Topic: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars  (Read 10562 times)

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Alfred F. Jones

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[Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« on: November 04, 2012, 11:00:38 pm »
Weave the Stars
a Touhou Project fanfic for National Novel Writing Month 2012

Yes, it's a new story from me for NaNoWriMo! Not much time left for me right now so I'll just throw this up and run and worry about silly things like proper formatting and organization later.



Prologue

When I was a child, and it was festival time, my mother would carry me around on her shoulders, and I would hold on to her head, looking out above the crowd with the stars shining up above us.

“Are you enjoying the view up there?” She would ask.

I would nod. “Yeah! The stars are so pretty tonight!”

She'd laugh at that one.

After a while she would set me down on the ground and I would walk by her side, holding her hand. It was one of the few times of the year I could wear a yukata, so I relished it. My yukata was so pretty! It was decorated with small birds-- magpies, mama told me. It was so soft. Mama had made it herself. She was a very talented seamstress. She taught me everything I knew.

We would go around the festival, and I would play the festival games and eat the food. Mama would help me out with the goldfish-catching game if I had trouble, because I was very young back then. I would ask for taiyaki and walk around with a small bag. I ate the head first, then the tail.

Then my papa would join us. I didn't get to see him very often. He had shown up earlier that day, and my mama had rushed into his arms and they had embraced. He had things to do, but he would always go to the festival with us.

Papa would ruffle my hair and laugh. “Have you been a good little girl this year?”

“Yeah!” I would show him my goldfish. “Want it?”

He would laugh. “Thank you, but I think it'd be better if you took care of it. I don't have a fish tank where I work. So would you be a good little girl and take care of it for me instead?”

“Sure!”

And he would kiss my forehead and smile.

Then he would take my mother's hand and they would both bid me good night. This was the routine we'd worked out over several festivals like this one: I would spend the evening alone, and mama would come back in the morning. I didn't know where they went, and it never occurred to me to ask. I just smiled and promised I would stay safe, then I would find myself a nice hill from which to view the fireworks as my parents left.

And so it was over many such festivals. I would bid farewell to them, and return to the house, climb up the three stories to the terrace, pull back the curtain that served as a cloth roof over the framework, and sit down with a glass of juice to watch the fireworks in the sky.

I was alone beneath the shooting stars, watching them go by, and it was one of the happiest times in my life.

Alfred F. Jones

  • Estamos orgullosos del Batallón Lincoln
  • *
  • y de la lucha que hizo por Madrid
  • Staff
  • LOOK AT ME
  • Nickname: Sakura Rurouni
Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2012, 11:03:04 pm »
This, on the other hand, was the furthest thing from a happy time.

She awoke from sleep several times. Each time she looked at the clock next to her bead and shook her head. She hadn't had enough hours to sleep. Back to bed until she got a full nine hours.

She got up at nine. She figured that eight hours was okay. She needed to get productive, anyway.

She pulled up the covers and after a few moments of wrinkling her nose, she sneezed. It was summer, so she didn't sleep with a shirt on, but she figured that maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea if it kept away a summer cold.

She grabbed a shirt as she got up. She also grabbed her socks from where they had slipped off during the night. Her western-style mattress was so warm. She almost wanted to go back to bed, but in the end decided against it. She wouldn't be able to go back to sleep anyway.

And besides, she had something to do that day.

She tended her bed, pulling over the sheets and the blankets on top and smoothed it out. She loved sleeping in warm places, so her bed still had a blanket even though it was summer. It was the price to be paid if she refused to sleep in a shirt. Some childhood habits died hard.

She rubbed her eyes, and wondered what she would do first: shower or breakfast. Normally she would eat breakfast first, but she was already starting to feel anxious about the day and wasn't entirely sure she should eat, just in case she got too jittery. So she hopped into the shower instead.

She came out in a bathrobe and sat down at her table. She had remembered to take out the books she would need before going to bed.

She picked one of them up. “How to deal with social anxieties.” Another. “How to be confident when looking for a job.”

“Oh, right. I was doing that today.”

A frown came onto her face and she laid her head on the table with a small groan.

“.... why am I doing this again?”

She was hungry, but she was also afraid of getting too nervous today. She compromised by eating an orange, peeling it slowly. The motion made her feel better.

She sighed and moved on to her next task. She wanted her sample clothes to be perfect for the interview. So last night, she had hung them up, and now she went to retrieve them.

She pulled down the apartment's built-in ironing board and got to work. She made sure that the heat setting wasn't too harsh so it wouldn't hurt the delicate fabrics.

Across the room, she had the mirror in the wall. She split her attention between her clothes and her reflection.

“All right. Pretend you're asking for a job.” She took a breath. “You can do this. You can do this. You've been practicing your Japanese and you're finally learning to get rid of your accent, and they won't make you write with complex kanji. You've got this. You'll be fine.” A nervous smile and laugh. “Your clothes are fantastic. After seeing those, no one could turn you down.”

Except the last four designers' agencies she'd been to. But anyway.

Another nervous laugh. “Well, they didn't have good taste, plainly. You, on the other hand, are a creative genius! That's right, once they see how much work you've put into these, you'll get hired on the spot!”

She ironed her clothes smooth, gentle and thorough in her work. She set them down on her bed and folded them, meticulous, making sure that no unwanted creases would show up near the sleeves or the bends. Then she set them down on top of each other in the canvas bag she would be carrying around that day.

She looked at the clock. Ten in the morning. She had time for tea. Tea would calm her nerves.

Her arms were shaking as she sipped her raspberry tea some minutes later.

“Why am I doing this? I'm so screwed. I...”

She glanced at the canvas bag of clothes she had set apart, and sighed.

“Damn it.”

She couldn't bring herself to swallow any more food, so she decided to cut her losses and just head out already. The more time she gave herself to get there, the easier it would be to dodge crowds.

Crowds. The mere mention of the word made her start to feel queasy.

She dragged herself to the bathroom, this time to retrieve hair gel and a brush. A few minutes later she grabbed a headband and slipped it on.

She stood in front of the mirror for a bit. She looked at herself in the mirror, then went up to it and grabbed it by the frames, an intense look in her eyes.

“You can do this! Believe in me who believes in you, and all that kinda stuff! If I believe in you, and you believe in me, that's like you believing in yourself, right? So believe in me! You'll definitely get this today!”

She took a deep breath and set the mirror back down.

“... all right. Let's do this.”

She took her canvas bag, and pulled a sun hat off her hat rack just in case. Then she walked up to her door, pulled on her outdoor shoes, bid her room goodbye for the morning, and took the elevator down. The elevator was mercifully silent. Not like what she'd be facing outside, she knew that.

As the elevator made it to the ground floor and the doors slid open, she put a hand on her heart to calm it, then took a deep breath and left the apartment complex behind.

“... it's earlier in the morning so it's less crowded? Give me a break. You live in the city now.”

She sighed and looked out at the already bustling crowds, feeling more anxious with each passing moment. For half a second she considered retreating to her apartment, but... ugh, no. It wasn't going to get any easier at any point during the day, so she might as well do it sooner rather than later so she could at least spend the afternoon recharging in quiet peace in her apartment.

So with her stomach churning, she put on her sun hat, pulled it down over her eyes, and joined the crowd headed for the trains.

She looked down the entire time until she actually climbed on board a train. As was expected for the city, the train was packed, but somehow she still managed to get some breathing room anyway by squeezing into a corner. She clutched her canvas bag tightly with both hands, looking down into it and hoping the clothes inside wouldn't get too wrinkled from the trip.

She let out a breath that she hadn't realized she'd been holding and sank down a little, glad for the space. Crowds always made her feel so anxious. She'd never been good at dealing with them, but whatever anxiety disorder she had had only gotten worse now that she'd moved so far from home to this city that she felt so out of place in.

Her daily question popped into her head again.

If she was so uncomfortable here, then why did she come in the first place?

Because...

She looked down at the clothes in her canvas bag.

Because I have talent for this, and I want to be able to put it a good use the way I can't back where I lived.

She took a breath and then noticed the announcement on the train. Her stop was the next one. She'd spaced out too long-- no, she'd come back just in time. Was she finally getting a stroke of luck? She hoped it would hold until the interview.

She got off the train at the next platform and looked up at the signs. She didn't need to; she had already been here twice before, then chickened out both times and fled back to her apartment or another quiet place.

This time she wouldn't back down.

She took a breath and tried to imitate the confident stride of an action hero as she walked in the direction of the agency. She received some strange stares from onlookers for her trouble, but it made her feel better. Still, it was really embarrassing... and it made her heart race all over again as the agency came into sight.

This particular idol agency was not far from the station. Luck was on her side yet again. But there was a crowd between her and the front doors. Bad luck.

She wished she had packed a water bottle into her purse or her bag so she could splash it on her face and calm herself back down, but she had been too nervous to remember it this morning. Oh well, she'd just have to make do. She could do this!

Feeling her heart pounding in her ears, she pushed her way through the crowd, feeling more and more sick with every person that brushed past her. She was starting to feel almost queasy by the time she made it across, to the front doors.

She opened the doors and found herself looking down a hallway. It seemed that the agency was further inside, located inside a small plaza. Oh, wonderful, she'd never noticed this. Her heart raced. There were only a few people milling around in the plaza, but seeing how close she was, this felt more like she was marching to her own funeral than to a job interview.

She began to feel the stirrings of that particular dread: the dread of being on the spot and under the scrutiny of an interviewer. She knew what would go wrong. They'd ask her to write something in kanji and she'd have to write it out in hiragana like a grade-schooler. They'd ask her where or what city she came from and she'd have to answer that she wasn't from here at all. They'd ask her what experience she had and she would have to say that she didn't have any.

Sweat broke out on her forehead when she reached the proper front doors of the agency and nervously pulled, not pushed her way in. At least she had made it in time.

She stood inside the reception area for a few moments, looking around. The décor was pretty bland, actually. If it had been her designing this, she would have added some splashes of purple, give it a touch of whimsy. If she had really had her way, there would have been frills on the walls...

“Can I help you?” The receptionist asked. The young woman blinked and returned to reality, feeling her heart begin to race all over again.

“Y-yes. I'm here for an a-appointment.”

She was stammering. Wonderful. She looked down at her shaking arms and tried to will herself to calm down, but couldn't.

“Do... you have a name?”

“A name?” Her heart leaped into her throat.

“Y... yes. A name for the appointment.” The receptionist gave her a skeptical look. And who could blame her? She'd look at herself skeptically too if that was her.

“S... Sai... hoshi. Saihoshi.”

“Sai-hoshi?” The receptionist raised an eyebrow. “What kanji is that spelled with?”

Kanji. It was just like out of her nightmares. She felt her mouth go dry.

“It's s-spelled with the characters for 'festival' and 's-star',” she replied, stammering like an idiot. Damn it, why was she stammering? Right now, when she needed all the confidence she could get!

“Huh, really?” The receptionist looked at her computer. “You sure it's pronounced like that?”

“E-eh?”

“Well, I'm a bit fuzzy on my kanji myself, that was never my best subject... but would that be pronounced as 'sai-boshi' instead? Conjugations are weird sometimes.”

She willed herself not to cry.

“T-that's the way I always heard it from my parents, though...”

“Hm.” The receptionist wrote something down. “You sure it's not written this way instead?” She held up a notepad for her to look at. It was also pronounced “saihoushi”, but with different kanji. She felt her vision swim as she looked at three characters more complex than she could dream of understanding. Kanji was one of her weakest areas. She wished she had learned it as a kid instead of having to try now that she was an adult.

“I'm... pretty sure I've never seen that before,” she replied, shaking her head.

“Huh, and it'd be perfect if it were the kanji for your name,” the receptionist replied, taking back the notepad and looking at it. “Means 'seamstress'.”

A buzzer on the desk went off. The receptionist dropped what she was doing to respond to it.

“Yeah, your appointment's here. Saibo... Saihoushi, she said. Send 'er in?”

“Send her in.”

“Right then.” The receptionist turned off the machine and waved her further in. “Down the hall, to your left, down that hall to the right, and first door on the left then.”

“T-thanks,” she replied, To the left, then to the right, then to the left again. She carried her canvas bag in one hand and held the other one in a fist over her heart as she walked down the hall.

She knocked on the door and was surprised to find it already ajar. There was a man at the desk there.

“Come in, come in.”

She entered. She temporarily forgot how formal she needed to be. How formal did you need to be in this kind of situation again? Ugh, it was so much easier back home...

After a moment of thinking it over, she gave him a self-conscious forty-five degree bow and hoped that was enough. She looked up and saw his mouth pressed into a thin line and felt her heart nearly stop. She hadn't been formal enough, had she? Or was she just seeing things and being too nervous?

“Sit down, Saihoushi-san,” he said after a moment, and she froze in place until the message broke through to her.

“S-sit down. Yes.” She sat down in a hurry, wincing inside. Why did she have to be so awkward with people like this? Her heart was starting to race again.

“So, you wanted to become one of the designers for our agency's idols' clothing,” he said, looking down at a paper on his desk.

She nodded vigorously.

“Well...” He looked further down the page. “Hm.... you've never done this before?”

She shook her head, feeling her hands start to shake too. “N-no, not professionally.”

“You don't even have a technical degree....”

She felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. She had to get out something that sounded like she was less incompetent than she looked. After a few anxious moments of floundering, wondering what she could say, she stammered:

“N-no, I don't, but I brought, um... I brought samples with me, i-if that would work...”

He looked at her, made eye contact. She felt like hiding in her chair from his gaze. Was he angry? Oh gods, he was, wasn't he? She was just wasting his time. Why was she even bothering him? Why was she bothering to be here or say anything?

“May I see your samples, then?”

She flinched, feeling her stomach doing somersaults. She leaned over, hauled the canvas bag onto the desk, and cringed in her chair as he stood up for a moment to see the clothes she had made.

He raised the clothes up to the light and set them down with no regard for the folding. She cowered. The look in his eyes didn't look at all like he was impressed.

He lifted up a red-and-white garment and frowned.

“The quality of the material is good, I must say...”

She winced. That sentence trailed off into an implied rebuke.

“But...”

Blood pounded in her ears as she closed her eyes, waiting for the blow of his criticism.

“The fashion of them is... how to say this nicely...” He set down the robe. “Lacking.”

She felt sick to her stomach.

“It's not bad, don't get me wrong. But the designs are... not trendy right now. No one wears clothes like this.”

This was pointless. She wasn't going to succeed here and she knew that from the moment she stepped out of the train, so why hadn't she just turned around and gone home?

She felt like she was going to vomit.

“Um... Saihoushi-san? Are you all right?”

Her mouth was freezing up as she felt him looking down at her. Why couldn't she be better at expressing herself? Why couldn't she have been born here so she wouldn't feel so out of place all the time? Why couldn't--

Panic took over, and in a single swift move, she shoved the clothes back into her canvas bag and dashed out of the room, cursing herself all the way.

“Damn it! Damn it! Why am I--”

But she wasn't stopping. Not for the interviewer, not for the surprised receptionist, not for any of that. She didn't stop running until she had gotten back out of the plaza and past the doors and onto the street.

She saw what was before her and felt her vision swim. The crowds had just gotten thicker while she was in there. She wanted to cry in frustration. She needed a refuge where she could be left alone in silence to recover, and there was nothing like that here.

She dry heaved for a moment, then held back her tears as she pushed through the crowd, heedless of the cries of annoyance and irritation as she shoved through the crowd, bumping into people all around. She was unfortunate enough to arrive at the train station just as another huge crowd was exiting the doors.

The crowd rushed her, and she lost any remaining cool she had. She turned and fled.

She kept moving until she found herself collapsed, her knees raised to her chest, feeling her frenzied nerves finally begin to calm.

“God damn,” she muttered to herself, facepalming. “That was awful.”

Then she felt water sprinkling on her face.

She blinked and looked up. More water came.

“Bluh?” she wiped her face clean. A face peered over the hedge of green.

“O-oh, my apologies,” the young girl said. “I was just watering the plants, here...”

The wannabe designer looked up a bit more. She had found refuge sitting on the sidewalk next to a flower shop.

“Are you okay?” The girl asked.

“Yeah. Fine, fine. Thanks for the water, I guess.” It felt oddly refreshing and helped steady her heart rate again. The reduced crowd around here didn't hurt, either.

“Uh... you're welcome?” But she was already walking away from the flower shop.

She wondered if she was going to try to get on the train or try to walk home. On the one hand, getting on the train sounded awful. She'd have to walk through another crowd and then hope that she wouldn't panic while being pressed on all sides. But the idea of walking through many more crowds on her way home was worse, especially since she was very far from her apartment right now...

Taking a moment to breathe in and out and try to calm herself, she made her way back to the station. She paid her fare and got on the train and focused on any background music she could. Soon she would be sure to get a new music player to replace her old broken one. It helped her get through crowds.

When she staggered off at her stop and pushed through the crowd to her apartment, she fumbled for the key to the doors--

And then her heart stopped.

