decide to savor this while it lasts, while Lilly deals with the staff.


Finally settled in our own private room, Hanako breaths a noticeable sigh of relief. I suppose I should have expected this arrangement; Lilly still knows Hanako better than I do. I briefly consider asking Lilly how much this costs, but stop myself. She made it very clear that she wants us to have the best experience possible for our first holiday season here in Scotland, and Hanako and I have no illusions about how well off her family is after staying in her family's home over the past week.

"I hope you two haven't spoiled your dinner, because I've been looking forward to this." Lilly says with an uncharacteristically mischievous smile.

My excitement for the coming evening wanes with the realization. "We're not eating anything too weird here, are we?"

"Now, now. I can assure you this a very fine establishment." Lilly twirls a strand of her beautifully-arranged hair. "But what's the point of travelling if you don't sample the local cuisine?"

"Oh no. Don't they eat like, sheep stomach here or something?" I blurt out.

"H-haggis.."

Even Hanako, despite not being a picky eater, looks hesitant.

Lilly offers a reassuring smile. "Don't worry now, I won't force either of you to eat anything if you don't want to. But it would make me very happy if you would give it a try."

Hanako and I look at each other, exchanging resignated glances. We both know Lilly went for the jugular on that one. No getting out of this now.

"Well.. if you're so concerned, I suppose we could arrange for something to ease our nerves a bit."

Lilly giggles as she reaches for.. wait, is that the wine menu?


After a brief round of drinks and small appetizers, we get our first course. A simple looking mashed potato dish, introduced as Clapshot. Clapshot, huh? Sure, why wouldn't it be called Clapshot? My first bite goes down easy enough.

"This one's quite nice. It's just a regional potato dish, right?"

"That's exactly right." replies Lilly with a simple nod.

As I continue chewing through this pleasant dish, I can feel my nerves settle a little more. This is true comfort food, well suited to a cold night like this, and I need not even ask Hanako if she agrees; she's chewing happily with her eyes closed and a blush spread across her face. Taking another bite and focusing on the flavors more, I find that they are rich with the simple, familiar sensations of butter and salt. Although, there's a slight earthy aftertaste that I can't quite place.

"What else is in this, Lilly? I kinda like it."

"Ah, you've probably noticed the Swedes." She replies simply.

Hanako freezes instantly in place, mid-bite. Were we not on the town, I genuinely think she might have spat it out. Instead she just sits there, wide-eyed and with her cheeks ballooned like a chipmunk storing acorns for winter. I need clarification immediately, but I haven't been at such a loss since Kenji's most recent attempt to borrow my toothbrush.

"Oh, pardon me," interjects Lilly with a bemused, yet apologetic tone, "I suppose that might sound strange if you're not from around here."

With a giggle, she adds, "You don't actually think we eat Swedish people, do you?"

"Right, of course not.." I release a breath I hadn't realized I was holding. Hanako warily resumes chewing, much more slowly now.

"So, Lilly, is there another word for it?" I ask.

"Oh, yes. They're neeps."

"PPPPPPPTHP!"

Lilly and I jump back in a start as we look over at Hanako, desperately trying not to spit out her food as she rocks back and forth in uproarious laughter. After a deep gulp, she gasps for air between the gaps of her heavy laughing.

"S-sorry, I don't.. heeheehee.." She starts coughing violently and I gently pat her back. Despite nearly spitting her food out, she doesn't seem too embarassed. Hanako spends almost the next entire minute cycling between poorly-containted laughter and an inability to catch her breath.

Lilly turns to her own food. "Or, maybe we should just call them turnips." She concludes with a defeated sigh.

"N-neeps!" Hanako chirps as she pumps a single fist into the air. God bless her. We need to give her alcohol more often.


Maybe we gave her too much alcohol.

Hanako and I are so far gone at this point that neither of us even flinched when Lilly informed us that our main dish, haggis, had finally arrived. I mean, really, how bad could it be? We had survived the Toad in the Hole. We had survived the Bangers and Mash. We even survived the Cock-a-Leekie Soup. Emboldened with hard-won confidence, we set forth towards our final challenge. And you know what, it was delicious. This whole goddamn dinner was delicious. I apologize to the Scots for all those mean things I let Kenji say about them uncontested.

"C-can I have some m-more.. neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeps?" With a tilt of her head, Hanako draws out her new favorite word out for a little too long, as though it tasted as good as the dish it describes.

"Hanako, please.." Lilly seems to take every utterance of the word "neeps" as a physical blow.

"Yeah, Hanako, give the poor lass a rest." I interject. "If we're gonna laugh at anything it should be the cock-a-leekie soup."

"Pffffffffft!" Hanako leans back far into her chair and kicks her feet back and forth in delight. Certainly doesn't take much to get her going tonight.

Upon seeing Hanako's unmitigated delight, Lilly's face softens into a tipsy grin. "Well, as long as you're enjoying yourselves, I suppose.."

My addled brain finally realizes how strange it is that Lilly has treated us to an obscenely expensive dinner in an attempt to share more of her culture with us, and we've basically spent half the dinner roasting her. I suppose that's the stage of closeness the three of us have reached; our mutual trust running so deep that we wouldn't even dream of suspecting ill-will from one another.

"Here. Drink up, dummy." I slide Hanako a tall glass of water and she wordlessly takes it in both hands before drinking steadily. We've been through this rodeo enough times that we know that Hanako will be dead to the world tomorrow if we leave her to her own devices. Lilly and I take the moment to drink some much-needed water ourselves.

"Happy Hogmanay, you two." Lilly says to us with a warm smile. "I'm so happy I could finally share one of these with you."

"Hog money?" Hanako asks with a hickup. "I-is there still another dish coming?"

"That's what we call New Years here, Hanako." Replies Lilly gently.

"Wait, the New Year happened already? Did we miss it?" I ask. Now that I think about it, there was a lot of noise out there not too long ago..

"Indeed, we did. To be honest, I didn't notice it either. We must have been making a lot of noise ourselves." Lilly laughs.

"Happy.. hog monkey.. to you too. I loooooooooooove you guys." Hanako drawls.

"Happy Hogmanay. And thank you so much for this, Lilly. This was incredible." I say.

"Lilly!" Hanako reaches her unsteady arms out as if to hug Lilly, seemingly unbothered by the large table that exists between the two of them.

"It was my pleasure, you two. Now, shall we be off? Akira should be here soon, and my parents are expecting us to be back soon." Lilly says before moving to gather her things.

As usual, I support Hanako as we make our way out of the restaurant; by this point she doesn't even hesitate to lean heavily against me. Akira, who has come to pick us up, leads the way down the brilliantly brightened street alongside Lilly. The harsh winter air pierces somewhat through our alcohol-spurred daze, clearing up my thoughts a bit. One irreplacable friend in front of me, clearing the way forward; and another at my side, keeping me warm. For Christmas, what else could I even ask for?

Discord: Snowman#0476
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Feurox
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Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by Feurox »

My Secret Santa for the talented and lovely StealthyWolf! In a separate thread.

viewtopic.php?t=13565

Thanks again to Prof for organising this lovely event every year! And to Mirage for once again organising this thread!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

My Molly Route
Ekephrasis and Other Stories
I hate when people ruin perfectly good literature with literary terminology.
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Craftyatom
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Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by Craftyatom »

I just posted my secret santa over in my one-shot thread, but here's the link for the collection - Merry (slightly belated) Christmas, hdkv (and everyone else)!

From Craftyatom for hdkv - Happy With Yourself

Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Dreamy, Path of Least Resistance, Project Blue Curtain, and more!)
Old poetry: Google Drive Collection
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brythain
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Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by brythain »

Hacksorus wrote: Thu Dec 28, 2023 10:10 am

Victim: brythain
Prompt: "A restaurant scene in which one cast member is introducing others to a cuisine (or dish) that they have never tasted before. And it's Christmas."

I went ahead changed "Christmas" to "Holiday season" because I'm late as usual. In my defense I actually worked on Christmas this year (thanks Japan lol).

Despite Hanako and Lilly having always been my favorites, I've never attempted to write them before. Hope you guys like it! And any constructive feedback is always welcome too of course.

Well done! I enjoyed this, being an honorary Scot out of Edinburgh. Sadly, I was born much further south and hence am not really a Scotsman. Thank you very much, neeps and tatties always a good chunk of a meal.

Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
ToothedYew006
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Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by ToothedYew006 »

Title: Too Much Dough Ho Ho

Victim: CraftyAtom

Prompt: "Someone at Yamaku is ""suffering from success"". They have a serious problem, and spend a lot of time dealing with and/or thinking about it, but they're unlikely to find sympathy; because the problem is caused by something that other people find desirable (money, love, health, etc.), they feel no pity for your chosen character. In the worst case, trying to vent about the problem may make it seem like they're bragging.

There are many ways to resolve a story like this: the character could lose (or give away) whatever they had that was desirable (fixing the problem but potentially making their life worse), they could find a way around their problem and be truly successful, they could find someone to confide in (who is potentially also suffering from success), or anything else. I won't limit you in that regard; end the story in whatever way you find suitable."

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My cane gently pushes back and forth in the snow creating a swish sound. Twenty centimeters of snow has made my progress around campus a little slower than I would like. Fortunately, as long as I feel that gentle scrape of concrete I know what path I’m following. Snowflakes are still falling, melting onto my cheeks. A pleasant feeling, unlike rain. After a few minutes I start to move my cane further ahead of me and it collides with a wall. There, I knew the stairs were coming up. At this point I move into the dorm and towards my room. A small push on the cold handle and I’m in.

