Author Topic: 見ぬが花 / writings  (Read 307 times)

Offline ayumi

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見ぬが花 / writings
« on: February 16, 2018, 06:12:09 PM »
「見ぬが花 — reality cannot compete with the imagination. 」

This is my writing dump and will also serve as my fic/story storage, because @Arielle certainly isn't the only one who needs it. I typically write for animanga, games I play (or intend to play), and EXO, but occasionally I'll free write. I'll be updating this post whenever I post something new, and a masterlist will find its way onto here when I'm feeling a little less lazy.


Memories of Light in a Starless Sky / Persona 3 / Character Study (桐条 美鶴 [Kirijō Mitsuru])
Hypothetically Speaking / Persona 3 / Metafiction (真田 明彦 & 桐条 美鶴 [Sanada Akihiko & Kirijō Mitsuru])
« Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 08:23:10 PM by ayumi »



Comment vous dire... La vérité finit toujours par se découvrir. À chaque jour suffit sa peine, chacun trouve chaussure à son pied. Le temps blanchit les têtes sans mûrir la raison.

How do I tell you... the truth shall always be discovered. Each day has enough grief, everyone finds bespoke shoes for their feet. Time whitens heads without ripening reason.

Offline seliane

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Re: 見ぬが花 [❀] story and writing dump
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2018, 01:11:32 AM »
i'm not ready for Death but i'm here regardless lol
do your worst, 先輩。x3



How long has it been? Hope I'm not dreaming, looking good too aren't you? It's time to unwind. Eager to catch your smile — ain't shown it in a while, so set free the mind!

Don't need no words, we'll dance the night away together. Passing hours, embrace the feeling forever. It's all ours till the sunrise signals closure, come on, don't be shy now. Won't you take my hand?

Offline ayumi

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persona 3 / character study (kirijo mitsuru)
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2019, 08:33:47 PM »
「 memories of light in a starless sky / persona 3, a character study 」

(TRIGGER WARNINGS for mentions of blood, descriptions of violence, heavy themes—typical Persona 3 things—you know, the game where you summon your powers by simulating death by means of repeatedly shooting yourself in the face with a gun—evoker. I'll dress this post up. Later.)



There were white orchids in a pot on the veranda of the big house.

Mitsuru remembers her mother tending them in the mornings, while a smaller version of herself sat quietly on one of the garden chairs and watched her change the potting bark, spread the fertilizer, plant ice cubes in the pot for water. She remembers wondering if her mother had a green thumb because she'd been named Hanae, for flowers, remembers being told once that although Mitsuru was the first and most precious of all her treasures, the white orchids were the second.

Aren't they hard to take care of?❞ she remembers asking, more than once. Far more than just once, but each time her mother only smiled and said that caring for things was always hard work.

Mitsuru also remembers how the aphids got in one summer, tiny slow-moving creatures with squishy, translucent bodies that made her skin crawl. She saw the leaves yellowing, the stems bending as though under a great weight, weak and wilted, and ran up to her parents' room in tears, sure that this was going to be the first time she'd ever see something die. Hanae's answer was to take her by the hand and lead her back out onto the veranda, where together they picked up the pot and carried it tenderly inside.

Mitsuru watched her mother nurse the plant back to health over the next days, helped her pick the insects off by hand and wipe down the leaves with a cloth dampened with water and rubbing alcohol. Talked to it, even. Prayed a little. She was probably only around five or six years old then, and already wondering if she was too soft for this world.

There are many ways to be strong,❞ Hanae said to small Mitsuru, cradling the blooms in her hands, tracing the delicate fan-shapes of the petals with her fingertips. ❝It takes a special kind of strength, you know, to be nurturing. To help something live.

Mitsuru rarely returns to the big house nowadays, and when she does it's only ever for a few hours at a time, as a guest or a visitor rather than a girl coming home. Her memories of her time there are all pastel-colored like this, watery and blurred around the edges as though the paint has started to run. She thinks it's only fitting, given that she knows it primarily as her mother's house, and she knows her mother to be soft, without angles, her long hair curling delicately, her arms warm and white and sweet. She remembers those arms outstretched, Hanae seated at the dressing table or the piano or by the tall French windows in the living room, and the way she'd bend low over her most precious things—the flower pot and her daughter, murmuring endearments Mitsuru finds she can no longer retrieve.







In the beginning, it's only her.

The direct effect of her awakening to her powers is spending fewer nights in the big house and more in the company labs. There are long interviews—she has to tell the story of that first encounter close to a hundred times, I don't know how I did it, I thought Father was going to die—and adrenaline shots pumping fire into her veins. There are hours of strength training and swordplay and virtual reality combat simulation—imaginary labyrinths, and imaginary monsters.

It'll be another few years, she's told, before she enters Tartarus again. They want her to be prepared when she does, and the word when is an iron bar falling across her shoulders, as certain as death.

I saw you die,❞ she tells her father, as she steps down from the simulator after one of the first test runs. All the unsightly little human impulses are still there—she feels them, the urge to cry, to run at him, to sink to her knees on the floor, curl her arms around herself and dig her nails into her flesh—but already she's started to fight. ❝And I heard Penthesilea singing.

I will not die, Mitsuru.❞ There's a spark in his one good eye that looks like pain.

You won't,❞ she agrees. ❝I'll protect you.

Her father stays in the labs too whenever she's there, though she never sees him sleeping. When she wakes in the middle of the night to the blips of the machines that are supposed to read into her dreams, sketching out the shapes her brainwaves make on a long sheet of paper that never ends, he's always reading in the armchair on the far side of the room. Or standing by the window, contemplating the moon, the twisted, spiked shape of Tartarus in the distance.

Sometimes he turns his head and looks at her, and a shadow falls over his face. In these moments Mitsuru wonders if she looks as small as she feels, nested in this bed amid a tangle of wires, electrodes clinging to her forehead and chest and arms. If he were a different father, and she a different daughter, she knows he'd probably scoop her up and embrace her, wires be damned.

Her father is made of stone, and she of steel. Neither of them get much by way of rest, but he never goes home without her. Some part of Mitsuru, some small part buried deep, is glad, but even on the earliest days of testing she knows better than to ever say this aloud.

The fruit of the first year—of her sacrifice, the doctors assure her, and the words hiss out into the air and wrap around Mitsuru, constricting—is a strange, cold contraption in the shape of a gun, called an Evoker. They lock her in the training room with it and tell her over the PA system that she's to shoot herself. They say this with all the gentleness in the world. Mitsuru-chan, we want you to put the muzzle to your head and pull the trigger.

She wants to retch.

Don't worry, dear. It's not real.

All of this is real. Her palms are slick with sweat, and she almost drops the gun—Evoker—gun, but her father's eyes are on her on the other side of the thrice-reinforced glass observation window. When she finally pulls the trigger, Penthesilea sings.

The first year becomes two, three, four more, and Mitsuru learns not to hesitate, even if her hands shake and the beating of her heart accelerates to bursting. There's an intimacy to the icy press of the metal against her temple, curious and somehow perverse; stranger still is the truth that this is the only touch she'll know for a long time.

She starts to wake each night a minute or two before the Dark Hour, and her nightmares cease to be nightmares, become patterns, become stimuli. Eventually she loses the pain-impulse in her skin in the particular places where the needles slide beneath it.







The Kirijo net is so wide it's near-impossible for someone with the Potential not to blip on its radar. By the time she finally meets them in person, Mitsuru's known them on paper for months, the two boys from the destroyed orphanage on the opposite side of the city from the big house. The company databases have logged names, birthdays, addresses of foster homes, their academic records at Gekkoukan Junior High. Mitsuru summons the information up on her computer screen with a few measured clicks and studies it, wondering as she does so if it'll tell her how to live with them, or how to fight alongside them.

The three of them move into the dorm halfway through their final year of middle school, and of course she soon discovers that it doesn't. The boys are cut from the same cloth; she sees it from the way they stand—arms tense, shoulders squared. Their eyes sketch her out warily as soon as she comes through the door, making the long searchlight-sweep up and down. Mitsuru pulls her spine straight in response, lifts her chin.

