The Teacup

General Category => Community Discussion => Topic started by: Vatina on June 11, 2010, 06:51:59 pm

Title: Teacup Event #2: Writing Workshop
Post by: Vatina on June 11, 2010, 06:51:59 pm
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Chapters posted:

Chapter 1 (http://teacup.lunaen.com/index.php?topic=53.msg200#msg200)
Chapter 2 (http://teacup.lunaen.com/index.php?topic=53.msg204#msg204)
Chapter 3 (http://teacup.lunaen.com/index.php?topic=53.msg211#msg211)
Chapter 4 (http://teacup.lunaen.com/index.php?topic=53.msg219#msg219)
Chapter 5 (http://teacup.lunaen.com/index.php?topic=53.msg227#msg227)
-

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Welcome to the Writing Workshop! The idea with this is to create a little challenge that can us visual novel creators improve our writing skills.

People will volunteer on writing chapters in a predetermined story. The story will be limited to a certain number of chapters, maybe dependant on the number of participants that sign up.

Writers will be assigned to chapters, and each take turn on writing this story. When chapter 1 is finished and posted, other writers will get a chance to read and comment on this while writer 2 begins the continuation. This will take place in a separate Critics thread, where the purpose is to share ideas and impressions and thereby try to improve each other’s writing abilities. How did he/she handle characters, twists, execution?

Then chapter 2 will be posted for discussion, chapter 3 will begin production and so on until the final chapter that ends the story.

This exercise will not be a competition – writers will not have to try and create the most exciting and mind-bending chapter in order to take the grand prize. It is a cooperation where people try to help each other improve, share ideas and hopefully create something interesting along the way.

So far there are no rules on chapter length, but while having time to discuss finished chapters is necessary and fine, it will also be important that writers do not stall the project for eternity because they write too much/get nothing done. Please only sign up for this if you are committed to writing your chapter and taking part in the critical discussion.

People who are not signed up as writers in this workshop are of course also more than welcome to take part in the critics thread and give their thoughts and opinions on the chapters.

And remember to have fun as well!


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List of Participants:

Chapter 1: Lordcloudx
Chapter 2: Vatina
Chapter 3: MoonlightBomber
Chapter 4: number473
Chapter 5: Hime
Chapter 6: Kikered
*closed*


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Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: Vatina on June 11, 2010, 06:52:15 pm
Story Details:

Plot:
Shinji has a problem with the opposite sex. Getting close to girls makes him feel very uncomfortable and physically unwell, and thus the only females he is really able to stay around are his closest family members.

-----------------

Important Characters:

-Shinji Morioka:
Main Character. Has gynophobia which makes it very hard for him to be around girls.

-Natsuko Morioka:
Shinji's little sister. She is an outgoing girl, very diligent student and a good cook.

-Akiko:
Shinji's old childhood friend who left the country when they were children.
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: number473 on June 11, 2010, 08:24:00 pm
(I hope that I'm supposed to reply here to sign up)

Sounds like an interesting exercise. I would not mind participating.

Would there be discussion between the writers on the chapter, or do you only have the previous chapters and the information above to draw on?
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: lordcloudx on June 12, 2010, 06:58:21 am
@number473: Nice! Is it ok to add you to the list of writers now?

Quote from: number473
Would there be discussion between the writers on the chapter, or do you only have the previous chapters and the information above to draw on?

Yeah, we planned to have discussions for all submitted chapters and for new chapters in the channel. Of course, we'd like to give the writers as much leeway as possible in writing their own chapters so specifics such as the characters' ages and physical attributes aren't clearly specified in the first chapter that I've written.
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: Vatina on June 12, 2010, 07:06:21 am
Yes, the idea is that there is a basic premise and then the writers will have free hands to do their thing when their turn is up, based on the chapters that came before them :) Discussion in the channel is of course allowed though if you're stuck on what to do.

Also, I'll put your name on the list ^^
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: number473 on June 13, 2010, 04:58:32 pm
Also, I'll put your name on the list ^^
Great ^^
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: Hime on June 13, 2010, 09:21:09 pm
Improving my writing and helping others to do the same? Count me in, please!

The idea sounds pretty interesting, too. Will we improvise the rest of the story, or will it go in a predetermined course?
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: Vatina on June 14, 2010, 04:18:08 am
It will be through improvisation :) So no one really knows how it will end at this point.
Added you to the list!

Guess we are about to have enough people to try this out?
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: lordcloudx on June 14, 2010, 04:21:20 am
@Vatina: everyone dies!

I kid, I kid. Anyway, I concur. Let's get this workshop started. More people can always join in later once it's officially started.
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: Vatina on June 14, 2010, 10:34:05 am
Goodie, then we'll do that.

Then so far Hime is sitting with the last chapter unless someone else steps in in the near future. I want to note that if Hime isn't keen on writing the last chapter and someone else is dying to, then I'll let the possibility of switching places be open here early on in the project.

So... We'll start with Cloud, who can post the first chapter here! I'll create the discussion topic where future workshop discussions and chapter critiques will take place.
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: lordcloudx on June 14, 2010, 01:45:12 pm
Ok then... chapter 1 up.