“Yo.” I recognize that voice.

“Akira!? What are you doing here? Don’t you have work?.” Her feet hit the ground and my bed groans as she comes towards me. We wrap our arms around each other in a deep hug.

“Oh you know, I was in the neighborhood. Took a quick walk over.”

“Across multiple continents and oceans? I can’t believe you. Did you tell Hanako? She will be very excited to see you.”

“Well I took some time off for the holidays. Figured I’d check in on the lovebirds and Hanako.” A slight amount of color rises to my cheeks.

“We can go see Hanako right now.” I bring my phone out of my pocket. “Hisao was planning to come by today anyways, I can tell him to meet us in Hanako’s room.”

“Ah not yet Lilly.” She pushes my hand down. “I came by to give you this.” She places an envelope into my hands. “It’s Mom and Dad’s Christmas gift. Hand delivered.”

“Thank you Akira. What is it? A few thousand yen to ‘buy myself something nice?’” I laugh.

“Uh, not quite. It’s around 500,000 yen.” I stop moving as my eyes open wide.

“What reason could they possibly have for that much?” My mind starts to wander. This is quite a bit of money. Do they expect to buy me back to Scotland? Is that why Akira was sent as well? To collect me?

“They said it’s to celebrate your newfound independence. You made a choice for yourself or something I wasn’t really listening.” That’s odd.

“You mean they aren’t mad about me staying at Yamaku?”

“If they were, I don't think they’d be sending you 500,000 yen. Makes sense yeah?” My newfound independence? Does that imply they wanted me to stay here? Away from them and now Akira too? But why? When I visited during the summer it at least seemed like Mother missed me. They were happy to see me the last time too. But now they’re celebrating my choice to stay here?

“Well I don’t know what to do with this. Perhaps I can save it for university. Help me to the bank later, Akira?” She chuckles softly.

“There’s one stipulation they sent over.” Here it is. I knew there had to be a catch. “You sorta need to spend it all within the time I’m here. Every yen.” I started laughing. 500,000 yen? In a week? How could I manage that? That’s three months of my allowance. Besides, the smart thing to do is save it.

“What is the punishment if I don’t?”

“They said they won’t pay for Yamaku, and they also want documentation on how it’s spent. You can’t just give it to Hisao and Hanako.” That’s ridiculous.

“Why are they being so extreme?”

“They don’t want you to do something boring with it, like you planned. It’s a celebration, have some fun.” Some celebration, forcing me to spend a lump sum that quickly.

“I’ll call Hisao over. I’m going to need ideas from the two of them to figure out how to spend it.”

“You have expensive tastes already Lilly, not sure why you’re worried.”\

“My expensive tastes are a nice 10-20 thousand yen dinner once in a while, not 500,000.” My voice raised ever so slightly. This is a frustrating dilemma to have, and I really don’t need Akira’s teasing to push it. “Let me call Hisao.”

I turn away from Akira and make the call letting him know to meet us in Hanako’s room. We head over and I knock on her door.

“Hanako? It’s Lilly. I have a surprise for you.” I hear her rustling inside before she opens the door.

“W-w-what’s the sur- Akira!” I feel her move past me as she probably hugs Akira.

“What’s up Hanako? Miss me?”

“O-of course. It’s been a f-f-few months. C-come in.”

“Gladly.” Me and Akira move into the room behind Hanako. I feel for the table in the center and sit beside it.

“Hanako, I hope it’s okay but I invited over Hisao too.”

“Y-y-yeah it’s okay. He hasn’t s-s-seen Akira either.” It’s nice to see how Hanako gets along with Hisao so much too. Another reason to appreciate him. “H-h-how was the f-flight Akria?”

“Not bad Hanako. I slept for most of it. It’s been weeks since I wasn’t on call. The last few hours I tried their wine options. Fair warning, just because it’s 10,000 meters in the air does not make it good.”

“D-d-did you bring a-anymore wine?” She’s quite courageous isn’t she. Although I can’t lie to myself, I would enjoy some wine too, especially after my ‘gift’.”

“Look at you. A little excited aren’t you?” Akira laughs. “Luckily I do. We can open it when Hisao get’s here.” A knock comes from the door.

“I believe that is him. But in case it isn’t, please hide whatever you brought, Akira.” I get up and move towards the door. “Hisao?”

“Yup.” I open the door and reach out for a hug. His arms envelope me and the stress starts to fade away.

“Get a room!” Akira shouts from within.

“Akira? It’s great to see you!” He lets go as he goes into the room and I feel the stress return.

“Sup Hisao? Taking care of my sister? Or is she taking care of you?” I start to blush and wonder if Hisao is doing the same.

“We take pretty good care of each other. Quite often in fact.” Akira lets out a deep laugh.

“Is that so? Well as long as you’re happy. We got wine, Hanako is quite happy about it.”

“H-H-H-Hi Hisao. P-please sit.”

“Of course Hanako, thank you. So what brings you here Akira?”

“Well I’ll just let Lilly answer that one for me, I already did tonight.” Thank’s Akira.

“Akira is here to help me with my gift from my parents. One that is slightly difficult to deal with right now.”

“W-w-what is it Lilly?”

“They sent me… 500,000 yen to spend.” I hear Hisao start to cough.

“I haven’t had any wine yet, but I’m not sure I caught that correctly. Can you repeat that?”

“500,000 yen that they want me to spend in a week. Akira, can you pour me a glass please?’

“And that’s supposed to be a bad thing?” Well yes Hisao.

“Y-y-yeah Lilly. That s-s-s-seems like a g-good thing.”

“It’s a bad thing because they’re going to stop paying for school if I don’t.

“Why is that?”

“Hear you go Lilly.”

“Thank you.” I grab the glass from Akira and take a long sip. “I wish I fully understood. Something about celebrating my independence. The best I can figure is I’ve spent so long doing what’s right and ‘boring’ that they want me to do something exciting. Which is a little ridiculous.”

“What are you going to spend it on then?”

“I have no idea, Hisao. It’s not the usual amount of money I spend in a week. Even when we go out to dinner, it only costs around 15,000 yen. Do you two have any suggestions?”

“N-n-not really Lilly. I d-d-don’t think I’ve e-ever had that m-much money to spend. This i-is a g-g-good thing isn’t it? Maybe you c-can buy something y-y-you’ve always wanted.”

“Yeah, maybe you can buy that engagement ring instead of Hisao.” I furrow my brow while Akira laughs.

“That is not helping. I never wanted this much money in the first place, my standard allowance was just fine.” Akira is unhelpful, Hanako doesn’t know what to do with money, and Hisao is silent. Probably thinking as he usually does, so there is still a chance that he finds a solution. I take another long sip of the wine, I think I’m close to empty on the glass.

“This will probably help. Hold your glass out.” The bottle empties into the glass until I hear a few drips and then nothing. I take a sip.

“Thanks I guess. Hisao I know yer thinking of something, what is it?”

“Um yeah I am. You really don’t want to buy something for yourself?”

“Nope. I have all that I need right here.”

“Boo!” Not helping Akira.

“Okay, well then what if you bought really nice presents for all the grade three class reps? Since you work with them so much and everyone helps each other it could be an easy way to spend some money.” That could work. But would they accept gifts worth a few dozen thousand yen? I mull it over in my head while taking another sip.”

“I s’ppose that could work. People in the school know my parents enough that the pricing wouldn’t be shocking. Let’s do it.” Akira laughs from my left. “Why are you laughin.”

“Because, when you drink you sound more like our mother. It’s a nice break from the usual stick up your ass.”

“I do not! Hanako, Hisao?” Hanako lightly giggles.

“A l-l-little.” She hiccups. “It’s f-funny.” Hmph.

“Hisao?”

“Look Lilly, don’t get mad at me when I say this. But when you drink enough and get mad, you develop a slight accent when you speak.” I can’t believe it. Even Hisao agrees with er. “But! That doesn’t mean I think you normally uh, ‘have a stick up your ass’.”

“I’ll tell you who has a stick up ‘er ass, it’s Shizune that cunt.” Akira bursts into a fit of laughter while I hear Hanako gasp and then start to giggle too.

“Hey Lilly, you think you’ve had too much to drink tonight?” I laugh and then down the rest of my drink.

“Have you even had a drink yet, Hisao? This is some good wine!” In my head the words are proper but they come out slurred and exaggerated. My toes are tingling as I laugh and smile with Akira.

“It’s f-fine Hisao! We’re just l-l-letting loose a bit.” Hanako is giggling as she speaks. “Here, have some!”

“Yeah Hisao, you don’t have a stick in your ass do you?” Akira’s comment erupts a round of laughter from the girls.

“Okay okay, I’ll have a glass.” Cheers erupt. The rest of the night goes quickly. I think I hear Hisao whispering to Akira.

“I’ll handle Lilly….you…Hanako.”

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I wake up in my bed with a pounding headache.

“Ugh.” I start moving around when I hear the door open. “Hisao?”

“Yes Lilly, it’s me. I brought some miso soup from the cafeteria. Should help with the hangover.” He’s too good to me sometimes.

