Sep 24th, 2012
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  1. (A continuance from Hanako's good ending, in Katawa Shoujo. Part one and two are in my profile. Obviously spoilers if you haven't done her route. Please leave comments in the thread if I've posted this there or email them to KSFFWriter@gmail.com . Enjoy)
  3. Act 5: Cues - Part 3: Changes
  6. Rrrg....
  8. Morning. Sunday morning, and it's too damn early. I open my eyes to a warmly lit room, the sunlight only nominally blocked by the light curtains that Yamaku provides. Birds are chirping in the early morning outside, and even with the curtains drawn I can tell that it's a beautiful day. But none of that matters right now.
  10. All I see is the girl sleeping peacefully in my bed, her arms wrapped around me.
  12. ...
  14. It's hard to think of anything else when you wake up next to a pretty girl. I smile at Hanako, just watching her breathe as she lays there. Her face is peaceful, serene. I don't think I've ever seen her so relaxed. Her hair has fallen away from its normal position, exposing her scarring. I remember, when I first arrived, thinking that those scars were so jarring, so out of place. But looking at her now... they're just part of Hanako. Part of the girl I love.
  16. I can't imagine her any other way.
  18. I reach out and gently pet her hair, trying to wake her without any kind of shock. A few seconds later, Hanako's eyes open slowly, a groggy and uncomprehending look on her face. It's kind of cute.
  20. Realization of where she is slowly dawns in her eyes, and a huge, pink blush spreads across her cheeks. ... and I thought groggy Hanako was cute. Hanako smiles, instead of freaking out and worrying as I almost expected her to. She does hesitate a moment, but then closes her eyes and tightens her arms around me, cuddling up to my chest. I wrap my arms around her too, hugging her close.
  22. I pet Hanako's hair as we hold one another. A few minutes pass like this. If we could stay like this for the rest of our lives, I'd be happy. But we can't, of course.
  24. Eventually she pulls back a little, her cheeks still a bit pink. Her voice is surprisingly calm when she speaks, though still muted. "Thank you."
  26. I kiss her once, just lightly. "Thank you."
  28. She smiles, and I give her an affectionate squeeze before letting her go. "Hanako, do you want to eat breakfast with me? Just in here."
  30. Hanako nods, and I get out of bed. She seems content to lay there under the covers for now, but I catch her staring at me. For a moment I'm confused, until I realize that I'm still in my underwear.
  32. Argh.
  34. I give Hanako a slightly embarrassed smile, and dress quickly, before grabbing a pair of small instant breakfasts from my pile of cheap food. I wish I had something better to treat her to, but carrying two meals all the way from the cafeteria would be more than a little suspicious. A quick trip to the dormitory kitchen, and I return with the two steaming cups of noodles, looking around suspiciously for anyone spotting me. Then again, no one is up this early on a Sunday.
  36. When I get to the room, Hanako has dressed herself in her outfit from our date, minus the jacket and hat. She still looks a little bleary and uncertain, standing in the middle of the room. But I don't mind. I set the cups down on my desk, lacking a real table. We sit together and eat in silence.
  38. This is... vaguely familiar. Last time we did this, though, the silence was a lot less comfortable. Hanako glances at me now and again, a slight but noticeable smile on her lips. After we're both done with eating, the silence seems to grow harder to break. Surprisingly, Hanako is the one to break it.
  40. "Hisao... c-can I go study today? I'm not avoiding you." She adds that last part quickly, as if to dispel the idea before it even starts.
  42. I smile at her, trying to be comforting. It looks like it immediately works. "Of course, you don't have to ask my permission. Besides, we both need to study, and it will probably go better if we're apart for that."
  44. She nods, relieved that I'm not upset. We stand and walk to the door, but she hesitates, clasping her hands nervously at her chest. I wait for her to find the courage to speak.
  46. "Y-you forgot..."
  48. I look at her, and she stares back at me a moment, obviously nervous about whatever it was I forgot. Her voice is small, almost apologetic. "Your pills..."