They stand facing each other awkwardly in the lounge as Ikutsuki introduces them to one another, the gentlest of smiles settled on his face like he doesn't feel the frost in the air.

Look at you,❞ he remarks, almost fond. ❝What a trio of little soldiers.

That's what they are, Mitsuru thinks. Soldiers. For all the tension that suffuses their initial meeting, it's possible they even recognize that in each other here, now—steel in the eyes, in the bones of the hands.

Aragaki,❞ she says, by way of greeting. ❝Sanada.

Kirijo,❞ Sanada replies, quiet and unsmiling, a gravelly roughness around the edges of his words. Aragaki doesn't—answer, merely inclines his head and looks down into her eyes.

They'll learn each other later. All their tomorrows start here.

They're difficult in battle. This is one of the first things she discovers, but she's almost thankful for the chance to mitigate it early. It speaks of more than his stellar boxing career that Sanada is wound tight as a wire—always circling and shifting his weight from foot to foot, always outrunning them, Polydeuces' lightning crackling in the places where he steps. Aragaki is quieter and more cautious, more likely to hang back by her side, but ultimately no less volatile; sometimes he'll stop and double over without warning like the breath's been ripped from him. Mitsuru's heard him mumble, ❝Quit it, Castor,❞ more than once when this happens.

They're even harder to live with, for more reasons even than one would generally expect of two boys suddenly thrust under the same roof with no one to look after them but a girl the same age. They make good grades at school—Aragaki's are only a few notches below Mitsuru's own, nearly enough to bump him up into the honor roll with her—but too often Sanada returns from boxing matches with aching ribs and a scattering of bruises along his jawline, and Aragaki goes on too many long walks at night, returning in the wee hours after they've gone to sleep. He never tells Mitsuru where he disappears to. Even Sanada insists he doesn't know.

Didn't you grow up together?❞ Mitsuru asks. She's seen them converse without speaking so many times, just glances and quick, curt nods. This is a language she hasn't learned how to speak just yet.

Sanada only shrugs, offhand, like it doesn't matter. ❝So?

Don't worry, Mitsuru,❞ he adds, softening, when she doesn't budge. They've lived together a month and this is the first time he's used her name. She doesn't know how, or why, but it soon becomes a habit.

It's another month before she learns that Aragaki spends these nights buying groceries at the 24-hour supermarket two streets away, and that he cooks until 3 AM. She always assumed that the intricately constructed lunchboxes that appeared on the dining table every morning, ready to be picked up and taken to school, were her staff's work. When she finds him in the kitchen one night completely by accident, he won't let her thank him, only roughly shoves the glass of water he assumes she came down for into her hand and turns back to chopping onions.

It's yet another month before Mitsuru stops calling her car to pick her up in the mornings, choosing—bizarre as the idea may seem—to walk to school with them instead. She's prepared for the whispers and the stares, heads turning as they pass like it's impossible to reconcile the sight of the Kirijo daughter coming through the high school gates on foot, flanked by two tall boys with grave, fierce eyes and their fists clenched by their sides. Their shadows fall on either side of her, but when she draws her shoulders up and stares straight ahead she'd like to think it's hard to tell who's protecting whom.







Sometimes the larger Shadows, the stronger ones, escape Tartarus and make their way into the city. There is no observable pattern to this behavior that they've unearthed. There is no known cause.

Eventually, she's sure she'll forget what the Shadow they were pursuing looked like, on this one October night that breaks everything. She'll forget its special capabilities, its weaknesses, the steady blip and hum of Penthesilea feeding the information directly into her brain. A year from now, maybe less than that, she won't be able to tell the story of the battle, how precisely they cornered and defeated it, or where they were—only that it was in one of the midtown residential districts, in front of a small house with a plaque on the gate that read Amada.

What happens after, though, she'll remember. She'll have dreams about it until she dies.

The woman stands framed by the gate of her house—brown hair, Mitsuru notes, long skirt—and the sight of her, alive and awake at the height of the Dark Hour, is by itself enough to horrify. But then Aragaki seizes up and convulses, the tremors ripping through his body from head to toe to the sound of glass breaking.

She and Sanada are fast, pelting toward Aragaki at a run from two directions, but Castor is faster, colossal, translucent hands lifting the woman—Amada-san, Mitsuru thinks—in the air. He grips her by the throat and hurls her downward, her body shattering against the pavement not a half-second before Mitsuru reaches Aragaki and her shoulder slams into his chest. They tumble to the ground and suddenly she's screaming fit to wake the dead—is that really her voice—slapping his face and ordering him in a fit of near-hysterics to come back, to come back this instant, and distantly she can hear the echo of Sanada's voice calling Shinji, Shinji, Shinji, as though from a thousand miles away.

They practically have to carry Aragaki home that night, his arms across their shoulders, stumbling and broken. When they lay him down on his bed he's half-conscious and in the throes of a nightmare—he jerks and spasms, and they have to sit with him for another hour, Sanada's hand on his chest forcing his body flat against the mattress, before he finally lies still.

Mitsuru's dreams that night are full of the sound of splintering bone, of blood flowering across the pavement on a street she'll never visit again. When she wakes the next morning, Aragaki's room is empty and the blood and bruises bloom across Sanada's knuckles instead, the living room wall covered in dark brown blotches where he's taken his fists to the concrete.

He doesn't answer when she calls him—first the last name, then the given name, as if the illusion of some greater intimacy will wake him up and fill the empty dorm—but neither does he resist when she reaches out and takes him by the arm, guiding him toward the kitchen sink. He stares straight ahead, unseeing, like she doesn't exist at all.

Mitsuru turns the knob and holds his wrists down; the water streams cold and clear and sharp over both their hands.







At first the juniors are little more than names on the official S.E.E.S. biodata file. Takeba Yukari. Arisato Minato. Iori Junpei. Yamagishi Fuuka. In turn, Io, Orpheus, Hermes, Lucia.

Everything is simple on paper, and so much messier in practice. Mitsuru knows this in theory, and she's good at thinking on her feet, preparing for eventualities. They fare well enough in Tartarus, especially with Yamagishi's support abilities and Arisato's quiet direction—with each week that passes, the Shadows fall faster, and they climb steadily, up and up toward the moon.

To her shame, she finds she's less adept at dealing with the specific brand of chaos that accompanies a nearly fully occupied dormitory. Battles are nothing compared to the small metropolis of instant ramen bowls steadily being built on the kitchen counter, the hum of Arisato's music issuing quietly from under the door of his room and following her everywhere. Some days Takeba will mislay something—a book, a notepad—and nearly tear the dorm apart looking for it, only to find it wedged between the couch cushions, or under the dining table. Once Mitsuru finds Iori's boxer shorts dangling from the second floor banister; she picks them up with the edge of her practice rapier, and dumps them in the communal laundry basket without comment.

Mostly they subsist on takeout or convenience store fare. None of them know how to cook, though occasionally Yamagishi tries—and honestly, Mitsuru thinks, it's a miracle they haven't died of starvation. Or blown up the dorm, come to that.

It feels strange to admit to herself that, on the other side of these things, her smiles come easier nowadays. Akihiko, too, for all that when he talks to them he seems utterly unable to understand Iori's punchlines, or what Yamagishi and Takeba mean when they whisper about a boy in Class B being ❝a total dreamboat❞. In these moments he shoots a look like a distress signal across the room at her, the same look he gives her in the face of a particularly grueling lab report or an English essay with a frighteningly high word count, and Mitsuru glances away and hides her laughter behind her hand.

We're supposed to be saving the world,❞ he remarks one evening as he stands at the kitchen sink with a spatula in one hand, scraping the remains of Yamagishi's latest dinner attempt from the bottom of their last serviceable pot. ❝Why does it feel like daycare?

Iori is telling a ghost story in the living room behind them, but they can only half-hear him from where they are, the theatrical rise and fall of his voice drowned out most of the time by the girls, who shriek loud enough to break the windows at every other sentence.