“Thank you Hisao.” I sit up in my bed and feel a draft over my chest. “Why am I naked?”

“Oh that? When I got you in here we went to sleep together but you kept yelling about being hot and here we are. You do that when you drink. Toss and turn all night too. Here is your shirt.” It lands in my lap and I put it on.

“I wasn’t too bad last night, was I?” I don’t usually like how I act when drinking. My self control fades and I become more like Akira than usual.

“Not really, except for calling Shizune a cunt. But that was pretty funny for everyone.” That’s a little embarrassing. Of course I do feel that way about her sometimes, but not always. When it seemed like I was leaving we got along better, but she returned to normal shortly after I decided to stay. What gift can I even get her?

“What time is it?”

“It’s about eleven am.” Well that’s not as bad as I figured. I’m not sure I want to think about how late into the night we were up.

“Do you think we have enough time to make the noon bus? I just need to take a shower and we can head into the city. I would like to start shopping as soon as possible.”

“Sure. I brought a change of clothes so I’ll be ready whenever you are.” I wish it wasn’t this late in the morning already. If we had enough time I’d invite Hisao into the shower with me. Unfortunate.

“Alright. I will be back in just a few minutes then.”

An hour later and we are on the bus heading into town. The ride is quiet as I try to will my headache away. As we get off the bus I start to develop a plan to follow with Hisao.

“Hideyoshi is an odd case. I don’t really know him well. What type of gift do you think he would like?” All I know about Hideyoshi is that he is big and goes to the gym quite a bit. Hopefully being a guy Hisao knows what to get for someone like that.

“Not sure. Give me some time to think about it while we shop at other places and I’ll come up with something.”

“Okay. Let’s start easy. If we head towards a music shop, I know what we can get Kagami. Last week I overheard her talking about needing a new bow for her violin but she couldn’t afford a new one right now. So we can get that for her.”

“I remember seeing that last time I was here! It’s in this direction.” Hisao steps closer to me and nudges me so that I grab his arm. The city sidewalks are clear but there are still spots of ice scattered throughout. My cane serves as a warning for anything Hisao might miss. “How long is Kagami going to be there? I remember you saying she’s only there until the old 3-5 rep leaves the hospital.”

“Ah. I forgot to tell you Hisao, Kenta let the school know he would be gone for the greater part of the year at least. Kagami was made permanent last week. She’s done a great job in his absence.” Kagami has actually been doing really well. It’s an attestment to her skill and the school’s system. She was able to plug right in and get Class 3-5 on the right path.

“That’s a shame. I didn’t know Kenta well but I played games with him in the dorm a couple of times. Hope he ends up okay.”

“Yes I hope so too. There’s an old clothing shop near the music store too isn’t there? We can get Saki’s gift from there.”

“Saki is into old clothes?”

“Quality clothes. Most clothes nowadays don’t cut it, but at this store they still use old techniques. Miss Niji makes the best dresses around, both formal wear and wedding attire.”

“Oh cool. Didn’t take Saki for the type to enjoy clothes like that.”

“You’d be surprised, Hisao. She’s helped me find a few dresses in the past. One dress in particular you liked quite a bit at dinner.”

“She helped you find that stunning red one? I’ll have to give her my thanks when I see her next, you looked beautiful.” Hisao’s comments cause me to smile. His compliments are never in short supply but they feed me all the same.

The next thirty minutes go by quickly. We enter the music shop with a purpose and walk out with a 75,000 yen bow. Only 425,000 more yen to go. A few minutes later we are in the clothing store. I’m greeted by the familiar smell of lavender and velvet. A bell chimes as we make our way in and I hear a sewing machine go quiet.

“Ah Lilly! How nice of you to come by. And is this that boy wonder you’ve told me all about?”

“Good afternoon Miss Niji, and yes this is Hisao.”

“Nice to meet you Miss Niji!” I feel Hisao bend forward.

“I told you he was handsome didn’t I?”

“Oh yes you did. He reminds me of my nephew, I could just eat him up!” Hisao awkwardly laughs.

“Thank you, I try my best.”

“So are you here for that wedding dress yet? Or is it something else?” Now it’s my turn to feel embarrassed.

“No not yet I’m afraid. You know we’re still in high school.”

“So? I got married to my old husband when I was sixteen!”

“The thirties were a different time than now Miss Niji. I promise, I’ll come straight to you when I need my wedding dress. However, I’m here to find a gift for a friend. I believe you’ve met her, Saki Enomoto?”

“Oh yes that girl. So lovely. What did you need for her?”

“We’re hoping to find a classic style dress that she would like. Maybe she has mentioned one before?”

“Hmm let me think. There was one she mentioned a few weeks ago. Wait here, I put it in the back just in case she came back.”

“See Hisao? A dress was the perfect gift.”

“I believe you. Hey I know you’re getting gifts for the class reps, but what about Misha? She’s the only other student council member so she always helps you guys out too.” I think for a moment.

“Did you have something in mind? That could be a good idea.”

“Well when we came in I noticed a pink purse by the counter that looked like something she would love. Pink being the color of her hair, although the purse isn’t that bright.” A purse. Did she ever mention anything about a purse? Does she ever do anything that would need a purse? She might like it if it’s cute enough.

“Is it cute?”

“I think so? I can grab it for you to feel.” Within a few seconds Hisao placed the purse in my hand. It’s much slimmer than I originally thought. Pockets on the sides that are meant for thin cards and not much else. On top is a leather clasp, while the entire thing is covered in thin flower indents. This will do.

“We’ll get this along with the dress for Saki. Miss Yuji will be pleased.”

“Pleased with what?”

“We were hoping to buy this purse as well if that is okay.”

“I’m a shop, buying anything from me is okay!” She gives a light chuckle. “How do you like this dress? It’s dark red with thin straps, a medium neckline that has a v cut in the middle, and flows close to the body but shouldn’t be tight, especially on her.”

“That sounds lovely Miss Yuji! What do you think, Hisao?”

“It looks very classy. Plus the material looks really soft as well.”

“Then we’ll take it, Miss Yuji. How much do we owe you?”

“Are you sure? The dress and the purse will be 175,000 yen.”

“Yes I’m sure. Mother and Father are helping with presents for all my lovely friends at Yamaku.”

“Well then be my guest.” I pay her and take my leave with Hisao.

“It was wonderful meeting you, take care of Lilly so she can buy that white dress from me one day!” Hisao laughs in response.

“Sure! Although she mostly takes care of me!” The bell chimes as we leave the store and the cold wind hits my face. I pull my coat up to cover.

“Have you figured out something for Hideyoshi yet?”

“Yes, just keep following me and we’ll be there in a few minutes. It’ll be a great gift, trust me. In the meantime, have you figured something out for Shizune?” I really wish he didn’t ask.

“No, not yet. Haven’t been able to think of something stubborn enough. Maybe an ornate mirror?”

“That’s no good Lilly. Maybe you can try calling Akira, see if she has any ideas? She’d be unbiased about this whole thing.” Hisao whispers that last sentence but I still catch it. Perhaps I am being slightly uncharitable towards her.

“Okay, I’ll call Akira and see what she thinks.” My hand fumbles in my purse for my phone. I open it up and speak “Akira.” After a few seconds my phone registers the contact and I press the dial. It rings for a few seconds before she picks up.

“Hey, how's my favorite drunky doing?”

“Akira, you drink more than me. If I'm ‘drunky’ what does that make you?”

“Pft I only drink beer. That doesn’t count.”

“I’m sure. I called because I needed your help with something. Me and Hisao are out shopping for the class reps and we can’t come up with anything for Shizune.”

“Oh that ‘cunt?’” They’re never going to let me forget it. Well, hopefully Hanako at least has forgotten. “Do you have any ideas at all?”

“The only gift ideas I have for her are board games but none are really that expensive.”

“That’s true. Let me think.” I really hope Akira has something, otherwise I’ll just give her a card. But she doesn’t need money so that wouldn’t work either. Even without being here, Shizune is giving me trouble. ‘Did you not put any effort into this gift at all Lilly? I expect better from you. Gift giving is about putting in the work so of course you’re bad at it.’ I hate that I know what she would say already. “What about something from when you were kids?”

“Like what exactly? I don’t have detailed memories from back then.”

“Oh! I got it. Do you at least remember how obsessed you both were with Sailor Moon? Those were the first braille books you begged for and you and Shizune always danced and sang the theme song whenever you were together. Gosh it was so annoying but looking back it was cute how close you were over that. Get something to do with that.” We did love Sailor Moon when we were younger, but would that really work as a gift?

“Really? Sailor Moon? You think she would like that still?”

“I think it might remind her of better times. Hopefully it will do the same for you. Don’t graduate mad at each other.”

“Since when have you cared about that?”

“Since I remembered how adorable you two were. Fix it.” The line goes dead. She didn’t care all this time and now she’s getting on me about it? It’s not a one-way street! Why do I have to be the one to try and fix it? I sigh heavily.

“You okay? Did Akira help at all?”

“I’m okay, just a little annoyed with her right now. She did give a suggestion so I can’t be too mad at her. We’ll need to go to a big popular goods store to see if they have anything to do with Sailor Moon.”

“Perfect! We were already heading there. I think they might have something for Hideoyoshi.”

“Oh? What’s that?” I knew if I left it to Hisao he’d think of something.