(names fixed. Thanks, n473)
Pastebin link: http://pastebin.com/hNvwVyHF

Quote
I'm a weird person. The thing is: I'm allergic to girls. No, it's not like I break out with rashes all over my body whenever I'm near the opposite sex. It's just that as far back as I can remember, I've always felt uncomfortable around the opposite sex.

It's not a very pleasant feeling, mind you. Unlike other boys who might feel a bit embarrassed whenever they're around pretty girls, I just get extremely nervous and tense whenever I'm around women in general. I break out in a cold sweat and sometimes it even leads to dizzy spells that last until I'm left alone again – leaving me feeling quite inept. I think they have a technical term for my condition; Gynophobia, was it? Appearances don't really matter to me. They could be young, old, fat, thin … umm... voluptuous? They all have the same effect on me.

I remember back in 1st grade, there was this really pretty girl. Yes, stop looking at me like that. I can find girls to be pretty. It's not like I have this active mental revulsion for them by choice. They just make me feel extremely uncomfortable on a subconscious level. I was a transfer student since we had to move due to my father's company relocating him. It was my first day of class and the teacher made me sit next to her. Don't ask me why, I'm not exactly stud-muffin material, but this girl somehow took an instant liking to me. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not exactly ugly, either. Just that I don't think I've ever been particularly attractive. This girl, Akiko, would giggle incessantly whenever I was around. I tried my best not to mind it much at first thinking that she'd leave me alone if ignored her. It didn't work. Soon, she began talking to me regularly about all her little girly activities. It seems that she was from a well-to-do family – the kind that I thought existed only in cartoons. Indoor pools, yachting, horseback-riding, voice lessons – yup, Akiko was rich.

Now I know that you might be berating me for being rude to such a hot catch, so let me reassure you, I did try my best to be responsive to her. Of course, being responsive to girls in my vocabulary means a few nods and some, “Oh, that sounds great,” every now and then. Still, I did try my best; in fact, I'd even go as far as to say that we became good friends. Our classmates even began to notice and started teasing us and calling us a “couple,” she didn't really mind, so who was I to complain? Unfortunately, she had to leave to study abroad just before we entered third grade. There were no tearful goodbyes. After all, it's not like she didn't make me feel uncomfortable, I was just trying to be polite since she wasn't really a person that I could hate despite my condition.

Hey, congratulate me. I even got a framed picture from her before she left.
“To my first boyfriend, Akiko,” is the handwritten text on the picture.
Okay, so maybe my condition isn't as bad as I made it seem. I even had an “ex-girlfriend.” Well, that doesn't change the fact that I constantly had to put up with this feeling of discomfort whenever she was around. It might seem cruel of me, but I'm kinda glad that she left.

Of course, there are a few notable exceptions. My mother is one of them – it would be too abnormal if even she had that effect on me. The other exception is my sister, Natsuko. As far as I know, these two have never triggered my condition and I'm glad for it.

Natsuko is three years younger than me. This year, she'll be entering the same school as me as a junior high student. It might seem strange, but at times, it feels like she'll always be my junior in age, but my senior in life. She's got it all together. Responsible, energetic, cute, and well-liked by almost everybody she meets. Did I say cute? I meant cute in a totally wholesome way, of course. What? Stop looking at me like that!

Anyway, to continue, my sis, Natsuko is more responsible than I'll ever be. She cooks lunch for both of us and her grades are excellent for her year level. Her teachers even recommended her to some top-ranking schools, but she chose to go to the same class as me. It doesn't make me feel insecure, though. I feel a sort of brotherly pride in having such a competent little sister.

I suppose the trouble began that weekend before the new school term officially started. Our parents went out for one reason or another and I found myself on the sofa watching TV while she read her school books in advance. Yes, as I said, she's more responsible than this high-schooler.

The morning went by rather uneventfully. Natsuko made lunch for both of us. (The croquettes were delicious!) I complimented her on her cooking and she took it quite cheerfully.

“Thank you. I'm glad you like it, Shinji nii-chan.”

After lunch, I helped Natsuko wash the dishes and then we each went back to doing our own thing. She chose the dining room table for her reading, so I went back to the sofa to watch TV. A few reruns later, I decided to do some reading myself. I peered into the dining room and saw that she was still diligently making self-study notes for herself, so I decided not to disturb her.

Hmm... that hairstyle really suits her... what am I saying?

I took a book from the shelf next to the TV and returned to the sofa to read. No, it wasn't a school-related text, to be sure. Actually, I just randomly took one out without looking at the title.

I opened the book and found out that it was a reference text for advanced psychology students.... oh well, works for me.

As expected, I didn't really understand most of the text, since it was obviously written for experts and not some random high-school student. One particular write-up did catch my eye though. It was about sibling relationships and how attraction can develop. Basically, sexual attraction between blood-related persons is most likely to develop if the relatives were acquainted with each other at a very young age and then were separated and meet in later life. There were even documented examples and statistical data.

Well, that stuff had nothing to do with me, but it was interesting.

“Ring! Ring!”

“I'll get it, Natsuko. I didn't want to disturb her studies. Besides, it was probably just mom checking up on us.

“Okay. Thanks, onii-chan,” she hollered back.

“Hello, good afternoon! Morioka residence.”

“Hello, dear. Listen, Dad and I will be home late tonight. So you and Natsuko-chan have dinner on your own okay?”