We needed them, I think,❞ Mitsuru says, and it has to do with more than power. She can tell from the way Akihiko's eyes find hers across the dining table that he knows what she means.

There's an empty room on the second floor that they don't talk about, but Mitsuru's eyes linger on the locked door on her way up the stairs. She's seen Akihiko standing in front of it, some nights.







Mitsuru goes to see Shinjiro on occasion, but not for the same reasons Akihiko does. She knows he'll always refuse when they ask him to come back. Shinjiro's never believed in safe places, and he's so hard-headed it would probably be easier to order the rain to fall upward than to convince him otherwise. There's no point in telling him that he's cared for, and missed, and needed, regardless of the truth of all of these things.

Today it's raining, and they're talking in the alley behind Port Island station. He doesn't seem to have an umbrella, so she insists that they share hers, and for all his grumbling he takes it from her so he can hold it comfortably above both their heads. They stand awkwardly under its shade, and if Mitsuru notices the far sleeve of his coat going dark with water because he's angled it slightly toward her, she decides to do him a favor and refrain from nagging further.

These conversations always proceed in the same vein. He tells her what he thinks she wants to hear—that he's lying low and taking his medicine, even if he never says where he gets it, or where he stays these days, or who he spends his time with. In turn, she tells him what they're eating at the dorm, enduring his withering glares as she recounts the number of short-order meals and bowls of instant ramen and convenience-store onigiri Akihiko in particular has consumed in the past month. At all junctures he makes it a point to refuse anything she might think to offer him, whether it's confidential trips to the doctor, or a directive to some partner pharmaceutical to start work on improving the available Persona-suppressants. As if it would be so easy to tweak the chemical composition of this or that particular drug, and just like that stop it from eating away at his organs, and maybe cure his crippling guilt besides.

Aren't you already up to your ears in responsibilities?❞ Shinjiro asks her, wryly. ❝You don't have to nursemaid me, you know.

But what if you're dying? she wants to say. Instead, ❝What can I do, then?

He starts to answer, but it's alarming how quickly that hoarse, scoffing laugh turns into a coughing fit these days, and how the coughs are fiercer, more ragged, shaking his entire body back and forth. He brings his sleeve to his mouth, and she clasps her hands tightly in front of her to keep from patting him on the back—he'd hate to be touched, she knows.

Don't tell Aki,❞ he says, when his breath comes back.

He deserves to hear it from you, anyway.

Shinjiro shrugs. ❝Maybe.

Akihiko would come running, they both know—Akihiko would fight and plead and threaten and maybe even cry, and he'd never give it a rest, not ever. As well try to convince the rain to fall upwards. That's precisely why Shinjiro won't talk to Akihiko, not about this, though Mitsuru also finds herself wondering what it means that he's still willing to talk to her, even just this little bit.

Go home, Mitsuru.❞ When Akihiko calls her by her first name it's like a second breath, so familiar it's nearly involuntary. Shinjiro's voice, meanwhile, always rasps a little over the syllables, as though something about the word hurts him, or he's not sure he's even allowed to say it. ❝It's getting dark.

She walks him to the flower shop at the foot of the station steps, so he can take shelter under the awning until the rain lets up. ❝Take care of yourself.

Yes, ma'am,❞ he says. His eyes are narrowed, his shoulders drawn protectively up toward his ears, his hands shoved deep into his coat pockets, but Mitsuru thinks as she walks away that she sees his lips twist, some small thing that passes for a smile behind the high collar.

Halfway to where her car is parked on the street corner, kind of on impulse, she turns and waves. Silhouetted against the flickering fluorescent lights of the store window, he lifts a hand.







She'd like to think that, after seventeen years of schooling in the art, she's mastered how to do her duty, regardless of how it feels. Most days her personal feelings about the affairs of her (admittedly quite bizarre) everyday life seem so irrelevant she scarcely thinks of them at all.

Still, if there's one item on Mitsuru's long list of things that need accomplishing that she'll allow herself to drag her feet a little over, that she'll admit to feeling just a little put out by, it's the obligatory quarterly dinner with her fiancé, no question. On these days she's whisked off to the salon after school to have her hair straightened and her makeup done, and after that bundled into an outfit pre-selected by the family stylist—always a dress, she notes, always made of some light unthreatening fabric, in pale shades of lilac and sky blue and buttery yellow she privately feels would look better on a cake. Then she's chauffeured across town to this or that hotel, handed out of the car by a faceless, solicitous valet, and escorted to the in-house restaurant, toward a seat at the chef's table across from a man she still calls by his last name, even if they've been engaged to be wed since she entered high school.

This, too, is her duty, and it frustrates her sometimes that two hours of sitting and talking about the weather and delicate, measured eating can leave her feeling utterly spent. So spent, in fact, that she needs to actively fight against the temptation to lean against the door of the dorm after closing it behind her.

Your hair looks dead,❞ Akihiko says, from the couch.

She feels her face relax, the knots in her shoulders unraveling where she's hiked them up aggressively high. ❝I was assured I looked beautiful. Multiple times, in fact.

Maybe.❞ He grins and turns his face back toward the history textbook that lies open on his lap in a halfhearted attempt to hide it from her. ❝But this guy's your fiancé, and I'm—even if you'd rather die than admit it—your friend. Between the two of us, who do you think is going to tell you the truth?

Maybe not die, she thinks, but Mitsuru's always felt uneasy about the word ❝friend❞. In French, ami, which has its roots in the Latin word for love. She thinks it might be because she hasn't known many people in her short life to whom it might apply, though she's had upperclassmen and underclassmen and classmates and teammates and acquaintances in spades. Her comrades in S.E.E.S. have confounded this issue of classification somewhat over the past months, with all the little, sometimes accidental intimacies brought about by shared living space and a good few near-death experiences, but still the word doesn't sit well—it's too much, too close, but also somehow insufficient.

She knows what to do with Akihiko least of all. She doesn't know what else to call him, so she settles for his name, and takes the speculation in stride when people inevitably notice he's the only one she ever addresses this way.

What are you still doing down here?

Studying,❞ he says, without looking up. ❝French Revolution.

It's Sunday tomorrow.❞ She knows he'd rather study in his room, where he can pace and sprawl and mumble dates and names aloud, bungle the pronunciations of foreign words without fear of embarrassment. She also knows that he almost never studies on Saturday nights, not unless they have finals coming up, and then only when she pushes him.

So?❞ It sounds like a challenge, with a sidelong look to match: What's your point?How's the old man?

Don't be rude.❞ She crosses the room and sits down on the couch, with barely a thought to the fact that she comes down so close beside him their knees nearly touch. ❝Though his hair seems to be greying somewhat since I saw him last.

It isn't a joke—she's bad at those, and this is merely an observation—but Akihiko laughs then into the pages of his textbook, the sound resonating all through the empty lounge.







When Koromaru arrives at the dorm with a clean bill of health from the best veterinarian for miles around, it's a little like the world turns on its head. It's actually not just the sheer peculiarity of his existence—it's hard enough to imagine human beings capable of harnessing the power within their own hearts, let alone a dog—but also the effect he has on the rest of the team. The underclassmen in particular are so enamored of him, such that Mitsuru contemplates establishing an official rotation for who's going to feed and exercise and groom him on any given day. Iori and Takeba argue endlessly about it, Yamagishi and Amada fuss and fret over him like he's a newborn. She's also caught Arisato, who's usually as impassive as a block of marble, stepping out the front door in the evenings with Koromaru at his heels, the pinched line of his mouth curved sideward into the closest thing to a smile she's ever seen.

Even Akihiko takes a shine to him, in his way—she's lost count of the times she's had to scold him for slipping Koromaru table scraps—and Shinjiro's unexpected return a month or so later is made more surprising by the fact that he seems to establish himself straightaway as the dog's main caretaker, in ways that extend beyond feeding schedules and a Spartan walking regimen. 

