Sep 2nd, 2012
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  1. (This little fanfic is about characters from Katawa Shoujo, a free visual novel. This story continues on from Shizune's bad end, so if you haven't seen that yet you'll either get spoiled or be confused. Feel free to email feedback to KSFFWriter@gmail.com if you dont' want to post in the KSG thread. I probably won't read it there anyway unless I recently posted a link to a fic. Enjoy.)
  3. "Hicchan! It's been six months already. It feels like longer, doesn't it?"
  5. I pause there, taking a moment to reflect. The notebook paper in my hand is thin, not really designed for letter writing. The pink ink and undeniably girlish writing does nothing to hide the writer's identity, if the nickname hadn't already given it away. Six months? I guess it has been. Since graduation, since I've seen Misha or Shizune. Things were... strained, at the end.
  7. I frown, remembering the scene that still comes to me every so often. Shizune sitting there, more alone that I had ever seen her.
  9. "America is really difficult. Everything is louder, and the people are strange. But there's a lot of food--"
  11. The letter drones on for a dozen lines, common banalities used to fill space before she gets to her point. I set the paper down for a moment, pinching the bridge of my nose and sighing. A hundred miles from Yamaku, in a university, with no one knowing about my heart, and Misha's loudness still comes through her pen. This reminds me too strongly of the letter from Iwanako, still sitting in a box at my parents' house. It's discomforting. I scan the letter until a different tone catches my eye.
  13. "All that doesn't matter though! I'm going to visit my family soon, and I want to see you, Hicchan. I know everything didn't go well and a lot of it was my fault..."
  15. The handwriting is somewhat stilted here. She was forcing herself to write this.
  17. "... but I still want to talk to you. I want to see Shicchan too, but maybe it would be better to do it at different times. I'm going to be there in the morning, June 8th, at the tea house. Remember the Shanghai, Hicchan? I want to have the parfait again! Will you buy one for me? -Shiina Mikado"
  19. My eyes linger on the name. Not Misha anymore?
  21. I set the letter down on my desk again, and look around my dormitory room. My studies can take a day of missing classes. I'm not sure I want to see Misha, or Shiina, or whatever she calls herself now. Even reading the letter causes a lot of memories to stir, some of them that I've been avoiding as best I can. But there's something there, regardless. Even if I don't want to see her, exactly, I think it might be good for me.
  23. ---
  25. The mountain air smells clean, refreshing. Driving down this country road feels nostalgic, even though I never drove when I lived at Yamaku. I mostly ignore the passing trees and occasional small towns, lost in a reverie about the past. It's strange how small things can trigger memories.
  27. Why does Yamaku seem so much more important to me than my old school? I can recall Iwanako's face, her voice. But other than that, most of my highschool memories come from Yamaku. Misha, Shizune, Lilly and Hanako. All people I haven't seen or spoken to in months, and why? Everything seemed so much more important, then.
  29. A familiar turn in the road catches my eye, and draws my attention back to the immediate situation, as the sight of the small town nearest the school comes into view. A wistful smile crosses my lips, and I slow my car significantly, taking in the familiar and nostalgic sights. The park, the Aura Mart, all these streets that we used to walk so commonly.
  31. I find a public parking area, and stop the car, stepping out and stretching lightly. The small town feeling comes rushing back to me, and I find myself calming, slowing down without even intending to. It really is a different world. One I find myself missing already. I check my watch, and see that I'm here earlier than I could expect Misha to be awake, let alone already at the tea house. Driving most of the night seems to have been unnecessary.
  33. A few minutes later and I find myself sitting in the quiet park, watching the early morning light filter through the leaves, and listening to the town slowly waking. People walk past my seat, no one paying any attention to me. Something strikes me as strange about that, before I remember that the Yamaku uniform tended to draw stares.
  35. It really has been a while.
  37. I vaguely consider visiting Mutou while I'm here. Would there be a good time for it? His recommendation may have helped in my university applications, and certainly didn't hurt. We keep in touch occasionally over email, but a face to face meeting might be nice. I file that away for later. For now, I may as well go sit at the Shanghai. I wouldn't want to have come all this way just to miss meeting her.
  39. ---
  41. The walk to the tea house continues my nostalgic feeling, as does the chime of the little bell as I enter. The only waitress I see seems to be busy talking to another guest. It's not Yuuko, something I find myself glad to see. Maybe she found her way into a university. I spend a moment taking in the familiar air of the tea house. The decor hasn't changed, solid timber construction, soft ambiance, somewhat jarring conflicting styles that somehow mesh together anyway.
  43. Then, my nostalgic reminiscing takes an abrupt halt.
  45. A swatch of dark, nearly blue hair. Oval glasses resting on a petite, feminine nose. Posture slightly too uptight, sitting with an air of command despite being alone in her booth. It can't be anyone else.
  47. Shizune sits alone, staring blankly out the window. My heart leaps at the sight, until I close my eyes and force myself to calm. Looking again, she's still there. Her hair has changed, pulled back into a small bun behind her head, two chopstick-like pins through it. Her clothing is more conservative than what she wore at her home. Almost a business suit, obviously tailored and cut to her feminine shape, but still slightly offputting after remembering her Yakamu uniform.