Then she hung up as fast as she'd said that. Well, that's mom for you. Hmm... since we'd be alone all night, an idea suddenly hit me. No, not that kind of idea.

“Hey, sis. Seems like we're having dinner on our own tonight.”

“Oh, okay. Don't worry, I'll handle it.”

I walked into the dining room. She was still busy with her studies. Well, I suppose this would be a good break for her too.

“Natsuko, I was thinking...”

“Hm..?” She looked at me inquisitively.

“Let's go out for dinner tonight.”

Her cheeks instantly flushed red.

“W-what? A...I-um...Shinji nii-chan, what are you saying?”

I blushed as well, when the thought of how I made that sound hit me. Oh man, I can be so insensitive sometimes.

“N-no, it's not like I 'm asking you out or anything like that. I just thought you could use a break since you've been studying all day. I've got some money with me, so I thought we could go out and eat at a nice family restaurant.”

“Ooooh,” she said exaggeratedly, “Hahaha! You scared me for a moment, nii-chan. Sure, let's do that. Just let me finish these notes first, okay?”

“Y-yeah, I 'll go and get ready then so you can use the bath after me.”

“Yup.”

I was glad to let my cares melt away in the bathtub. For the first time, I felt uncomfortable being around my sister and it wasn't like the way I felt around every other member of the female species. That incident just made me realize that she'd been slowly turning into a woman even as I naively stumbled my way into adulthood. I'd always thought of her as my cute little kid sister and I foolishly clung to the naive belief that our relationship would never change that way. But now, I knew that she was slowly but surely turning into a woman.

I love my sister as a brother, and even as our bodies continue to change, I fervently wish that these pure feelings would remain with me forever.
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: Vatina on June 16, 2010, 10:09:58 am
Chapter 2:

Quote
Nothing more of notice happened that night. We went to a cosy family restaurant nearby and had dinner, talking and having a good time as always. Being with Natsuko was nice and uncomplicated, like being with a best friend. It was so different from everyone else, especially of the female kind. But that is a matter of course - after all that’s what it’s like to be siblings… right?

After we got home we went to our separate rooms for the night with no more thoughts about the awkward episode earlier that evening. Well, almost none.

I close the door behind me and remember that tomorrow is our new semester. Of course I’m not quite as well-prepared as Natsuko who spent the whole afternoon taking notes, now that I think about it I can’t even remember if we got our new schedule yet.

Annoyed I look around and find my calendar on the shelf. But as I reach up to get it, my hand brushes against a small package that slides off the shelf and falls to the floor.

I pick up the paper bag and take out the contents to see if anything was broken.

“To my first boyfriend, Akiko.”

Those words are scribbled in childish but feminine letters on the bottom of the picture frame in my hands. Oh, so that’s where it was. I stare at the pretty face of the little girl on the picture and am suddenly reminded of the “episode” with Natsuko earlier.

I wonder if Akiko has grown into a woman as well…

A creeping uneasiness comes over me by the mere thought of being near this girl again. No way, that would never turn out well! I pack the picture away again and grab my calendar to continue my business, only to be reminded of all the dreadful things we have to get through this semester.

The next day is school. It’s Natsuko’s first day as a junior, and she was both nervous and energetic all morning. I could spend the entire day as a brother being worried about how my little sister is doing, but I know that I don’t have to. After all she’s way better at these things than I am.

“Hey Shinji, your sister started here today, right?”

One of the other boys in class addresses me.

“Yeah.”

“Awesome, she’s really cute. Having her at the same school is great! You should introduce us.”

“Mind your own business!”

“I already am, hehe.”

Well, this part I could do without.

At lunchtime something else happens. I’m sprawled out on my desk with closed eyes as a prime example of the lazy student, when someone calls out for me again.

“Shinji, your sis is here.”

I look up and notice Natsuko standing in the doorway, waving at me. Huh? Out in the hallway she hands me a box while smiling apologetically.

“What’s this?”

“Your lunchbox.”

“Lunch…?”

“Yeah, well… I took it with me in my bag by accident.”

Natsuko sometimes makes lunch like this. She never forgets to give it to me though, but maybe she was worried about her first day at a new school. I notice a couple of schoolgirls in the hallway looking at us and whispering, and I nervously avert my eyes from them.

“Thanks.”

I take the box, but Natsuko stays standing there.

“Um…”

“Yes?”

“Well, I don’t have a lot of friends here yet, so I thought we could eat lunch together? You know, to celebrate. We’re at the same place now anyway.”

I accidentally glance at the girls again and see one of them raising her eyebrows while smiling knowingly. Come on, what’s up with that? Move on already.

“Sure… there’s not a lot of time left though.”

“Oh… yeah. I had a hard time finding your classroom.”

Natsuko is fidgeting. This is surprising as I usually don’t see her acting like that. It’s kind of cute though.

“Alright, let’s go then.”

“Okay!”

As we leave the hallway behind I’m sure I heard giggling somewhere behind me. For some reason that made me feel strangely uncomfortable about the whole thing, and I suggested to Natsuko that we go somewhere else than the cafeteria. She obediently agreed as if she never wanted anything else, and we went out to a corner of the courtyard. The rest of our lunchbreak passed without incident, and we parted ways at the entrance. Natsuko smiled her usual, wide smile and waved as she headed back to her own class.