For her own part, Mitsuru tends to excuse herself from this rotation, not because she isn't fond of Koromaru (she is, because he's brave and loyal and easy to love) or because she doesn't welcome his surprise entrance into all of their lives (she does, as evidenced by her signature on all his veterinary bills). It's that she doesn't know what to do with him, for the same reasons that she never kept pets as a child, for all that her parents suggested that maybe a dog would make the big house a little less lonely. For the same reasons that she never touched the white orchids, either, when her mother wasn't around.

If the flower can't tell you what it needs, she remembers her small self asking, watching Hanae's fingers cradle the white petals, how do you know?

Ten years later and she finds she wants to ask Shinjiro the same thing. She hears him talking to Koromaru sometimes, on nights like this when the others are studying or out at the mall and it's just the three of them in the lounge, and she's pretending to be too deeply engrossed in her reading to listen. Sometimes she thinks he knows what the dog is thinking, even before Aegis translates every bark and whimper into human words for their collective benefit.

He wants you to pet him,❞ Shinjiro says, as if he knows what she's thinking, and the unspoken question has somehow reached him across space and time and a different life.

That catches her off guard. Her glance snaps upward, away from her book and toward their two pairs of eyes, Shinjiro in the armchair, Koromaru on the floor. ❝How do you know?

He's only been staring at you for an hour.❞ Did he just roll his eyes at her? ❝C'mere.

It sounds like an order, and that fact alone is startling enough to push her into compliance. Before she quite realizes it she's already closed her book and set it down on the table, and then she's taking a step forward, hand half-extended, hesitating. It's not nearly enough for Shinjiro, who sighs and lets out a little ❝tch❞ of impatience before he grabs her wrist and pushes her hand down against Koromaru's head. His fur is smooth under her fingertips, and warm, and it's surprisingly difficult to ignore the fluttering that starts up in the pit of her stomach when he lets out a soft whine and cranes his neck a little to meet her hand, butting against the palm.

From that first point of contact, oddly enough, it's like she already knows what to do, as if there's a kind of instinct switching on that tells her to bend. She sinks down to her knees on the carpet—she wouldn't be caught dead doing this, she knows, if the others were here—down to Koromaru's eye level, and lifts her other hand to scratch lightly behind the ears, around the head, under the chin.

There, see,❞ Shinjiro says over her shoulder. ❝He's not made of glass, you know.







October comes and finds Mitsuru's knees bruising where they've come down hard against the pavement, and Shinjiro's blood is red, so red where it's soaking into the hem of her skirt and the legs of Akihiko's pants.

His eyes are shut, and he's breathing but it's all wrong—whistling, watery. Polydeuces' hulking shape eclipses some of the sickly green glow of the moon as Akihiko casts healing spell after healing spell, Diarama running seamless into Goddammit under his breath, over and over, half a growl and half a prayer. She can feel Penthesilea buzzing under her skin, straining at the bit, sending her mind spiraling from one action plan to the next, each more ridiculous than the last. Should she match her own diaramas to Akihiko's, or simply put Shinjiro's heart on ice until the Dark Hour ends and the world comes back to life?

Shinjiro's head moves against Akihiko's knees. He coughs; Mitsuru feels the rattling in her own ribcage and bile rises in the back of her throat. He's bleeding from the mouth now, a small stream at the corner of his lips—how can there be so much blood, Mitsuru wonders, in the human body? So much blood, the hot iron smell of it filling her nose and making her head spin.

His eyes open. He starts talking, but she finds he's saying things none of them want to hear, strangely final things to Amada about anger, about how he needs to live and what he can do with all that time. He's saying ❝Aki, take care of him.❞ For half a second something wild shadows Akihiko's face—the eyes go wide, the mouth tight, and she's scared that he's going to scream—but then he lets out a long shuddering breath and drops his shoulders and all he says back is ❝I will.

Mitsuru's own hands are outstretched, hovering, coming to rest uselessly against the front of Shinjiro's coat. He hates being touched, she knows, but maybe if she pushes down hard enough she can trap the warmth that she still feels there, cover it with her palms and cage it in still-living flesh.

Hey, quit it,❞ Shinjiro says, but at the same time he touches her, one long hand across both of hers, presses them down against his chest almost with a violence. ❝You too, Aki. Don't gimme those eyes.

Neither of them know how to answer—right now they barely even know how to breathe, holding theirs for every one of Shinjiro's.

Don't cry,❞ he says. ❝This is how it should be.

Then he closes his eyes, and breathes a few times more—more softly this time, but still all wrong—and if not for the green light all around them, and the blood, they might all have believed he's just fallen asleep in Akihiko's lap.

Yamagishi cries, Amada screams. Mitsuru pulls her hands back and finds them sticky, dark with blood, stained a color she doesn't have a name for.

Akihiko holds one of those hands in his for all of the long walk home, hooking his fingers through hers and squeezing. He's cold, even through his glove, and his mouth is set in such a rigid line it looks like his entire face has petrified to stone.

He doesn't show up for Shinjiro's impromptu memorial the next morning. It's just as well, she thinks; she knows he'd hate it, because the principal says all the wrong words. Troubled. Potential. Cries for help.

Nobody knows anything. A few rows ahead, she sees Iori bristling, shifting in his seat between Takeba and Arisato, and she can tell they're all thinking it too. Nobody knows anything.

Mitsuru thinks she'd give up her chance at the valedictory address to stand at the podium today instead, snap the entire student body to silent attention. She could talk for an hour. She could talk forever about how alive Shinjiro is in her memories—the tall, sad boy with big hands and a foul mouth, who seemed to know how to speak the language of dogs, and watched the early cooking shows every single morning with a diligence to rival the most anal-retentive of housewives. How he made the best beef stroganoff she's ever tasted, bar none, and how, if she could, she'd decorate their kitchen at the dorm with a Michelin star.







October becomes November, and on the night her father dies, Akihiko comes to her room.

He comes unannounced, uninvited, and in another life she'd be stunned by the audacity of it, because she's never allowed another person into her room before, not in the three years she's lived in this dorm. But in this life it feels too much like her soul has unanchored itself from her body; she's adrift outside the world, looking in, watching herself. She's read about experiences like this, about how severe physical trauma or near-death situations can induce them, and she wonders if maybe she saw things all wrong—maybe the bullet went into her own gut instead of her father's, and it was her blood and not his that she saw spreading slow across the floor. (So much blood, she thinks, in the human body.)

Except it didn't, and it wasn't—Kirijo Takeharu is dead, and his daughter is watching herself and wondering at how small she looks where she lies curled up on her side in a bloodstained school uniform, how ridiculously large the four-poster bed with its sweet-scented brocade canopy. The moonlight that filters through the gaps in her curtains is pale, not the green of the Dark Hour, but the room it lights is so still she can almost believe the world hasn't moved forward, that she's still suspended in some hidden pocket of time that isn't even supposed to exist.

In this strange frozen version of the world the only thing that moves is Akihiko, padding nearly soundless up the stairs toward her room, turning the doorknob and sending the door whispering across the carpeted floor, stepping past the threshold, closing it behind him.

Mitsuru,❞ he says. He comes down on one knee by her bedside and there's something about the motion that's almost comical, similar to something out of a fairytale, some story about a knight and his lady. ❝Hey.

Stop, she wants to tell him, only her spirit has no voice where it floats above their heads. Stop calling. We are all dead.

Mitsuru,❞ he says again, and his voice is thousands of miles away and right up against her ear all at once, low and sandy and tired, but soft around the syllables of her name, impossibly soft.

He doesn't seem deterred by the fact that she doesn't answer, or by the fact that he meets no resistance at all when he reaches out and touches her—gloved fingers against her hair, stroking downwards, tracking slow, meandering lines down her back like he's counting the bones there.

Mitsuru's always hated fairytales because in almost all of them the princess stays in her tower until a man comes along and changes everything—slays the dragon, heals all her brokenness, drops the happy ending in her lap. There's something somehow reassuring about the realization that this is not that; Akihiko is here with her and his presence changes nothing. He's barely a man, only a boy with black gloves covering his hands and a cracking, raspy voice, and the only thing they're certain of is how small they both are in this moment.