“Well Hideyoshi is a big dude and I heard from some others that he likes wrestling. I saw the store had an autograph section, so hopefully they have one from a famous wrestler. He’d be happy with something like that, probably.” He does seem the type. Hisao told me before that he was huge in stature and carried a lot of muscle.

Eventually we find our way to the store and head inside. It is a brutal contrast to the snowing outdoors. I’m bombarded with noise from every direction, and the smell is worse. A mixture of sweat and dust is all around.

“Keep tight Lilly, there’s a lot of people around here. The autographs are this way.” I push myself up against Hisao as we move through the crowded store. Eventually he stops. “There’s a bunch here. Let me ask someone if they have what we could be looking for. Excuse me, sir?”

“Yes?”

“We are looking for a gift for a guy who is really into wrestling and that sort of thing. Do you have any signatures from people in that field?”

“Oh you’re in luck! Just yesterday we received this signed replica belt. It was signed by the late Shinya Hashimoto. He was one of the best pro wrestlers in Japan! His passing was very unfortunate.”

“Hisao, I’ve heard of him. Akira used to talk about him. His passing was truly tragic when it occurred. How much would it cost, sir?”

“We have a price of 50,000 yen. Quite a bit for a gift.”

“I’ll take it. He’ll surely love it.” 50,000 isn’t bad, that makes 300,000 total spent so far. Hopefully Shizune’s gift will help me take another chunk out of that. With any remaining money, well, we’ll see how much I have left before thinking about that. After making the purchase I tell Hisao my gift idea for Shizune.

“Can you take me to the cosplay section of the store? I figured out what to get for Shizune.”

“The cosplay section? You really think you’ll find something good for her there?” The seeds of doubt already there are encouraged by his comment. This is a high risk move that I need to work.

“Yes. Specifically, we are looking for Sailor Moon. My conversation with Akira led me to think that something that reminds us of childhood would help.”

“I can see how that might help. I don’t think she would be the type to wear anything but it’s worth the try.”

“She’s not always as stiff as she appears. Eitherway, we are looking for both Sailor Venus costumes and Sailor Mercury. If you do not know what those look like we can find a staff member to help.” After a few minutes of walking we find the right section. Hisao goes off with a staff member and I’m left alone. Truly what am I thinking? Will dressing up like these characters “fix” us? I doubt it. She will surely comment on how silly I’ll look. I unfortunately won’t be able to do the same. But maybe it will be just what we need to reconnect. Silly girls dressing up as their favorite sailors.

“Hey Lilly, I was able to find them. Apparently the costumes are super realistic so they’re about 50,000 each. Is that okay?” Another 100,000 gone, but that means 100,000 left. I wish I hadn’t already bought gifts for Hisao and Hanako. I’ll have to find something for Akira since she’s here.

“Yes, that will be fine. Are the sizes roughly close to what I told you earlier?”

“Everything is correct. Even your skirt is a little wider.”

“Then we can leave.” Me and Hisao leave the store and go back to the dorms. I think I can get away with giving these gifts out during the school week when I see them. Except for Shizune and Misha, I’ll give them theirs when I see them this weekend.

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The alarm jars me awake Monday morning. Time to get ready for the day. My biggest problem is when to give the gifts out. Kagami generally practices after school so I’ll give her the bow then. I’ll have to come back to my dorm to get it but it shouldn’t take that long. Hisao said he would give the belt to Hideoyoshi as well since they’re on the same floor. That leaves Saki. She’ll be in the same wing as Kagami but the music club practices separately. It would also be weird to give her the dress in front of others. I’ll wait until she comes back to the dorms. Hopefully she’ll be in her room.

Hot water rushes over my body as I enter the shower. I miss when Akira would complain about the steam I left behind. It was always about how difficult it is to do her hair when the mirror fogged up but steam feels nice on my skin. While washing I stop my hands around my hips. They aren’t that big, are they? Hisao definitely has no complaints, so maybe I shouldn’t. I finish with my shower and get dressed before heading to the cafeteria. A light breakfast before class won’t hurt.

The day is over relatively quickly. Lunch is always faster than I would like, and class was quiet individual work for once. The sidewalk back to the dorms is cleared off and increases my pace. Dropping off my books I grab the bow and head towards the auxiliary wing that Kagami practices in. Once I’m in the building I hear her playing softly and move towards it. As I get closer I start to hear her play more clearly.

It’s something I haven’t heard in years. I believe it’s Dies Irae? When I heard that last it was with my mother. It was the last mass we went to before they left for Scotland. A beautiful piece. I haven’t been since then. Maybe I should again? The door is closed so I wait until she finishes to go inside.

“Lilly? Didn’t expect to see you today.”

“Hello Kagami, I heard the last half of that piece. It was very nice.”

“It could have been better but thank you anyway. What’s up?”

“Well I decided to get an end of year gift for all the other grade three class representatives. Something to thank you for your help and service, especially you. Stepping into the role while practicing as often as you do would not have been easy.”

“Someone had to. And after Kenta asked it wasn’t like I could say no. I’m glad I’ve helped out.” That is true. Most class representatives took their roles reluctantly. Except for me and Shizune.

“Yes, that is true. But here, I overheard you a few weeks ago discussing this.” I handed her the box which held her bow and waited until she took it. “I know it might be a bit much but I do hope you take it.”

“Woah Lilly, this is a whole new bow. Are you kidding me? This is great! The wood is perfect, and genuine horsehair string? This must have cost you at least 50,000 yen if not more!”

“Please, think nothing of it. My parents sent me a surprise care package this Christmas and I wanted to pay it forward.”

“If you say so. You must be really lucky to get something like that from them. Here, listen to me play that same piece with it. And you can come listen to me anytime! As thanks for this.”

“Of course I’ll listen.” Kagami began to play. It took me back to that last visit with my mother. The violin is only a small part. If only a choir was here. Mozart’s entire Requiem produced such a unique feeling that contributed to the atmosphere in the church. A feeling I have long missed. I wonder. Kagami’s violin falls silent.

“Now that was much better. Thanks again Lilly!”

“Of course Kagami. I look forward to hearing you again. I must head back now. Have a great night.”

“G’night Lilly!” With that I walked back to my dorm. A quick feel of my watch tells me it is around 7 pm. Hopefully I can find Saki quickly. A few minutes to go back to my room, grab the dress, and then I’m standing in front of her door. I softly knock on the door to see if she is there. I hear some rustling around inside and then the door opens.

“Lilly! It is good to see a friendly face, although a little unexpected.”

“Good evening Saki. I came to see you because I have a gift for you. Recently I got one for all the grade three class representatives. Out of thanks for your good work this year.” I hand her the bag.

“Why is it you doing this and not the Student Council President?”

“You know her. She is so busy that I doubt she would have thought of something, so I took it upon myself. It doesn’t hurt that my parents gave me a larger than usual Christmas gift.”

“Larger than usual? I’m sure that was nice.” You would think, under normal circumstances. “Alright then. Let’s see what it is. Wait what?” I hear the tissue paper coming out of the bag as she tosses it. “How did you even know to get me this? The pricing on this was ridiculous. This is great! Oh it’s just lovely Lilly, thank you.” A smile rises to my face.

“I’m glad you like it. Miss Niji told me you were looking at it before. Make sure to thank her when you see her next.”

“Of course I will! This dress is beautiful. She is wonderful at her job. Thank you Lilly!” I’m surprised as I feel her arms wrap around my back and then let go before I can respond. “I’m going to put this on. Have a great night Lilly, and thank you again.”

“Have a wonderful rest of your night Saki. Goodbye.” She closes the door and I head back down to my own dorm to sleep.

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The rest of the week passes by quickly as well. Hisao said Hideyoshi appreciated his gift which marks a success for all the class representatives. That just leaves Shizune. I know everyone else will like their gifts, but with her it’s still a mystery on how she will react. Hisao keeps telling me not to worry but how can I not? The watch on my wrist tells me it will be time to go soon. Akira rented a car and is taking me, Hanako, Hisao, Shizune and Misha to Uncle’s. That will surely go well. Maybe he will get called in for work? It’ll be nice to see Hideaki at least. A knock on the door lets me know it is time.

“Hey Lilly, ready to go?”

“Yes Hisao. Is Hanako ready as well?”

“R-r-right here Lilly.”

“Good. Let’s go then.” We make our way together through the dorms towards the front gates where we meet the others.

“Hisao, you can sit in the front. The girls can squeeze in the back. Get nice and cozy during the ride.”

“Wahaha~! We’ll have a fun time in the back~! Won’t we~?” I remain silent as does Hanako. I can’t tell if Shizune is signing to Misha but nothing is translated. “Okay~! Maybe not~.”

As expected the ride is mostly silent. Akira and Hisao are in the front talking about something, but I can barely hear past the music playing. I do however notice Hanako shifting uncomfortably next to me.

“Sorry Hanako, it’s a tight fit.”

“It’s o-okay Lilly. I’m f-f-fine.” I wonder if Misha and Shizune are talking? That’s what frustrates me with her sometimes. If I’m right next to her she could say anything and I wouldn’t even know she was talking. We finally arrive at her house and go inside. Hideaki is there to greet us but I don’t hear Uncle, which I definitely would if he was here. Hisao unloads our bags while I start to make some tea. Misha and Shizune are sleeping in Shizune’s room, Hanako and Akira on some futons that will be placed in the living room, and they’re letting me and Hisao have the guest room. Hideaki lets me know that luckily Uncle is gone for a week. He was called last minute to the company headquarters on the other side of Tokyo. Instead of ‘wasting time on that damn subway’ he is renting a hotel room five minutes from the building.

