SemisoftCheese

"Sovereign Light Cafe" (Ritsu Route 1-1)

Apr 28th, 2013
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  1. R-rr-r-ritsu route.
  2.  
  3. ===============================
  4.  
  5. The King of Hearts is the suicide king. He holds a sword in each hand, drawn towards his head, as he prepares for the end. Time's run out, and it's his call to make.
  6.  
  7. An end of his own choosing.
  8.  
  9. I bet he's tired of being drawn out of the same pack every day to play the same old games. with 51 companions who are ignorant of their fates, the threes and the twos sitting idly by while he, the king, plays the top card in flushes and straights and pairs as people stake and loses fortunes on him.
  10.  
  11. He's tired. The wax on his front is rubbing off. It's not easy being king. He's done his best, and now he's ready to rest.
  12.  
  13. I stare at the card in front of me, a worn out red card from a battered red box. I slide him back in. Rest easy, King. You've done your part. You're ready to rest now.
  14.  
  15. In a way, I feel I am too.
  16.  
  17. Yamaku Academy for the disabled. It sort of rolls off the tongue, like another tired card out of the pack.
  18.  
  19. There's a nurse here, and an art teacher, and a science teacher, and girls, who I've met, and buildings and classrooms and desks. Just like any other school.
  20.  
  21. It's a school, for sure. No doubt about it. But it feels like the endgame in a video game, where you're given a semi-open world after completing it, for better or worse. You lost kid. You've got a bum heart. You're done, kid. Go explore.
  22.  
  23. I feel like this is all a dream. I'm going to wake up soon, and I'll be with my three old friends, and we'll go to the arcade and play soccer and I'll go on a date with Iwanako afterwards.
  24.  
  25. I won't have a heart problem, and I won't have to tiptoe around the fact I do.
  26.  
  27. And I won't be sitting on some fucking hill overlooking the Yamaku grounds during lunch hour, playing with a pack of cards while the wind rustles my hair.
  28.  
  29. I've done a lot here already. I've met Lilly and Emi and Rin and Shizune and Misha, I've had lunch with the "Student Council," engaged in an argument with Shizune, stupidly sided with Lilly, when I should have really just left the room, and then watched as Hanako and Lilly left for lunch while I stood like a dumbass.
  30.  
  31. So I decided to walk. It took me a while, but I'm on this hill overlooking the Yamaku grounds, after a brief hike through the woods. It feels good to be outside, the cool breeze rustling my white dress shirt, despite the fact that my heart could give out at any second.
  32.  
  33. So I'm here. At Yamaku. It seems like a bad dream. I want to wake up.
  34.  
  35. Of course, there's a girl who walked up the hill and sat down a little bit downwind from me. I think she's in my class too. Is she in a dream too?
  36.  
  37. I sigh. These kinds of questions get me no-where. I might as well ask the sky it isn't raining today.
  38.  
  39. I turn to focus on my companion, who I'm not sure is aware of my presence. To tell the truth, I haven't paid much attention to many of my classmates in 3-3 since I've gotten here, with the exception of the student council. I've been so swept up with meeting people and getting dragged back and forth that I've rarely had some time to my own to think and examine those around me.
  40.  
  41. She's got semi-short, shoulder length brown hair. She's sitting with her back towards me, a dark blue cardigan draped around her shoulders as she stares off into the grounds. A yellow hairband holds her hair back from her face as she hugs her knees to her chest, learning backwards against the curve of the hill.
  42.  
  43. The wind rustles her hair, but she doesn't move to fix it.
  44.  
  45. Her arms dangle loosely by her side, each wrapped in the kind of dark brace you get when you break your wrist--black, velcro, from the elbow down to the bottom of your palm. I guess she's got some some sort of wrist or bone problem--those things prevent you from using your wrists completely.
  46.  
  47. Her braces themselves are sort of interesting--they're the standard black polymer nylon ones you see in the store, but hers have a neat row of faded, sewn in pathces--like corporate sponsor logos.
  48.  
  49. I wonder what that means? Surely she's not advertising her wrists or anything. I guess I'll find out in due time.
  50.  
  51. Instead of the light shoulder bags all the girls (and guys) at our school favor, on the ground next to her is a black, heavy-duty north face backpack--the kind you see in the city. I guess she has a lot of stuff to carry, or she doesn't like shoulder bags.
  52.  
  53. I wonder what's she's doing here. This hill is sort of out of the way. Doesn't she have friends to eat lunch with? Better things to do than be here, Yamaku Academy for the disabled, with some kid with a bum heart?
  54.  
  55. Don't I have something---
  56.  
  57. I sigh. I wish I did.
  58.  
  59. I focus back on my companion. Maybe she's got the answers. All I've got is time.
  60.  