Her canvas bag of clothes was gone.

Alfred F. Jones

  • Estamos orgullosos del Batallón Lincoln
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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2012, 11:05:24 pm »
She froze for a moment, legs trembling, then they gave out on her and she collapsed, dry heaving. Thankfully she had managed to eat so little that morning that she wasn't throwing anything up. Shaking, her hands found the key in her pocket, and she managed to pull herself into the safety of the quiet apartment building, ignoring the stares that were surely turning to her now.

Feeling her eyes tearing up at the realization that she had lost her star designs somewhere in the crowds, she cowered in front of the elevator until it came down to the ground floor for her, then hid behind the controls as she ordered it to take her up to her floor. She had never before been so grateful to not encounter other people on her way up in this apartment complex.

Her hands shaking as she entered her apartment, she locked the door behind her, threw her sun hat at the wall,  and collapsed sobbing onto her bed, curling up as she hugged her pillow. She wished she had had the foresight to bring her plushies from home, to hell with those excuses about them not fitting in her luggage....

I could really use a warm hug right about now...

Everything. All the work of the past two months, gone. Her only hope was that someone would find the bag and find the cards inside, the cards she had made for herself back when she was still the naïve newcomer to the city, when she had thought she would be able to flash her card and receive gasps of surprise--

She continued to stay curled up on her bed, with its design of birds flying among the stars on it, now wrinkled and in need of re-mending, cursing her stupidity at coming here, cursing her luck for not being able to fit in, cursing her fate that had led her here.

On some level she knew she still had better here than she did back home, but that didn't do anything to soothe the hole of loneliness in her heart. And it didn't do anything to ease the hurt of her abject failure to make anything of herself on her own.

And with her luck, the only thing that would happen with her bag of clothes would be that someone would find them, laugh at them, then submit them to a variety show, where the host would pull them out one by one to the sound of laughter all over Japan, and she would be ridiculed the nation over, a pariah in the fashion world forever.

No, there was no way that she was blowing things out of proportion.

“I never should have come here... there's nothing for me here. Why did I bother?”

She couldn't quite hear herself that clearly thanks to talking to herself through her sobs, but she knew what she was saying anyway, and besides, no one was listening.

No one was by her side.

After an unknown span of time passed, she realized she was hungry. She flopped on her bed, still unwilling to go anywhere or do anything. She wanted to let herself be miserable, damn it. Why did the world insist on dragging her out of her dark corner of refuge and refuse to leave her be?

Her gaze strayed over the goldfish tank she kept in the corner. She groaned. She'd feed her fish later. At least they'd be quiet until then.

Ugh. This day was turning out about as horribly as she thought it would. Those self-help books and confidence-boosting techniques she'd learned from them hadn't helped at all. Not when she'd needed them most. She'd return them to the library later... ugh, no. Maybe tomorrow. What did she have in the fridge to tide herself over until tomorrow, anywa--

BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

Her heart very nearly leaped out of her chest.

To her horror, she realized that the phone was ringing.

Ugh, no. Not talking with other people. Not today. She would die if she had to handle another person today.

But that did nothing to stop the phone from ringing now.

BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

With a growing sense of dread in her stomach, she slowly pulled herself up to a sitting position. What if it was the interviewer demanding an answer to her bad behaviour earlier? No, he wouldn't care... unless he did, and her rudeness to him could only be paid back by him chewing her out.

Or maybe someone else found the bag?

BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

Third ring now. It would cease after the fifth ring. She wanted it to. She didn't want to get up. She enjoyed her dark corner of woe too much for that.

BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

Grudgingly, she got up onto her feet and took a step towards the phone. Irritation was overriding fear.

“Ugh. Shut up already, damn it.”

BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

She reached out towards it, and was pleased when it didn't ring again after a few moments.

Well, at least she was back on her feet. And it can't have been anything serious, then. Maybe it had been the interviewer, in which case she was glad she'd missed that. She was terrified of what she might have heard from the other end of the line then. But it was probably just a wrong numbe--

BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

She jumped.

That was a second call. Same caller, most likely. So someone was looking for her. Her stomach did a somersault.

BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

Feeling sick to her stomach, she hissed. “Just put yourself out of your misery, already!” she scowled, and with that self-chastisement, she finally picked up the phone just as it started on the third ring.

“Bueno?” she asked on instinct. Force of habit.

“Eh?”

She blinked. She'd lapsed for a moment. She was already dying of embarrassment. Clearing her throat, she quickly tried to cover for her mistake.

“Er... Hello?” Yes, that was better. “Saib-Saihoushi residence.” Did it count as a residence if she was the only one here? Nah, she had her fish too. And damn it, why did that woman have to talk about the kanji in her name? That had thrown everything else off!

“Saihoushi? May I speak to... Mari Saihoushi?”

She felt her breath catch in her throat.

“Y-yes, th-this is her. S-she! This is s-she.” She cursed herself for tripping over her words.

“Oh, good. You ran into me earlier today and dropped a canvas bag full of clothes, and I found your business card inside and figured it'd be best to call you.”

A man's voice... wait, what had he said? Her eyes widened. Was something finally going right today? A small smile began to grow on her face.

“Y-you found my bag of clothes?” She realized she sounded too excited and toned it down. “A-ah, I mean, I apologize for running into you... I was so nervous, I must have dropped my sample clothes when I r-ran out of that office...” Man, just remembering that made her start to feel awful again.

“Sample clothes? So this card is right, you're a clothing designer?”

She felt her heart begin to race. Was she about to be ridiculed?

“Y-yeah. Yes. I guess... that's what I d-do, I suppose...”

She bit her lip, pinched her skirt between two fingers, rocked back and forth on her feet, nervous about hearing what would come next. Would it be laughter? Or...

“Oh, wow, this is a lucky turn of fate. I hope you don't mind my asking, but.... would you consider coming to work for me and my company? I need someone who can design clothes, and I think your style is a perfect fit.”

She very nearly dropped the phone right then and there.

As it stood, she remained frozen to the spot. She couldn't react. The shock of hearing those words after such an awful day was overwhelming.

After a few moments: “Um... hello? Is everything all right?”

She was jolted back into reality. “I, um...” Her brain was still processing the last sentence. “You w-want me to work for you?”

“Yes. I've been looking for someone with your taste in clothes for a while. It fits my imagination perfectly. I'd love for you to come work with me."

Her throat was dry. She took deep breaths. Was this what she'd been waiting for this whole time?

“W-what kind of work would this be?”

“More designs like this. You would be making the costumes for the cast. I run a theatre company, you see. A sort of, uh, musical theatre. I write all the music and write all the plays myself, so you can imagine it's a lot of work.”

“I-I'd imagine.” That did seem like a lot of work. No wonder he was looking for someone separate to handle the costume-making.

“Well, I've been looking for the perfect clothes for the girls in the troupe, and I think your designs are a perfect fit. I'll give you twenty percent of the total proceeds from each production, how does that sound? More or less, depending on how many outfits I have you make.”

“I, uh... T-that sounds pretty good.” She'd never had a formal job actually sewing costumes, to be honest. She had no idea what that promise of money meant in the theatre world, anyway. It was still absolutely her dream come true, though!

Then she paused.

“B-but...”

“But?”

She winced, feeling the pain in her chest return.

“I.... have something of an... anxiety disorder. It makes it... really hard for me to go outside. Is this theatre you're talking about... far away?” If it was in the downtown area, that was where the crowds were always thickest.

“Oh, the girls are wonderful, they won't make you anxious at all!”

Her heart sank. "I-it's not that... mostly it's crowds and... people...” She was too socially awkward to have any kind of job like this, wasn't she? Always, she was doomed from the start...

“Well, it is somewhat far from the city, actually. But you don't have to worry about that. You can work from home if you like. I'll leave the cloth and fabrics up to you, in that case.”

She blinked. “Wait, really?” Working from home? That was... perfect. Just what she had in mind.

“Certainly.  I'm quite serious about having you on my crew. Your designs are just perfect for what I have in mind. So what do you say?”

It was probably the best deal she could ever get. Everything about it was pitch-perfect, and he sounded like he was enough on the level enough that she could give it a shot.

She took a deep breath.

“I-in that case, I a-accept.”

There. That was her leap of faith.

“Great! So when can you get to work?”

“Immediately...” The sooner the better, really. She couldn't wait to-- “W-wait, what's your name? I h-haven't heard it.”

She didn't know it then, but this was the name that would change her life forever.

“Oh, my apologies! I forgot to introduce myself. I'm the manager of the Shanghai Alice Theatre Troupe. My name is...”



End of Chapter One

Suck on that, fanfic-update stage fright! And now I will flee before anyone asks questions.

Iced Fairy

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2012, 11:23:26 pm »
Hm...  An interesting start, yes.  I was wondering where you'd set it up, and now I'm curious how you'll wander from there.  Especially since I know a few details for the future.

Though she needs to feed her fish!  ;_;

Matsuri

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2012, 11:39:22 pm »
Especially since I know a few details for the future.

Likewise, here! And I must say this is turning out as interesting as you mentioned. Mari is so adorable and I want to give her a big hug. <3


And of course, I loved the festival opening. Festivals have always sounded like so much fun and Mari seemed so happy :D

I have to wonder how much of her social anxiety will change over the course of the story, as well. After all, she can't stay in her home forever, can she? Even if she is able to work from there.

The part about her name was great, too. Wordplay is so much fun. :>

Also, a headcanon:
Quote
“You can do this! Believe in me who believes in you, and all that kinda stuff! If I believe in you, and you believe in me, that's like you believing in yourself, right? So believe in me! You'll definitely get this today!”

She is totes a gurren lagann fan who watches her favorite episodes to psych herself up 8)

Nice work so far. I'm excited to see more. <3
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nintendonut888

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2012, 12:10:57 am »
Gosh darn it, don't cliff-hang like that! >:<

Anyway, the fact that I flipped out when the story just ended like that must have meant I really got into it. The intense stream of consciousness makes it really easy to get into Mari's head, and I'm really eager to see where she is taken.

And no more stage fight on the updates, or I will turn Mari's agoraphobia into... a gore phobia. B(
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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2012, 09:50:11 am »
Funny thing. By the time I got to the third part, I was so absorbed that I forgot this was a Touhou fic. That last line caught me offguard~
Anyway, the fact that I flipped out when the story just ended like that must have meant I really got into it. The intense stream of consciousness makes it really easy to get into Mari's head, and I'm really eager to see where she is taken.
So... pretty much this.
And of course, I loved the festival opening. Festivals have always sounded like so much fun and Mari seemed so happy :D
Oh, I wasn't sure if it was the same character, seeing as the first part was written in pure first-person perspective while everything else was subjective third-person.

Matsuri

  • No matter how many times I stumble
  • *
  • I'll stand up again, laugh, and face forward
  • LOOK AT ME
Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2012, 03:20:14 pm »
There's no guarantee that I'm right, either-- it's just speculation really, seeing that our only named character so far is our dear panic-prone protagonist.  :P

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2013, 10:46:15 pm »
insert Kaguya thread necromancy image here

As you can tell, I didn't get to do much with this idea in 2012. The reason for this was because my best friend was getting married in December, and I needed a job desperately so I could raise the money to go to her wedding in Missouri. I found one, and subsequently abandoned the project of 50k words with this story.

But it's now Nanowrimo 2013, and I have the time to write again. I'm adding 50k to where I left off the last time, and seeing how far that gets me.



Chapter Two

The kannushi certainly had interesting taste in names.

He had introduced himself to her by his name, but immediately afterwards had asked her to call him by the apparently arbitrary job title of “shrine priest”. It hadn't been a word she was familiar with, so she'd had to pull out her Japanese dictionary to find what it meant. Normally she would have just let it pass, but this time she was too giddy to object.

“Kannushi” wasn't the name she was questioning, anyway.

She wasn't asking anyone in particular. She was in the blessed solitude of her apartment, sitting on her bed. She had pulled over her notepad; she had written down the kannushi's number, in case she wanted to call him about something, and also the location and times for the theater.

The theater didn't have a name. Not yet, anyhow. He was trying to work out a name for it. Makai Theater? Jigoku Theater? He had mentioned that the last one might sound a little intimidating, and she remembered that 'jigoku' meant 'hell' in Japanese. Makai didn't have such a nice meaning either.

Man, this language was tricky. It was technically her first language, but that only went so far as spoken Japanese, and she never had learned kanji...

Still, while those were questionable titles too, they weren't nearly as questionable as the name of the first production the Shanghai Alice troupe would be putting on. He had come up with the name himself, and he had said its name to her over the phone with evident pride in his tone.

Too bad the name was utter nonsense.

“'Highly Responsive to Prayers'? Really?”

She raised an eyebrow as she sat down on a simple wooden chair. Who would name a play like that? Only someone who was under the influence, surely--

“I came up with it while I was out drinking with some friends of mine from college.”

Oh. Well, that explained that.

“So... what will you need me to do first?”

“I suppose... well, actually, I don't know. I'll leave the details up to you.”

“Hmm...” She rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “I need dates. When do you want me to have these outfits done?”

“That's a good question. I was hoping to set opening night for August 15. Sound good?”

“That's in a month. Hm... how many outfits will this be?”

“I'll send you the script. What's your address?”

“Um... hold on. I just moved here so I haven't memorized it. I have it written down, just give me a second...”

That was actually a lie. She had been at this apartment for about two months now. But she still had issues with the address system here. Compared to her home, the way addresses worked here was a total mess.

On that note... she'd have to send a letter of her own today. She set that aside for now, though, and worked on finding the map of the area she lived in that the nice police officers had given her.

Ah, here it was. She pulled it out from between some books on her desk and read it over the phone. “There, that's my address.”

“All right. I'll try to send it today in the mail. I guess it'll arrive in a couple of days.”

“Then I'll go get my supplies. Though, I guess I should hold off on buying cloth.” Her mind's gears were clicking, awakening the serious seamstress part of her that had laid dormant for too long and was now happily coming to life again.

“Why?”

“Well, because I don't know what kinds of costumes are called for.” She wondered if she had snacks in her apartment, all of a sudden. She always liked to snack while sewing.

Meanwhile, the tightening in her chest had eased so slowly she hadn't even noticed.

“Ah, yes.” A pause. “Well, I can tell you at least one of the outfits right now. It's a shrine maiden outfit.”

“A... shrine maiden outfit?” A miko, huh. She'd seen one or two some years ago, when she had visited the Shinto shrine, but she'd have to look up references.

“Yes, red and white, but I guess you can't just buy it. Which is fine, it's fine. I'd rather have one from scratch.”

She had found a notepad and started to write in it. “Understandable. I guess I can go buy cloth for that. Oh!” She slapped her forehead. “I'm going to need measurements, too.”

“Measurements?”

“Yeah. I wouldn't like to design an outfit that's meant to fit someone five feet tall only to discover that they're six feet tall.” She twirled the phone's cord around a finger. “But I guess I can buy a couple of meters anyway.” She needed an excuse to go visit the storage anyway.

“All right, I'll send those with the script. Ah, and save the receipt. I'll reimburse you for the cloth.”

“Consider it done.”

“Is that everything?”

She allowed herself a small smile. “Honestly, this is my first commission job like this, with multiple outfits. I might be missing something, but I've never done this before. I hope that's all right.”

“No, no, it's fine, like I said. This is actually the first of these musical theatre shows I plan to put on, too, so we're all learning as we go, eh?”

Mari smiled, even if she was the only one who knew it. “All right then, kannushi-san, I'll do my best.”

“I'll put myself in your capable hands, then, Saihoshi-san. Oh, and one last thing.”

“Yes?”

“What should I do with the bag of clothes? I guess I can't send that by the regular post.”

She froze, remembering. “O-oh....”

“Would you like to come by and pick them up?”

Her arms started to feel cold again.

“N-nnn....” Her apartment suddenly started to feel less cozy, more empty.

“Or could I hold on to them for a bit longer? I hope you don't mind, but I did look around in the bag before I found your card, and I found a few really cute clothes in there I was thinking I would love to use for some performances-- not this one, but maybe later.”

“Y-yes!” She sat up in her chair. “That sounds excellent, kannushi-san. Please feel free.”

“All right, I'll hold on to them. I think that's everything. Is this the phone number you regularly use?”

“Yes, it is. It's my apartment's phone number.”

“Then, I'll send you my own number with the script. And the, uh, measurements for the actresses.”

“All right, I'll keep an eye out for them.”

“Thank you very much for everything, Saihoshi-san. I look forward to our collaboration.”

She smiled. “It is mutual. Thank you very much, kannushi-san. Have a good day.”

She didn't hang up the phone until she heard the click on the other end of the line, and only then did she put the phone down and into its receiver. Then she slid off her wooden chair and onto her bed, where she stared wide-eyed at the blank white ceiling.

It had taken her only two months of floundering, but Marisol Saihoshi finally had a job.