  50. Oh, right. I nod, a little embarrassed. "Yeah, sorry. Just an unusual morning, you know?"
  52. Hanako smiles a little and giggles nervously, but doesn't move.
  54. I sigh, and kiss her forehead, before stepping around her and collecting my morning medicines. Hanako looks just a little troubled at the handful of tablets and capsules I carry, but with all the practice I've had in the past few months, it's not long before I'm done. "There. No worrying, okay?"
  56. The girl nods, and tilts her head upwards just a little to kiss me. One quick peck, and she pulls back with a smile. "S-see you tomorrow."
  58. "See you tomorrow, Hanako."
  60. ----------------
  62. I stare blankly at the same page in my English textbook that I have been staring at for ten minutes. This just isn't working. The early afternoon sunlight shines outside, and I can almost feel how warm and pleasant a day it must be outside my dismal study cell of a room.
  64. Yeah, I need to get out.
  66. I leave my books scattered around the desk, and stand up to stretch. A minute later, I'm outside in that warm sunlight, just idly strolling the grounds. Looking around, it doesn't seem like many other students share my idea of shirking studies today, or at least not in the same way that I am. The few people I see are all poring over books, just outside on the grass instead of inside at a desk.
  68. I wander randomly, not caring where I end up on this short study break. Before too long, I find myself approaching the shady tree near the track. I've been here a few times, usually it's a nice enough place to sit and relax, if you want to see people but not be bothered by them.
  70. No one is out here today except one girl running in circles, along the track. The tanned skin and dark hair make it pretty obvious who it is, even at a distance. I start toward the tree, but it looks like my spot is taken by by a pile of papers and books.
  72. Instead I walk over to the track fence, waving as Miki runs by. She gives me a grin, but keeps going until she hits the middle of the next curve. She slows to a walk, I guess as a cool down lap. With nothing else to do, I watch Miki as she walks. She doesn't seem to notice, just taking a slow pace with her hands... well, hand, behind her head. Her hair is pulled back into a long ponytail, and she's dressed in loose men's gym shorts and her uniform top. Strange clothing for a run, but who am I to judge?
  74. Miki walks over to the fence, with a grin on her face. "Hey there. Came to see me?"
  76. I laugh, her casual attitude dispelling any sense of unease right away. "Maybe I should say that. Really I just can't study anymore."
  78. Miki's grin only widens. "Yeah, me too. I was reviewing my science notes, but I just can't get it, so I went running for a while."
  80. Miki gestures toward the tree with her hand, and I can't help but notice the glisten of sweat on her skin. The light workout has made her shirt just a little bit transparent. For being dressed in men's clothing and acting just about as unladylike as possible, she's really pretty attractive. I feel strangely guilty for even thinking that. I have a girlfriend, so I shouldn't, right? Miki's smirking face reminds me that I've been spacing out.
  82. "Hey, loverboy. Would Hanako really want you looking at other girls?" Miki says this with a smile, but there's a definite note in her tone that maybe I should stop looking.
  84. I think about apologizing or denying it, but really why would I? "... So I guess everyone knows by now?"
  86. "About you two? Yeah. If you were tryin' to hide it, you shouldn't hold hands every day after class."
  88. I laugh nervously, but then shrug. I guess I already knew it was pretty obvious.
  90. Miki lets the silence hang for a minute before speaking again, a little more quietly. "I'm kinda surprised. I didn't think you'd make it."
  92. Well this is a little different. "Didn't think I'd make it?"
  94. She grins again, but it's a bit forced. "Yeah. Hanako's weird, you know that. You and that blond girl... uh."
  96. "Lilly."
  98. "Yeah, you and Lilly are the only ones she talks to. She just runs away from everyone else."
  100. I nod, sighing slightly. "Yeah, she's getting better about that. ... A little. We had some problems getting there, but I'm pretty sure we're okay now."
  102. Miki grins, the honesty returning to her smile. "Great! It'll be cool to see her talking to other people for a change. People worry about her."