I come over with finished tea. The warm pot in my hands and the aroma of the leaves calms my nerves slightly. Often just being around tea is a relaxing atmosphere.

“So are we going to wait until midnight this year or open the gifts right away?” Akira asks the same question she asks every year. Next comes Shizune.

“No~! We always do it at midnight since Aunt Satou did it then~!”

“Ah but Shizune, are we meant to be slaves to tradition? Let’s fight for a new future!”

“Tradition is tradition for a reason~! Especially in this family. Everyone respected the decisions she made~!”

“Her decision was based on Christmas Eve, which was Monday. Today is Friday. Following tradition exactly, we should have done it Monday.”

“That’s not exactly true~! When we were really young she waited until the day before winter break so we didn’t stay up too late. Besides~! Waiting until midnight marks the change into winter break. Which is what we can celebrate instead of Christmas when we miss it~! Of course, Shizune has a point there.

“Let’s bring it to a vote! Everyone in favor of right now say I and raise your hand.” Akira, Misha, and Hideaki say I.

“Sorry Shizune~! I have a hard time waiting for this thing~. Hahaha~!”

“Now everyone in favor of midnight say I and raise your hand.” I raise my hand and say I while I hear Misha and Hanako do the same. Me and Shizune always agree on this at least. Mother’s time was for a reason and it helped that feeling of celebration.

“Are you going to vote~! Hisao~?”

“Well this is my first year here so I didn’t know if I should or not.”

“You’re going to be part of the family soon enough, Hisao! Now vote for opening presents right now!” Akira laughs and I smile. It’s encouraging to know where she stands on him.

“Well I’m sorry, but if Lilly’s mother has a tradition like that it’s probably for a good reason. I vote for midnight.”

“Hisao~! Now I have to wait~! Wahaha~.” I’m glad we get to keep things going for at least another year.

“Fine, we can wait until midnight. But I’m opening the wine now!” Uh oh. With that news I turn over to Hanako and whisper.

“Let’s both take it easy tonight, we need to make it to midnight.” I laugh and she responds.

“R-r-right.” Although we each get a glass anyways, as do the girls and Hisao. Taking it easy means a glass or two is okay. We spend our time talking and laughing for a few hours until midnight comes.

“Okay okay, now we can open presents! How should we do it? Free for all where everyone opens their gifts? Or one at a time like boring people?”

“Free for all.” “Free for all~!” “Free for all.” “F-f-free for all” “Free for all!”

“Alright, that one was easy!” I guess the wine has helped everyone start to loosen up. We start to hand out and open up presents. I kept mine and Shizune’s in the guest room to hand out last. I bought Hisao a version of my watch. He mentioned before how he thought mine was really cool. I also gifted him a nice telescope for star viewing. Most nights we are together he loves describing how those stars shine and their immense beauty. I can almost imagine them as he lays his head in my lap while doing so. For Hanako I used some of my leftover money to buy another really nice doll. As expected, Akira loved her whiskey and Misha the purse. Next Akira handed me hers.

“Here Lilly, open mine next.” I felt a familiar box. She enjoys getting me clothes and this box is of similar size and weight. Ripping off the paper I start to open it and unfold whatever it is.

“Akira~! You cannot give Lilly something like that with Hideaki around~! Wahaha.” Akira and Misha are both laughing while I start to run my hands over it. Thin lacy fabric that is thin at the top providing small straps. The chest is barely big enough to cover, and the middle is strings connecting to the lower half leaving a lot of empty space. I quickly slam it back into the box once I realize what it is.

“Akira! You cannot get me something like that. This is completely inappropriate!” In between laughs she responds.

“You’ll thank me later, you should see Hisao’s face right now. He doesn’t know whether to be excited or embarrassed.”

“Hanako, stop drinking so fast! You can’t hide in the cup!” From Hisao’s comment it appears that Hanako is thoroughly embarrassed as well.

“I am off for the night. Have fun.”

“Oh Hideaki, come on! Nothing else will be like that. Here, sit sit.”

“No thank you. As I cannot partake in the drinking it is getting significantly less fun around here. See you in the morning.” Sorry Hideaki. You’re a little too young for that. Hopefully in a few years you can join in more fun, well except for this. I hope this doesn’t happen again.

“Well now that everyone has gotten their laughter out of the way, I will get my final gift for Shizune.” I go towards the room, slightly off balance and Hisao comes by to help stabilize.

“Two is better than one! Just don’t hold onto me too tight, I’ll fall over as well.” We both laugh.

“So, how does it look?”

“How does what look?”

“Oh Hisao with how smart you are don’t play dumb with me. The lingerie that Akira bought. Will it accentuate all the right places?” I get close and whisper and I hear him quietly yelp. Teasing him is more fun than I realized. Maybe I should do this more often.

“It di-does look good. I’m sure it’ll really do well on your hips.”

“Oh my hips? Anywhere else?”

“Well I didn’t really get a close look at it, but with your figure anything will make your butt look-”

“Hey I think I found Shizune’s gift! Let's get back to them quickly.” That was close. Maybe I shouldn’t push the teasing too far. We head back into the living room and I give Shizune the box.

“Don’t tell me you got Shizune lingerie too?”

“Of course not! I bought her something important.” She rips off the paper and I hear it land to the side.

“Oh~! That’s quite cute~!”

“S-S-Sailor Mercury?

“Wow Hanako~! Nice knowing~!”

“W-w-what? I w-w-watched it a l-lot as a kid.” It’s okay Hanako, so did we.

“Where are you going~?” I felt Shizune’s hand grab mine and pull me off of the couch.

“Hey you can’t just tug on me like this, I'm losing my balance!” Of course it was no use, as she kept pulling me back into a room, closing the door. She sat me down on the bed and placed her hands in mine, beginning to sign.

<Why did you get this for me?>

< I didn’t just get it for you, I got one too.>

<Sailor Venus?>

<Of course. You told me I was just like Venus as a kid, and you were always like Mercury, even now.> Her hands are motionless for a few seconds.

<But why now?>

<To try and make up. I thought, well Akira thought, if we could remember the good times as kids we might get along again.>

<I suppose that line of thinking isn’t flawed. Do you think that could work?>

<I do, and I want it to work. We’ve been angry with each other for too long. The only time we weren’t was when I was leaving for Scotland.>

<That is true. Do you know why we fight so much?>

<Because you like to argue and win?> I know that’s not true but I can’t think of much else.

<Well I do, but that is not why I argue with you. I’m so hard on you because I wish you would compete with me. I joined the student council because you were doing so. You were the catalyst.>

<So it’s all some game? Just trying to beat me?> Well at least I’m finally getting a reason.

<No, it’s more than that. This gift reminded me of why.> That means it was good for something, thanks Akira. I guess I’ll have to hand it to her.

<So what is the why?>

<When we are together, you drive me to be something more. Not because I want to beat you, but because I’m impressed by you. You always effortlessly did well in school, or made friends, you even learned sign by touch alone! Even when we made it to Yamaku you did well with that sort of thing. Misha was my only friend until Hisao came along. You and Hisao were also impressive by the way. I couldn’t get him to help two cute girls at student council but you gave him tea and that was that.>

<Oh Shizune. It only seemed effortless because I didn’t want you to see how much I tried to be great. Mother and Father expected it from me from a young age, and it took a lot of effort to get there. But I never wanted to show you how fragile things were. For example, Hisao. I was almost out of the country forever, I hardly call that effortless.> A small giggle emerged from Shizune.

<I suppose that’s true. I just wanted to impress you for once, and when you left student council I was frustrated that you hadn’t realized it. I wanted you to acknowledge my work too.>

<Of course I have. You and Misha running it all by yourselves? Nothing could impress me more. I gave up when it was three of us, I can’t imagine two. Not to mention your family. No one ever wanted to communicate with you except the blind girl.>

<We both look silly now don’t we? Putting up faces against each other for so long.>

<Not yet we don’t. Let’s put the costumes on and then we’ll look silly.>

<You got a deal.> Shizune removed her hands and leaned in for a hug which I returned. We stayed there for a minute letting our words sit. I felt her hands once more.

<Let’s get some more wine before we dress. I’ll need it to face them.> I laughed and agreed. We passed the living room and chugged a glass each. Then we headed to her room to change. It was like we were kids again. Shizune was laughing as we teased each other. I helped her and she helped me. Coming out of the room fully dressed I sang the opening theme song while she danced, the same routine as if we were kids.

I’m sure in the future we will fight some more, but moments like this will shine brighter. Shizune may technically be a cousin, but I count her as yet another sister. I’m eternally grateful for each and every one of them.

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Razoredge
Posts: 203
Joined: Sat Mar 21, 2015 12:31 pm
Location: Bordeaux, France

Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by Razoredge »

Victim: ToothedYew006

Prompt: Hisao and Lilly getting married

See notes at the end of the story.

Good things come to those who wait

I toss and turn in bed, I can’t sleep. This afternoon, I’ll be a married guy to one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen. Sometimes I wonder why she chose me. We are from two different worlds; she had a planned future, yet, she picked me and stayed, despite some… darker times.