She knows he's warm, for all the intervening layers between her skin and his, and she's almost glad.

Do you want me to go?❞ he asks.

It's a simple question with a simple answer. She shakes her head no; he rises and lies down beside her, hands behind his head, close enough to touch.







The next time Mitsuru visits the big house, she finds Hanae in the parlor, pruning the orchids.

I had to bring them inside, you know, to keep them out of the cold.❞ There are fine lines crisscrossing their way across the backs of Hanae's hands now, but they're still as smooth as they've ever been, and move with the same slow sureness Mitsuru remembers from watching her tend the flowers on the veranda so many years ago. ❝I'm hoping they'll bloom again in three or four months' time.

Mitsuru notes the crows' feet that appear at the corners of Hanae's eyes when she smiles, and wonders at how little her mother's face has changed otherwise, for all their time apart. ❝You look very beautiful.

You don't look well.

Mitsuru wonders what Hanae sees when she takes in the image of her pale daughter, the black dress and satin gloves, hollows in her eyes and cheeks where the warmth has leaked out of them. She stands half a head taller than her mother now, but with every second they spend sitting together in this room she imagines that she's shrinking, and that by the end of this conversation she'll stand only knee-high.

How are you still so strong?❞ Or, to put the question another way, How is that even possible? These days Mitsuru wakes in a haze of pain so great and terrible it exhausts her. There are no adequate adjectives for it, no metaphors in any language, just two holes carved out in her gut, and two words: Shinjiro, Father.

There's still the question of the inheritance, and the Shadows, and Tartarus, all two hundred some-odd floors of it spiking upward, stabbing at the moon. There's a man she's supposed to marry, a company to run. All of these things are her duty. She doesn't understand how it's possible to know that for a certainty and yet not see the way to go. Still she stands and walks and breathes, but without knowing how.

Your father was the love of my life, you know,❞ Hanae says, gently, as if Mitsuru's six years old again and in tears about everything from aphids to the first frost in the garden.  ❝Still, today I have you, and I have this house. You can bear anything as long as you don't run out of things to love.

What should I do?❞ For a minute she doesn't even recognize the sound of her own voice, brittle and almost shrill, like the words are made of glass.

Go home, my dear. Go home and be with someone.

The rest, her mother assures her, will take care of itself. She doesn't understand right away how it will change anything, but it's so much easier to follow orders than to give up on her studious avoidance of the word love—to admit that it exists for her at all in a particular place, in an unexpectedly long list of names, in two eyes and two gloved hands and a heartbeat.

The car ride back to the dorm—the road home, she thinks, and it's so much easier to say the words silently to herself when she's alone—feels long, and slow. When she goes up the front steps and pushes open the door, it feels like the earth of a hundred nations falling away from under her feet.

Where have you been?

She wonders if she's allowed this to keep these moments for herself, slipped sideways behind battles and board meetings and visits to the funeral parlor. She wants to ask someone—anyone—if it's permissible for things to stand still here, just for now; here in the lounge at the dorm, Akihiko sprawled on the couch with the remote in hand.

I've been waiting all day.❞ He smiles a little as he says it, even, and it seems to light up the room.

There's a different kind of strength too, perhaps, involved in finding soft places to settle. Whatever it is, it brings her down next to him with no consideration at all for space. They sit so close her hair spills downward across his chest and their knees bump one against the other, and his arm around the back of the sofa follows the slight inward curve of her shoulders, close enough to touch.

Maybe, on the other side of all her duties, rest is a thing that also needs accomplishing—these wordless hours with him are, most days, all the rest she knows.

Could you put the cooking channel on?❞ she says.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 07:20:41 PM by ayumi »



Comment vous dire... La vérité finit toujours par se découvrir. À chaque jour suffit sa peine, chacun trouve chaussure à son pied. Le temps blanchit les têtes sans mûrir la raison.

How do I tell you... the truth shall always be discovered. Each day has enough grief, everyone finds bespoke shoes for their feet. Time whitens heads without ripening reason.

Offline seliane

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Re: 見ぬが花 / writings
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2019, 02:13:23 PM »
OKAY i was gonna comment last night but jfc i could not find my words and i was busy??? screaming @ hayato and anni about how GOOD this was so

first of all. i was right. i WAS NOT prepared to be slammed in the face with literal Death SHJFKDKJKSD but my love brought me back AND NOW IM READY

Quote
She's prepared for the whispers and the stares, heads turning as they pass like it's impossible to reconcile the sight of the Kirijo daughter coming through the high school gates on foot, flanked by two tall boys with grave, fierce eyes and their fists clenched by their sides. Their shadows fall on either side of her, but when she draws her shoulders up and stares straight ahead she'd like to think it's hard to tell who's protecting whom.

THAT IS GOOD. THAT IS SO, SO GOOD.

Quote
To her shame, she finds she's less adept at dealing with the specific brand of chaos that accompanies a nearly fully occupied dormitory. Battles are nothing compared to the small metropolis of instant ramen bowls steadily being built on the kitchen counter, the hum of Arisato's music issuing quietly from under the door of his room and following her everywhere. Some days Takeba will mislay something—a book, a notebook—and nearly tear the dorm apart looking for it, only to find it wedged between the couch cushions, or under the dining table. Once Mitsuru finds Iori's boxer shorts dangling from the second floor banister; she picks them up with the edge of her practice rapier, and dumps them in the communal laundry basket without comment.

I CAN'T BELIEVE OUR SAVIOURS ARE THIS CUTE- and mitsuru's so flustered yet endeared by the domesticity of it all, since she never had that at home despite having loving parents because of all of her father's responsibilities...... the cavities are setting in. i can feel my teeth rotting, ayumi!!!! but i will continue!!!

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We're supposed to be saving the world,❞ he remarks one evening as he stands at the kitchen sink with a spatula in one hand, scraping the remains of Yamagishi's latest dinner attempt from the bottom of their last serviceable pot. ❝Why does it feel like daycare?

YOU NEED THOSE KIDS AND THEY NEED YOU, YOU BIG DUMB DUMB U HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH MY HEART SWELLED

Quote
She'd like to think that, after seventeen years of schooling in the art, she's mastered how to do her duty, regardless of how it feels.

holy shit how d o you words so well

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For half a second something wild shadows Akihiko's face—the eyes go wide, the mouth tight, and she's scared that he's going to scream—but then he lets out a long shuddering breath and drops his shoulders and all he says back is ❝I will.

HOOOOOOOOOOOOO YOU DIDN'T BUT YOU DID SO WHY TF DID I

Quote
He doesn't show up for Shinjiro's impromptu memorial the next morning. It's just as well, she thinks; she knows he'd hate it, because the principal says all the wrong words. Troubled. Potential. Cries for help.

Nobody knows anything. A few rows ahead, she sees Iori bristling, shifting in his seat between Takeba and Arisato, and she can tell they're all thinking it too. Nobody knows anything.

OH MY GOD I REMEMBER THAT FUCKIGN.... I CRIED SO HARD DURING THAT SCENE, ALL THE OTHER STUDENTS WERE ALL "ugh i have a test tomorrow, why are we even bothering with some punk who never came to school" and they were all just?? silently shaking with fury and grief in their seats and you capture that so WELL.

Quote
Mitsuru thinks she'd give up her chance at the valedictory address to stand at the podium today instead, snap the entire student body to silent attention. She could talk for an hour. She could talk forever about how alive Shinjiro is in her memories—the tall, sad boy with big hands and a foul mouth, who seemed to know how to speak the language of dogs, and watched the early cooking shows every single morning with a diligence to rival the most anal-retentive of housewives. How he made the best beef stroganoff she's ever tasted, bar none, and how, if she could, she'd decorate their kitchen at the dorm with a Michelin star.

OH. what the fuck,,,, i've been floored. that entire section just had me by the t h r o a t, i was 10000000% amazed?? you nailed everything in that section so hard.