Thankfully, no one but the magpies in the windowsill could see her smiling and giggling and her nervous but very excited finger twiddling.

------

After a bit of giddy doodling of new designs in her sketchbook, she made herself something quick and simple to eat, just some stir-fry and rice, and then wondered if she could work up the nerve to go outside again. There was still light in the sky and it seemed that there were less people in the streets right now.

Steeling herself, she did manage to go outside a second time in a single day, to the convenience store two blocks down. She kept her head down and made no eye contact and focused on the sidewalk, and thankfully she didn't have to talk to anyone on the way.

She entered the convenience store. Checking for the seventh time if she had brought her money (she had), Mari grabbed a bag of chips, a small bento box sandwich, a box of cookies, and then went to check out the movies.

After a short while scanning the titles for something interesting, she pulled out a VHS copy of... she couldn't read the kanji, because she was terrible at it, but it looked like a bunraku performance, Japanese puppet theatre. It seemed interesting enough, but what she was most interested in was the costumes. Behind it, however, she found a copy of some kind of history TV series from NHK, and she couldn't decide what she wanted. She dithered there for a bit, trying to decide which one to bring along. But then she remembered that if she got them both, she wouldn't have to come back for just a while longer, so she got the both of them.

The bored-looking teen behind the counter spoke the bare minimum of words to her, and for that she was grateful. She strongly doubted she'd be able to handle another major freakout today like the kind she'd had earlier. She grabbed her bag of snacks and videos and hurried back to her apartment before the sun set for good.

Once there, she went to her evening routine: an hour of studying Japanese kanji in her workbook, then showering, then sitting down to watch one of the movies she'd brought home while her hair dried. The bunraku theatre performance was really interesting to her; the costumes were particularly intriguing, and she sketched as she watched.

Then, before going to bed, she sat down to write letters. One to her parents back home, and one to her sister. She hadn't forgotten her old address, but for her sister she had to find the slip of paper where her sister had written down her university address.

Her parents got the usual litany of “everything's going great, I've been looking for a job but everything's fine and I'm really happy here and definitely not having horrible anxiety attacks that make me hide in my room every three days”. She was pretty sure they could see right through her, though. Their last few letters implied it strongly, with her mother becoming more insistent that she return home. But she couldn't do that. Hopefully, though, she'd soon be able to send letters less full of lies to her parents. It always hurt to lie to people she loved.

Her sister, on the other hand, got the full story.

   Dear Isabel,

   How are you? Last I heard from you, you were trying to get all the classes you needed to take in one semester, but they wouldn't let you take so many in a single term. I'm not sure you should overwork yourself like that. You've already been there for two years, and your grades are amazing. If you overwork yourself, though, then your health might suffer. I know how you get when you're really into something you are studying.

   I'm... not doing so well, as usual. Had another panic attack today when I was trying to interview at this one job. But something unexpectedly good did happen to me! I lost my bag of clothes when I was fleeing home, but someone found the bag and called me about it. And it turns out he's a theatre director and he liked my designs and wants to hire me! I'm not making this up, it's all real! Now that I write it down it really sounds like a fairy tale, but it's all true. I'm really hoping this means things will be looking up for me soon.

   In response to your last letter, no, I haven't really been keeping up with the news at home. Too depressing. Too depressing here, too, for that matter. But really, I just haven't had the energy for much at all. I know you always ask me about getting to watch unsubtitled anime on television here, but I haven't bothered. Sorry.

   But hopefully now I'll have a job and things will look better now.

   I'm sorry I'm so bad at letter writing.

   I really, really miss you.

   When are you going to come home this year? If it's summer break, I'll try to come home at the same time so we can see each other again. Tell me the days so I can book a flight early.

   Love, your sister,
   Mari


She sighed as she put down her pen. Her life always looked so boring when she wrote it down on paper like that. She looked at the last letter her sister had sent her. Her letters were always at least twice as long, which made Mari feel like she was being terribly lazy with her own. And they were always full of stories of life on campus, getting to go on digs (even small ones), and all the neat stuff she had learned in class that week. And always full of worry for her.

But hopefully she wouldn't be worrying her for much longer.

She was too tired to bother with envelopes tonight. She'd do it tomorrow when she woke. It wasn't yet ten in the evening, but she was ready to sleep.

The nights here were so oddly warm. So she opened up the small window again. Birds always came to her windowsill in the morning, hopping over from the tree right outside. She didn't know why. It wasn't like she was especially nice to them or anything. Still, after about the first month she figured that she had better thank them for being her only company here, so she had started leaving them bread after waking up.

For now, however, she just laid down on her bed and let herself drift off, the only light in her room coming from the stars in the night sky that came through her small window.

------

End of Chapter Two

Here's to actually continuing with this story this time! BV

nintendonut888

  • So those that live now, pledge on your fists and souls
  • Leave a sign of your life, no matter how small...
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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2013, 01:53:54 am »
Ehehehe, nice to see this continuing. I look forward to seeing the adventures of Mari continue this year. :3 And here's hoping she builds a bit more confidence.
nintendonut888: Hey Baity. I beat the high score for Sanae B hard on the score.dat you sent me. X3
Baity: For a moment, I thought you broke 1.1billion. Upon looking at my score.dat, I can assume that you destroyed the score that is my failed (first!) 1cc attempt on my first day of playing. Congratulations.

[19:42] <Sapz> I think that's the only time I've ever seen a suicide bullet shoot its own suicide bullet

Matsuri

  • No matter how many times I stumble
  • *
  • I'll stand up again, laugh, and face forward
  • LOOK AT ME
Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2013, 12:00:36 am »
And I finally have a moment to leave a comment here~

Yesss, I have been looking forward to seeing where you are going with this story. I'm especially interested in finding out more about Mari and Isabel's relationship too, because it seems like they've got a strong sisterly bond :)

I wonder how the HRtP presentation will go...

Lookin' forward to seeing more. Keep it up. :D
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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2013, 06:49:36 am »
Chapter three is a go! It's surprisingly long for a chapter that I thought would be terribly boring to write. We're gonna get to the meat of the story soon, though hopefully this chapter won't be too boring.

By the way, just to confirm what some people probably already figured out: the English dialogue is just parsed Japanese, but the Spanish is indeed Spanish and is left as such. If I should translate anything, just let me know.



Chapter Three

Mari was an early riser. Even if she hadn't been before she'd moved here, the incessant krarrah kwink-kwink-kwink every morning outside her window would have made her into one.

Yawning, she greeted the magpies on her windowsill with a sleepy “buenos dias, pajaritos”. Then she rolled off of bed. Taking out two slices of bread from her small bread box, she fed them. They weren't her pets, but they acted like it. They showed no fear of her reaching out towards them. Feral animals didn't do that, as she understood, but she was a seamstress, not a zoologist.

Whatever. Though she wasn't exactly a talkative person, it did make her feel lonely to not be able to talk to at least one good friend-- namely Isabel. But the birds, at least, wouldn't laugh at her if she spoke to them instead. And they wouldn't look at her oddly if she lapsed into Spanish, either.

Speaking of. She looked at the letters on her table. She would need to write up their envelopes. She'd do that after she woke up in full, though.

She took a shower to wake herself up, dressed in some rather unfashionaaabluh but highly comfortable clothes (because occasionally, despite being very fashion-minded, she was willing to sacrifice looking good for feeling good), then dragged herself to her small one-person foldable table and turned on the TV while eating cereal. She liked to eat it absolutely dry. Milk tasted awful to her. It was like slimy water. Then she ate some of her cookies. At some point she would have to find more fruits, because she had gone three days without eating a single fruit and it was starting to feel weird to her.

Not that she thought she'd be able to find chirimoyas at her local grocery store here.

After all this, it was finally seven in the morning. The weather report on TV said that the day was going to be warm, continuing the week's trend. The spring thaw meant that she would soon be able to stop wearing long sleeves and leggings under her dresses.

She was smiling just thinking about the new springtime fashions she'd get to see on the street. Warm weather was truly the best for fashion. Winter had its appeal, but after a certain point on the thermometer, practicality took precedence over cute winter clothes. She preferred loose clothing over tight clothes by far.

Leaving a cookie on the windowsill for the magpies, she turned her attention to her letters. She accidentally sealed her parents' letter into its envelope before writing the addresses on it. She caught herself before she did the same with her sister's letter, but it was annoying to have to write on an envelope that already had a letter in it.

They'd have to be mailed by international post, so she couldn't just drop them into the apartment's outgoing mail box. She would have to trek to the post office to do it. She bit her lip. It was a trek she'd gotten familiar with, sending letters every two weeks the way she did (sending a letter one week, waiting a week for the reply, and sending a reply of her own the next week), but she didn't like it. It took her past the one area of the city that was almost always bustling with activity: the electronics and entertainment district. Sometimes she was willing to put in the extra hour of walking it took to walk all the way around and back again, sometimes not.

She thought back to her home, where she would be sending the letter to her parents to.

That place had also been big and crowded, but it had never been unconquerable when Isabel had been by her side, holding her hand to reassure her that she was still there.

Mari sat down with the letter in her hand, focusing on the address, and didn't move for a while.

Then she sighed and got up, and threw the letters into her small backpack.

She had never been the sort to carry a purse; she was too afraid of having it stolen from her in the street, no matter where she was. At least to steal her backpack, they'd have to cut the straps.

She looked at the time. She still had an hour until the post office even opened, and it was about a half-hour walk both ways. No need to leave just yet. She could spend some time steeling herself.

She didn't want to end up crying or nearly vomiting in public again.

Mari sat down with a book. It was one that Isabel had sent her by mail some weeks ago, along with a letter that read, in part, “I found this book in a store while I was in Barcelona. I thought that maybe it could help you. Please let me know if there's anything else I can send along to you to help you.” As a bonus, it was a book all about learning to deal with panic attacks and it had a lot of helpful advice.

It was in Spanish, thank god. Though she was here in Japan, Mari wasn't going to make it harder on herself by trying to read this in her second language.

She spent some time absorbed with the book, letting the time pass. She was somewhat anxious about getting caught in a big crowd outside the longer she waited for the day to drag on, but she was more anxious about being caught outside the post office, unable to go inside to escape from a crowd until they opened the doors.

Finally, it came time to leave. She breathed in and out, controlling her breathing pace, and pulled on her backpack, setting the book down on her table as she headed out. She checked if she had money three times, then once more for good measure, just to make sure she could pay the international rates and not end up having to come back to her apartment.

She could do this. She could definitely do this.

She left one last slice of bread on the sill for any birds that might come by. Then she took her keys, locked the door behind her, went down the elevator (without allowing herself to think “what if the elevator gets stuck?”, no matter how tempting), out of the apartment building, and went outside.

Deep, slow breaths.

Her destination was about eleven blocks down, to her right. The opposite direction of where she'd gone yesterday, in fact, which was a relief. The less she thought about yesterday, the better.

She set off.

Thankfully it was a weekday, so not as many people were out and about as they would be on a weekend. The younger crowd was mostly in school, except for the delinquents and the ditchers, and the people who went to work in the mornings were already there, except for those who overslept and were rushing to work. She wouldn't have to find alleys to walk through this time, although she knew where they were if she really needed it--

Don't plan an escape route. Don't plan an escape route.

That had been in the book. She had to focus on the here and now, not potential future disaster. Walking on the sidewalk would be fine for her. It was going to be all right. Everything was going to be all right.

No one spoke to her on the way, thank god. She didn't even have to make eye contact with people. They were mostly homekeepers, mostly women at that (to her relief) who were out to do some early shopping, or perhaps they were on their way back from dropping their children off. She did run into someone who made eye contact with her, a woman who looked to be in her thirties with warm brown eyes and a slight smile, and she was very proud of herself for not obsessing about what the woman thought of her. Instead she focused on her adorable red checkerboard dress and the fashionaaabluh hat she was wearing. What a cute outfit. She'd have to make it herself later.

Much to Mari's surprise, she was actually somewhat... enjoying this walk. She even caught herself with a smile on her face, however brief. She was proud to feel her heart beating at a completely normal rate, her palms not even sweating.

There was one time. She was only a block away from her destination; in fact she could see the sign that read “post office” in the distance. But there was a crowd of people outside a store. Some kind of jewelry store. Or an electronics store. Either way, she couldn't keep walking on that side of the street, so she crossed and tried not to look. But as she got closer, their chattering got louder. She could already begin to feel the beginnings of anxiety stirring.

However, then she remembered the book. She forced herself to slow her pace, then slow down completely, and just focused on the storefront next to her. She focused on the plants hanging inside the store. There wasn't anyone attending the front, what a relief. Mari just stared at the plants. When someone came up to the front of the store, though, she had to look away and find another distraction.

It landed right in front of her, actually. A bird landed on the street and waddled around the edge of the sidewalk. It caught her eye. A magpie. Of course.

It then flew up. She looked up to follow it, and that's when she saw the telephone wires over the street, and she swore she could recognize some of the other birds as her magpie friends. And also pigeons, mostly light grey but also some adorable brown ones.

She smiled. Even if she didn't have Isabel here to hold her hand, at least it felt nice to know that she wasn't entirely without an escort.

She continued walking, past the crowd, across the street, and into the just-opened post office.

Mari took another deep breath. In here, the birds couldn't hold her hand. It was all up to her.

She could definitely do this.

She took her time making her way up to the front desk. The workers were still getting set up, and it wouldn't hurt to mentally prepare herself for conversing with people. She sat down in one of the chairs they had for the elderly. There was no one else in the post office with her, save the postal workers themselves.

She picked up the day's newspaper. Not much news of import to read today. There was one news item that sort of caught her eye. Aum Shinrikyo was in the papers again, having recently been declared bankrupt. She had something of a grudge against them, despite not even being in the country at the time. But the community back home had been very panicked when they had heard of the news on TV.

It was just one year ago. She had been in the youth center lounge at the time, waiting for Isabel to come by and pick her up. Someone had come in then, yelling to turn on the news, something big had happened. She had been the one to find the remote and change the channel to NHK, and that's when they had seen it.

The sarin gas attack on the Tokyo Subway. It was evening there, and morning in Japan. The evening had seen many panicked teenagers coming to the center to watch the news and then call long distance, back to their family members in Tokyo, to make sure that they were all right.

She knew she didn't have any family in Tokyo, but that night she had been very grateful that Isabel had forcibly pulled her away from the television and walked her home. Even now, she couldn't bring herself to take the subway alone. Trains yes. Subways no.

The thing about agoraphobia, according to the dry academic stuff she'd read about her own condition, was that it came down to thought processes. The main form of therapy used to treat agoraphobia was called cognitive behavioural therapy, which sought to address those thought processes by changing perspectives on them. For example, why was a person with agoraphobia afraid to go outside? Maybe it was for no distinct reason. Maybe it was a poor response to a rational reason, like “I can't go outside because I'm scared I'll get skin cancer from the sun so I'll just stay inside forever”. Maybe it was a logical, reasonable response to an irrational reason, like “I can't go outside because it's violent out there and I will surely be killed by some axe murderer on the side of the road”.

But it was really hard for her to think of the last one as irrational when it was a real, actual thing that had recently happened. What if she had been here a year earlier, in Tokyo on the subway, just in time to get sarin gassed? It was in the realm of possibility-- no, worse. Reality. It was a real thing that had happened to some people, and that could have easily included her.

She shuddered. What if she died outside of her apartment? Who would find her body? How long would it take for them to find her? Her official documents were all in Spanish, too, except for her travel visa. How long for them to find someone who could read it? Or would they find her abandoned apartment first?

She felt short of breath.

How long for her parents to get the news? How long for her body to get shipped back to be buried--

Oh no oh nonononononono--

No, no no. The room had gotten dark, foreboding in her eyes, though it was still only about eight in the morning. She was sweating, she could feel the trickle down the side of her face. She felt like she was going to faint if she didn't get some fresh air. Somehow, despite the dark room, the lights felt brighter than ever, like they were focusing exclusively on her.

She

had

to leave.

She stood up quickly, felt herself getting dizzy as she stood. The office workers must have thought she was drunk. The lights felt so hot. She was still sweating. She heard some voices from the desk. They were talking about her. They were making fun of her. She definitely looked drunk. Day drinking, this early? She had to get out. She had to get out.

SHE HAD TO GET OUT.

Her legs were wobbly. She forced them to be straight, forced herself to the door. Behind her she could vaguely sense that someone had come out from behind the desk and was coming over to her. The idea of someone grabbing her, touching her right now filled her with terror. She swung her hand, threw the newspaper she hadn't realized was still in her grip. Shaking like a leaf, she banged her right shoulder against the door, then pushed outwards, stumbling out onto the street.

Failure. Failure. She had failed. Everything had been going so great and then--

She just HAD to pick up that fucking newspaper, hadn't she?!

She caught her breath, feeling better already now that the lights weren't bearing down on her and now that there was air to breathe. But she still had to find a nice dark corner to hide in. People were staring at her. They definitely thought she was drunk, or sick, or both.