  104. I nod, and a silence settles on us for a moment. What to talk about? Uh... "So you're studying science? I didn't really see you as the studying type."
  106. Miki puffs her cheeks out a bit in irritation, though such a girly action doesn't suit her at all. She quickly stops that and just grins. "It's boring, but I still have to graduate eventually. Can't stay here forever."
  108. She stretches, and then vaults the fence with her good hand, walking up towards the books I saw earlier. With nothing better to do, I follow her. I sit down as she does, and look over the material she has laying open.
  110. Huh.
  112. "Starting from the beginning?"
  114. Miki looks over at the book I'm gesturing toward. "What? Oh, uh. I'm a little behind, I guess."
  116. "Need any help?" I ask, without thinking. I really should be getting back to my own studies by now. But I don't want to go back inside, I don't want to sit in my quiet room alone, and I really don't want to look at another word of English for a while.
  118. Miki grins. "Help from Mutou's star student? You know you're the only one that ever makes a perfect score on his quizzes, right?"
  120. I laugh. 'Star student' is it? I guess I do have a pretty good handle on this stuff. Mutou and I have even spoken about various scientific topics occasionally before and after class. I'm also aware of the perfect score thing, I catch a glare from Shizune every time my score is higher than hers. "Yeah, yeah. But not like that, I'm not being arrogant. I just thought it might be helpful."
  122. She seems to agree, at least that she might need the help. The next few hours are full of equations and concepts of time, movement, and space, working through the early coursework of the class and trying to explain the dry text book in more useful ways.
  124. It's strange. I didn't think I would be all that useful as a study partner, but Miki seems to catch on pretty quickly to ideas she first looked at with complete incomprehension. Before long, I realize that I'm having a lot of fun. Seeing understanding dawn on someone's face, and their eyes light up as they understand a new concept or get what exactly they should be doing is really very rewarding.
  126. It's not really a study group; it's more like a tutoring session. Still, Miki manages not to get too distracted, and it's almost sundown before we decide it's time to break this up for today. We part ways after cleaning up the books, Miki making some vague statements about doing this again sometime this week. I guess I was more helpful than I thought.
  128. On my walk back to the dorms, a thought strikes me. I still don't have any real plans for after Yamaku, but this is something I think I could do.
  130. ----------------
  132. The next morning, I wake up early with a heavy sigh. Take my pills, take a shower, get dressed. Routine morning. Today is the second Monday of the month, so I have an appointment with the head nurse. These checkups have become a sort of ritual already. At least I'm down from weekly to biweekly, and now only once a month. Still, they aren't optional, and I really don't want to go.
  134. I may have moved past my condition in a lot of ways, even starting to think about the future more, but I don't enjoy having it brought to my attention again.
  136. The bright sunshine of the morning helps alleviate my bad mood as I head early towards the nurse's office. Few other students are out this early, still a full hour before the start of class. Normally I get a note to skip the first half the day due to these appointments, but I guess that's not allowed this close to exams.
  138. The nurse greets me in his stereotypical joking grin, and we go through the same motions as usual. Forms to fill out, boring questions about flutters or chest pains. Probing questions about side effects from the medications, even though I've been on them long enough that it's only a formality to even ask. Cold stethoscope on my chest, the nurse's brow furrowed as he listens to my heart. I'm sure I'm fine, but it doesn't make me less tense.
  140. After a few moments, he pulls the stethoscope from my chest and his ears, and I begin buttoning my shirt back up automatically. He speaks in a congenial tone. "Well, Nakai. Everything seems to be in order. No side effects, no complications. Still getting some exercise here and there?"
  142. For some reason, it's always difficult to lie to doctors. "... not really. I walk to town and back maybe twice a week, and I wander the grounds pretty often, so that's about it."
  144. The nurse's expression becomes a little stern, but it passes quickly enough. "It seems to be fine so far. I really do think you should at least take up jogging, but your heart seems to be doing well enough. There is one other thing, however."