“……”

“What are you looking at?”

My goofy, laidback classmate comes out and talks to me again.

“Nothing.”

“Come on, with that blank look on your face you must have been thinking of something good.”

Geez. Still a half day of school life left to trudge through.
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: MoonlightBomber on June 21, 2010, 07:56:42 am
And here's chapter 3.

Quote
Little did I know that the first half of the day was just the beginning of something more wonderful, more bizarre.

The rest of the school day was dedicated to the usual lectures that don't register in my head for some reason. I tried my best not to snooze off unlike this morning, or the teacher will fire a chalk to my forehead like that famous (infamous?) 'invincible' sharpshooter. That's because the afternoon teachers are stricter than the morning ones.

At last, one of my most favorite moments of school has arrived. Dismissal. At least because I want to get the feeling of walking home from school with Natsuko.

That goofy dude from my class tapped my shoulder while I was waiting for her at the front gate.

"Gwah!" I turned around and faced him.

"How's it going with your sis?" He then whispered, "Did you make a move on her? Or... WILL YOU?"

"W-What the heck?" I reacted loudly, a prominent blush complementing it. "W-Why would I have a freaking sister complex?!"

"Admit it already, dude. Even in her first day here, you two are closer than lovebirds in a cage! Eeeee!"

"Cut your annoying fangirl squee," I switched to serious mode. "If sis and I are really that close in your eyes, that's because we grew up in a healthy family."

"Heh. But you may never know... that closeness..."

"Shinji nii-chan! SHINJI NII-CHAN!"

No doubt, that cute voice belonged to Natsuko, commanding me to walk home with her.

"Hmph. Gotta dash with her. Later."

And so, Natsuko and I trudged the route home, which is basically the same as the route going to school. The route isn't that long; the reason the walk normally takes 30 minutes for me is that I had to pass through two train tracks. Oh, and one road in the route is a typically busy thoroughfare. This time, I had to teach Natsuko stuff like this.

And when we passed through the busy thoroughfare, I glanced upon a girl dressed in a maid costume. She was advertising the cafe she was working for. But there was an oddity: she spoke a language I'm faintly familiar with.

"Magandang hapon po! Ano po ang bibilhin ninyo, ginoo?" (Good afternoon! What will you buy, sir?)

Yup. It's Filipino, alright. Spoken flawlessly like a native speaker. But why would she speak a language not native to Japan? My mind, scattered as it was, scrambled for an answer.

The girl in the maid costume was an oddity not just because she greeted every potential customer in Filipino. It's because... she looked so familiar. Even with her long, graceful hair straight out of a shampoo commercial, her face... was an invitation for me to the realm of the past.

At least until a hearty hand push from Natsuko stopped my temptation to go to that realm.

"Shinji nii-chan, what are you staring at?"

"Oh... oh, nothing. It's that... she looked so familiar to me... but I can't quite get who she is..."

"Ah! Magandang hapon po, ginoo, binibini! Meron ba kayong bibilhin sa cafe na ito?" (Ah! Good afternoon, sir, miss! Have something to buy in this cafe?)

The maid greeted us with an energy that was natural, not forced, unlike the usual salespersons in big-name stores.

Natsuko noticed a huge cup, striped brown and white and topped with nuts.

"Oh, nii-chan, it's a vanilla and choco fudge parfait topped with cashew nuts! Let's try it!"

"Alright. Let's just pool our remaining money to buy this. Like in that family restaurant, we'll eat together, and... uh..."

The blush was back again in my face.

"Yeah, nii-chan... we still vividly remember that one incident there... you... you held my hand..."

Interestingly, she blushed too.

"Heeey... what are you two doing?"

The maid no longer spoke Filipino, and she released an air of suspicion around us. We were startled.

"O-Oh... uhmm... we'll order that vanilla and choco fudge parfait... please."

"OK. One parfait, coming up!" She pranced through the kitchen, which was unheard of in cafes like this.

We then ate the parfait together. Despite its seemingly low price, it was presumably made with quality ingredients. Delicious, alright.

"Nii-chan... about that incident where you held my hand..."

"Oh, yeah. I think I did it out of impulse. You talked sweetly at that time, and I couldn't help but do that."

"I was surprised when you did that. But... it should be normal for us siblings to hold hands, right?"

In the background, the maid couldn't help but notice us while peeking from a corner. She seemed too concerned.

"Shinji..." was her only whisper.
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: number473 on June 22, 2010, 07:52:06 pm
Chapter 4:
Quote
“Shinji nii-san, say 'Aaah.'”

I was just about to take the first bite of the sundae when I felt a looming over my left shoulder. “Shinji, you bastard, what are you doing with another girl?”

I snapped my head to look at the girl standing beside me. She was instantly familiar to me. She had grown up well. Tall, very cute, and most of all she had huge... my head spun. A cold sweat burst out on my forehead.

“Shinji nii-san, are you okay?”

“Shinji!”

I collapsed.



Seeing Akiko after all that time, it was just too much. My gynophobia had kicked in severely at being so close to her. I hadn't even been able to enjoy the view.