She was sick, in fact, and that's why she had to hide.

She ran. On wobbly legs, but she ran. Behind her, she heard steps and worried they were for her. Thankfully, she knew that there was a quiet alley down which she could find a small quiet and mostly abandoned memorial to some samurai or other, and it was nearby. She made a run for it. Her heart rate jumped when she heard someone yelling behind her, but she ignored it and ran, heart pounding, head hurting, and fear surging through her veins. As far as she knew, that person was coming to yell at her for being a nuisance, maybe even hurt her, and she couldn't stop.

She ran down one street, turned fast on her heel, ducking left. There it was, right ahead. A torii gate hidden away from the eyes of the public, on a sudden cobblestone path. She had found this place once when she had done her circling around to the post office, and kept it in mind in case she ever needed a hideaway and couldn't make it home. She ran, comfortable sneakers making it easy on her feet.

It was remarkable that such a quiet place existed right here in the middle of a busy city and yet no one knew of its existence except the occasional old man or old woman. Remarkable and lucky. She dashed past one torii gate, then turned a sharp right and went past another, and she was in.

Her heart was pounding. She wanted to collapse to her knees and cry, but first she reached the grass. Then she fell onto the ground, sobbing in relief.

And in anger.

What. A fucking failure. That was a pathetic show she had just shown there and she knew it.

The very small part of her mind that was still reasonable objected. She shouldn't feel angry at herself, she was scared and panicking and she had been doing so well. But the rest of her mind just used that as an excuse to catapult into the next accusation. She had been doing so well! And then she had picked up a fucking newspaper and just LOST IT? Pathetic! All that work for absolutely nothing! And there was no question about whether or not she could go back to the post office. Go back, and feel everyone's judging stares as they elbow each other to whisper, “hey, that's the loser who started crying because of a dry newspaper article and had a panic attack in the middle of a post office! Can you believe that?”

“No,” she whispered, tears streaming down her face. “Stop it. Stop this, stop it!” She clapped her hands over her ears. “Stop saying this to me, just stop it now!”

But her mind kept coming at her.

“You are so pathetic, Maria. Let's go over the facts. You are in a foreign country that barely wants you here. You have known you have agoraphobia since you were nine years old, at least? That's when you moved to the city with your family and suddenly discovered that crowds made you really anxious and scared. A bit longer for you to get officially diagnosed. And yet you still decide to be a fucking idiot and move to a foreign country to... what was it, prove that you can make it as a clothing designer? And to prove that you could totally live on your own?”

 A derisive snort. “And you felt so proud when you stepped on that plane without having a panic attack on the tarmac, didn't you?  Well, how do you feel now? You can't even sit down quietly in a deserted post office here without having a freakout! Pathetic! How do you stand living with yourself?”

She shook her head from side to side, hands still over her ears. “No quiero oír más de tus palabras, ya vete y déjame en paz, ¡no quiero oír más!”

But the accusations continued, snaking their way past any of her objections and biting at her.

“But really, how do you stand living with yourself? I mean that as an honest question, mi querida Marisol.” It was sneering with the nickname, not affectionate. “The only reason you were able to last as long as you did in a big city was because you had Isabel to hold your hand, and I don't even mean that metaphorically. I mean that you literally had to hold her hand in crowds. Like a child, not an older sister.

"And you are an adult! How long did you expect for her to be able to hold your hand, really? I mean, let's be realistic here. She was always going to move away. It is even what she is studying. She wants to be an archaeologist and travel around the world digging up ancient cultures and artifacts. What did you intend to do when she left? Just stay inside the house all day? Rely on your parents to get everything done? But instead of being an old woman, you are supposed to be the reliable older sister! Seriously, why didn't you ever consider just throwing yourself off a bridge?”

“Oh, wait, I forgot,” the voice in her head mused, and then it seemed to lower its voice, kneel down by her side and whisper straight into her ear, breath tickling her neck. “You did consider that. Several times. And every time, you chickened out. Because bridges were crowded. And you're so afraid of crowds without your sister. Isn't that just the crowning irony of it all?”

Mari pitched forward on the grass, trying to contain her sobs before they got loud and someone came out to chase her away. She buried her face in her hands and cried.

“D-déjame en... paz,” she sobbed. “Ya...  he oído suficiente. ¿Que más q-quieres de mi?”

“That was the best part, though,” the voice laughed. “I am going to leave now, but I do want you to keep that in mind. Don't forget it. You're too pathetic to live, and yet too pathetic to leave.” It chuckled even as it faded away. “Si de veras quieres terminarlo todo, nadamas dime y te puedo ayudar con eso.”

And it finally left Mari alone, trembling and shaking on the ground, hugging herself tightly as tears fell down her face.

-----

Alfred F. Jones

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2013, 06:53:15 am »
It could have ended there. Most other times that anxiety attacks like that happened to her, that's exactly what happened; she hid herself away, cried, and then eventually dragged herself back to her apartment.

But not this time.

Mari didn't even notice him until he had stepped closer, onto the grass. She had been crying for several minutes now, her face red and her cheeks raw from rubbing the tears away with her hands, all under the stern gaze of a samurai from the Meiji era keeping the peace in this old forgotten memorial.

He paused on the grass for a moment, but then spoke up.

“M-miss? Are you... are you okay now?”

Mari's head shot up to look at who it was that had come to kill her.

“N-no te acerces,” she stammered before she remembered where she was. “I-I mean.. S-stay away!”

“Miss, please relax,” he said. It was a young man, dressed in the attire of a Japanese salaryman; black jacket, black pants, dark blue tie. He was standing on the edge of the grass, moving closer, but only very gradually. “I am not here to hurt you or scare you. I was just worried about you.”

“I-I don't need help from someone I do not even know,” she objected. “Who are you?”

“H-Habara,” he said. “Habara Akihiko. I work at the post office and I saw you--”

Her stomach seemed to do a backflip, and she interrupted him. “T-then leave me alone! I don't need you to laugh at me!”

“Miss, I do not want to laugh at you,” he replied, taking another step forward. “Please don't be frightened. I saw that you were scared, and I just wanted to try and help.”

Mari realized her eyes must be reddened from her tears. She glared at him. “I-I think you are lying to me.”

“No, I am not, miss,” he said, taking a step. “I do work at the post office, I said the truth about that, but I'm also a student of medicine. And you were having an anxiety attack, weren't you?”

She looked at him, saw the worry in this stranger's eyes, and started tearing up again.

“And it's okay. It is not the first time I've seen an anxiety attack. I just want to help you. Please.”

She was crying again, so she turned her face down to the ground so at least he wouldn't see.

“A-all right...”

Her shoulders were shaking as he made a few more steps, then sat down next to her.

“Miss... what's your name, first?”

She was still shaking, so it was hard to get it out. “M-Mari. M-Mari Saiho... Saihoshi.”

He nodded. “All right, Saihoshi-san. Do you take any sort of medication for panic attacks? Do you have any medicine with you?”

She shook her head. “I-I've tried to go to a pharmacy, but... kanji....”

“All right. I understand. Please take deep breaths, Saihoshi-san.” He didn't seem worried about the grass staining his clothes. Instead he put his hand over his chest. “Like this, please.” He took a deep breath. “Hold it in....” Then he released it. “For three seconds, and then... exhale, slowly.”

Her throat felt so dry. But she nodded, and tried to hold her breath. It was hard. Her sobs were still refusing to stop. But they were slowing down. She couldn't manage three seconds. But she could manage one.

“Again, please. Concentrate on breathing.”

She tried again. She held it for two seconds this time. She could already feel the beginnings of relief. Her heart rate was slowing down.

“You are doing well. Keep it up.” He modeled breathing for her again. “Inhale... then... exhale.”

She breathed in... then exhaled. He nodded. “That's good. Good job. Now, please, do me a favour, and count slowly from one to ten.”

This was the same sort of thing Isabel had asked her to do from time to time.

“One... two... three... four... five... six... seven... eight... nine... ten.”

“May I put my coat over you, Saihoshi-san?”

She was still shaking a little, she realized. She nodded. “Y-yeah.”

He pulled off his jacket, then put it over her shoulders, leaning over but also not actually coming into physical contact with her. It wasn't that cold a day outside, but she felt warmer-- in a good way, not from her heart racing in terror.

“Would you like me to get you something? Food or something to drink?”

She shook her head vigorously.

“That's all right then. That's all right.” He smiled. “You're going to be fine. Please close your eyes now, and focus on breathing again.”

She closed her eyes this time, and took a breath. This time she managed to inhale deeply.... then held it there for three seconds... and exhaled.

“Well done, Saihoshi-san.” He nodded. “You are doing well. How do you feel?”

She paused, then looked down. “Better now. Thanks to you. Though I'm still... hrm.” She sighed. “I feel so humiliated.”

“Humiliated how?” He asked.

“Well... I had a panic attack in a quiet, calm place and worse, a total stranger had to come and help me out.” She put a hand on her face. “I feel so embarrassed.”

“It's okay. Everyone needs help sometimes.” He smiled. “My mother used to have panic attacks, actually. I learned to help her out when it happened.”

“Your mother?”

“Yes.”

She winced inside. Other people had this, too. It was never a fun thing to re-learn.

“I'm afraid...” She wiped some tears away from her cheeks. “I didn't quite catch your name. I heard you say it, but I wasn't focusing.”

“Habara Akihiko. I work at the post office.”

Her heart sank. “Oh. Right.”

“It's okay, honest. I won't get in trouble or anything, I'll just call it my break.” He smiled. That hadn't really been what she had been thinking about, but sure. “And it's fine, honestly. I'm not going to laugh at you or anything. If you don't mind my asking, though....”

“Yes?”

“As you said, you were in a quiet room and reading silently. What triggered your panic attack? You don't have to answer if it makes you uncomfortable,” he added quickly. “But I want to know, in case it's something I need to remove from the post office so it does not happen again.”

“I, er...” She looked down. “I was reading in the newspaper.”

“Oh, there's bad news there?”

She tightened her grip on her pants leg. “It was about Aum Shinrikyo.”

“Au-- oh. Oh.” He winced. “I'm sorry. I understand now.”

She didn't think he really understood, but whatever. She sighed. “But I shouldn't hold you here any longer. You have to go back to work, right?”

“I should, but more important is if you're all right. How are you feeling now?”

She took a breath. “Better. Much better. Thank you so much, Habara-san.”

“Would you like to come back to the post office? Though, I assume that you just want to go home now and rest.”

She shook her head at the first sentence, nodded at the second. “Y-yeah. I don't want to go back in there. I'd be too humiliated.”

“No, don't be. There's nothing shameful about having a panic attack. Everyone has something that scares them.” He shook his head. “You shouldn't feel ashamed. It's not something that has to rule your life.”

She recognized the advice from her book. It sounded just as hollow spoken aloud as it did in the printed form. “Thanks, but I know that agoraphobia isn't that nice.” She smiled, somewhat bitterly. “I-I think I'll just go home. Thank you, Habara-san.”

She tried to walk past him. He didn't move to block her, but he did reach out his arm.

“Please wait, Saihoshi-san. Why did you come to the post office? Did you need to drop off a letter?”

She blanched. She had been just about to forget all about that and let this entire debacle go to waste. “Y-yes! I did want to do exactly that, in fact...” She looked down. “They're in my backpack. Ah.” She tried to reach for her backpack, but found his coat in her way. “I think this belongs to you.”

“Are you sure you don't need it any longer?”

“Yes.” She tried to smile. It came out weak, but at least it was real. “I am really grateful that someone like you came to help me.” She looked down. “If it had been up to me, I probably would have just lain there for an hour longer before I dragged myself home bit by bit.”

He shook his head. “That happening was exactly why I wanted to become a doctor. So I could help people like my mother. So she wouldn't have to be alone.” He took his coat back. “So that I could help.”

“I appreciate that a lot,” Mari replied. “And I imagine she does too.”

He nodded. “Anyway, what was it you wanted to drop off?”

“Ah.” She could reach for her backpack now. She pulled it off, and retrieved the two letters she wanted to send. “Here. These two letters, by international mail. And hold on just a second.” She reached again into her backpack, and rummaged around a little until she found a small plastic bag. “And this should be the exact amount of money needed to send them both. I calculated it.”

“I see,” he said, taking the letters and the money. “I can certainly get these sent for you.” He looked down at the letters. “One is to... Madrid?”

“Yeah.” She couldn't help but smile at that one. “My sister Isabel is studying archaeology there.”

“Wow, really? That's impressively far for a Japanese person to go! Especially since you could study that just fine here.”

The smile stayed on her face, but it was sort of frozen now. She... supposed that this stranger didn't need to know what was wrong with that sentence. Even if he was nice, she was probably never going to see him again. “Y-yeah.”

Thankfully, he didn't seem to notice that she had replied without conviction, and instead looked at the other letter. “And this one's to Peru? Do you have another sister there?”

“No.” She glanced to the side. “That's where my parents live.”

“Your pa--” He blinked. “Wait, Peru? Why?”

She felt her heart sink.

“That's...” She could easily lie. She didn't know him and he didn't know her. She was likely never going to see him ever again. She'd never seen him at the post office before. It should be easy to avoid him if he worked in the mornings. She didn't need to tell him the truth.

But, frankly, after him seeing her at her weakest and reaching out a hand to help her, she couldn't quite muster up the motivation to lie to his face.

“That... is where I grew up. It's where I was born.” She met his gaze. Even with people she knew well, meeting their gaze was rather unnerving for her, but she did it. “Soy Peruana Japonesa.”

He blinked. “That was... Spanish.”

“So are the letters,” she said. “And their names.”

Akihiko looked down at the letters again. “Y-you're right. You're Japanese, though?”

“That's what I just said. I'm Japanese Peruvian. Half Japanese, to be more accurate. Or you can call me a dekasegi, if you want to be more insulting.”

“N-no, I--” He scratched his head. “I was just... surprised. I did notice that your skin was dark, but I thought...” He looked down at the letters again, then seemed to remember what he was doing and why he was out here. “A-ah, I should get back...”

She nodded, a bit sad. “Yeah. Thanks for everything, though.”

“I'll get these delivered as soon as I return.” He seemed to compose himself. “Please have a safe trip home, S-Saihoshi-san.”

“Sure.” She shrugged. “I'll try to rest when I return to my apartment.”

He walked away from her first, heading back down the alleyway, but before he left, he turned back to wave. “Take care of yourself, miss.”

She didn't wave back, but she did smile. “Yeah, thanks for everything... Habara-san.”

She sighed when he was gone and turned her focus over to the Meiji-era samurai who had been looking down at her sternly the whole time.

“Yeah, yeah, I get it,” she said, shouldering her backpack again. “Revere the emperor, expel the...” she sighed. “But even then, thanks for the quiet place.”

She headed back home taking the long way this time, and managed to avoid crowds by using the alleyways. It was embarrassing how much easier it was now than it had been earlier. Then she got to her apartment building, went back up the elevator and refused to let herself worry about it running out of air, entered her room, pulled off her shoes, and sat on her bed.

Then she pulled over her cassette player and her headphones, and put on a tape of Julio Iglesias to relax. She managed enough muscle control to turn it off right before falling asleep, and she didn't wake up again for many hours.

She really, really needed the rest.

End of Chapter Three



So far this hasn't been much of a Touhou fanfic, has it? Well, hopefully that'll change in chapter four. Hopefully Nanowrimo will agree!

I've never actually had an anxiety disorder, so if I got anything wrong I apologize. I did do my research, but if you recognize any problems with my depiction of agoraphobia and panic attacks, please point them out! 'till next time.

Matsuri

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2013, 07:20:11 am »
........

I... fuck.

Just... jesus christ. I want to give Mari a hug so bad right now because holy shit that is horrifying. Way to be spot-on with the panic attack, too >.<

That was especially worrisome near the end of that, too. Those are... not very nice internal monologues at all. :(

This Akihiko fellow seems really nice though! It's good to know that there was someone there who was able to help her, and that she was able to be calmed down well enough. I do hope things begin to look up for her soon either way >.<

Very nicely written-- but dear god that was enough to make me squirm in my chair. D:
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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2013, 05:19:52 pm »
Man, y u so mean Ruro? ;O; Even so, this was quite engaging to see her just lose it like that. I can only continue to hope that having a place to work and people to relate to can help her overcome this. >.<

Very good. Keep it up~
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[19:42] <Sapz> I think that's the only time I've ever seen a suicide bullet shoot its own suicide bullet

Iced Fairy

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #15 on: November 11, 2013, 06:50:51 pm »
An interesting turn of events.  I was a little worried Mari was going to be out of it for a long time, but it seems things are progressing.  I'll put twenty on our mysterious postman returning in the future.

I'm also idly wondering if this shrine has a part to play.  I'd wonder if the birds were involved but then I remembered you only like the crows so that's out.  I suppose they'll still be guests at mealtime though.

