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Author Topic: Teacup Event #2: Writing Workshop  (Read 8068 times)

Kikered

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Re: Writing Workshop
« Reply #15 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.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2010, 08:51:50 pm by Kikered »