“Nii-san, here, drink this.” Natsuko handed me some water. “Are you okay, Shinji nii-san?”

“I'm all right,” I took the water. “Where am I?”

“We're in the back of the shop. Mizuko said it was okay to bring you back here.”

“Mizuko?”

She stepped back to reveal Akiko and the maid that had helped us before.

“Are you okay now, Shinji? I'm sorry about before, Natsuko explained everything.” Akiko seemed quite worried, but she was keeping her distance. I guessed that Natsuko had told them about my condition. “This is the Mizuko that I wrote about in my letter, by the way. Do you remember?”

That's where I had seen her before: In a photograph that Akiko had sent me. If I recalled correctly she was the cousin that she had been staying with in the Philippines. She had been learning the language just before she left and I had picked some of it up.

“I've very sorry for assuming,” said Mizuko, “but you looked so lovey-dovey, I was sure you were a couple. I had to let Akiko know.”

“And why did you stop writing me back?”

“We moved as well, though not too far, and I guess the mail got messed up so that I didn't get your letters.”

“But I still would've gotten yours with your new address.”

“Ah, I guess when I wasn't getting your letters I thought you had lost interest and moved on with your life.”

“Oh, that's awful. I thought that you had lost interest,” she looked horrified at the idea. “And  I thought that now you have another girlfriend. And all the time we've been apart I've only been thinking of you!” She burst into tears.

The truth of the matter is that I had been getting her letters even up until a few months ago. Seeing her crying like that made me feel quite bad about not writing back to her, and about lying about moving. Thankfully Natsuko didn't give me away.

As Mizuko comforted Akiko, Natsuko whispered to me, “Shinji nii-san, who are these girls?”

“Akiko is a girl that I sat next to in first grade. But she moved away to the Philippines to stay with Mizuko, who is her cousin.”

“Ah, the girlfriend from the photo... eep!”

“How did you know about that?” I kept the photo carefully hidden in my room and had never shown it to anyone.

“I... shouldn't you say something to comfort her, though? She looks like she's taking it quite bad.”

I did want to. I'm not a heartless bastard after all. But with my condition I really couldn't get close to her. No matter how much I wanted to comfort her.

“Akiko, I'm really sorry for all this.”

She wiped away a tear, “No, I didn't know. All the time I really liked you and you were suffering. I'm so sorry for not knowing. My presence has only been troublesome to you.”

“It's not like that at all...”

“Is it like in that manga, then?” Mizuko cut in. “Do you break out in hives and all that?”

I certainly hoped that it wasn't. That fellow class member of mine would have to level up quite a bit for us to get to that situation. “It's not like that at all. I just freeze up, and sometimes I faint like today. Because Akiko gave me too much of a shock.”

“Don't tease Shinji nii-san about it, it's a serious condition.”

“This was not at all what I was expecting for our reunion.” Akiko burst into tears again and Mizuko patted her gently on the head.

“Never mind that, your 'serious condition' is hurting Akiko. She turned down over twenty guys for you.”

“Shinji nii-san never asked her to. She was just acting out of her own ideas and never even asked Shinji nii-san whether he felt the same way or not.” I couldn't help wondering how Natsuko knew so much about what had happened. I must have underestimated how sharp she really was.

“He never said anything to me. I thought he felt the same way. We were supposed to be together forever!”

“You were wrong, you just sat next to each other in class. He felt nothing more for you than for any other classmate, right Shinji nii-san?”

“I...”

“Right. I think we should get going now.” She took my hand quite firmly and helped me up, quickly leading me out of the shop.

As we went, I turned back to look at Akiko. She had her head on Mizuko's shoulder, but Mizuko was looking straight at me. The look in her eyes, it wasn't friendly.
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: Hime on June 29, 2010, 09:25:45 pm
Chapter 5:
Quote
The setting sun lingered above the sea, colouring the street to home orange. But even as we walked surrounded by this romantic scenery, the anger in Mizuko's eyes from 10 minutes ago was all I could really see.

Gago ka pala eh.” (You're a jerk, aren't you?)

I could recall her mumble such words as we walked out from the maid cafe. Even if I had no idea of the actual meaning of the words, her tone of voice told me more than enough.

Natsuko had been walking a few steps ahead of me all the time. I could tell she was trying to be considerate, but to be honest, it just made me feel all the more pitiful... why did she have to defend me there? I should be an adult, so I can't feel proud about my little sister defending me in a lover's quarrel, or something remotely reminiscent of one.

”Say, Natsuko...”

”Yes, nii-chan?”

She turned to look at me.

”Isn't it a bit helpless to have your little sister defend you in a situation like that?”

”Ahaha, no... I knew Shinji nii-chan needed it, so it's okay”, she answered without the slightest hint of her usual cheefulness.

I could tell she was nervous.

”But I had no reason to involve you. The whole thing was my fault, right?”

”It's not like you decided to have this condition, nii-chan, you're being too hard on yourself...”

Whatever lame excuses I might have, I can't help but recall the negative emotions I have caused. I should have either spoken up for myself or taken responsibility of Akiko's heartbreak. Even though I was young back when we dated, I had full awareness of my actions. I acknowledged I played with her feelings, and today's hassle is what I should have expected as the consenquences.