Alfred F. Jones

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2013, 07:33:05 pm »
I'd wonder if the birds were involved but then I remembered you only like the crows so that's out.
so nanoka

This one is a pretty standard, uneventful chapter. That's not a red herring phrase, I promise.



Chapter Four

After her horrible meltdown at the post office, Mari did what she usually did after a big panic attack. She sequestered herself in her room and refused to leave for several days.

That was one of the few bright sides of living on her own. The only voices she would hear trying to persuade her to leave the house were the magpies in the tree outside her window, and all she had to do to tune them out was close the window. After the first day, though, she started to feel guilty about tuning them out, so she just kept it open from that point onwards.

She left the room three times, in fact. She left the first time to do her weekly laundry-- and thank god, the apartment building had its own laundry machines on the second floor. She would probably die if she had to go to a crowded laundromat once a week. She didn't leave the apartment building this time, though, and she was relieved for that.

The second time was to go to the video store, give back her rentals, and get some others in turn. She had finished the two she had, but she had found the NHK history special on the Muromachi period of Japan very interesting (mostly for the historical costumes), so she tried to look for something like that. She found two other NHK specials on VHS, one on the Boshin War and another on the Ryukyu Islands.

While she was there, she went to the grocery store that was a block closer to her place, and restocked her refrigerator with fruits, vegetables, pasta, and some meat. She bought as much as she could carry so she wouldn't have to return for a while. Thank goodness her apartment was just a block over.

These brief excursions aside, she didn't leave the safety of her apartment for a couple of days. It made her feel somewhat guilty that she hadn't gone out to the self-storage she had promised on the phone to that kannushi, but she would then remember her meltdown and compare it to how much better she felt indoors, and would sigh and get over it.

However, by day three the guilt had started to get to her, so she resolved to call up the people who ran the storage units she had crammed her larger sewing equipment into, to find out how late or how early they were open. If she had to go at all, she honestly preferred to do it at night where she could hide in the shadows, or at very early in the day when most of the world was still asleep. She had been lucky enough to get a fairly large space for cheap there when she had just arrived in the city.

She called the “trunk room” company, as they apparently called themselves in this country, after digging in her things to find their business card. After one ring, they answered.

“H-hello, my name is Saihoshi Mari. I have a trunk room rented with you, but I had a few questions.”

“Sure.”

“I forgot the t-times you're open. What time do you open and close?”

“Our offices open at seven in the morning and close at eleven in the evening.”

Mari frowned. “Darn. I was hoping that you'd be open earlier, since I can't go at that time...”

A pause on the line. “Well, you could always have something delivered from your trunk room.”

She furrowed her brow. “Delivered?”

“Certainly. If you give us your information and tell us very specifically what you want delivered, we can send someone over to your place to drop it off. It'll cost you some extra yen for the delivery, but it is an option if you need it.”

“That sounds...” she blinked. “Pretty perfect for me, actually. Yes, I'd love to do that.”

Getting her sewing machine and mannequins out of her storage without actually having to make several trips to pick it all up? Excellent. It was worlds better than she could have hoped for. She gave them all the information they needed and started working on making a sandwich for lunchtime when the doorbell rang.

She was grateful that she had left half of her apartment almost completely empty. She had been tempted to start putting things there after being unsuccessful in her attempt to get a job as a seamstress, but she had wanted that area open for working on outfits, holding out hope. Now it paid off.

She guided the delivery man to her room, holding open the door for him as he ferried up her things. Thankfully, he did not seem like an especially talkative sort. She was one hundred percent okay with that.

When he was done, she paid the man and saw him off, and while she was down there, one of the apartment staff poked her head out of the office. “Saihoshi-san?”

“Yes?” she asked.

“Just sorting out the mail, I might as well give yours to you while you're here.” She handed a couple of letters to Mari. “Here you go.”

She took the letters and scanned through them. Spam mail, pizza delivery offers, and....

Her eyes widened.

“Thank you very much,” she said in reply as she headed back upstairs.

Perfect timing on the mannequins. She was going to need them.

-----

She set up her mannequins just like she had had them back at her parents' home, recreating her perfect work space. Excellent.

The package she had found at the bottom of her mail pile was exactly everything she needed. She quickly moved all her sweaters and bags of cookies into a corner and spread out the contents of the package on her bed and her desk.

A few of the papers didn't fit anywhere, so she sat down to read them.

The Highly Responsive to Prayers - 東方靈異伝
a musical play, presented by the Shanghai Alice Theatre Troupe


Mari shook her head. English was her third language, after Spanish and Japanese, but even she could tell that was a nonsensical sentence. Just what was being highly responsive to these prayers? Where was the subject? Whose prayers? And what was being prayed for?

Oddly enough, the kanji accompanying it came out to something different. With the accompaniment of her Japanese-Spanish dictionary, she parsed it out. The first two kanji, “Eastern”, was easy enough, and the rest came out to “wondrous legend”. Why the two titles?

Well, whatever, she wasn't being hired as a writer. She was just the seamstress. She shrugged it off and kept reading.

Setting:
In a strange world far to the east, there is a shrine known as the Hakurei Shrine. Many strange and supernatural occurrences happen around the area the shrine occupies, so it is not highly trafficked by visitors, who fear the occurrences. On the other hand, the shrine's existence is why those strange occurrences do not happen elsewhere, in more populated areas: the reason for this is because the shrine maidens that tend the shrine have the power to summon the gods, and thus the shrine is effectively a gate that non-human creatures from other realms must pass through before they can reach human populations. 


She sighed. This was definitely more of a thing her sister would like, not her. Still, learning about the setting these characters would be in would help her visualize what environment they'd be wearing her clothes in. She reached over, grabbed a cookie, and then continued reading.

Long ago, powerful mountaineering ascetics, exorcists, and spiritual leaders from all areas of the country gathered in order seal away youkai, demons, and other creatures from their land. Despite their great success, the recoil from performing the ceremonies was so tremendous that it annihilated everyone gathered there.

“Ouch. Tough luck,” she muttered.

Much time passed after that-- so much time that the effectiveness of the seal began to fade. The shrine maiden currently living at this shrine has trained her body and mind intensely in order to fight these unstoppable enemies, these "things that aren't human", and prevent them from reaching the Human Village. Even though she knew it was a futile effort, even though she knew her life would be forfeit, she made her way to one of the gates.

“Oooh, so I'm gonna have to design a combat-ready outfit?” she asked herself. “Well, not really my thing, but a commission is a commission.”

... Actually, it's not really that serious.

“... What.”

The truth is that this shrine maiden is Reimu Hakurei, who always gets caught up in strange things. One of the "things that isn't human" destroyed her shrine, and she flew into a rage. There is only one thing that will quell her anger: the total annihilation of all "things that aren't human"!!

Mari raised her eyebrows. “Whoa, genocidal protagonist? This is one weird play.”

... Well, that's half wrong too.

She stared blankly at the page. “Well, what is the tone of this story, already?”

The real truth is that Reimu Hakurei is actually quite the optimist. Acting on her whims as always, she figured she'd go and enter one of the gates. After a while, she realized that only the Hakurei Shrine's greatest treasure, the Yin-Yang Orb, was effective against these non-human creatures.

Reimu: "Well, whatever. Things will turn out just fine as long I use the yin-yang orb!"

What sort of fate awaits this shrine maiden?


The young woman stared at the page a while longer, then looked down at it critically.

“What on... earth? What kind of back story was that?“

Well, that hadn't been all that informative. On the other hand, she had made the useful discovery that her newfound boss wasn't the greatest screenwriter.

After a moment of shaking her head, she sighed. Well, it was his first play, hadn't he said that? Of course the first try wasn't going to be a work of art. Besides, she wasn't a writer, and as far as she knew she wasn't reading the hiragana exactly right, so she was going to give him the benefit of the doubt and just work on the costumes.

“All right, now that that is over, on to the cast list.”

First, the heroes. The first one made enough sense. She read it through, half for hiragana practice and half to see if she could glean any clothing information from it.

Main Character: Reimu Hakurei
The shrine maiden of the Hakurei Shrine. She possesses an innate spiritual power but lacks the discipline to develop it. She wields the powerful Yin-Yang Orb, but without skill, often flailing it about wildly. Despite that, she is still a force to be reckoned with due to her natural power. Reimu has trained herself to attack with ofuda, her spirit power, and martial arts. These all proved useless against her enemies this time, though, so she's a bit worried. Currently, she is the only person at the shrine.


Mari snorted. “Competent.”

In her notepad, she scribbled “martial artist”, then she looked up in her dictionary what an ofuda was. With that out of the way, she looked at the second protagonist's name, then frowned and rubbed her eyes to make sure she was reading it properly.

Yin-Yang Orb: Hakurei Shrine's Greatest Treasure
A mysterious orb with an unnatural amount of spiritual power. Perhaps a soul dwells within? It appears as though it could be alive. Normally you cannot defeat spirits or devilish powers without a weapon such as this.


She frowned. “So is it alive or is it not? It's a character but Hakurei-san's the only person at the shrine?” She was starting to get the impression that the kannushi was not the most clear, unambiguous writer in the world. Still, it didn't seem like she was going to have to design a costume for an orb.

Then she had a thought and wrote it down to call him about later. “Am I in charge of making props as well? Because I just read the description of the yin-yang orb and while I'm sure I could make things like Hakurei-san's ofuda, I'm not sure I could create something like that.”

She put that sheet of paper down on her desk. That was it for the heroes. Now on to the villains. There were seven of them, apparently. But she was quickly confused by some of these as well.

Out of the seven, four looked human... or human-ish, anyway. Two of them had wings; really large ones, at that. And since she didn't have a pigeon coop nearby, where was she going to find a source for those feathers? And then there was one sketch that was just of a bunch of eyes. How was she supposed to design a costume for that? And then there was apparently some kind of coin or a disc with the image of a girl on it. After a moment, she supposed that she could probably figure out how to make a costume for that-- black pants, with a large but light mask over her head to give her the appearance of a glowing coin. But wow, talk about awkward. Who the heck wrote stories with evil coins as enemies?

And then the last character had three forms, one male, one female, and one like an orb. Fantastic. So she would have to figure out how to enable quick clothing changes on stage. She had some ideas, but... what kind of messed up story was this?

She looked at the cast list, then slowly facepalmed into it with a sigh. Beggars couldn't be choosers. Every day she stayed here without a job to work on, the more she dipped into her savings, and the more panicked her parents' letters would be.

It was definitely a weird commission, but she promised herself she would see it through.

Speaking of money, though. She had saved that part for last. Underneath the rest of the letters and papers were several bills. 7000 yen in all, with a final sticky note on them. “This is advance for the cloth that you're gonna have to buy. If you go over, just save the receipts and I'll pay you back.” She wasn't even sure she would need that much, but it didn't hurt to be prepared with cloth for repairs.

For the four... no, six costumes she would be making in full, she spread out their sketches on her bed to decide what they would look like, supplemented by yet another list, this one of short details the kannushi had thought of for their outfits. That list included measurements, like height, weight, and bust size. She was pleased. Sometimes at home, women were too shy to give her their bust sizes, which just left her frustrated because she would have to guess at them and then hope to not be yelled at loudly. And then she would have to hide while Isabel chewed them out.

She shook her head. Back to the present. She wrote down the colours she would need. A lot of blue and white and red, and some smaller dashes of other colours like purple and black. There. She had most everything she would need, now, except for the really weird things like that golden disc and some kind of framework for someone to jump out of a large yin-yang orb on stage. Wait, no. Seven characters. She had forgotten about the Hakurei Miko. That outfit would require even more red and white. She wrote down an estimate for how many meters she would need of each, mentally sizing up how much she would need for each of the actresses, taking their height and sizes into consideration.

Thankfully, she knew already where she could pick up fabric. When she had come over from Peru and had her stuff shipped over to her new home, she had originally planned to bring her bolts of cloth over with her just to make sure she had them. But then they had proved too expensive by weight to ship, enough that it was a better idea just to buy some here instead. So she had searched with the help of a map and found a crafts store in the area that would let her buy a bunch of fabric to sew.

She had never actually gone there, mind. She just knew where it was. She sighed and looked at the time. She sort of wanted to go now and get it over with so she could stay in her apartment for the next week and not emerge except for more cookies and videos and juice, but she also wanted to let it go until tomorrow. She would need a full day to prepare herself for another outdoors excursion. And in fact, this was an improvement. Once upon a time, she had needed three or more days to be able to go outside her house without having a breakdown at school. Therapists and Isabel by her side had been the only reasons she had eventually been able to be less home-bound and been able to have a normal life.

And then, of course, she had abandoned it all and moved across the Pacific Ocean.

Mari sighed. Yeah, today wasn't the day for this. She'd do it tomorrow.

After her earlier success with the self storage company, she was somewhat tempted to find out if they would deliver the cloth to her apartment, but decided against it. She was dipping too deep into her savings to be comfortable spending extra money on things like that (she could probably still do it, but she would have to cut down on cookies and that was not an option). And more importantly, she wanted to see the fabric in person and measure it herself.

And lastly and least important, she should probably at least try to leave her apartment once a week. She got the unsettling feeling that her parents were believing her lies less and less in her letters to Lima. Speaking of, her parents and Isabel had probably received her most recent one by now, or would be soon...

Mari sighed again. Tomorrow, she would definitely do this tomorrow. But tonight was a night for wasting time in front of the TV watching more movies.

After about an hour organizing her notes and getting out her sketching notebook while gathering her nerve, she boldly stepped out of her apartment and went two blocks down to the convenience store again. This time she got melon juice to go with her cookies, eggs, more bread for the birds, a bag of oranges to snack on, and picked up a VHS copy of some Kabuki theatre performance called Musume Dojoji that looked mildly interesting. She figured it would do her well to study up on Japanese theatre if she was going to be designing historical costumes.

Once she got home she was rewarded for her efforts by the video, because as it turned out, kabuki theatre was absolutely perfect to model the character Shingyoku's costume on. Fast on-stage costume changes were doable, so long as she designed the costume as not so much a costume as a cover that could be pulled off at a moment's notice. She wrote down ideas in her notebook, sketching out what she would need.

And once again, she was asleep early in the evening, relaxed and calm. Tomorrow she would go out again, but this day had been a good one all around.

She left bread for the magpies on the windowsill and let their happy warbles accompany her as she drifted away.

End of Chapter Four



Note: the thing with kabuki theatre and its fast costume changes is real! I first learned about it at a panel about Japanese theatre at my local anime convention just a few months ago. It is called hikinuki, apparently, and you can find out more about it here, http://www2.ntj.jac.go.jp/unesco/kabuki/en/4/4_04_01.html and you can watch it in action here: http://youtu.be/nHnymgCWpWs?t=50s

I found it instantly intriguing because we don't see a whole lot of instantaneous on-stage clothing changes in western theatre. If characters do change outfits on stage, they are not usually nearly that dramatic, nor is there, like a special word for it-- it's not anything special, it's just “character puts on clothes or takes something off”. But yeah, I figured that that particular bit from traditional Japanese theatre would be excellent to use if there actually ever was a live-action version of tHRtP (and by the way, lord save us from such a nightmare).

also thank you to the Touhou wiki for having those translations around.

Iced Fairy

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2013, 10:14:46 pm »
Quote
On the other hand, she had made the useful discovery that her newfound boss wasn't the greatest screenwriter.

Words I have said something quite similar to often.  :colonveeplusalpha:

Also I hadn't actually considered how difficult those costumes would be if you were trying to toss a human in them.  PC98's going to be hard mode for poor Mari.

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2013, 11:11:32 pm »
Quote
But wow, talk about awkward. Who the heck wrote stories with evil coins as enemies?

There are so many personifications of video games that would like to have a word with Mari and freak her out.

Anyway, I'm excited to see where this is going. :D I can't wait until Mari creates Sariel's second form where the actress turns into an inverted purple nightmare. And man, she just can't appreciate the kannushi's subtlety and passion for the story. -^-
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Baity: For a moment, I thought you broke 1.1billion. Upon looking at my score.dat, I can assume that you destroyed the score that is my failed (first!) 1cc attempt on my first day of playing. Congratulations.

[19:42] <Sapz> I think that's the only time I've ever seen a suicide bullet shoot its own suicide bullet

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2013, 05:13:57 am »
I'm genuinely intrigued, wondering how she's going to design Yuugenmagan, myself. :p

But really, I do enjoy seeing Mari's thoughts on HRtP, because they resemble a lot of my own feelings on it (which is generally 'what on earth were you even thinking ZUN this makes no sense')-- as well as her insights on how she will go about making them.

Also, mentioning that she would actively pay extra to have stuff delivered to her is a good way to even further drive her anxieties home-- even if she's seemingly feeling somewhat better now that she's had time to recover from last chapter's breakdown. For now, I look forward to how she starts to design these costumes.

Very nicely done. Keep up the good work. <3
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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #20 on: November 22, 2013, 03:01:56 am »
This one's a long 'un!