Quote
Mitsuru's always hated fairytales because in almost all of them the princess stays in her tower until a man comes along and changes everything—slays the dragon, heals all her brokenness, drops the happy ending in her lap. There's something somehow reassuring about the realization that this is not that; Akihiko is here with her and his presence changes nothing. He's barely a man, only a boy with black gloves covering his hands and a cracking, raspy voice, and the only thing they're certain of is how small they both are in this moment.

murder me already, i'm dying in this chair- but my dramatics aside!! the way u give us her inner thoughts and thought process!! amazinG dhjfks i love u for this.

Quote
Still, today I have you, and I have this house. You can bear anything as long as you don't run out of things to love.

JUST SUCKER PUNCH ME TO THE HEART BECAUSE THAT WOULD HURT LESS

you really just twisted the knife and drove it in deeper is my pain a joke to you-

tl;dr i was so completely stunned by this last night i forgot how to english and was screaming @ friends and into my pillows and so i put this off till now and i still haven't totally recovered!! i feel like words aren't enough to describe how much i adore this!!! thank you for my life oh my god

AND ONE LAST THING:

Quote
She's also caught Arisato, who's usually as impassive as a block of marble, stepping out the front door in the evenings with Koromaru at his heels, the pinched line of his mouth curved sideward into the closest thing to a smile she's ever seen.

in hayato's words: "arisato minato's smile is a national treasure". just that line made me so happy im sobbign my precious son deserves the world.



How long has it been? Hope I'm not dreaming, looking good too aren't you? It's time to unwind. Eager to catch your smile — ain't shown it in a while, so set free the mind!

Don't need no words, we'll dance the night away together. Passing hours, embrace the feeling forever. It's all ours till the sunrise signals closure, come on, don't be shy now. Won't you take my hand?

Offline ayumi

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Re: 見ぬが花 / writings
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2019, 06:50:26 PM »
Oh no... I mentioned what a mess Arielle's writing dump was and it didn't occur to me that it'd happen here. O u c h.

I thought I fixed the dashes and now there's weird blocks... the hell... :'^)))
« Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 07:16:44 PM by ayumi »



Comment vous dire... La vérité finit toujours par se découvrir. À chaque jour suffit sa peine, chacun trouve chaussure à son pied. Le temps blanchit les têtes sans mûrir la raison.

How do I tell you... the truth shall always be discovered. Each day has enough grief, everyone finds bespoke shoes for their feet. Time whitens heads without ripening reason.

Offline ayumi

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Re: persona 3 / metafiction (akimitsu)
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2019, 08:19:10 PM »
「 hypothetically speaking / persona 3, i guess you could call this metafiction 」

(There's no triggers in this one (hooray!), no violence, just one passing mention of blood (not described in detail)... this is actually pretty light-hearted, a little self-indulgent... I guess you could call this my "organised ramblings" on the AkiMitsu ship and thinking about the possibilities.)



There is a story here, and these are its bare bones:

It all starts with a Girl, who is most often the only daughter of a prominent family, and therefore also heiress to the family group of companies, which for purposes of convenience can be termed Group A. As is conventional for only daughters of prominent families, especially those with sizeable inheritances to their names, the Girl is promised in marriage to a particular Man in a Suit, the head of a partner corporation—someone whose support is invaluable to Group A, and someone who, the Girl is assured, can be trusted to safeguard its interests. The Man in a Suit is probably much closer in age to the Girl's Father than to the Girl herself, though the company executives who orchestrate the match play this off as valuable knowledge and experience, and the Girl is assured that his guidance will serve her well as she prepares to assume her own position at the helm of Group A, sometime in the distant future.

For the meantime, the Girl studies at the best high school in the district (run by Group A, of course). She makes top grades, joins a varsity team—something refined, like fencing. By her senior year, she sits as student council president. She is regarded with respect and admiration by everyone she meets; it must be noted, however, that by virtue of her position, she has very few friends.

She goes out to dinner with the Man in a Suit once every few months, at expensive restaurants or hotels, but makes little contact with him otherwise. The actual wedding will not take place for many years. Not until after the Girl graduates, at least. If the fortunes of Group A are good, and if the Father, who currently stands at the helm, stays in good health, she may even be allowed to attend university. This arrangement suits everyone well enough—the Girl, the Man, the small army of buttoned-up assistants representing both parties.







When Mitsuru meets her fiancé for the first time it's in the board room at the company headquarters. Her father sits at the head of the long conference table, she at his right hand. Her school uniform is clean, and the maids have pressed and starched it even more thoroughly than usual for the occasion, but sitting walled in by all these men seems to shrink her—senior executives all, all middle-aged and dressed in dark suits, with parted hair and flinty eyes and sharply angled jawlines.

Still, Mitsuru sits up straight, knees together, a proper lady. She'll sit at the head of this table one day. This is what her father seems to be driving at when he says that his wish is for his daughter to remain his legal heir, that he expects her to assume leadership of the company regardless of the circumstances of her marriage, as soon as she is of age and adequately prepared to do so. This is to be a partnership, he says, driven by mutual support.

One of the men at the table is the man she's to marry. It's probably the one who talks the most—the one who bubbles over with agreements and praise and promises of loyalty, the one who lets fly words like guidance and mentorship and mutually beneficial. He's also the only one who smiles, for the duration of this meeting. Mitsuru notices he wrings his hands a lot when he speaks.

Her father's hands, by contrast, remain in one position, his elbows propped on the table in front of him, fingers steepled. His face is so still it appears carved from marble, flat and grave and virtually impossible to read, though at times he nods to show he's listening.

When asked if he is amenable to the match, he replies, ❝My daughter will speak for herself. I trust her to handle her own affairs.

She knows she's allowed to say no—theoretically. Her father, at least, isn't lying to her. But all the eyes in the room have snapped to Mitsuru, and the only response there is is to lift her chin. Her own fingers steeple under the table, a pale, shaking imitation.

I accept this proposal,❞ she says, and it's a small mercy that at least her voice doesn't shake. Her eyes are trained on the talkative man, his smile a gleaming oil slick spreading toward her from the far side of the room. ❝And I thank you for the honor of your guidance.







Somewhere inside this well-oiled machine, as if the universe has decided to throw a wrench into the works, there is also a Boy. The Boy is always the same age as the Girl, always in the same grade level as her at school. Sometimes they are even classmates, though in most versions of the story this is where the similarities end.

If the Girl's family is wealthy and distinguished, the Boy's is what the company executives would describe as ❝below her station❞. He may not even have one—at least not in the born-into, flesh-and-blood sense of the word—may have spent his childhood in an orphanage, may have grown up in a foster home since he was ten, may have gotten into the same school as her on a strange mix of charity and sheer dumb luck. Such circumstances are usually worked into the story to heighten the drama and give rise to tension.

If the girl is polite, decorous, carries herself with grace and dignity beyond her years, the boy is rough around the edges, standoffish, aloof. Maybe there's something about him that draws the eye especially among the other girls in the school—a handsome face, a tall, wiry frame—but he barely ever talks to them, even when they offer him their lunches, or slip notes into his shoe locker. Indeed, he seems to have a hard time noticing that they exist at all. (Another similarity, though, offhand: for one reason or another, the Boy, too, has very few friends.)

The metaphorical chasm of difference between them is meant to create irony. Given these variables, no logical course would bring the Boy and the Girl to each other. It just doesn't calculate. The equation doesn't balance.







Mitsuru's dealings with Akihiko are much less formal, and most of the time also much less smooth. Their first meeting, after all, began with her cornering him in a school hallway after a boxing match, ended with her presenting him with something that looked dangerously like a gun not five minutes later, and was punctuated all throughout with suspicious glances and noncommittal grunts from him; in retrospect, she wonders if this was meant to foreshadow the general narrative arc of their relationship.