Yet, Natsuko... she really tried her best to make me seem innocent. Even as my sister, nothing obliged her to take part in the drama. Looking back, it would have been more just of her not to let me get away with this. Yet, she not only defended me, but did thus with vigour.

”...I feel so guilty about it. I always hurt others because of my 'condition'. Don't you think those people should have the right to be harsh to me?”

She shook her head and turned to the sea.

”It's not like that, Shinji nii-chan...”

I couldn't see her face, but her voice was gentle.

”Can't you allow me to be a bit selfish like this, every once in a while?”

”What?”

”The girl... Akiko... really grieved, didn't she. With grades like mine, I'm not so dumb I wouldn't see that, of course. It might be that if you asked the average person, they would say she should demand justice.”

Her words were enveloped in a grave tone I had never heard her use before.

”But I'm not the average person, Shinji nii-chan. I'm your sister. Am I not allowed to act just as I wish, even if it isn't the right thing to do, just once or twice?”

Right then, I caught a glimpse of something far more complicated than I'd expected in my little sister's heart.

”But why would you want to do something like that?”

”It's a secret. There are things I can't tell, even if it's you, nii-chan”, she said, forcing a smile as she glanced at me.

”Huh?”

”In this world, there is a kind of magic that might fade away if someone sees it. I don't want that magic to disappear, so I have to keep a couple of secrets.”

Dumbstruck at the melancholic look Natsuko gave me, I could no longer go on wallowing in self-pity.

Maybe she was right. That day, I had been shown a scary side of my sweet little sister – a side that would defend her nii-chan fervently and keep things from him – but I would need to suppress curiosity if I wished for our peaceful everyday existence to continue without interruptions.

”So, let's go, nii-chan! We want to get home in time for dinner, right?”

After saying that, she was back to her usual self without giving me any real answers. But if the magic truly existed... I wasn't sure whether I wanted to know her reasons anymore.

(Thanks to cloudy giving me the Tagalog phrase and it's translation.)
Title: Re: Writing Workshop
Post by: Kikered on September 07, 2010, 06:57:23 pm
Chapter 6:

Quote
It was still too early for dinner when we got back to the house, so Natsuko and I were left to do our own thing for the next hour. Natsuko, diligent as ever, immediately began to work on her assignments. While I wasn't in any danger of failing my classes, I followed her example and opened my own books. I needed to do something - anything - to clear my head of the afternoon's events.

"Trigonometry is a branch of mathematics that studies triangles, particularly right triangles."

My presence has only been troublesome to you.

"Trigonometry deals with relationships between the sides and the angles of triangles, and with trigonometric functions..."

Your 'serious condition' is hurting Akiko. She turned down over twenty guys for you.

"...which describe those relationships and angles in general, and the motion of waves such as sound and light waves..."

He never said anything to me. I thought he felt the same way. We were supposed to be together forever!

...It was no use. As hard as I tried to lock them out, I could only see and hear the boiling Mizuko and the lonely Akiko.

~

Natsuko seemed to be back to her usual chipper self, chatting energetically with our parents about her new school life during dinner. Several jokes regarding my relative irresponsibility to her were probably made at my expense, but I was too drained to eat, much less react to them at all.

"You seem a little out of it, Shinji nii-chan. You should get some rest after you're done."

"Huh? Yeah, I think I will."

After excusing myself from the table, I made my way back to my room and, without turning the lights on, threw myself onto the bed. I hadn't realized how much of a toll the afternoon took until my body refused to budge from the awkward position it was sprawled in. This was deinitely going to give me cramps in the morning.

Once my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting from the nearby streetlight, I made out the outline of the bag on my desk. It was still sitting in the same position I had left it the day before.

"To my first boyfriend, Akiko." I didn't need to look inside the bag to remember the unrequited feelings neatly written in childish, feminine letters. How many years had it been since she transferred? How many unread letters had I received since then? Even if I didn't think the same way about her, even if Natsuko tried to tell me otherwise... I couldn't help feeling that I was responsible for the current situation. If I had just been more direct about my discomfort before, she wouldn't have gotten hurt.

I couldn't leave things like this - I had to take responsibility for it somehow.

"Nii-chan, are you awake?" The door opened slightly, forming a crack of light upon the floor.

"Hey, Natsuko. Got a moment?"

She entered the room, her feet softly padding as she made her way towards the bed. Once I felt the mattress sinking slightly, I knew that I had her full attention.

"What should I do, Natsuko? I want to apologize to Akiko and fix what happened today, but I don't know how I should go about it."

"......"

"Er, I don't mean to say that I don't appreciate how you've stood up for me, or to say that you've made a mess of things. In fact, I'd say that things could have been worse if you weren't there. But leaving things as they are, it doesn't sit well with me."

The silence continued. I couldn't tell if she was upset or lost in thought, and before I could turn to face her, she spoke.

"I don't think you should do anything about it."

"But-" A light pat on the head stopped me mid-retort.

"I know that you're a kind person and that you feel bad about what happened, nii-chan. But you don't even know what you want to say yet, do you?"

"Well, not really..."

"She's in a delicate state right now. If you aren't careful with your words, you could end up making things worse for her."

The mattress shifted slightly with a low squeak. After a brief pause, she continued.