I don’t remember my first heart attack that well, but the second one… I remember everything, every moment. How I left the school in the late evening, without bothering about the curfew, how I rushed to the airport to tell her how much I loved her despite her saying she had to come back to Scotland, the piercing pain in the chest that I only knew too well… A pain that grew as I got closer to her and paralyzed me just a few meters from her… I can remember it clear as day. The ticking pacemaker in my chest is the last thing left from that day.

I had lost all hope that day, but she came back. She was the last person I saw when I thought I’d die and the first one when I woke up. I turn around and see her next to me in a peaceful slumber. I don’t regret anything I did, just for the sake of this sheer vision, even though it was one of the most painful moments in my life. Sure, what I did was stupid back then but now, knowing that Lilly will be my wife, I regret nothing.

Another thing I would like to forget is Akira’s sermon when she visited me a few days later. Though she respects me now for the dedication I showed that night, then she bitterly shouted at me because she was afraid I was going to die. It surprised me, because I thought our relationship wasn’t deep enough to get yelled at with such concern in her voice. But nowadays I know why she did that: because she sees me as a member of her family and she deeply cares about me.

My relationship with her parents was quite strange; while I immediately got along with her mother, her father took some time to accept me since he had other plans for his daughter’s future. We have a cordial relationship now, even if he still likes to show who’s the big guy in the house. I can’t blame him; he was raised in such a way and I wouldn’t ask him to go against his own nature.

I feel Lilly snuggling up against me, and I gently kiss her forehead. For some time after the accident I thought she came back out of pity, but during these ten years she showed nothing other than love. And if I look upon our relationship, I can say, without a moment’s hesitation, that she’s the one with whom I want to spend my life.

She now works as an English teacher for the blind students in Yamaku, something I always admired. I work as a teacher in the Sendai Medical University and this allowed me to pay for my wedding suit, which cost me one-and-a-half months of salary.

Lilly, for her part, offered to buy her dress by herself. But her father, as stubborn as he is, declined and wanted to pay for everything. I guess it’s his way of making amends for his behavior towards me in the beginning.

“Thank you for everything,” I whisper, kissing Lilly on her forehead once again. I’ve lost count of how many times I told her I was glad she came back, probably a bit too many.

I try to go back to sleep. Lilly snuggles up against me a bit more, her warmth, her gentle breath, her scent, all soothe me and put me slowly back to sleep.

……………………………………

In the morning, Lilly’s gentle kiss on my lips wakes me up.

“Rise and shine, darling, it’s finally the day we have been waiting for.”

“You mean, one of the two days we have been waiting for.,” I chuckle, stretching.

“What do you mean?», she asks, shaking her hair.

“Forgot your decision to become a mother?”, I answer, kissing her neck.

She pretends to be lost in thought for a bit, before chuckling too. “You know I promised Father to wait until we were married for this. And since it’s finally the big day…” She doesn’t finish her sentence, but her tone sends a perfectly clear message. Knowing her, I know she won’t waste time.

The most important part now is to enjoy the last hour I get with her before seeing her again in the church. Initially I wasn’t thrilled by a religious wedding, since it’s not my cup of tea at all, but this kind of ceremony was very important to her and I can’t go against her for such a special day.

It’s a bit hard to think I’m living my last hours as her boyfriend, since I’ll become her husband at the end of the day. It’s both a privilege for me and something I have looked forward to since a long time ago.

“Who have you asked for your preparations? Akira or Hanako?”, I ask, since she never told me who was chosen.

“Both of them, Akira is a better hair stylist and Hanako has better skills with make-up. You can trust them, darling.”
“Did I ever not trust your sister and your best friend, dear?” Her chuckles are the only answer I need. “Not being able to see you will be hard, though.”

She gently kisses me. “I know, darling, but let’s not jinx it before it even happens.” She then tilts her head towards the door. “It appears that Mother is already up.”

I may be aware that her other senses are way more developed given her condition but it always amazes me when she detects some subtle sound I didn’t even notice.

“I guess it’s time for breakfast, then.”

We head towards the dining room. As she said, her mother is already up, drinking some tea.

“Good morning, Lillian and Hisao,” Karla says with a cute smile before taking another sip of tea.

“Good morning, Mother,” we both answer.

My parents have always found odd that I call Lilly’s parents Father and Mother, but since I’m a part of their family, I act this way to show them my respect. And calling my parents-in-law that doesn’t strike me as odd, unlike what my parents say.

“Is Fumihito finally among us, by any chance?”, I ask, since it I will get ready with his help.

Karla chuckles, and that alone shows me that Lilly took her personality from her mother.

“Do not worry, dear, you will be ready in time.”

She can be very confident on that point; Fumihito is always very effective when he needs to do something, he has already proved it to me many times. It was not intended, but I see him more like a caring big brother now.

“Tea or coffee, dear?” Karla asks me, still unsure of what I want.

“Black coffee would be great, Mother.”

One of her maids just nods before withdrawing to the kitchen, leaving the three of us alone. When I sit down to think about it, Karla is probably the best step-mother someone could wish for. She’s kind, careful, always wants to please everyone, and she accepted me quickly as a part of the family. With Hiroyuki, however, it’s a different story; I got used to the idea that he will never change, but fortunately, our relationship together is excellent now.

Karla asks us, chuckling, “My dear little ones, have you decided at least where you will spend your honeymoon?”

Lilly pretends to be lost in thought for a bit, before answering. “Well, Mother… we have taken our sweet time since we could not agree at first, but we eventually concluded that the Philippines could be a great destination.”

Karla’s expression tells me one thing: she agrees on that destination. “We went there, a few years ago, with your father. An absolutely charming country, lucky you.”

The maid eventually comes back with a cup of coffee for me, a cup of tea for Lilly, several pieces of bread, four different jars of jam and some butter, before bowing and withdrawing again.

“Dear, do you still want to remain silent about that mysterious guest of yours?”

I knew full well that this matter would be discussed again, but I don’t want to spoil Lilly’s surprise, since I’m pretty sure she will be thrilled to discover it by herself.

“Of course, Mother. It would only spoil your daughter’s surprise,” I answer, pretty confidently.

I take a sip of my tea and the first thing I can taste is the delicate fruit aroma, which is really enjoyable. “Mother, where does this tea come from?”

“This is the finest Darjeeling tea you could find, dear,” She just answers, her eyes closed, taking another sip of tea. Lilly told me so much about this tea; I’m not even surprised to see her mother enjoys drinking it so much. Ever since I met Lilly, I never drank a bad tea or something that could be described as lower than actually good.

Lilly remains quiet, but I can see on her face that she wants to know this mysterious guest’s identity. But I gave my word, and I’m a man of my word; I wouldn’t even think about snitching on them. But when Lilly’ll find out who the guest is, I can confidently say she will be thrilled. I did it for her, after all.

“Darling, want some bread and jam?”, I ask, turning to Lilly, who just gently nods as an answer. Taking some bread for both of us, I spread butter and some raspberry jam on it, and place her piece of bread between her hands.

When I first ate such a Western breakfast, I didn’t know what to think about it; it went against all I thought I knew about breakfast for my whole life. But as I got used to it, it definitely became a part of my routine. Why stick to your guns when you can take some elements from another culture if you enjoy it?

We spend the rest of the breakfast chitchatting, which helps me to clear my mind. Today may be the best day of my entire life, so I cannot help but stress about everything that could happen. Lilly may say that I can’t control everything at times, but especially during such big events, I cannot help but think something bad will happen.

……………………………………………………………

“Karla put me in charge of making you look suitable,” Fumihito says, circling around me, “and there’s quite a lot of work to do.” By the tone of his voice, I can already tell that he’s not that serious. “You should have gone to the hairdresser, at least.” He’s serious now.

“I’ve thought about it, but you know as well as I do that my hair has a mind of its own.”

He doesn’t answer, and just heads towards the big brown closet in front of me. My suit awaits me, and although I try to keep my composure, my stomach rumbles betraying how stressed I am. I must be perfect and leave nothing to chance.

“Climb up there.” He says, pointing at the stool in the middle of the room, and I comply without answering. While I’m on the stool, he takes measurements on my legs first, pondering if my suit needs adjustment or not.

First, the trousers, and, as he certainly expected, they appear to be a bit bigger than it should be. But it’s nothing too worrying, nothing a couple of safety pins couldn’t handle. He takes his time, adjusting the hems of the trousers repeatedly to find the perfect result.

When he eventually finds the perfect position, he fixes safety pins in several strategic places, even checking their sturdiness with success. The trousers look superb and perfect the way they are, perfectly landing on the legs.

“Now, that’s what I call trousers. At least you won’t look like a clown.”
He’s right, and he did a good job. This suit cost me more than an entire month of salary, and if it wasn’t adjusted properly, I would look like a fool. I could have managed to do it by myself, but I’m sure it might have taken a while since I’ve never been good at this kind of manual work.

He hands me the shirt that I put on, followed by the tie, which means I’ll have to deal with some stupidly complex tie knot. I have always hated ties because of their stupid knots; you need a doctorate to know how to tie them, and it’s tiring. But Fumihito comes to my rescue, and in less than two minutes, it’s tied perfectly.

“Cufflinks.,” he adds, handing me two round silver cufflinks. They may be tiny, but they are magnificent and actually weigh quite a bit. Everything begins to take shape, but my mind drifts towards Lilly, wondering how her preparations are going.