  49. I shouldn't remember Shizune in her school uniform. Those kinds of thoughts aren't going to help anything.
  51. I hesitate a moment. She shouldn't be here. Why would she be here? She graduated Yamaku and went studying in Sapporo University. Did Misha invite her to meet at the same time? I would think that after mentioning specifically avoiding Shizune and I meeting her at the same time, that she would try to avoid it in planning.
  53. This line of thought is halted as I see Shizune look around the room, and then suddenly fix her gaze on me. Gaze might be the wrong word. 'Glare' is probably more accurate.
  55. Well, too late to avoid this now.
  57. I walk to her table, waving to the waitress that I already found a place to sit. Shizune seems to be having an internal debate as to whether she should stay seated or get up and run out of the building. For now, she seems to decide on staying seated, just as I reach her table. I make a faltering start at signing, finding that six months without 'speaking' a language is a long time.
  59. She looks at me somewhat cooly over her glasses, having regained her composure somewhat. [Why are you here?]
  61. Not the most polite question, but I feel slightly proud at being able to understand it anyway.
  63. [Probably the same re-a-son you are.] This is difficult, remembering how to speak this way. [Misha asked me to come and meet her.]
  65. Shizune's frown confirms my suspicions. [Does she think this is a movie? That this will work?]
  67. "Coffee, please." I nod to the waitress as I order, and turn back to Shizune, who is fixing me with a calculating stare. [I didn't think I would see you here either. It's not my fault.]
  69. Shizune sighs, closes her eyes, and adjusts her glasses slightly. I find myself smiling at the nearly forgotten gesture. She opens her eyes again, and looks at me with a less severe expression. [You look different. Glasses too.]
  71. I laugh, perhaps with a bit of a bitter tone that I know she won't hear. [Yes. I spent too much time doing paperwork in highschool. I guess it's not good for my eyes.]
  73. A slight smile is my reward for the half-joke. There is something pleasant about seeing her again, even if I didn't want to. Her hands move a bit slowly, uncertainly. [It wasn't that long ago. But it feels that way.]
  75. A moment passes, and she adds. [I miss it.]
  77. I guess my surprise at seeing her admit that is poorly hidden, because she smiles at my reaction. I hesitate a half second too long, but sign back. [I miss it too. It was the best... it was a fun year.]
  79. So, misspeaking is even possible in sign.
  81. Shizune's smile falters slightly, and a pause breaks the conversation. The waitress brings my drink, and I blow across the liquid to cool it, and to give myself something else to focus on other than the silence. When I look back up, I see Shizune watching me. I set the coffee down, and see her hand halfway across the table.
  83. I hesitate, and move my own hand to hers, just gently holding it for a moment.
  85. Surprisingly, she doesn't pull away. Though she averts her eyes slightly, signing with her free hand. [Hisao.]
  87. I let her continue.
  89. [This... it didn't work before. It won't now.]
  91. I find myself gently squeezing her hand, before releasing it so that I can sign properly. [I am sorry. For what it's worth. I did some stupid things.]
  93. The briefest flash of a frown crosses her lips, but she nods. [I know what you did. And what I did. It's not that no one is at fault. It's that we both are. I don't like losing. Or losing people.]
  95. [I am here now. You didn't lose me. We could keep in touch. Not date.] I add that last part a bit hastily, as an afterthought.
  97. She gives this some momentary thought. [Maybe. You wanted to see Misha again?]
  99. That didn't take long, did it? [Not for that. Or because of that. She invited me. I guess I felt no-stal-gic]
  101. She frowns a little, and adjusts her glasses. [Your signing is bad.]
  103. I shake my head. She's not the same, not exactly, but she's still Shizune. [I haven't used it. I learned it because of you, and you were gone.]
  105. I can't help smiling at the slight blush on her cheeks. Heh, she's still a girl under her mask of seriousness. She hesitates again. [My father was angry. That we stopped seeing each other.]
  107. [I don't like him.] My signing is a little more harsh than it needs to be. The mention of that man still makes me bristle, half a year later.
  109. Shizune smiles again. [No one does--]
  112. ---
  115. She stops signing midway through the next word, staring wide-eyed past me, toward the entrance. I heard the bell ring but was watching her speak instead. I turn to look, and find myself abruptly unable to think of anything else.
  117. It's Misha, there's no doubt. Her hair is no longer pink, a light brown instead. I remember seeing pictures of her before she dyed it pink to start with. Still short and a bit messy. She's gained a little weight since graduation, but not much. That's not what strikes me most, however.
  119. Her visibly protruding belly, her increased chest... She's very plainly several months pregnant.
  121. The corners of my vision spark slightly, a thumping sound in my ears. My hand moves instinctively to my hurting chest, and I close my eyes, turning to face Shizune instead.
  123. Calm. Don't panic.
  125. ...
  127. It's beating too fast.
  129. ...
  131. Calm. Don't panic. Just calm down. Slow down.
  133. ...
  135. The moment passes, and I open my eyes, to see Shizune looking at me with a worried expression. I shake my head a bit unsteadily, starting to sign something, before Misha appears next to the table, obviously aiming to sit next to me. I hesitate, and then sluggishly move to the side as she slides in, careful not to hit the edge of the table with her stomach.