  61. She turns around and catches my eye. Her eyes are a mixed brown-green, almost a almond gold in the sunlight. She gives me a small smile and beckons me over, the gesture made somewhat awkward by her having to use her entire arm, instead of just her hand.
  62.  
  63. I shoulder my bag and move down to sit next to her. If this is a dream, I don't think there's any harm in making friends.
  64.  
  65. I step down the hill, careful not to trip, and settle down next to her, the grass making waving patterns at me feet.
  66.  
  67. I sit down next to her, as the wind rustles my hair and shirt on a picture-perfect, blue sky day, with all of Yamaku spread before us.
  68.  
  69. She looks at me, her hair rustling as always, on her lips a small, contemplative, smile.
  70.  
  71. "So, you're Hisao Nakai."
  72.  
  73. "Yup, that's me." I wait for her to extend a hand or at least make a sentiment of greeting, but she returns to staring over the Yamaku grounds. After five or so seconds, she returns her almond-gold gaze to me, another question loading from the magazine.
  74.  
  75. "I'm Ritsu. Ritsu Tainaka."
  76.  
  77. I give her a polite bow of greeting, nodding my head. I think extending my hand would be rude.
  78.  
  79. She fires the question, her gaze steady and calm on me, the contemplative smile still sitting on her lips as her hair dances in the wind.
  80.  
  81. "Well, Hisao, what brings you to my hill?"
  82.  
  83. That's an interesting question. Given the smile on her lips, I don't think she's offended, but I guess no-one really walks this far out of the grounds.
  84.  
  85. "I uh… it was lunch… and I just kept walking." I finish lamely.
  86.  
  87. She stretches her arms into the air, giving a slight yawn of relaxation as she does so, and settles back down, her gaze drifting from the sky to her braces to me.
  88.  
  89. "Didn't you want to have lunch?"
  90.  
  91. "I.. uh.."
  92.  
  93. I guess I'd better tell the truth.
  94.  
  95. "I.. uh.. to be honest, I didn't have anyone to eat it with, so decided to go exploring."
  96.  
  97. She gives me a warm, earnest smile, clearly understanding my plight.
  98.  
  99. "New kid, huh? Well, Hisao, next time you can eat lunch with me."
  100.  
  101. She looks at me for a moment, then reaches over to her North Face bag. Wincing slightly as she uses her hands to tug open the zipper, she dips her hand inside and comes out with a brightly colored rectangle, which she tosses to me.
  102.  
  103. I catch it, more out of surprise than anything, and look at the wrapper. Powerbar triple-threat. Caramel, Chocolate, and… something with peanuts. It's got 17 grams of protein. I guess it's a substitute for lunch.
  104.  
  105. I open my mouth to thank Ritsu, but she's lost interest, picking at a string on her cardigan. As I move to opening the bar, her eyes sweep back to me, apparently reminding her that there's a person besides her.
  106.  
  107. "Ever have a powerbar before?"
  108.  
  109. Actually, I haven't. I've drank my fair share of energy drinks, but I never got into the food-part.
  110.  
  111. "Actually, no, I haven't. It looks really good though. Thanks."
  112.  
  113. She gives me a nod, acknowledging my statement before continuing.
  114.  
  115. "A lot of athletes use them. They're light and easy to throw in your bag, and they're heavy enough to substitute for a meal, but not heavy enough to weigh you down."
  116.  
  117. She makes a gesture with her hand at the end, an up-and-down that probably signifies "heavy."
  118.  
  119. I break off a piece of my power bar and offer it to her. I suppose if I'm stealing her lunch, it's only fair if I offer some back.
  120.  
  121. "Want some power bar, then?"
  122.  
  123. The sentiment is kind of awkward, but hopefully she gets the meaning behind it.
  124.  
  125. She gives me a bright smile, the kind you get in saturday matinees at the movies, and I feel like I've done the right thing. For once.
  126.  
  127. She gives a small, gentle laugh, as she tugs her bag over, wincing again at having to use her wrists.
  128.  
  129. "No thanks, Hisao. I think I've had enough power bars in my lifetime." She gives a small smile again at her own private joke.
  130.  
  131. She opens the middle compartment of her bag, and sure enough, there's around twenty or so power bars thrown in there, not to mention thirty or so wrappers. I guess this is what she does for lunch.
  132.  
  133. "Do you normally eat these for lunch?"
  134.  
  135. She makes a wry face, settling her bag down as she does.
  136.  
  137. "More or less. I used to eat these for convenience, but now they're sort of just to keep the hunger away. I don't really want to go into the cafeteria and fight the masses, and preparing a lunch is a pain, so I just pack these. Normally I head into town in the afternoons during club time and get some proper food."
  138.  
  139. Town. I actually haven't been down into town yet, but I'm sure I will soon for groceries or whatever.
  140.  
  141. Still, that's a lot of powerbars. Well, I guess she never forgets her lunch.
  142.  