The first time Mitsuru mentions her fiancé, for instance, Akihiko stares at her so uncomprehendingly it's as if she's suddenly started speaking in tongues. They've just moved into the dorm, and while he grunts and huffs and refuses to answer any of her perfunctory getting-to-know-you questions—about his adoptive parents, his childhood, his boxing career—he absolutely must know where it is she's going this evening, all dolled up in a dress and satin shoes and makeup so thick it sits like a second face on top of her real face. He plants his feet in the doorway, glowering down at her as if to drive the point home that he won't move until she answers.

Aren't you sixteen?❞ he asks. She replies crisply that she fails to see what that has to do with anything. He shoots back that he doesn't get how she can be thinking about marriage when most people their age are too busy breaking their brains over basic algebra.

There's nothing to think about,❞ she says. ❝It's a business arrangement. I agreed to the match because it seemed advantageous for all parties.

Ah.❞ He gives her an odd look, head cocked, face angled down toward hers. She stares right back up at him, unflinching, but it's still a surprise when he flicks his eyes away first, redirecting them to the tips of her sparkly shoes. ❝Does that make you happy?

To her, it's a rhetorical question. Her happiness has nothing to do with it, and she tells him so. She sounds a little shrill, even to herself, but it's his fault for trying her patience. These things should be self-evident, and her appointment for the evening is set for half an hour from now.

Huh. Sounds like a drag,❞ he says, but steps out of her way anyway.

That's only the first of many times that she realizes he walks through the world differently than she does. He could well be the most difficult person she knows, but she's sure he thinks the same of her.







Regardless of how it happens, the next steps of the formula are simple enough.

The Girl realizes, one way or another, that she doesn't want to marry the Man in a Suit. She also realizes, one way or another, that she's in love with the Boy—or, alternatively, that she's always been in love with him, has merely been passing it off all this time as a particularly unusual strain of friendship, and has only just put two and two together. Maybe that accounts for why she finds herself bickering with him all the time, because there's something oddly pleasurable about standing face to face with someone and being spoken to without concern for rank or station, as though he is only a boy and she is only a girl.

(It may well be that at this point the Boy has also let slip some sign or other that he may possibly return her love, though of course, such signs will be more immediately perceptible to the audience than to the Girl herself. Perhaps his eyes stray after her when her back is turned. Perhaps he studies extra hard for French and English, because he knows she's good at languages, and he needs more words to argue with.)

These two realizations need not be causally linked. It's true that in certain versions of this story, the Girl will want to end her engagement to the Man so she can marry the Boy instead. However, it's equally reasonable to imagine that the Man is in and of himself an unsatisfactory choice, regardless of what the Girl might have told her father and the company executives the day they agreed to the match—that he's arrogant and self-absorbed and condescending, that he will want to keep her under his thumb for the tenure of their marriage. It could be that something happens for the Girl to realize that her stiff upper lip and her sense of duty will not be enough to see her safe through the rest of her life, if she's to spend it with such a person.

It's equally possible that the Girl simply grows fed up with being expected to marry anyone at all. She might even brave enough to act on this feeling.







It's silly, but part of Mitsuru thinks that this realization should probably hit her harder than it does, should be framed by more dramatic moments than it is, when it finally comes.

She's familiar enough with the conventions. There should be music, meaningful eye contact across a crowded room, perhaps a few instances of hands touching, lightly, by accident. There should be kisses in the rain—she's heard enough vapid American pop music to know that for some reason this is a fairly ubiquitous romantic fantasy. There should be fireworks. She doesn't necessarily want them—want has always been a problematic word, as far as Mitsuru is concerned—but the metaphor is always fireworks, when you realize you're in love with someone. They're a matter of course.

Instead, there is the acrid tang of sweat in the boys' changing room, and the members of the Gekkoukan boxing team dropping away from her when she enters without a care, hiding their faces behind their locker doors like shamefaced children as she proceeds to berate their captain for overextending his offensive in the fourth round. Instead there is only the first floor of the dorm in the evenings, cups of coffee and French phrasebooks, small mountains of homework he insists he can't navigate alone.

Instead, there are their backs pressed together on the seventh or the seventeenth or the hundredth floor of Tartarus, and Akihiko calling out ❝Amazing as always!❞ with that white lightning-crackle of a smile. He sounds like a boy playing a game. They have many arguments about this, Mitsuru seizing him by the elbow, her voice tight with warning: ❝This isn't a game, Akihiko.❞ It isn't long before he can parrot the words back to her, lilting, pitching his voice upward to match her intonation. In these moments Mitsuru's certain she's never had to fight with anyone or anything as hard, or as long, as with him, these past three years.

You're impossible,❞ she always says, but all he ever does is answer ❝So are you❞. Sometimes it's with an eye-roll, sometimes with a grin, but either expression seems geared toward making her close her eyes, rub the bridge of her nose, and sigh.

You're like an old married couple,❞ one of their kouhai remarks once—Takeba, probably, or Iori; none of the others would be so brazen. Mitsuru forgets who exactly it was, or what she and Akihiko had been arguing about this time. She only remembers the observation and the way both she and he turned as one, heads snapping to attention, the words ❝We are not❞ coming out of their mouths perfectly matched for tone, volume, and emphasis, as if their two voices were one voice.

It's also worth emphasizing that any contact between their hands has always been solid and very, very deliberate. They shook hands on the day they met, and she vaguely remembers being impressed by the firmness of his grip. The only time she's ever held his hand was at the crematorium, the day they consigned her father's body to the fire, during a brief moment of weakness. He went without his gloves that day; she remembers because it was so rare, remembers the cage his fingers made around hers, the rough band of scar tissue that ran over his knuckles.







Such epiphanies as the kind the Girl has about the Boy and the Man in a Suit often signal a turning point in the story, a climactic moment, a crossroads. Put more dramatically, the point of no return. This is the point after which everything must change.

All possible endings split off from here.







Maybe, in a parallel universe, things actually do unfold with all the ridiculous dramatics that they do in stories of this kind. Maybe she does make it all the way to the altar before she changes her mind. Maybe he does stand up when the preacher says, ❝Speak now or forever hold your peace❞—never mind that it isn't really a religious service, that these Western-style weddings are a fashion statement more than anything, and the matter of the marriage itself can be scaled down to a few signatures on a piece of paper, effectively the signing into effect of a contract, a merger, a business transaction.

She can imagine how it would feel—to turn and see the veritable ocean of horrified faces, and him on his feet in the midst of all of them, fists clenched and eyes burning as if what's actually taking place today is a battle, not a celebration. She can even picture herself running, kicking off her shoes, tearing the veil from her head so she can leap unencumbered into his arms. It's a stretch, though, and her imagination always falters when she tries to think about what would happen after. Something equally absurd, like an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, or the rest of S.E.E.S. pulling up outside the church in a getaway car one of them somehow knew how to drive.

Maybe there's a universe in which things happen this way, but Mitsuru can't see it through to the end in her mind. The idea amuses her, if nothing else.







There must be a good few parallel universes in which things end with a fight. This is the case in virtually any reality in which the Boy and the Man in a Suit cross paths.

The fight need not be about anything consequential, as the friction is likely to exist from the first point of contact. An encounter on the street, maybe. A careless comment thrown from a limousine window about the riffraff she condescends to spend her time with, followed by a few words of warning to take care of her reputation. A boast about yet another dinner reservation at the most expensive restaurant for miles around.

Why must you and your family always be so difficult, Mitsuru?

To tell the truth, none of what he says is new; businessmen of his caliber tend to have a haughtiness to them, a bluster that she knows is meant to frighten and cow her. She closes her eyes and breathes in, feels the ghost of her father grasp her shoulder: My daughter can handle her own affairs.

Anything you do will only jeopardize the future of the Kirijo family.

Her father taught her to grit her teeth against the noise, make her face cool and masklike, but she also knows the way Akihiko's body moves when he's spoiling for a fight, the way it winds itself up tight—weight shifting from one foot to the other, shoulders rising, hands opening and closing down by his sides. She feels the tremors tear through her own body, from the crown of her head down to the tips of her toes, tastes the hot iron tang of anger in her mouth.

If you continue to befriend derelicts such as this—

Don't,❞ she says. Her hand has come down light on Akihiko's sleeve, but her eyes are on the man in the limousine. ❝How dare you?