  146. His tone is off. A vaguely uncomfortable feeling arises in my stomach.
  148. He tries to speak lightly, but I can tell he's not exactly thrilled to be having this conversation either. "My sources tell me you and Ikezawa have become pretty close lately."
  150. ... Oh, dammit. "Yeah, Hanako and I are dating. I guess news travels fast."
  152. A slightly forced cocky grin appears on the nurse's face. "If it's any consolation, it's not that I don't think you're a smart kid, Nakai. You're responsible enough to keep up your medicinal regimen and everything, and you haven't reported any problems since arriving. It's just a professional requirement."
  154. I stay quiet, choosing not to direct this discussion in any way.
  156. The grin fades, replaced by what I've come to recognize as the nurse's attempt at a serious expression. "Ikezawa is a pretty important person to you, and she's come a long way in the past couple months. I think she's finally gotten to a point where she will begin looking to her future, and maybe you will too."
  158. Another pause where I feel like I'm expected to say something, but I don't.
  160. He continues in his serious tone, opening a drawer nearby as he speaks. "So keep in mind that I'm glad she's seeing someone, and I'm glad it's someone responsible, like you. But speaking of the future, and problems that can come up..."
  162. He tosses me a small box, which I catch out of instinct. Condoms, of course. At this point, I guess I have to actually join the conversation. "... Yes, I had one last ti-"
  164. Ah, backtrack. Don't finish that sentence. "...Thanks. If we get into that sort of thing, these will be useful."
  166. The nurse pointedly ignores my misspoken admission. "Good. Like I said, I know you're both responsible adults. I just know what meds she's on, and which ones she's not on, if you understand."
  168. Patient confidentiality, is it? Still, I guess it was good that I had that one in my wallet. I wasn't sure why I got it, at first, but it was good I did. I struggle out a reasonable reply. "Thanks. We'll uh. If we do that, we'll be careful."
  170. The nurse's grin returns, quite a bit less forced now. "Good. Now, I think it's almost time for classes to start. Get going, I'll see you next month."
  172. Slipping the box into my bag, I give an appropriate goodbye and head toward class.
  174. ----------------
  176. I find myself half an hour early, with only Mutou in the room, uncharacteristically for the somewhat scattered teacher. He looks up and nods to me as I enter the room, before going back to his scientific journal. I feel like I've had enough serious discussions already this morning, but I did want to do this.
  178. "Excuse me, Teacher."
  180. Mutou looks up again, a little surprised that I'm at his desk instead of mine. "What is it, Nakai?"
  182. I pause. I didn't really have a plan for this conversation. Well, out with it. "If you don't mind my asking... why did you become a teacher?"
  184. Sensing that this isn't just a quick discussion about class or anything trivial like that, Mutou sets down his book and rubs his chin with his fingers, thinking a moment. "That's a difficult question. I enjoy the subjects I teach, but I teach them because I want to see others enjoy them."
  186. He pauses, and looks to me for a response. His body language, always awkward to an extreme, never fails to throw me off guard. "Uh... So..."
  188. Mutou waves his hand dismissively at my confusion. "Why do people build dams, Nakai?"
  190. The sudden change of topic reminds me more of Rin than Mutou. "To... store water? Redirect rivers?"
  192. The teacher snaps his fingers at that, with one of his typical awkward smiles. "That is correct. A teacher's job is to teach the material, but rote memorization is worthless. However, with careful work, a good teacher is able to make his students see things in a different light. He can change the course of their lives just by showing them part of how the world works."
  194. What a roundabout way of getting to that. I nod, emboldened a bit by his words. This fits with what I was thinking, in a way. "I see. I wanted to ask if you had any information on universities focusing in science... and education."
  196. Mutou's expression brightens considerably at this, and he turns to begin rifling through his desk, before pulling out a number of bright pamphlets from various schools. He hands me the papers with a smile. "Of course, Nakai. It's good to see you interested in the sciences, you have quite a knack for it. May I ask what brought this on?"
  198. I find myself scratching the back of my neck a bit nervously. "Ah... you know Miki Miura? I was helping her with some studying yesterday, and I guess it felt sort of good. Helping them learn the material, I mean."