Chapter Five

God, waking up early was the best. It came naturally to her, because she slept so early. But she still relished the stillness of the morning as she opened up her window wider, showered, got dressed, and whipped up some eggs to eat for breakfast.

Today on the agenda was cloth, cloth, cloth. She already had everything else here with her; fabric scissors, measuring tape, pins and needles and thread. They had lain neglected in a corner of her room for entirely too long, but now they would finally have a chance to shine again. She would have to, at some point, go back to the store a second time to pick up material to make the weirder costumes (or any props she would have to make, as well as hats) but if she got everything she needed today, she could sequester herself in her room and not leave for several days while working, and not feel like she was being irresponsible or caving in to her anxiety. The idea sounded absolutely glorious.

On the other hand, she had a slight, small problem.

Weight.

She had done the calculations-- math had never been her favourite subject, but she had become very good at it thanks to all the measurements she had had to do back home and as part of her associate's degree in sewing. And she had calculated that if she got as much cloth as she wanted to make all these large billowy clothes and have some to spare just in case she underestimated somewhere, it would be too heavy to carry all at once.

She gave the magpies their usual slices of bread to munch on as she ate her breakfast, and considered her options.

Maybe if she had a cart to pull along, but the one she had had broken some time ago (it had lost two of its wheels, somewhere) and she had been too negligent to buy another one. Worse still, it was pretty far out of the way and she had had to walk around the entire shopping district to avoid the crowds.

She could probably still do it... and in the end, she would probably have to do just that in order to get all the cloth she needed. Going back several times was not an idea she relished. It took enough time to work up the nerve to leave her apartment's coziness and quietness, and if she got back inside, she was not entirely sure she would be able to muster up the courage to leave again quickly.

It was at times like this that she sort of wished she were religious, so she would have something or someone to pray to. But she had never been the religious sort. Instead, she compromised and got out one of her anxiety help books again and read through its various strategies for handling agoraphobia for anything helpful. She had already read these books dozens of times, but she always could use the refresher.

The odds were less unbalanced than usual for her, actually. Glancing at the calendar, it was a Friday, and it was still quite early in the day. If she went sooner rather than later, she'd be able to avoid the really bad noontime or afternoon crowds.

And she definitely, definitely would not have the same kind of breakdown she had had inside the post office earlier this week.

Mari took her notebook and the paper of measurements that she would need to use as a reference, and threw them into her small backpack along with an orange and a bottle of water. She didn't like spending money on bottles of water, so she had just bought one once and then reused the bottle many times. And of course she brought the money she'd need. She remembered that the kannushi would reimburse her for the cloth, which did lessen her worry, but first she had to go out and buy it and hopefully not buy too little of what she needed.

Gathering her courage and leaving another piece of bread for the magpies to devour, she headed out. First things first: go to the fabric store and measure out what she needed, and let them get her order taken care of while she went several more blocks down to the only mart that she knew sold shopping carts. Then come back with a new metal cart and use that to bring the fabric home. Then she would get to hide in her room for a week while sewing, completely free of guilt. It was the perfect plan.

So of course as soon as she left out the apartment's front door, the entire plan was derailed.

She was barely halfway down the block when she found that someone who was walking in front of her, towards her, suddenly wasn't moving. She kept her gaze down as a rule, but this time she lifted it to see what was going on.

The person in front of her blinked.

“S... Saihoshi-san?”

Her throat went dry. Recognized on the street. It was like her worst nightmare. But then she realized who it was, and it didn't feel all that nightmarish after all.

“Habara-san... was it?”

He smiled wide. “Yes! It's good to see you again, miss Saihoshi.”

So it was him! She found herself smiling back on reflex, even if she was more confused than happy. “S-same to you, Habara-san.” She scratched at her head. It was embarrassing, really, to be found again by the almost total stranger who watched you freak out in a park about some crazy cult in the newspaper.

“I'm happy to see you out and about. What are you doing today?”

He was really nice and all, but she was starting to feel increasingly nervous. Her eyes glanced from side to side. Wasn't there a way to politely get out of here? The more time that passed, the less time she had to get to the other end of the commercial district before the crowds showed up.

“I'm, uh, shopping, and in fact I kind of need to go.” She winced. Everything she had learned about Japanese culture before coming to this country told her that she was being really rude. But better being rude than having a panic attack in the street. “Right about, uh, now.”

She stepped past him and didn't look back, but she immediately felt guilty for walking out on the person who had been so kind to her back when she had needed it. But she had already felt her heart begin to race from nervousness, and in the end she chose to protect her own emotional stability than politeness.

Though, she needn't have worried, because he came after her.

“Saihoshi-san, I apologize. Holding you up in the street makes you nervous, doesn't it?”

She nearly missed a step. “H-how'd you know that?”

“My mother is the same way.” He gave her a sort of awkward smile. “But today she's spending the day with her best friend, so I get to spend my day off however I like instead of staying home.”

She was walking at the same pace as Akihiko now. As long as she kept moving, she didn't mind talking to one other person.

“In fact... where are you headed today, if you don't mind my asking?”

“I'm, uh, going to the fabric store b-because I need a lot of their cloth. Er, that didn't make sense.” She pressed her lips together. “B-because I need a lot of cloth from there. There. And then I also wanted to go to that hardware store because it was the only place I could find carts to carry my stuff in, since I need several bolts of cloth.”

“Oh, the crafting store? I was headed in that direction too, actually.” Akihiko leaned forward slightly so as to be closer to her eye level. She hadn't really noticed it before, but he was a fair bit taller than her. Mildly irritating, but then again, so was pretty much everyone else. “Is it too much trouble if I come along?”

It was, she noted irritably to herself. It was embarrassing, and he was entirely too cheerful for her tastes. And worse, it interrupted her perfect plan. But if he was going in the same direction she was, she was just going to run into him again the entire way there, and that was not worth the pain.

“No, I guess it's not too much.” Implication: that it was some trouble, but it was counterbalanced by the knowledge that it would be more irritating to go without him.

He didn't seem to notice, though, and just smiled. “Though, I do have another question.”

She did not necessarily feel like answering his questions, but she did notice that the more she focused on them, the easier it was to ignore the people walking around her. So she sighed. “What is it?”

“Why all the cloth? Are you making something big?”

She tried to be annoyed, but at least he wasn't like those people who saw her with an obvious nearly-made dress and then asked if she was making a tablecloth.

“Sort of... not some thing, but several some... things. Plural.” She was always so painfully awkward when speaking. “I'm working on a project for a client. Oh, er...” She had gotten ahead of herself. “I'm a seamstress. I sew clothes and repair them. But right now I am working on a project for someone I...” she was going to say 'ran into' but then she remembered that she had never seen the man, much less spoken to him in person. “Someone who got into contact with me. He's a... in charge of an acting troupe, I guess he's their manager, or a scriptwriter, I'm not sure about that part. But anyway, he sought me out because he saw some clothes I designed, and he wants me to sew the costumes for one of his plays.”

Mari cringed. She had babbled. But Akihiko didn't seem annoyed-- not visibly, anyhow. He did blink twice, as if puzzled, but then he nodded. “All right, I see. So you are making multiple costumes, and that is why you are buying all this cloth. Right?”

“Y-yeah, more or less,” she replied. “And I'd like to get them all bought in one day, so I have to buy a cart because there is really no way I can carry it all myself.”

“Hmm...” He rubbed his chin. Mari took the opportunity to look at what he was wearing, for that matter. Last time she had seen him, he had been at work, so he had been wearing business attire. But today he was on break, so he was wearing much more casual clothes. Dark blue jeans, a white shirt, and a long-sleeved but thin-looking black sweater over that. He was completely unremarkable. Then again, she was wearing pants and a hoodie again. It was mildly hypocritical of a fashion designer to not wear cute clothes all the time, she realized, but screw that, she just wanted clothes that would be comfortable to have a panic attack in if necessary.

... her priorities were really twisted.

She shrugged and came back to the present.

“Is that a yes?”

“Huh?”

She had totally spaced out while walking and talking. Akihiko was looking at her.

“Eh?”

“Is that a yes?”

She had totally been caught. “Yes to... what?”

“I asked if it would be fine if I helped you carry all that fabric home. Or, well, to wherever you live. An apartment, I'm guessing.”

“Oh.” She considered for a moment. “Sure, I guess. If you want.”

“Great,” he said. “And isn't it just two blocks up ahead? If that's the fabric store you were probably going to go to. Unless there's another one.”

She looked up. Huh.

“You're right...” Wow, she had totally managed to skip out on almost all the usual stress of walking in a crowded area. Keeping her mind focused on something other than the crowds around her had been a really, really good idea.

“Huh, it's been a while since I came around here,” he said, apparently to her, but it seemed like he was talking to himself more. “But first, you were going to the hardware store?”

“No. I was planning to drop by here first and order all the cloth I needed, and then while they cut it up and put it in bags for me, then going to the hardware store and buying one of those carts.”

“Ah, excellent. It looks like the place I need to go is right in between those two places.”

It just occurred to Mari that she had told him everything about where she was going and what she was doing that day, but she hadn't been sharp enough to ask him in turn. She wanted to slap herself for being dumb.

“So where are you headed around here, anyway?”

“Who, me?” He pointed at himself. “I was headed to the pharmacy. I was going to... actually...” He paused for a moment, apparently thinking about something. “I was going to pick up some cold medicine for my little brother, but I just remembered...”

She waited. She was patient.

He stared ahead into space for a moment more, furrowing his brow, then looked down to see her gaze. “That time you, uh, that I found you in that memorial place after you ran there from the post office. I forget, did you say that you had medication, or that you did not?”

She shook her head. “I did have some anti-anxiety medication when I was still living back home with my parents, but when I came here...”

“They didn't let you bring it into the country?”

“No, they did. I got a letter from the Japanese embassy in Lima just to be on the safe side, too, and I was fine for a while... but then it ran out. And whenever I tried to find what I needed at a pharmacy, I couldn't read the kana... it was too technical, and I was too embarrassed to ask...” She sighed. “It's dumb, I know, but...”

“Hmm. Well, then, how about you come with me to the pharmacy, after you order all the cloth you need? I'm familiar with anxiety medication, since my mother needs it too.”

Her eyes widened. “Y-yeah! That sounds like a really good idea, actually! Thank you, Habara-san.”

Akihiko smiled. “You're welcome. Ah, isn't this the place?”

She stopped walking and looked where she was. Yes, this was the crafts store.

“Yes, we're here, I think,” she said, stepping inside. He followed after her, looking around while she made her way to the cloth section. She was aware that some people were looking at her, but she cared less with someone she knew she could rely on around.

He looked through the ribbon section while she spoke to the saleswoman in charge of that section. Then he wandered off to the paints while she and the saleswoman went up and down the aisles of cloth they had available. She was relieved to see that they had more or less everything she could have asked for, in the colours she wanted. They also had good thread and needles if she needed replacements. In fact, it was better to have them around than not, so she bought those too.

She took the designs she had made out of her backpack and showed them to the saleswoman, who nodded along as Mari explained the lengths she'd need. Thankfully, they were both professionals here, so that part was relatively smooth. In fact, it was all much less painful than she had worried it would be. She placed her orders and the woman and a younger assistant got to work cutting what she needed. They would be done in about twenty minutes to a half hour if she wanted to return then to pick them up.

With that done, she found Akihiko browsing the coloured pencils.

“Some of these are really fancy for being just slightly different from, like, kids' coloured pencils,” he said as he followed her out of the store. “And really expensive too.”

“Oh, definitely. Arts and crafts are a racket. Art supplies are sold at ransom prices everywhere, apparently.” She shrugged. “But not much that can be done about that, I guess. Though I do feel bad for manga artists who have to get specialized papers and ink.”

“Wait, you read manga?” he asked as they set off towards the hardware store.

She blushed. “It was to practice reading hiragana and katakana in Japanese class...”

“Hah!” he laughed. “You seriously read manga for school?”

“I'm not joking! We really did read that in class. And watched unsubtitled Japanese movies.”

“So what kinds of manga do you read?”

“Well, we started with the early issues of Dragon Ball, but I didn't really find it interesting... then I started reading Sailor Moon, and that was pretty good.”

“I'm not really much of a manga reader. I do watch anime from time to time, though. Have you been watching  Rurouni Kenshin on TV?”

She shrugged. “I try to catch it whenever I see it's on, but I missed some episodes in the middle and now I'm trying to piece it together so it makes sense. I don't really like a whole lot of shonen, but I do like that show.”

“I like stories that make me think, so I do watch it. I'm not really fond of the current arc, but I can't wait until they get past this part in the story so we can meet cooler characters.”

“I thought you said you didn't read manga?”

He scratched his face. “Not typically, but I did read the manga. My brother likes it a lot, so I wanted to read it so we could talk about it.” He stopped and looked to the side. “Let's come here on the way back. Cart first, right?”

She also looked, committing the image of the pharmacy to memory. “I don't think I went to this one...”

“We'll stop by before we get the cloth.” He nodded forward. “But the hardware store isn't much further.”

“Why did you come in this direction, again?” she asked as they continued walking. It was almost creepy how easily this conversation was coming to her. Normally she was the awkward, slow one in the conversation who couldn't keep up with the dialogue and then just let the conversation fall into embarrassing silence. But this time she was doing just fine. Maybe it was because she realized that if she concentrated on his voice and what he was saying, it was easier by far to tune out any stray anxious thoughts.

“I told you, to get cold medicine for my little brother.”

“What's your little brother's name, if you don't mind me asking?”

“Masahiko.” He smiled. “He's in middle school.”

“Ah. I have a younger sister, but she's pretty close to me. In age, I mean. She's the one studying in Madrid.”

“What's her name?”

“Isabel.” She didn't want to mention her last names.

“That's pretty cool, how we're both older siblings.”

“Yeah, but I get to be the irresponsible one between me and my sister.” She laughed a little, at herself. “I didn't exactly go buy the groceries by myself, y'know?”

“So what... exactly, do you do all day?” He frowned. “Doesn't it get boring staying indoors all day?”

“Why? What does your mother do?” Mari asked, feeling somewhat offended at the implication that she was lazy. She could deal with herself calling herself lazy, but not someone else.

“She programs. She's really good with computers and writes software.”

She blinked. “Wait, really?”

“Yeah. She lost her job as a secretary when she became pregnant with me. Perfectly valid reason, right?” He rolled his eyes. “Though, from what she's told me, she doesn't miss it a whole lot. Because of the anxiety and all. The less people she had to talk to on the phone, the better.”

She nodded. She also noticed that he didn't mention a father, and she thought it best not to ask.

“Then she just stayed home to raise me, and then later on, my brother. She's good at homemaking, but it got boring after a while, apparently, so she taught herself how to code and now she writes programs all by herself, mostly graphics programs. And then she also sometimes makes games for fun to sell them.”

“Wow, that is something I could not ever do.” Mari was impressed. “Man, I didn't even know you could do that.”

“Do what?”

“Make, like, programs and games and stuff. By yourself.”

“Sure you can, if you're motivated, or bored, or creative enough, or any mix of those.”

“Somehow a computer game seems really complicated for just one person to make on their own...”

“You'd be surprised. A lot of people do that.” He smiled as he pointed upwards. “We're here.”

“Great, now I just have to find the carts...”

The two of them headed inside.

It didn't take very long to find them, in fact. Akihiko found them first, because Mari got distracted by the shiny, sharp tools for woodworking close by. Thankfully, they weren't expensive. She also happened to find an extra pair of wheels to replace the ones on her old cart that had gotten lost. But she couldn't just not buy another cart, because she needed something to carry the bolts of cloth home, one way or another.

Five minutes later, Mari had her new cart and was taking it for a test walk on the way back to the crafts store, with Akihiko still walking next to her.

“So what do you do all day? Back when you lived with your parents, I mean.”

“Ah.” She had completely forgotten to actually answer his question. “Depends. I would get my sister to take me over to my college, but you mean when I stayed home completely... what I did then was that I did a lot of repairing clothes quickly. I also took orders for dresses or for cosplay.”

“Oh? Dresses?”

“Yeah. I mean, this is the first time I've ever had to make clothes for a play like this, and more than one outfit, but I have taken commissions before. For girls' dresses, mostly. A lot of girls want dresses for their, ah... do you know what a fiesta de quince años is?”

“Uh... no?” Akihiko gave her an awkward grin. “I don't know much about southern America...”

“I don't know if they do this in all parts of Latin America, mind, but in Peru, when a girl turns fifteen years old, they throw a party to commemorate that she is now a woman. And a girl needs a special dress for the occasion. So I did a lot of those dresses.” She smiled. “I also did a lot of tailoring and refitting work from my house. People would just come by after they heard me get recommended by someone else and ask me if I could do something for them. So yeah, that's how I spent my time at home.”

“You sure stayed busy, then. Ah, we're here.” He stopped her with a light touch of his hand on her arm. “Want to come in with me?”

Mari looked up yet again. Man, she was too easily distracted by storytelling. “Ah, the pharmacy. Yes, I'm definitely coming in with you.”