“You’re a wizard, Fumihito. It looks really good,” I say, looking at myself in the mirror.

“That is none of my doing. Your suit does all the work; I’m only here for the adjustments.”

Then the last piece of the suit comes over, the vest accompanied by its silver pin. I never thought I would wear such a suit before today, and I’m glad I was wrong, it looks splendid and it’s worth every cent I spent on it.

“For God’s sake, I almost forgot…” Fumihito rushes outside, leaving me behind for a moment. I don’t know what he’s doing, but I’m sure he has a valid reason for leaving me alone like this.

He eventually comes back with a tiny wooden box. “Courtesy of the Old Man.” In this box, there’s a silver watch from a brand I don’t know, but its name sounds European, and it’s one of the most well-made watches I’ve ever seen in my life.

“Holy shit, that thing must cost an arm and a leg…” Fumihito doesn’t let me finish my sentence.

“The cost is not an issue. And I don’t think he would allow his son-in-law to look like a fool at his own wedding.”

I get the idea, and I should thank him as soon as I see him. My complete outfit is the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought, and I didn’t even pay for the watch.

The shoes are the last thing I put on, and I’m all ready. Fumihito ponders, walking around me, looking at every detail of my suit. “What a perfect gentleman right here, you’re set.”

A bit of perfume later, my preparation is done. Knowing the girls, they must be still working on Lilly’s hairstyle,. And she asks for particularly sophisticated hairdos for important events, so, I cannot imagine the one she would ask for on her own wedding.

In the hallway, I come across my mother, who suddenly stops when she sees me and she starts to cry. “You’re gorgeous, honey, absolutely gorgeous.” Hearing her compliment me in this way gives me great pleasure, but she’s my mother; she would say I’m gorgeous even if was wearing a tracksuit.

“Thanks, Mom, but you’ll see, Lilly will steal the limelight,” I simply answer. I didn’t see her dress yet, but knowing her, I know it’ll be magnificent.

There are only three and a half hours left and I don’t know what to do. It’s not even time to go to the church, at least for me, and I can’t go see her, otherwise it would bring misfortune upon us.

Patience is a so-called virtue, but sometimes I hate being patient, and today is one of these days.

………………………………..

This is not the first time I find myself in a church, but I always thought the aesthetics of these places were really pleasant. The stained glass, the vaults, the statues, everything in these places is appealing, and this church is no exception. The crowd is buzzing before the main event starts, and I finally spot our mystery guest.

“Thanks for coming, Yuuko; she’ll be delighted to hear that you’re here.,” I say, hugging Yuuko tightly. Something I couldn’t even think about when I was in Yamaku, even if our relationship was actually kinda strong.

“Do you really believe I would miss my best clients’ wedding, dear?” she chuckles, and she can’t be more right; both of us were the students who went to the library or to the Shanghai the most. As for myself, Yuuko was one of the main reasons, aside from me being fond of books and enjoying the Shanghai’s atmosphere and menu.

“Did someone tell you how ravishing you look, dear?”, she adds, and I just thank her with another tight hug.
My parents, Hanako, Akira, and Karla are on the first aisle, but Hiroyuki is notable by its absence; it makes sense, however, since he’s supposed to walk Lilly down the aisle. Which, given the music slowly beginning to be audible, will happen any minute.

She finally appears, accompanied by her father, a broad smile on her lips. As I expected, her dress, her veil, her hairstyle, even her bouquet, everything is magnificent. When I see her, I cannot help but cry; my girlfriend, soon to be wife, is the living embodiment of the word “beautiful”. I don’t know how much this dress cost, but she couldn’t have made a better choice.

Her walk down the aisle seems to last an eternity, making me going through several feelings, from joy to stress via absolute admiration. All eyes are on her, but she deserves it; it’s her big day after all. She can’t see them, but she has a wide smile on her lips, stating how happy she is to be here for such a special event.

Her father, however, is still the same: proud, self-confident, always wearing a gentlemanly appearance, as if nothing could ever undermine him. Since I met him, I never saw him without his self-confident attitude, as if it was firmly anchored in him.

After what once again seemed to last an eternity, she finally reaches the altar. The first thing Hiroyuki does is to look at my wrist and he shows his satisfaction with a nod, which I respond with a more pronounced nod to show him my gratitude. A huge silence sets in as the ceremony is about to begin, and I turn to the priest.

“Just a moment, please, Father,” I ask, and he just nods as an answer. I then turn to Lilly. “You’re absolutely gorgeous, darling.”

But I’m not done yet; there is something that needs to be done before we even start the ceremony. I gently take her hands and put them on my suit, allowing her to feel it while I’m describing it to her. From the color, a deep black, to the fabric, some very soft silk, and just by seeing her expression, I know I made an excellent choice. She’s one of the reasons why I bought this suit, and it seems she likes it; her satisfied look doesn’t lie.

I carry on that description, talking about the watch her father gave to me, the subtle accessories, and even the shoes. I give her some time to create a mental image of how I look, and I make associations for each color, since I know it works great for her. It takes me some time to describe everything to her, but she deserves it.

She only answers by whispering “Thank you,” and gently fondling my cheek with one of the brightest smiles I’ve ever seen. That smile is one of my reasons to live and I would never let it disappear for anything. And these eyes, I could get lost in these eyes for the rest of my life.
I turn to the priest once again thanking him for his patience, and the ceremony at last begins. It starts with the priest’s speech, reminding us why we’re here today, and immediately Lilly enters a deep listening phase I also do out of respect, even if I don’t feel the same way as her about religion. But I want to give her that; it’s her wedding after all, she deserves something that fits her values.

Nothing can be heard in the church apart from the priest’s voice; everyone seems to follow Lilly’s example. My parents have the same opinion about religion as me, but I’m glad they accepted a religious wedding; they could have opposed it, after all.

It’s time for some Bible reading from the priest, some parts that we have chosen with Lilly, as required by tradition. I explicitly asked for sections that echo our relationship in some ways, so it could make sense even for someone like me. I finally feel really concerned about what the priest is saying, and my deep listening phase is actually genuine.

Throughout the readings, I hold Lilly’s hand and gently fondle it with my thumb, which makes her smile. It’s something she likes, and I’ve always thought small acts of kindness and care were the base of any healthy relationship.

Right after a religious song come another reading, but this time, the priest comments the parts he was reading. The significance of all this eludes me at first glance, but thankfully it remains relevant to the parts we chose with Lilly, something I appreciate.

This part takes more time than the previous, but it means we’re close to the part everyone is waiting for. He still has to comment on the last reading, and since it is the most important one, I suspect it will take some time.

And it does, but I don’t want things to be rushed especially today, since it’s really important for her. And despite my lack of interest in this stuff, I really like how everything is going so far. Even I couldn’t complain.

Eventually the reading and the commentaries come to an end, and it’s time for the main part of the ceremony. The priest first asks our witnesses to come to the altar, Hanako and Akira for Lilly, and Miki and my best friend, Enji. Miki was my first choice as a witness, but I was afraid of how she would behave when she learned it would be a religious ceremony, since she shares the same views about religion as I do.

Yet when I look at her, I can see how happy she is to be here, and her smile is the only thing I need to know I was right to ask her to be my witness. A bit of chatting can be heard behind us, but as soon as the priest raises his hand, the whole church becomes deadly quiet.

“Hisao, Lillian, in the presence of your witnesses, we may begin,”he says, before taking a pause. “Hisao, Lillian, wedding requires a lifelong mutual commitment and unfailing loyalty, which leads to embrace spouses’ and parents’ responsibilities. Is this really how you wish to live?” He asks and receives an affirmative answer from both of us.

He invites us to take each other’s hands and carries on. “So that you may be united before Christ, share your vows.” He then turns towards me. “Hisao, do you take Lillian to be your lawful wife, to love and honor her, in sickness and in health, so long as you both shall live?”

I look deep into Lilly’s eyes. “I do.” Never, in my whole life, I said a sentence with such will. Beside me, Miki prances with impatience; she really wants to say something, but she remains quiet out of respect for both of us.

“Lillian, do you take Hisao to be your lawful husband, to love and honor him, in sickness and in health, so long as you both shall live?” Her gaze turns to the source of my voice, and without hesitation she says “I do.”

He then speaks to both of us. “I hereby declare you joined by the holy bonds of matrimony. With your witnesses, your families, your friends, all together, praise the Lord.”

Follows then a moment of silent prayer in which even I participate, and surprisingly Miki too, which makes me very proud of her. It’s brief, and right after, the priest asks Lilly’s cousin to come towards us with our wedding rings. He then takes a little aspergillum and sprinkles holy water on our rings. “May the Lord bless the symbol of your love and trust,” he says, before letting us exchange rings.

“Lilly, I give you this ring as a symbol of our love and trust.” I take a deep breath before slowly putting the ring on her finger. She does the same, with a bit of help from me, so as to get the right finger.

I may not be Scottish, but something in their folklore caught my attention, and its meaning is something I wanted for a wedding. The handfasting ritual, with its thirteen ribbons, is, for them, a good way to end a wedding ceremony with an unbreakable bond. When I mentioned this to Lilly, she was surprised I knew about it, but the idea delighted her.