  200. His smile is still awkward, but is very plainly genuine at this point. Which makes me feel a bit awkward in turn. "In any case, your exams here will not cause you trouble. I know that my exam will be beneath your talents, Nakai. If you need any advice, or letters of recommendation, here."
  202. He scribbles some fairly legible numbers on the back of one of the pamphlets. "That is my cellphone number. Feel free to call me at any time."
  204. I nod, and take the mess of papers, sorting them into a stack. "Thank you, teacher."
  206. That said, I take my seat, and Mutou returns to his reading, a smile still on his lips. I guess everyone likes seeing someone else 'get' something they're trying to teach. It's strange, having some kind of plan for my life. Strange really to think of my future much at all.
  208. Strange, but good.
  210. ----------------
  212. Class goes smoothly, as usual. The sunny weather does little to dispel the atmosphere of dread that the approaching exams have cast over everyone. The students are all showing their nervousness in their own varying ways. Hanako is dutifully copying all the information that comes from Mutou's mouth, while Miki seems to be trying to copy at least a solid tenth of it, between sessions of looking out the window or just idly doodling. Only Shizune really seems to be prepared and confident, though she still diligently takes notes from the board. Misha prods me with a pen midway through a particularly long lecture, and passes me a note.
  214. "How was your date?"
  216. I look at her with an expression that I hope conveys my annoyance at the question. She just points her pen at the note, as if to command me to write.
  218. "It was fun. Why were you two there?"
  220. The response comes back quickly enough. "We were just out having a break from student council! It was not any kind of espionage!"
  222. That last bit was obviously Shizune, with her typical complete lack of tact or subtlety. "I don't like being spied on."
  224. This takes a bit longer to get a response, Misha pretending to stretch with her arms behind her as she signs disjointedly back to Shizune, and Shizune writing a note to Misha before Misha translates it for me. As if she needed to. "It is the student council's duty to see to the emotional well-being of all students. And it was cute, Hicchan!"
  226. I look to the front, making sure the lecture continues without the teacher noticing all this note passing. Looks fine. "Our emotional well-being is fine right now. How are you and Shizune? I never get to talk to you two anymore."
  228. I slide the note back to Misha. I feel strange asking them this. It's just that since I told them to stop teasing Hanako, they've felt distant. I've heard that people tend to lose friends when they start dating. I don't want that to happen. Not with Lilly, certainly, and not even with Shizune and Misha. Misha grins and starts writing.
  230. Before I get the note back, however, the lunch bell rings. Shizune takes a look at Misha's note, and then takes the paper and signs to her. Misha laughs, waves to me, and then follows Shizune out of the room. Weird.
  232. My mind is pulled from that when my desk is suddenly covered in a girl's rear. I look up and see Miki grinning at me again. "Yo."
  234. "Hey, Miki. What's up?" I start to put away my class materials, excluding the text book she's sitting on. I can't think of a polite way to get it, which is maybe her plan.
  236. She grins at me, and suddenly it feels like I'm talking to Shizune. A sort of feeling that I'm about to be roped into something. Miki speaks in her normal brusque tone, but there's a slight tinge of hopefulness and apology both. "Uh... so yesterday helped me out a lot. I was kind of wondering if this afternoon, we could get together again. You know, just for a while."
  238. "Another study session? What happened to 'enjoying it while it lasts'?" I try to get a dig in, both to lighten her slightly nervous tone and to get her back for sitting on my book while I'm trying to go to lunch.
  240. Miki laughs and pats my shoulder, but ignores the question entirely. "So you'll do it? I mean, you didn't say no, right?"
  242. "Wh-what's going on?"
  244. The timid voice from behind me completely derails the conversation. Two sets of eyes flick back to Hanako. Hanako looks like she's on the verge of retreat from Miki's presence, but she's holding herself here anyway. I speak up. "Oh, hey Hanako. Miki was asking if I'd help with science work again. We spent some time studying together on Sunday."