This time, she was the one that followed. She hoped they wouldn't mind her bringing her cart in, but no one told her not to. Akihiko found the cold medicine pretty quickly, and once he had that, he could help her with her own medication.

“See, they're mostly down in this part of the aisle,” he said, waving her over. “Not very many, I gotta say. Question, do you know if foreigners to Japan are covered by National Health Insurance?”

“I thought you said you were a med student?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

Akihiko paused, but then turned slightly red. “Y-yeah, I'm trying to get through med school, but this just isn't something I know, okay?”

Mari was taken aback by how adorable he was when blushing. She wanted to pinch his cheeks in glee. But instead she coughed and tried to pass it off as casual. “Eh, it's okay, I guess. The answer is yes, actually. But I don't have my alien registration card on me today, since I didn't know I was going to be coming here.”

He coughed and took a breath, red fading from his cheeks. “Then I don't think we can get you a prescription today, but this is the medication that I think would help someone with your level of anxiety.” He pointed to a poster with several images of medications, to an image of a bottle with light blue pills inside. “These are alprazolam. Well, they're Xanax, but alprazolam is its actual name. You can take it whenever you feel an anxiety attack coming on, and it usually starts working within, I believe, the first 10 minutes or so. My mother was taking these for a while, and she told me that it does work quite well, but that it also made her sleepy. It might not do that to you, though. All medication has different effects on every person, after all.”

He tapped the poster once with his finger. “Though you can't get it here without a prescription, so we can't actually get you some right this moment. You'll have to see a general practitioner first.”

She nodded. “I understand.”

“Though, for now, what I would recommend...” he scanned the shelves underneath it. “Those on the poster are all prescription drugs, but these are the over-the-counter ones. They're weaker, but still have their uses. Honestly, your anxiety seems to be a bit worse than my mother's was, so you might need something stronger anyhow. But I think any small thing we can do to reduce the edge will help you, don't you agree?”

“For sure.” Mari was committing this section of the pharmacy to memory, in case she needed to come here alone in the future.

“Ah, here we go.” He found what he was looking for and turned to her. “Even if you do end up getting alprazolam, it has a number of nasty side effects like dependency in general, and disinhibition.”

“Dis-what?”

“You lose restraint, basically,” he said. “I never saw it, but my mother told me they warned her about it, that she might become more impulsive, less likely to think twice, and so on.”

“Hmm...”

“But even though this is weaker, I'd still recommend it.” He showed her the small package he had found. “This valerian root supplement. They're little capsules you can just swallow. It has a calming effect, and I never saw any adverse effects to it.”

“I see,” she said, taking the small package. “I should probably get more than one.”

“Yeah, let's get at least three for you,” he said, taking two more from the shelf. “They're not too expensive, I hope?”

“No, these will suit me just fine for now if I can't get stronger prescription stuff right now,” Mari said, taking the two Akihiko passed her. “When I had even mild panic attacks back home, my mother or father or whoever was home would make me some chamomile tea, and that also helped.”

“Chamomile... hold on, I think I might have some loose chamomile tea at my house. I'm sure you can just buy that at a teahouse or a store.”

“I'll look for it.” She held the packages tightly in her hand.

“If you can't find it, I'll bring you some from home.” He started to smile, but then worry made its way onto his face. “Honestly, it worries me. How long has it been since you came to Japan? A couple of weeks?”

She scratched the side of her head. “Two...”

“Weeks?”

“Months.”

He winced. “How on earth did you go so long with your anxiety without medication? I thought that maybe you hadn't been diagnosed or something, but your symptoms are pretty obvious, you would definitely have been diagnosed...”

She looked down.

Honestly... it wasn't so much that she had been so waylaid by her own anxiety and failure to manage it that had caused her to neglect her mental health. It was more like she had just given up on herself. Not talking to anyone, feeling awkward in even small groups or whenever she tried to reach out, and generally feeling unwelcome had taken its toll.

She had tried her best to integrate into Japanese society at first. Back in Peru, next to the mixed-race population (mestizo descendants of Spaniards, American indians, and African slaves), Japanese-Peruvians stood out as obviously Japanese, separate and distinct. Of course, she was half and half. But while in Peru she was still seen as Japanese, in Japan, she was seen as Peruvian. As a strange foreigner who looked a lot like a Japanese person, but couldn't read or write kanji, didn't understand the subtleties of the culture, had not been raised in the school system, dressed oddly, didn't have the faintest idea about some traditions and festivals, probably had a grammatical mistake in her own last name, and worst of all, who didn't have much of an ability to make friends...

Faced with all that, Mari had chosen to retreat into herself. It was exhausting to put forth all that effort and have it not pay off. It was easier to hide. It was easier to reduce her efforts to fit in to almost nothing.

Of course, she had a very real problem in her agoraphobia, but once she had given up to that point, her escape route had been cut off. Once she had run out of the medication she had brought with her, and was unwilling and scared of going out to get more, it had only been a matter of time before her anxiety levels spiraled beyond what she could possibly control.

She pondered that if she hadn't gotten that lucky call, she might have very well found a bridge around here and, compelled by her depression (because it was depression, she could see that now in retrospect; it was plain as day and yet she hadn't noticed it at all while she was in the middle of it) and uninhibited by Isabel being around to be ashamed of her, she might just have worked up the nerve to do here what she could have never done at home.

“Saihoshi-san?”

“Eh?” She blinked and looked up. “What is it?”

“You spaced out.”

“I... oh.” She blinked several times. “I... don't remember what you were saying. Did you ask something?”

“Never mind. It's not a big deal.” He smiled. “Anyway, we should finish up here and then go pick up your cloth order from the craft store.”

“Ah!” Like a rubber band had snapped, her head returned to the present. “Yeah, let's do that!”

“S-Saihoshi-san, you should probably buy these medicines first before you try to run out the door...”

------

Alfred F. Jones

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #21 on: November 22, 2013, 03:02:09 am »
Ten minutes later, the two were on their way back to the street Mari's apartment was on, where they had run into each other. The cart Mari was alternately pushing or pulling along was stuffed almost to the brim with cloth of many colours: lots of blue, lots of red, some white, and a little bit of some other colours just in case. It was mostly cloth, anyway. There were also a bunch of scissors and thread stuffed into the stack so it wouldn't fall out.

“Thanks for everything. Seriously, I don't know how today might have turned out without you.”

Mari hoped her voice would convey the sheer amount of gratitude she felt right now towards Akihiko. He seemed to catch on, though, and gave her a wide grin in turn.

“You're welcome, Saihoshi-san.” He was carrying only a small bag himself, with the cold medicine for his brother. “I didn't mind at all. It was definitely more interesting than going alone. I got lucky running into you.”

She was still skeptical about the idea that it could be lucky to run into her, but the sentiment was nice enough, so she let it go. “Anyway, I guess I shouldn't keep you from returning home.”

“Oh, no, my brother won't be home for hours and my mother will be out with her friends. Probably playing card games until the night, too.” He laughed. “I guess I could always go to the library, but...”

“But what?”

“Saihoshi-san, if you don't mind me asking, where do you live?”

“I'll show you when we go past it. Where do you live?”

“I live near the post office, and you know where that is. It's about five blocks down from there.”

“Huh, I see.” Mari was looking for topics now. She had realized that it was best for her stress levels not to think about how many people were around her, and the best way to do that was by being distracted by conversation. She absolutely did not want to lapse into silence.

“So, tell me more. You mentioned you were a med student, but you work at the post office?”

“Yeah, I am. I've already finished two and a half years, but I took this semester off.”

“Why?” How odd, to interrupt your own education for a semester. She had done her two years for her sewing certification as quickly as she could and had actually graduated a semester early.

“Two reasons. First, I wanted to get a job so I could keep paying. We don't actually have that much money,” he said, almost apologetic. “And med school costs.”

She nodded. Understandable. “And the second?”

“Mental health.” He shook his head. “I was stressing out really badly by the end of my second year, and I nearly had a breakdown my last semester. It didn't help that I couldn't tell anyone else how much I was stressing out.” He bit his lip. “I do think Japan has an exaggerated bad reputation for dismissing mental health issues and mental illnesses, but I really did feel pressured to act like everything was okay, and if I said anything, even on a medical campus, they wouldn't take me seriously. Even if it was just my paranoid thoughts saying that, I knew I had to take a break.”

“Oh...” Mari winced. “I am sorry I asked. I didn't mean to remind you of that...”

“No, it's fine. I started feeling better pretty much as soon as I got out of there and once I could see my mother and brother on a regular basis again.” He gave her a small smile. “I think I'd be fine if I went back now, but I want to keep working at the post office at least until the fall semester.”

Well, that explained why he had been so understanding of her. He had been there too. Somehow it made her irrationally happy, to know that there was someone else as messed up as her around here.

“Two and a half years... how old are you, anyway, Habara-san?”

“It's rude to ask a lady her age, you know.”

“I-- what?” She blinked and bit her lip. “W-wait, are you--”

“No, I was just joking,” he said, and then he honestly giggled. Mari got that curious feeling of wanting to pinch his cheeks again. “I'm 21.”

“I turned 20 in April.”

“I'm older by almost a year, then?” He shifted his plastic bag from one hand to the other.

“My birthday is April 7, 1976.”

“You're going to laugh at mine.”

“What?” Mari was confused. “Why would I do that?”

“... I was born on February 29th.” He looked to the side. “Leap year day. So I'm more, like, five years old.”

“Hah!”

“See, I said you'd laugh!”

Akihiko was pouting, though, and that was way funnier than just his birthday. She couldn't help but laugh aloud.

“You're mean to me, Saihoshi-san.”

“I'm sorry, but that's just so... ridiculous.”

“I'm so persecuted,” he said, wiping a fake tear. 

Mari smirked. “If I'm mean, then you're a liar.”

“Am not. You just enjoy laughing at me.”

“Stop being such a dork, then!”

“I'm not the one who reads manga at school!” He shot back.

“I--” she paused. “I don't know what to say to that.”

“Nothing. Actually, I'm jealous that you got to do that.” He smiled. “So, which way is your place?”

“Right up ahead.” She nodded. “That apartment building.”

“Huh... and if you don't mind telling me, which one is yours?”

Mari kept pushing her cart along with extra enthusiasm now, pleased that she had made it through the day without freaking out again. “The ninth room on the fourth floor, so, room 49.”

“All right... Can you carry all that to your room by yourself?” He tapped one of the metal bars of her cart. “It does look heavy.”

“I think I will probably be fine. There's an elevator, after all.”

“Ah.” He pulled back his hand and shifted his bag again. “Then I guess... I should get going now?”

“I guess you can help me carry them up to my room,” she said. “Although I'm uncertain. I don't relish the idea of inviting a man to my apartment, you understand. My parents would kill me...”

“No, I do get that,” he said, nodding. “And if you don't want me in your room, I completely understand. I'd just like to help you carry all this stuff up.”

“Thanks, Habara-san. I really do appreciate that. I hope you get it, it's not out of any personal distrust or anything.”

“No, I completely understand. You've got to take care of yourself, right?”

She gave him a faint smile. “Thank you.”

They arrived in front of her apartment building, and she pulled out her key and opened up the front door. “All right, hopefully the elevator is big enough for you and me and the cart, because I don't want to have to carry this up the stairs...”

Akihiko nodded. “And even if it's not, I'll help you carry everything.”

Thankfully, the elevator was just large enough to accommodate the two of them and her cart, and no one was in the office to look at her oddly for bringing a man up to her room.

“Hmm... question, Saihoshi-san.”

“Yes?” She was glad for anything to take her mind off the perpetual vague possibility that the elevator could get stuck.

“How much research have you done into agoraphobia and anxiety?”

“Some. The therapist my parents made me see when I was younger gave me a few books on it. Well, it was kind of inevitable that I should learn at least something about it, you know?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“Plus my sister sends me a new book on stress management with every other letter, I swear.” She shook her head, but she was smiling. “She worries a lot about me.”

The elevator door opened and they walked to her room. This was as far as Akihiko could come. He pushed it out first and then pulled it along to her room. “This one?”

“Yeah.” She took out a second key, but before she unlocked her door, she turned to him. She had already mulled these lines over in her head to make sure she didn't stumble over them. “Well, I guess this is our farewell. Thank you for helping me all day today. I barely noticed the crowds thanks to you. And I got some medication for myself, again thanks to you. I truly appreciate it.”

“Well, there weren't that many crowds, but I understand.” Akihiko scratched the back of his head. “Do you think you'll be stopping by the post office at some point?”

“I'm not sure. It depends on when I get replies to those letters, so I can send replies back. Why?”

“Because I enjoyed talking to you today.” He gave her an awkward grin. “I'd like to talk to you more if I could.”

She guessed she was supposed to find that somewhat flattering, but really she was just confused. Why in the world would someone find her interesting to talk to? Isabel had said that before, and it was just as confusing coming from her. There was nothing remotely interesting about her.

“W-well, I have a lot of work to do this week,” she said, motioning towards all the cloth she had bought. “So I would like to not talk to other people for several days, and that includes you, because talking to people while I'm supposed to be working is such a bother.”

He winced and glanced to the side. “I'm sorry I'm annoying to talk to. Should I leave?”

“N-no, I didn't mean it to come out so nastily.” She shook her head. “It's just that... I want to sequester myself in my room for the next week, basically. It's not that I don't want to talk to you or anything. You're much more interesting than I am.”

Akihiko looked skeptical. “Really?”

“I'm awkward when I talk. I insulted you, so I apologize.” She brushed some hair out of her face. “Though, I have an alternate idea. Do you always have Fridays off from the post office?”

“Thursdays and Fridays. I have to work on the weekend since that's when a lot more people show up to drop off their mail.”

“All right. Then how about...” She twirled a finger around some of her hair as she thought. “Next Friday. By next Friday hopefully I'll have finished with everything and I'll have to at least get some sunlight, like my parents made me promise I would. How about, next Friday...”

“Next Friday is okay for us to meet?”

“Yeah. How early do you wake up? I go to sleep early, so I tend to wake up early too.”

“I don't like waking up quite that early,” he said with a quick frown. “But it matters more if there are crowds. So... how about nine in the morning?”

She would have preferred seven, but she supposed she would need time beforehand to psych herself up for going outside again. That time was an acceptable compromise. “Sure.”

“Great! I'll see you in a week then.” Akihiko started to walk away. “Oh, right, and good luck with all those outfits you have to make.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it,” she said, waving as he got in the elevator, which was still on their floor, and headed out.

She opened the door then, rolled her cart in, closed the door behind her, and fell face first onto her bed.

“D-did I... just successfully interact with someone?!”

It was mind-boggling. She had to roll around on her bed and pinch her arm to confirm it hadn't all been a dream. But no, the cart and the cloth and the three small packages of valerian root were still there when she opened her eyes.

“Did I... seriously manage to go outside without worrying once if someone laughed on the street and me thinking that they were laughing at me?!”

It was a miracle. She was incredulous.

“And it... wasn't a dream? It was reality?”

The magpies took this as their cue to krarrah kwink-kwink-kwink at her from their windowsill. She turned her head over to look at them.

“It was reality,” she said quietly to them. “And it felt... I was going to say it felt amazing, but actually I didn't feel anything. I felt... normal for once.” She looked at her hands. “And feeling nothing... no worry, no paranoia... that was amazing.”

They squawked at her again. She rolled her eyes, but she had to smile.

Pero a ustedes no le importa eso. You just want bread. Sure, hold on.”

The six magpies hanging out on her windowsill jumped around, apparently agitated, and then a seventh one flew in and, without warning, batted her face with its wing before landing on her head.

She froze.

“I-I... I'm sorry?”

They stopped jumping around then and the one on her head relocated to her shoulder, where she could hear it coo in her ear.

“I-I guess they do care,” she said to herself, petting the one now sitting on her shoulder with a shaky hand before going to get them some bread to eat.

“And apparently they speak Spanish...”

-----

End of Chapter Five



In real life, yes, foreigners staying long-term in Japan who don't have employee insurance get national insurance. Mari falls under the “self-employed” section of this. If you're curious to learn about this for yourself, there's more information available at these two links, at least: http://www.japan-zone.com/new/welfare.shtml  and http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2010/05/25/news/national-health-insurance-a-basic-universal-safety-net/.

As for prescription medication, from my own classes, I already knew that every country has different standards for what's prescription and what's over the counter. I couldn't find any information about whether Xanax was available over the counter in Japan, but here in the States, the FDA has decided it's prescription. I found a useful discussion going on about this here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g294232-i525-k5867833-Prescription_Medicines_What_s_Illegal-Japan.html

And yes, Rurouni Kenshin is currently airing. This is set in the year of its actual TV run, after all. I've had to fudge a few dates a fair bit because of what's actually going on in the background of all this, but that shouldn't become noticeable until later. I've been avoiding saying outright what year this is taking place in, but enough hints have been dropped that I'm sure most people have figured it out. But just in case you haven't (and since it never hurts to tell things directly for once), this is all taking place in the year 1996.