Each ribbon has a meaning that comes from its color, from “passion” to “prosperity”, through “serenity ”or even “joy”. These ribbons are made to seal an unbreakable bond for a married couple that is supposed to last for a lifetime. Our witnesses, our parents and grandparents will tie each ribbon around our hands, but the last one will be tied by our mystery guest as I planned, which should be a really pleasant surprise for Lilly.

This ritual begins, with our parents tying the “passion”, “trust”, “prosperity” and “abundance” ribbons, my mother being seconds away from tears. Then come our witnesses with the “sincerity”, “success”, “power” and “appeasement” ribbons. Our grandparents take care of the “serenity”, “joy”, “wealth”, and “household” ribbons. But the last one is missing, and it’s the most important for both of us.

Yuuko carrying the “values” ribbon is something I wanted, since she’s the one who helped us back in Yamaku when our relationship was tense. To say she saved our relationship could be an overstatement, but she definitely helped to reconcile us. This ribbon is symbolic for both of us, thanks to the values Yuuko gave us back then and that are still with us today.

I ask playfully, “Do you know which ribbon is missing?”

“Only the last is missing, so I would say the “values” one, isn’t it?”

I think she’s beginning to understand what I’ve planned; her reaction slowly changes, even if I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know who I am talking about. But I don’t want to make her wait any longer; she deserves to know the truth.

“Yuuko, you may proceed.”

The mere mention of Yuuko’s name is enough for her; the wide smile on her lips and her watery eyes are the ultimate proof that I made the right choice. No one but Yuuko could tie the “values” ribbon around our hands, given how much she did for us.

Lilly asks, trying her best not to cry, “How come you didn’t tell me?”

“Don’t you think spoiling you such a meaningful surprise would have been improper?”, I say, and she just nods in agreement.

Yuuko is very careful as she always is when she does something important to her or to someone else. I couldn’t let go of Lilly’s hand if I wanted, given how tight they tied the ribbons around our hands, according to the tradition.
Eventually comes the time I have been waiting for, our wedding officialization. I gently lift her veil, my lips finally meeting hers in a soft, gentle, yet passionate kiss. I know Miki was also waiting for that, because she finally can let her joy burst out, and she’s followed by the entire church.

They eventually untie all ribbons, so we can be free and the church slowly empties.

“I’m sure you have a lot to catch up on, darling, take your time.,” I say, kissing her gently.

She thanks me deeply, her eyes still watery, rushes to Yuuko and hugs her tightly, crying. As for me, I get out of the church with Miki.

“You’re finally married; took you quite a while,” she grins, nudging my arm.

“Good things come to those who wait, you fool,” I chuckle. “Did you think about proposing to Suzu?”

She looks at me like I told her the sun was green or something like that, completely puzzled. «At what point in the process did you think I could marry her in Japan?”

I already know that, but I never specified where she could marry her, and I certainly intend to use this knowledge.

“I haven’t said where yet.” Now I have her full attention. “In which country are we now?”

“In Scotland, why?” She doesn’t seem to understand where I am going.

“Same-sex marriage is legal here, Miki. I know it would only be seen as valid here and not back in Japan, but if it matters to both of you, I highly suggest that you give it a try.”

And now she’s there, staring at nothing, totally lost in thought. There’s nothing I could do to get her attention when she’s like this. I just have to wait, hoping she will come back to her senses soon.

It actually takes quite a while before she even utters a word. “That… doesn’t sound like a bad idea… Yeah… Yeah, I guess I could give it a try… But if she’s against it… what do I do?”

I can understand she’s afraid to propose to her, but at the same time, I can’t help but roll my eyes.

“How old are you, Miki?”

“28, just like you, duh,” she sighs, since I actually know that.

“And how long have you been dating Suzu?”

“…Ten years…” She begins to understand what I mean.

“Do you honestly think, after these ten years, she wouldn’t want to be your wife? Seriously?” I pause. “Wake up, sweetie. She’s put up with you for ten years, she dealt with your nonsense for ten years, her eyes are filled with pure love every time someone mumbles your name, and you are seriously thinking you’re not the love of her life? I wish I had your naivety.”

She wants to immediately object, but I put my finger on her lips to shut her up. “I’m just saying to give it a try. Don’t rush things, you’ll eventually find the right moment to propose to her. Trust me, she will be delighted.”

I know Suzu. If she was given the possibility of having Miki for her entire life, she would jump on this chance with no hesitation. My only goal is to make Miki aware of this; the rest is only up to her, and she will make the final decision.

And even though she can be quite clueless sometimes, I’m sure she’ll make the right choice. She only wants Suzu’s happiness; she’ll do the right thing to assure it. We’ll just have to wait; as I said, good things come to those who wait.


First, I really want to apologize to post this story only today. I wanted to finish it so badly for the end of December, but I was sick, to the point I couldn't even write for more than ten minutes before feeling sleepy. And then, I lost inspiration. But, here it is now, and I'm, once again, very sorry I couldn't post it sooner. I just hope you liked it, buddy.

(Special thanks to SilentCook who has proofread this entire wall of text, and sorry to make him crying blood)

To HDKV: Thank you so much for your story, it was really cute, sweet, and even if it was a bit short for my own taste, it was a really nice and heartwarming story. Thank you so much for your work, I really appreciate it.

Lilly = Akira > Miki = Hanako > Emi > Rin > Shizune

Stuff I'm currently writing : Beyond the haze : A Lilly Satou pseudo-route, Lullaby of an open heart : A Saki pseudo-route & Sakura Blossom : A way with Hisao
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hdkv
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Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by hdkv »

Razoredge wrote: Sun Feb 04, 2024 1:55 pm

To HDKV: Thank you so much for your story, it was really cute, sweet, and even if it was a bit short for my own taste, it was a really nice and heartwarming story. Thank you so much for your work, I really appreciate it.

Awww, thank you! It meant a lot to me that you liked it. Also, my nickname is usually spelled in lowercase, it's not an abbreviature :)

I liked your story (sometime it reaches an uncanny values of sweetnees, but it's a prim and proper wedding with a prim a proper Satou, so, yeah). I noticed small continuation error, tho:

Razoredge wrote: Sun Feb 04, 2024 1:55 pm

“Tea or coffee, dear?” Karla asks me, still unsure of what I want.

“Black coffee would be great, Mother.”

but then...

Razoredge wrote: Sun Feb 04, 2024 1:55 pm

I take a sip of my tea...

So, he eventually got a tea, huh?

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Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by Hacksorus »

brythain wrote: Tue Jan 02, 2024 4:58 am
Hacksorus wrote: Thu Dec 28, 2023 10:10 am

Victim: brythain
Prompt: "A restaurant scene in which one cast member is introducing others to a cuisine (or dish) that they have never tasted before. And it's Christmas."

I went ahead changed "Christmas" to "Holiday season" because I'm late as usual. In my defense I actually worked on Christmas this year (thanks Japan lol).

Despite Hanako and Lilly having always been my favorites, I've never attempted to write them before. Hope you guys like it! And any constructive feedback is always welcome too of course.

Well done! I enjoyed this, being an honorary Scot out of Edinburgh. Sadly, I was born much further south and hence am not really a Scotsman. Thank you very much, neeps and tatties always a good chunk of a meal.

Pardon the late response, but I'm glad you liked it! I wanted to try writing about Scotland partially to teach myself a thing or two about it; I have familial roots there, but I haven't had the chance to actually visit yet.

Since I wrote about these dishes, I now feel obligated to try them myself someday..

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Re: Secret Santa 2023 - Story collection

Post by Craftyatom »

ToothedYew006 wrote: Wed Jan 03, 2024 10:18 pm

Too Much Dough Ho Ho

First, thank you so much for your story, and I'm sorry it took so long for me to respond! It's always a pleasure to be involved in the secret santa, but unfortunately things picked up after the holidays, so I didn't get a chance to properly reply until now.

I like the setup you picked - works with existing canon, and a great fit for the prompt. I, too, would be frustrated if someone handed me money and then told me that I had to spend it.

Your dialogue generally flowed well - you did a good job of weaving spoken lines into narration. There were a few one-liners that didn't quite land (including, if I may, the so-bad-it's-good title), but they were reasonable enough that they could just as easily be explained as the character themselves making an awkward joke. The drinking scene was a good example of this: it helped convey that the characters were drunk, despite very little time seeming to have passed. It might've flowed better if you had explicitly performed a time-skip, perhaps with Lilly commenting that the time flew by, rather than just hearing the bottle go empty.

Speaking of Lilly, I think using her as the narrator here was a great choice: you did an awesome job setting up scenes without visual imagery, which was quite immersive! In particular, I really enjoyed the clothing shop scene, which conveyed anachronism without any of the usual visual hallmarks.

Wrapped up with a nice little ending, which I always love. Your spelling and grammar was generally good, a few minor mistakes but nothing eye-catching. I think your writing would benefit from a few more commas, to help break up longer sentences... but then again, that's what I say about everyone's writing (my own included), so perhaps it's just a matter of taste.

Once again, thank you so much!

ToothedYew006 wrote: Wed Jan 03, 2024 10:18 pm

“I can see how that might help. I don’t think she would be the type to wear anything but it’s worth the try.”

I was ready for the reversal, where Shizune and Lilly could bond over Hisao wearing the costume... but I suppose that would've been a very different kind of fic. :P

Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Dreamy, Path of Least Resistance, Project Blue Curtain, and more!)
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