  137. Misha is wearing a strange expression. She looks like she's half miserable and half trying not to laugh. 'Hi Hicchan~. Shicchan~.'
  139. Her voice is quieter than she ever had it in public in high school. Maybe she doesn't have the same persona overseas. The happy tone seems forced and phony. Maybe I'm just better at hearing it now. She doesn't bother to sign what she said, and I do it instead. If Shizune is amused by the role reversal, she doesn't show it.
  141. [Why are you...] Shizune's hands falter after that word.
  143. Misha smiles, a bit sadly. "There's only one reason it happens, Shicchan."
  145. Her hand rests on my shoulder, lightly, uncertainly. "And it only happened once~."
  147. My signing falters again, as a slight flutter shakes in my chest. Dammit.
  149. Shizune's expression is a mess of different emotions, and she makes a couple false starts with signing. Finally she manages a word. [Pregnant?]
  151. Misha gives a blank look as if to ask if Shizune is seriously even doubting it.
  153. Shizune hesitates again, looking from me to Misha and back again. [You didn't know either. Misha why didn't you tell us?]
  155. Misha speaks with her hands on her hips, her voice adopting just a hint of her old lilting manner. "Because, Shicchan~ It was more fun this way. And I had to tell you in person!"
  157. I forget to sign Misha's response, a little stunned still. "Misha, it's mine? I mean, from that one time...?"
  159. She nods, resting a hand on her belly. "Yes. You're the only guy, after all."
  161. A pause in the conversation, with neither Shizune nor myself knowing what to say. Shizune looks like she's been hit, her face a mask of confusion and betrayal. I guess she never really got over what Misha and I did, and having it return like this...
  163. Misha suddenly reaches across the table and takes Shizune's hands, holding them despite Shizune flinching away slightly. Her voice is quiet and serious, even if Shizune can't hear it. "Shicchan... I'm sorry."
  165. I translate, but Shizune doesn't even look to my hands. Not that she can respond anyway.
  167. Misha continues. "I know I was a bad friend, but I'm going to try to make things better. I'm coming back to Japan after all. I can't keep studying overseas."
  169. It's hard to tell what Shizune thinks of this.
  171. "A baby is a lot of work~. And we're all busy, Shicchan."
  173. Shizune pulls at her hands, trying to free them from Misha, with no success. I half-stammer a few syllables, to no great effect.
  175. Misha's posture tightens slightly. She's nervous, even if she doesn't want to show it. Her voice grows serious again, losing that up and down quality of her fake enthusiasm. "Will you and Hiccha-- Hisao... help me? There was never too much work when we all worked together."
  177. Shizune pulls her hands back as Misha frees them, and looks to me, panic in her normally calm eyes. I look back, and I doubt my expression is any different. Shizune's expression showed plainly that she could tell what Misha was saying even without me signing it. I can feel Misha trembling slightly as she looks at both of us. Shizune hesitates, and then signs slowly and uncertainly. [Where?]
  179. Misha seems to relax slightly. Her hands move shakily as she tries to sign again, obviously as out of practice as I am. She still speaks while she does so. "Here. I am going to teach at Yamaku. They are letting me while I take classes for university..."
  181. With a heavy sigh, Shizune nearly slumps forward on the table. I don't say anything, waiting for her to recover. A moment later, she sits up straight, putting on a business-like facade. [Okay. I will try to help.]
  183. Misha looks as shocked at this as I am. I sign back, forgetting to speak as well, even though Misha can hear. [You will? It's not even yours.]
  185. Shizune makes a severe face. In another mood, it would be humorously nostalgic to see her so mock offended and determined. [It will be. All of ours. It might be a little my fault that this happened.]
  187. I hesitate myself, but for me it's not really a choice. I have a responsibility here, and one mistake can stay with someone for a long time. This one certainly will. I sign as I speak. "I'll do it too. It's a long drive, or train ride. But I'll come up on weekends. Next semester I can work on a schedule that frees up some days of the week."
  189. A little life comes back into Misha's face, and her smile brightens. She hugs me, just a little too tightly, and then despite Shizune's signing not to, moves around the table and hugs her as well. Despite her movements and shortly pushing the girl away, Shizune's smile and slight blush before she does so belies her strange acceptance of this strange situation.
  191. -------
  193. We spend the next two hours talking, figuratively, about various topics. It's strange, after this revelation, how quickly we all fell back into our old roles. Misha... Shiina, really, is more subdued now than before, but she's still herself. Shizune seems to have lost some of her edge, and I start wondering if the severe look she is dressed for is a show. I feel myself smiling more than I did in the past... I guess I needed more time to accept that my life will continue with this heart.
  195. We chat about different things, but all pointedly avoid the infant growing inside Shiina. I know we're all thinking about it. It's incredible how in one instant... in one moment in time, everything about a life can change. Everything about three lives.
  197. As we leave the Shanghai together, walking out into the bright sunlight, I spot a strange hint of expression in Shiina's eyes. She's happy.
  199. Maybe I am too.
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