"You should let things cool down for a week or two, but... if you still feel that you should make amends, then I'll help you come up with something."

While her advice made sense, I couldn't help feeling that I shouldn't put this off. It felt like doing so would only make it more difficult to bring up later, and this was a burden that I didn't intend to carry with me forever. I'm sorry, Natsuko, but your brother has his own selfish wishes, too. It's about time he stopped being pathetic and solved his own problems.

"...Thanks, Natsuko. You're a big help."

"You're welcome... onii-chan."

~

Thankfully, the next few days passed uneventfully. To be honest, I was petrified by the idea that Mizuko, Akiko, or even one of her suitors might come to the school looking for vengeance. I wasn't a terrible enough person to leave my sister behind in the face of trouble, so we started entering and leaving the school through the back entrance. We even began using a different route to school as additional insurance.

Precautions aside, life was the same as it had always been. I couldn't help wondering whether the cafe incident was a hallucination created from accidentally getting too close to one of the waitresses, but my guilt was too real to dismiss reality altogether. Unfortunately, I still hadn't thought of anything cool, kind, or even appropriate to say to Akiko. Did I mention that I dreaded the possibility of a chance encounter with her? Just thinking about it made me feel a little sick.

"Yo, Morioka! Big news!"

A familiar voice stopped me in the middle of the hallway, and I turned around to find one of my homeroom classmates. It was that one guy, the goofy one who badgered me about my sister the other day - what was his name again?

"Oh, hey. What's up?"

"There's a cute girl from another school waiting by the gates!"

I knew there was a reason why I didn't bother to remember this guy's name.

"And it's not just any girl either - she's wearing the uniform of that elite all-girls school near here. You know, the one that only the super-rich kids go to. And she's quite a looker, too! Quite the catch, if you ask me. Damn, I wonder who she's waiting for, the lucky bastard."

It couldn't be... could it? My heart dropped into my stomach, its leaden weight rooting me to the spot. Out of all the attractive rich girls in the city, it wasn't likely that the one outside was the one I was avoiding, at least from a purely random perspective. Even if it was Akiko, this was the chance I had been waiting for. So why was I hesitating?

"I mustn't run away..." I muttered to myself.

"Shinji nii-chan! Sorry for making you wait, I had to deliver some handouts to the teachers' lounge."

As Natsuko approached, I could feel my confidence slowly returning. At the very least, I had to put on a brave face in front of my sister every once in a while.

"Don't worry, I didn't wait long. Let's get going."

"We're not going out through the back today?"

"Well, nothing happened these past four days, so we're probably safe at school for now. We should still avoid the cafe though."

"Hmm... I'll believe in your judgment then, nii-chan."

I swallowed my guilt as we made our way to the main entrance, and it was pretty heavy with my heart already occupying it. Forgive me my selfishness, Natsuko, but I needed to see who this girl was. In the best case, it was an unrelated person. In the worst...

"You. About time you got here."

Mizuko. Crap.

Upon seeing us, Akiko's cousin blocked our path while keeping her distance, her expression as unfriendly as I last remembered it. After glaring daggers at Natsuko (no less than a handful of them), she sighed.

"I'll make it quick. Akiko's been a real mess lately, but she insists that she won't get better until she's had a chance to 'properly' talk to you."

"Don't listen to her. Let's go," Natsuko quietly prodded me from behind.

"I don't like it as much as you do, and if I had my way, you'd have a faucet in your side right now. But that's what she wants, and if her condition doesn't improve..."

I glanced at my sister. To say that she was skeptical would be a serious understatement.

"Ugh, why do I have to beg with someone like you? You're coming with me."

This was bad - Natsuko looked ready to jump the girl in spite of their size difference. Before she could respond, I cut in.

"Lead the way. It's fine if my sister comes along, right?"

~

The trip to Akiko's house was completely silent, and the pressure between Natsuko and Mizuko didn't help any - it was strong enough to completely smother any small talk between them. As for me, I was too busy steeling my nerves for the inevitable. If it weren't for Natsuko, I would have been dragged there instead, paralyzed by fear and gynophobia. I should treat her to something once the ordeal was over.

I can't say much about Akiko's house - or rather, her mansion - other than the fact that it was every bit as extravagant as the lifestyle she had as a child. Needless to say, I was far too nervous to take in the sights. Since her cousin was with us, we skipped the security and the servants and the waiting, straight to Akiko's bedroom. After disappearing inside for a few minutes, Mizuko reappeared with a darker expression on her face.

"She's ready to see you. Alone."

Considering Natsuko's intervention last time, I expected as much. With a deep breath, I gave my sister the most reassuring smile I could muster.

"I-I'll be going then. Don't worry, I'll be all right."

The doors closed behind me as I entered the room. Now that I thought about it, this was the first time I'd ever been in Akiko's room. It was very much a princess's room - spacious and densely decorated, with items related to her various talents adorned throughout.

"Shinji...? Shinji! Shinjishinjishinjishinjishinji!"

Like a desert traveller shakily reaching towards an oasis, Akiko stumbled towards me. For a brief moment, I was worried that she would bowl me over with a running tackle, but fortunately she reluctantly stopped just short of a meter away.

"...It's good to see you again, Shinji. You've... grown."