  246. A strange flicker of emotion moves over Hanako's face, but I can't really read it. "A s-study group?"
  248. Miki smiles, apparently more at ease since Hanako didn't immediately run off again. "Yeah, somethin' like that. Do you want to join? More the merrier, and you're doing better than me in this class."
  250. She accentuates this statement with a self-deprecating grin. Hanako smiles, but it quickly fades. She's already retreating again. I don't think she's likely to want to spend a bunch of time with someone who is basically a stranger.
  252. "I... I th-think I would like that."
  254. Miki's grin is suddenly much brighter. "Hey, great! Okay, I'll see you two after class, at the same place as last time, alright? I've got to get some food before I starve."
  256. She waves with her good hand and hops down from my desk, before walking quickly out of the room. I look to Hanako, and smile at her. She blushes brightly. "W-would you like to... have lunch together?"
  258. I feel a bit unobservant, having only just noticed that she's carrying a small bag of plastic containers. I guess she cooked for us. "Sure, let's go."
  260. I hastily put my book into my own bag, and we leave together for the tea room. The hallways have calmed in the few minutes since the bell rang, and we walk together without too much panic from Hanako.
  262. Still... she's fidgeting. So there's something she wants to say.
  264. We get to the tea room before she gets the courage to say anything, and I busy myself making the tea while she sets to work opening the containers of food and arranging the table. The silence is getting oppressive again, but I try not to let it bother me. I think there will likely always be some awkward times between any two people, and two people who just started dating a week ago are likely to have more.
  266. We sit down, and I look over the fairly simple meal she's cooked. Stir-fried vegetables and rice, certainly nothing too fancy. Still, it's good in a wholesome, home-cooked sort of way, and I tell her so. She smiles widely and blushes, making me feel like I've won the lottery.
  268. The meal continues in silence, Hanako still fidgeting from time to time, until she sets her chopsticks down on her mostly empty bowl. "M-miura..."
  270. Glad that she's finally decided to start, I set my utensils down as well. "Hm? What about her?"
  272. Hanako fidgets, looking a little to the side. "You seem close."
  274. I shake my head. "Not really. We've spoken a few times, but nothing like that. She's really behind in class, so I'm trying to help her out a little. Having you there too will make it easier."
  276. She smiles and blushes slightly, but nods. "Thank you. But... she's very... pretty."
  278. This again? Is she really so worried that I'll cheat? "Pretty? Eh... sort of. She's athletic and everything, sure. But I told you before, Hanako, you don't have to worry about that kind of thing, okay?"
  280. Hanako shakes her head quickly. "I'm not. It's not that. I don't think you would... leave me. I just don't know... I don't know what kind of girl you like."
  282. I consider replying that I just like her, but that wouldn't really help. I know what she's worried about, I don't know what kind of guy she pictures me being, or what kind of guy she wants to date. We get along, but it would be pretty vain to assume I'm the perfect person for her, even if she does love me. I don't want her to change herself for me, and I don't think she wants me to change much either.
  284. I keep my tone friendly, without accusatory notes. "What kind of guy do you like, Hanako? How should I change so I'm better for you?"
  286. "I don't want you to change! I..." she blurts out the first part almost in a panic, and then stops herself, suddenly blushing deeply and looking ashamed. "Y-you don't want me to change either."
  288. I lean across the table and kiss Hanako's lips, just quickly. She smiles at me, still looking a little embarrassed. "I don't want you to change for me, Hanako. I love you, all of you."
  290. Hanako's eyes glisten as I say that. I don't say it enough, I guess. Have I said it at all, outside of that one day in the park?
  292. She reaches across the table, and we hold hands a moment. "I l-love you too, Hisao."
  294. We sit together for a few more minutes, just smiling at one another with her hand in mine. I see her glance at the clock, and I look too. Twenty minutes left in the break.
  296. Hanako pulls her hand from mine, and opens the small cabinet next to the table, pulling out the chess set. I smile at her. Things are going to be alright.
  298. We set up the pieces, and begin to play.
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