  143. I take a bite of the power bar. It's not that bad--pretty chocolately, and sweet, with another cloying taste I can't identify--probably the protein. Still, not that bad. Certainly filling.
  144.  
  145. Ritsu's gone back to picking at her cardigan, bored with the situation at hand. I guess I'll try and make some conversation.
  146.  
  147. "Do you always come up here for lunch?"
  148.  
  149. She looks at me again, her wrists lying idle in her lap.
  150.  
  151. "Sorta. When I'm tired, I just head back to my room to take a nap, but sometimes I come out here and enjoy the view. It's not a bad place to be."
  152.  
  153. With this kind of view, it certainly isn't. She turns her body towards me, leaning her back on her backpack as she faces me full on, a semi-interested look in her eyes.
  154.  
  155. "So, Hisao, what's your story? Where'ya from?"
  156.  
  157. I wonder where her sudden display of interest comes from, but I'm not one to question it.
  158.  
  159. "I used to live in the city, but then I transferred schools and came here."
  160.  
  161. That's the super-thin version. The super-super-super thin version.
  162.  
  163. She looks at me, a calm look in her eyes. I can tell she knows I'm dodging the question, but she doesn't want to pry. No-one here does. It's sort of a right almost you have--to your own story--you can tell whatever version you want to tell here.
  164.  
  165. I give a sigh. What am I hiding from anyway? Myself? My past?
  166.  
  167. "Well, the truth is, I used to live in Tokyo, but then I had a heart problem… and I had to go here."
  168.  
  169. I check myself.
  170.  
  171. "Not that going here is bad or anything… it's a great place and all…"
  172.  
  173. I look down, placing the half-eaten bar in my lap as I look back at her.
  174.  
  175. "I'm sorry. I guess I just miss my friends and my old life."
  176.  
  177. She nods understandingly, uncrossing her wrists as she looks out at the grounds.
  178.  
  179. "I hear you, Hisao."
  180.  
  181. I expect her to tell her story, but she remains silent, fixated on a point on in the sky, staring at something.
  182.  
  183. Maybe she remembers, too.
  184.  
  185. I look at my watch. It's ten minutes until the start of class. We should probably head back.
  186.  
  187. I move to get up, shouldering my bag.
  188.  
  189. "Hey, Ritsu, it's almost time for class. Want to walk back?"
  190.  
  191. She looks at me, a calm stare in her almond gold glaze.
  192.  
  193. She moves to get up, rolling her bag so the straps are face up. She carefully slips her entire arm through the strap of the bag, placing her weight on her shoulder, before standing up and lifting the bag. I guess that way, she doesn't place any weight on her wrist.
  194.  
  195. "I don't think so Hisao. I'm not really in the mood. I think I'll probably go into town. Want to come?"
  196.  
  197. The last part isn't said in a flirtatious manner or anything--not even an invitation. It's absolute, like a fact.
  198.  
  199. I could go into town. I wouldn't mind a guide, and I don't really want to head back to class either.
  200.  
  201. But it seems like Ritsu's got something on her mind, and I don't really want to get into the middle of it. I've got enough on my plate, anyhow.
  202.  
  203. Maybe we can do it some other time.
  204.  
  205. "I sort of have to head back because Mutou wants my head, but maybe we can go together this afternoon?"
  206.  
  207. I say the last part with a smile. Maybe she'll pick up the date.
  208.  
  209. She gives a gentle laugh.
  210.  
  211. "Is that a proposition for a date, Hisao? Hisao Nakai, the master of romance? Just met a girl and already asking her on a date?"
  212.  
  213. Her voice has taken on a playful tone. It's the most animated I've seen her in the entire conversation.
  214.  
  215. I blush. I didn't think she'd tease me that deeply.
  216.  
  217. "Well, Hisao, I think I'm all booked, but I'll take a rain check on that date of yours."
  218.  
  219. She gives me a weak smile, understanding my plight, but I guess she's either really booked or she doesn't want to clear up her schedule for me.
  220.  
  221. "I guess I'll see you around then."
  222.  
  223. "Later, Nakai."
  224.  
  225. She turns to walk down the hill towards town, and I turn the other way back towards the grounds.
  226.  
  227. Maybe it wasn't the smartest to turn town the chance to have lunch with a pretty girl to sit in Mutou's class and watch him drone on.
  228.  
  229. Then again, if she was really interested, wouldn't she have taken my invitation and set up a date for some other time?
  230.  
  231. I guess I'm over thinking the issue. I'll find out soon enough.
  232.  
  233. As I hurry across the grounds to the main building, the words keep echoing through my head.
  234.  
  235. "I'll take a rain check on that date of yours."
  236.  
  237. I can wait, I think. I'm not ready to go back in the pack just yet.
  238.  
  239. "Sovereign Light Cafe" (Afrojack Remix) is a song by Keane
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