She knows the kinds of words these men use. She knows she'll be told she's being unreasonable, difficult, disobedient. She knows she'll be ordered to learn her place. She knows. It feels like she's been allowing her response to fester in her mind for months, maybe even years, but the venom with which it comes burning out of her shocks them all into silence, her voice building to a siren-wail inside her own head—how dare you, I won't let you insult him, he is ten times the man you are, how dare you.

In at least one version of this story, Akihiko doesn't let her say anything at all, merely sends his fist straight through the open car window. There is a spurt of blood, a couple of teeth knocked loose, and Mitsuru almost forgets herself and laughs.







Sometimes the fight is between the Boy and the Girl, rather than between the Boy and the Man, or the Girl and the Man. It seems inevitable, given who the Boy and the Girl are, and the way they talk to each other.

They're at home—that's what the dorm is, home, though neither of them will admit it at this point in the story. On the first floor, side by side on the couch, because that's their place. It's late, and he's staring straight ahead, arms crossed over his chest. She's holding a cup of coffee in her lap.

You know,❞ he says into the silence, without looking at her. ❝I don't think you have to marry the old man if you don't want to.

It doesn't matter,❞ she says. There's no bite in it this time, because she's told him the exact same thing, a hundred, a thousand times before—but he's too hardheaded to believe, and after three years of this her patience is running thin. ❝What I want isn't a concern.

That's not true.❞ Suddenly he is leaning around, almost across her body, and they are closer than face to face this time—nearly touching foreheads, bumping noses, his fierce whisper almost a sensation rather than a sound. ❝It's my concern.

Nothing follows. For once the Girl runs out of words. I want— I want—

Conventionally, the argument ends with a kiss, but not in this story. Fight or no fight, he never touches her without her permission, and she isn't about to lose to him that way.







To satisfy those with a taste for sad—the more palatable word is bittersweet—endings, there's a version of the story in which he gives her away on her wedding day.

At this point they've probably only just graduated, but they've already joked about it at least a hundred times—about the antiquated conventions attendant upon weddings, about what to do if a bride's closest relationships are not exclusively with other women. Can she not have bridesmen? A man-of-honor? Hypothetically.

Well,❞ he says, ❝if there's a guy who loves you enough to go through the hassle of planning your bridal shower, maybe you should think about marrying him instead.

There's a lot of quiet laughter punctuating these conversations, many tight smiles like shards of broken glass, especially when she reminds him that, with her father gone, he's the most important man in her life. When she finally asks him for real, she feels so strangely fractured—she's expecting him to say no, but also she wants him to say yes, a little, in her painfully limited capacity to want things for herself—that some of it must show on her face.

The look he gives her in return makes him look a lot like he did on the day they met—like he doesn't know what to make of her, except that she's probably crazy—but just this one time, he doesn't argue. He says yes. He lets her win. He'll help her do her duty.

The next time she sees him is when he comes to pick her up on her wedding day. They're standing face to face in the doorway of her hotel room, and he's leaning a little on the doorframe in that laconic way of his, hands shoved deep into the pockets of a pair of expensive-looking slacks.

You look beautiful,❞ he tells her. And once more, in English, because the best grades he got in their senior year were for languages. And again in French, as she taught him, informally for emphasis—tu es très belle, you are very beautiful. The way he smiles down at her as he says it feels like being pricked with a needle.

(There is, apparently, no acceptable direct translation for ❝you look beautiful❞—it seems the French find such an indirect way of wording things cowardly.)

She tilts her head upward and kisses him then, once on each cheek for hello, for goodbye. That's how the French do things. She's glad that he's learned enough politeness from her over the years not to turn his head and receive them with his mouth instead.

Thank you,❞ she says. ❝But your accent needs work.❞ Then she takes his arm and lets him lead her from the room. When he hands her into the bridal car, she notices that he isn't wearing his gloves today either.







In what is, for all intents and purposes, the real world, or at the very least the one she currently lives in, Mitsuru thinks it's only important that things are brought to their conclusion in the board room.

She's pinned up her long hair, put on her best suit—the black one made of brushed wool tailored exactly to measure, the one that reminds her most of armor—and a pair of sensible heels and pearl earrings. She sits in what was once her father's chair, at the head of the long conference table, one leg crossed over the other.

I regret to inform you,❞ she says, ❝that I've made the decision to terminate our engagement. Your conduct since my father's passing has given me the impression that your interests and those of my family are no longer aligned.

She's been practicing this speech for days, worked on how to make her voice hard, cool and controlled, send her gaze across the table swift and true as an arrow. She remembers the dining table at the dorm, the sensation of Akihiko tapping her lightly on the back of her hand with his fingertip, clicking his tongue: Hey, come on, your voice shook a little bit there. Don't give him an opening.

Let me remind you,❞ she says, ❝that I have been named the legal heir to the Kirijo Group. This holds true regardless of who I marry, if I choose to marry at all. Leadership of the company will remain with the upper management until I am adequately prepared to take my place at its head.

(Akihiko, shrugging: Why do you need a husband to run a business, anyway?

I hardly think I'm qualified to assume leadership of the Group on my own, especially at my age, she'd said. For someone so sharp in the boxing ring and on the battlefield, she thinks he has a knack for posing the most rhetorical questions she's ever heard. She thinks these things should be self-evident.

Why not? Another shrug, and he cocks his head, skeptical, as if to say nothing should be more self-evident than this. You can do anything.)

I am fully confident in the Kirijo group's ability to stand on its own,❞ she says. As she speaks, she leans forward, elbows braced against the table, fingers steepled, and thinks of her father. Thinks of Akihiko's hand on her back as she walked crisp and clipped out of the dorm: Go get 'em. ❝Your cooperation will no longer be required.







It's important to note that in this story, the Boy is there, but the Girl comes to him—or not—in her own time, and on her own terms.

Sometimes nothing happens when the Boy and the Girl come together. But sometimes they choose one another, and the story of this choice is the one that reconciles all the others—what happens when the Girl steps out of her car, opens the front door, and finds the Boy waiting there to meet her. What happens when the Girl comes home, because that is what they've built, the Girl and the Boy and the friends they've gathered to themselves over one year and an unlikely series of fortunate accidents, a home and a future and a hope.

The Girl twists her key in the lock, and finds the Boy seated at the dining table, his chair turned toward the door like he's been waiting for her for the better part of the evening. As she walks toward him, he rises to his feet, crosses the floor to her. When the Boy and the Girl meet in the middle of the room, sometimes there's a kiss. Sometimes the Boy will seize the Girl by the waist and lift her off her feet, spin her around in a slow circle as she laughs all silvery into his ear.

Mostly, though, they just stand there a little, face to face, smiling at each other.

Hey, boss,❞ Akihiko says. ❝Can I take your coat?

Just this once, Mitsuru lets him, lets him reach across and help her out of her armor. After his hands lift the jacket from across her shoulders she reaches up to pull the pins from her hair, and as it tumbles down wild around her she thinks she feels something unraveling inside her at the same time—something coming loose and curling everywhere, untamed and messy and alive as the strands of a story they're only just beginning to write.



Comment vous dire... La vérité finit toujours par se découvrir. À chaque jour suffit sa peine, chacun trouve chaussure à son pied. Le temps blanchit les têtes sans mûrir la raison.

How do I tell you... the truth shall always be discovered. Each day has enough grief, everyone finds bespoke shoes for their feet. Time whitens heads without ripening reason.

Offline seliane

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Re: 見ぬが花 / writings
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2019, 08:34:04 PM »
UH i just noticed this and i'm in the third section and already going into shock brb when i'm coherent again holy shit-



How long has it been? Hope I'm not dreaming, looking good too aren't you? It's time to unwind. Eager to catch your smile — ain't shown it in a while, so set free the mind!

Don't need no words, we'll dance the night away together. Passing hours, embrace the feeling forever. It's all ours till the sunrise signals closure, come on, don't be shy now. Won't you take my hand?