The Akiko in front of me was a gaunt shade of her self from four days prior. Looking into her tear-streaked eyes, it looked like she really did grieve over what happened. I wanted to say that she'd certainly grown as well (and rather splendidly at that), but somehow it didn't seem totally appropriate to do so. All of a sudden, having more time to think things through didn't sound so bad after all.

"Is it true, Shinji? All those horrible things that your sister said - was that really how you felt about me?"

"..."

"Do you dislike me? Have I been nothing but a nuisance to you for all these years?"

"..."

"You're still the only boy who knows the real me - the only person that I can be myself around. Does that mean nothing to you?"

"..."

"Hey... say something, Shinji."

I mustered up all the courage I had before finally speaking, making sure to choose my words carefully.

"...I-I'm really sorry, Akiko. For what happened at the cafe. For not being completely honest with you. For not telling you about my gynophobia. I... don't dislike you, and you're not a nuisance. But I... I would be lying if I said everything she said was completely untrue. I was still... uncomfortable around you, even if I did get along with you better than other girls. And so... So..."

My voice trailed off. Just what did she mean to me? It was true that she was a distant third when it came to females that I got along with, but even then, I honestly didn't see her as much more than another classmate. It would be too cruel to bluntly say that directly, wouldn't it? There's a saying that you sometimes have to be cruel to be kind. Unfortunately, I wasn't a heartless-enough bastard to pull it off. Instead, I settled on the first unrelated thought that crossed my mind.

"...So please drop the act, Akiko. There isn't an audience for you this time. And it's a little annoying."

The words escaped my mouth before I realized what had happened, and she looked horrified. I... I had no idea where it came from, but somehow it seemed right. Maybe I was a heartless bastard after all.

Before the full weight of the situation fully sank into me, Akiko finally broke into wild, unrestrained laughter, and she continued for a whole minute - or two - with tears freely falling from her eyes. I couldn't help feeling a twinge of fear from the sight before me.

"As expected from you, Shinji," she giggled while regaining her composure, "You really are the only boy who knows the real me. But I was completely serious. Don't you see? You weren't impressed by money or the things I had. So that's why you're the only one... That's why you have to be the only one suitable..."

"I'm sorry, but... that's a privilege I cannot accept."

"Why? Is there already another girl? Do you already have a girlfriend? It can't be, not with your condition~. Or maybe... perhaps... it's your sister?"

Her words made me flinch. Maybe there was something about the strange gleam in her eyes or the sudden added lilt to her voice. Or maybe I happened to eye the rack of fencing foils right when she said those words. In any case, something definitely didn't feel right, gynophobia aside. If I had an inner voice, it'd be screaming at me to get the hell out of there while I still could. But even then... I couldn't back down now that she made those implications.

"...that's not something to joke about. Leave Natsuko out of this."

She suddenly recoiled. "Shinji? Why are you looking at me like that? I've never seen you make such a scary face before. Hey, can't we go back to the way we were before?"

Almost pleading, she took another step towards me, and I almost automatically retreated. I'm not sure what happened to her while she was studying abroad, but... it had nothing to do with me.

"That was more than five years ago, Akiko. If someone as hopeless as me can change a bit over the course of just one week, then five-plus years could be a revolution. It's... it's about time we moved on. I hope you get well soon, Akiko."

With that, I quickly left the room and finally closed the door to my past.

"Nii-chan!"

When I came back to the hallway, Natsuko looked like she was on the verge of tears, and Mizuko looked as sour as ever. Luckily, it looked like things didn't come down to fisticuffs between the two of them.

"Sorry for keeping you waiting, Natsuko. Ready to go?"

"Do you need help leaving? I would be more than happy to show you out," sneered Mizuko.

"Thanks for the hospitality, but we can find our way back ourselves."

~

"Stupid Shinji. Don't think that this will be enough to make up for everything."

I shrugged off her threat with an actual shrug. It sure was easy to make such a gesture once the weight's been taken off your shoulders. And it was hard to take it seriously when she was wolfing down the parfait so eagerly, even if she was pouting the entire time.

"So how many more will I need to regain your favor?"

Catching her mid-mouthful, she held up two fingers.

"Only two? Grea-"

"Two more weeks' worth, one for each day!"

"So... fourteen?! Just where do you pack all those calories?? You'll have to work seven times as hard to stay at your current size now, you know."

With a tilt of the head, I narrowly dodged the spare spoon she threw. Fortunately, I had the foresight to refrain from ordering something for myself - the last thing I needed after that ordeal was to break my bank at twice the pace.

Speaking of it, I'm pretty sure that things didn't end with Akiko in the best possible way. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that it was probably one of the worst outcomes there was. But in the end, I got the closure that I so selfishly sought. I can't say that I was proud of such a personal victory though.

"That's why you'll help me with some of them, right, o-ni-i-chan? Here, have a taste. Say 'Aaah.'"

After hesitating briefly, I nervously took the offered spoonful. Slightly bitter but overwhelmingly sweet. Natsuko had her hair up in the same style as that day, the one that made me take notice of how much she had grown as a young woman. But beyond the physical changes, she was still the same. She was still my confidant, my support, my strength, my shield - my sister. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I loved my sister as a brother, and even as our bodies continued to change, I fervently wished that these pure feelings would remain with me forever.