Matsuri

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #22 on: November 22, 2013, 05:03:21 am »
Quote
“D-did I... just successfully interact with someone?!”

It was mind-boggling. She had to roll around on her bed and pinch her arm to confirm it hadn't all been a dream. But no, the cart and the cloth and the three small packages of valerian root were still there when she opened her eyes.

“Did I... seriously manage to go outside without worrying once if someone laughed on the street and me thinking that they were laughing at me?!”

It was a miracle. She was incredulous.

“And it... wasn't a dream? It was reality?”

Mari, you're too cute.

Yes, you totally did do all of that. And I do quite like how she is learning coping skills-- both implicitly and explicitly from Akihiko from his experience with his mom, and just from Mari's experience alone-- she realizes it's so much easier to deal with things with proper distractions, and I do hope that she continues to employ new strategies into her coping methods so she can function better out of the house. And she quite properly acknowledges that she hadn't had a panic attack! It's good to be proud of herself for that.

Mari's mindfulness is something that will help her a lot from here on. Noticing that she was indeed depressed and may have done something very extreme a while back can help her establish a baseline of what "normal" and "depressed" feels like, so she knows what she should do if she feels like she's slipping. (And really, the best idea would be to go to Akihiko, if not only because he's a safe, familiar person for her to be around, let alone the fact that he understands what she's going through).

Very nicely done! Do keep it up~
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I'm sure when tomorrow comes, I can change a little, so bye-bye, my stardust tears.
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nintendonut888

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #23 on: November 22, 2013, 05:31:31 pm »
Hnn, it was pretty surprising to see Mari's true personality emerge. Surprising, but I quite like it. I hope she continues to build her confidence so we can see more of her true self. :)

...Wait you're going to destroy her life aren't you I know your ways.
nintendonut888: Hey Baity. I beat the high score for Sanae B hard on the score.dat you sent me. X3
Baity: For a moment, I thought you broke 1.1billion. Upon looking at my score.dat, I can assume that you destroyed the score that is my failed (first!) 1cc attempt on my first day of playing. Congratulations.

[19:42] <Sapz> I think that's the only time I've ever seen a suicide bullet shoot its own suicide bullet

Alfred F. Jones

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #24 on: November 26, 2013, 08:16:17 pm »
...Wait you're going to destroy her life aren't you I know your ways.
Who, me? :3c

This one's a short one. Working montage! The next one will be a bit bigger to make up for it.



Chapter Six

Successful socialization was all well and good, but even if she hadn't had agoraphobia, she was pretty sure she would have thoroughly enjoyed getting to stay indoors for a week doing what she enjoyed.

Like, these costumes weren't exactly easy to make for beginners, and even an experienced seamstress or tailor might have had a hard time with some of these. Especially working without a pattern, taking an idea straight from the impression her mind got from small sketches on pieces of cheap printer paper and a handful of designs she had drawn based on those.

But Mari didn't fit into either of those categories.

Apparently it had started early. Her mother, they had told her, had once been amazing with a needle and thread and all manner of sewing and knitting. Somehow, she had inherited that same gift. When she had been no older than four, she had (according to others, she couldn't remember it herself) been out playing in a dirt circle with the other young boys and girls, playing marbles, when someone, somehow, had ripped their pants and started crying. Mari had, according to these other kids, told the girl whose pants had ripped that she could fix them, she just had to get the box her mother used to sew things with.

Her parents had happened to be out of the house at the time. It was one of those quiet Andes villages, where leaving a little girl playing with other kids was still an okay idea (and it helped if you, as a parent, were not too concerned with what your child did every moment of every day... or at all). So it was easy enough for Mari to steal into her own house and get her hands on her mother's sewing kit, with all its sharp needles and pins inside.

She shouldn't have even been able to pick it up. In children and their development, gross motor skills like learning to walk and picking things up were learned first, and fine motor skills came later. Fine motor skills like picking up a pencil, much less writing with it, were not supposed to come until at least age six.

At age four, Mari had somehow already developed the fine motor skills needed to work a needle and thread. In fact, none of the adults had noticed that anything had happened until one of the other kids in the circle had mentioned how Mari had approached another girl with a sewing needle and, taking this to mean that Mari had been violent, the adult went to her parents and demanded to know what had gone on. Then her mother had checked her sewing basket and found that some of her yellow thread had indeed gone missing, but within the hour she had located it in the pants of that other little girl.

Those pants didn't rip ever again, and her parents knew that Mari had a gift.

In fact, it had been Mari's gift that saved her when she had had to move out of the Andes, away from the quiet mountain village of her home, down to the city with its hustle and bustle. In a village, agoraphobia was hard to pick up on. Initially the adults had thought that Mari was just scared and anxious like any child would be when uprooted and moved to a city of 6.5 million people from a sleepy small town. But when it didn't go away after over six months... it had to be something else.

That move had been only a few years later, and it found Mari sitting alone in her room, refusing to come out, ignoring Isabel trying to entice her with food.

The boxes of her parents' things were all she had left of them at that point, and in despair, trying to find something, anything that could ease her loneliness and anxiety, she had found her mother's sewing kit.

That had led to a fun little adventure where her new parents had forced the door open, only to find an incredibly well-sewn blanket rope down to ground level, screamed in panic, and rushed out to find her, which was perfect for Mari to come out from beneath her bed, get something to eat, and hide in her closet behind a false back she had fashioned out of a dark brown blanket. Come on, was an agoraphobe seriously going to escape through a window from a quiet room into a crowded city?

The new parents hadn't been happy, but Isabel had been thoroughly impressed. And from that point on, they had been the best of sisters.

Anyway, the point was that Mari had been practicing sewing for a very, very long time. Over half her life, which wasn't half bad for someone only in her early 20s. She had been one of those people who knitted scarves in class, who crocheted in the back of the school bus, who received an Inca-style weaving loom for her 13th birthday, who single-handedly sewed haunted house decorations for her class cultural festival once and terrified small children.

She was quite possibly one of the only people who had ever passive-aggressively woven an undecipherable quipu as a diary to record the annoying things other people did, to her or around her. Once, her teachers had gotten nervous about the possibility that she could be using a quipu to cheat in math class after they had forbidden the use of calculators for exams. She hadn't been, but Isabel had encouraged her to insinuate that she was doing it, in order to unnerve the teachers.

The kanji for her last name were 祭星, in which 'sai' meant 'festival' (the kanji could also be read as 'matsuri') and hoshi, 'star'. So, “star festival”. But it really would have been more appropriate if the kanji had been  裁縫師-- saihoushi, “seamstress”. She had always loved sewing, always been good at sewing, always known she wanted to do that for the rest of her life.

Sewing an entire costume from a few scraps of cultural notes and somewhat amateurish sketches on printer paper was child's play.

That was definitely another nice part of not living with her parents anymore. She could work from morning to nighttime with no interruptions without anyone beating down her door and asking her if she wanted any platanos fritos, please, I'll make you anything you want, just please eat something.

Not that eating wasn't fun, but when needle and thread called, she had to be there. Besides, she would totally eat once it was done, or once she needed a break. Which meant she would emerge... eventually. After sundown.

She would, however, always pause for cookies. Cookies were important. Thankfully, Isabel was really good at making them just the way she liked. Buñuelos too. She would stop for buñuelos.

Mari barely noticed the time go by. Once she had the rough idea of what she wanted the outfit to look like, needles to sew, pins to hold everything in place, and measurements to make sure she was on the right track, the day went by in barely a blink.

The magpies, accompanied by a few ravens, pigeons, and even one odd kingfisher, watched from their windowsill as her costumes took shape, form, and colour on their mannequins. Accompanied only by the birds and Celia Cruz on her stereo, she relished every moment.

Honestly, she was so good at sewing that going as far as getting an associate's degree in it had felt almost like a charade. She had actually had to tone down how good she was and how fast her speed was in order to prevent the others in her class from feeling bad. On the other hand, she had never quite gotten the hang of machine sewing before that class, and even though she wasn't too fond of it, she was okay at sewing with a machine now. Not that she had one here. Maybe she could buy one, since they were really good for doing hemlines and sewing up seams quickly. Electronics were cheaper here than back home, after all.

The sun rose, stayed in the sky, and set, all while Mari was hard at work. Until she was satisfied, she wasn't leaving. It did occur to her, though, that living on her own meant that she should probably make something hot to eat, and cookies would not be enough. She briefly considered going to a fast food place, but then remembered that she hated fast food. And she was sort of sick of stir-fry by this point. She wouldn't be against trying some street food here, especially since the food stalls were pretty quiet places as far as she could tell, but she didn't like to have her back towards a crowd and she was sort of worried that her distinctly not Japanese tastes in food would not be happy. Hmm...

She compromised. Today, she would stay in and eat anything that remained in her refrigerator that was getting close to its expiration date. Tomorrow, she would get the courage to go out to one of the ramen stands that was around her apartment building. Perfect.

She had gone through all the Celia Cruz cassette tapes she had (both sides!) and had started to work on the collection of cumbia mix tapes she had put together before leaving. But just as the sun was halfway down the sky, she put down her needle.

On one mannequin, she had the perfect Konngara outfit, and on a second, she had used the red and white fabric to work on the shrine maiden's outfit.

Mari nodded, satisfied with one and a half outfits done in one day. At this rate, she would finish all the standard ones in just under five days. She had realized somewhat late that Sariel actually had two outfits, from re-reading the character biographies under the sketches, and for this reason she was very pleased that she had thought ahead and purchased extra fabric. Another outfit to make that could be taken off quickly, kabuki theatre style, would take her just a bit longer, but it still would probably not take more than six days. She honestly had no idea how long the kannushi was giving her, because he hadn't given her a certain date for the first dress rehearsal, but she wanted to get them done sooner rather than later because she was not going to jeopardize her first major commission. But if he didn't call her in five days' time, she would call him just in case she needed more days to work on the non-standard costumes: Yuugen Magan's eye getup, the walking (floating?) coin Kikuri, and the orb that was Shingyoku's first form.

Hopefully he called her first, though. She didn't like being the first person to call people on the phone. The kannushi had written down his phone number on the page with the backstory for the play, but she hoped she wouldn't have to use it. It was unnerving to call people on the phone. She avoided it whenever possible.

She let the cumbia keep going in the background while she made some good old-fashioned tortas, the way her father had taught her, using the last bits of ham and chicken she still had around. She would have to go grocery shopping soon. Legitimately grocery shopping, not just running two blocks down and getting more cookies to fuel her sewing ways.

... maybe if she got, like, fruit-filled cookies.

But no, she was happy with how far she had gotten in one day. Hopefully she'd go faster tomorrow, since she'd had to spend some time on setup, and she had been somewhat out of practice.

For now, she sat down with her videos and her tortas, eating until the sun set, and then read more from her kanji practice book and her anxiety management guides.

The last loaf of bread, as always, went to the magpies and ravens who were her cheerleading squad today. And tonight, she was pleased to note that she didn't have to play any music to calm down before going to bed. She had worked hard, and was rewarded with a peaceful drift off to sleep.

------

End of Chapter Six

Matsy has been asking me if I will please draw the cast of characters so far: Mari, Isabel, and Akihiko. I certainly would like to, but there are about four days left in Nanowrimo, so that takes priority. I'll keep them in mind, though!

Matsuri

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #25 on: November 27, 2013, 03:48:55 am »
Matsy has been asking me if I will please draw the cast of characters so far: Mari, Isabel, and Akihiko. I certainly would like to, but there are about four days left in Nanowrimo, so that takes priority. I'll keep them in mind, though!

:D!

Anyway, it really is nice to see things going well for Mari right now. Poor girl deserves a break, for sure. And I loved seeing how her skills developed and how she used them as a little kid. She's really good at what she does and uses it to her advantage!

Also, cookie fanatic Mari... I can see her with boxes and boxes of cookies behind her as she sews, always well-stocked. :p

And it looks like she's doing well with all of the costumes she has to make! I wonder what the kannushi will think. :o

Keep up the good work. Looking forward to seeing what happens next~ (or am I? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO HER NEXT ;-; )
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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #26 on: December 02, 2013, 03:24:31 am »
Still hacking up little bits of phlegm, still coughing, but my voice HAS progressed from a whisper to "60-year-old-chain-smoker", AND I hit 50k in Nano this year. So things are looking up. Well enough, at least, that I can post another update before returning to lie down.



Chapter Seven

List of outfits she probably was not going to get to this week: Shingyoku's orb form, Yuugen Magan, Kikuri (probably), and Sariel's second form. List of outfits she had planned to get to and finishi this week: Mima, Elis, Sariel's first form, Konngara, Reimu Hakurei, Shingyoku's female form, Shingyoku's male form.

List of outfits she had already made: Mima, Elis, Sariel's first form, Konngara, Reimu Hakurei, Shingyoku's female form, Shingyoku's male form.

Mari had barely bothered to set foot outside her apartment this week. She was aware that she probably looked like a mess, with all the pins and random bits of fabric she had stuck into her own clothing to keep it handy, but this hardly mattered to her. And thank god for pizza delivery men and women. Aside from the fruit bowl on her table she had already depleted of its bounty, the most amount of fruit she had eaten was the pineapple on her pizza.

But even with all that, she felt very satisfied with the five dresses she had hanging on her mannequins at the end of the sixth day. The first two she had completed, Konngara's red-white robes and Reimu's red-white shrine maiden outfit, were hanging on coat hangers instead. She only had so many mannequins, after all.

If this had been anyone else, they probably would have been shoddy rush jobs, but not Mari's clothes. It was known, back home, that her stitches were flawless and that they would never come apart and embarrass you on the dance floor in front of your boyfriend or girlfriend.

Actually...

Mari's eyes narrowed as she lay on the floor, fingers sore and hands tired.

There... were no men in this play, were there? Well, there was Shingyoku's third form, the priest, but that hardly mattered when Shingyoku was also a female and also a yin-yang orb at varying points in the play. As far as she knew, the orb was the character's real form, and the humanoid forms were just for show. She didn't have the script, after all.

She had barely noticed that there were no men. She just noticed by accident, realizing that she hadn't sewn men's clothing in a long time. Oh well. Maybe her next commission would have men's clothing too. It was a different challenge to design for men. She didn't find anything particularly interesting about men's clothing over women's clothing, but she relished sewing challenges.

Next time...

From where she lay, Mima's costume was to her right. She lifted a sore right hand and fingered the bottom of the skirt. She really hoped the kannushi would like these. Though, even if she hadn't, she had honestly enjoyed making these. Getting to flex her creative muscles was pretty great.

Though of course a monetary reward was even better on top of an emotional one. She very much hoped the play turned out to be a financial success.

But maybe it'd need a different, catchier title for that.

No, really, she was quite pleased with her own work. She had long since gotten over the first two phases of a creator's relationship to their work. The first had been being overly shy about creating, seeing all the flaws in it and being scared of showing it to other people. The second had been being super conceited about everything she made, showing it off and humblebragging about the work she had put into it, ignoring the flaws and thinking that she was the greatest seamstress on the planet.

At some point in high school she had transitioned from that, though. She really enjoyed the work she put into things, relished teaching herself new stitches and working with new fabrics, challenging herself by confining herself to one motif or using only zigzag stitches. She was, however, pretty sure that there were women and men out there with decades more experience with the needle who were better at it than she was.

But not by much. Because if she was completely honest, she was really, really good at what she did.

She was pretty lucky about that, now that she thought about it. She had known what she wanted to do with the rest of her life in middle school, at around age twelve. Isabel, on the other hand, had flailed around for years, trying to figure out what her passion was without being able to commit to any one thing. She liked culture, she liked history, she liked languages, she liked mythology and religion, she liked reading and books, she liked learning about other countries...

On some level Mari knew she should have been jealous. Isabel was off uncovering artifacts and studying something she enjoyed, meeting more people and having more interesting, intellectual discussions with brilliant people. And she was here, sewing and making clothes for a play.

In fact, she had been, once upon a time, as one of the dramas of their teenage years. But then Mari had realized. Maybe she was boring, maybe she was afraid of going outside and being in crowds, maybe she needed more alone time than Isabel did, maybe she wouldn't ever be in khakis hacking her way through bushes and vines and uncovering an ancient temple where priests of ages pasts performed dramatic human sacrifices. But she was actually content with sewing. She enjoyed it. She wanted to do this for the rest of her life. If that made her more boring than her sister, then so be it.

Well, minus the crippling anxiety when in crowds and fear of going outside and agoraphobia in general. She could do without those qualities making her 'interesting'. But that aside, she was happy with who she was.

She sighed and realized there was a smile on her face.

Man. It had been too long since she had gone all out like this, sewing and cutting and designing. She had almost forgotten how happy it made her.

She fingered the bottom of Mima's skirt again. She had worked hard on these outfits. She was proud of herself.

In fact...

She sat up and took a breath, then turned around and looked at the costumes she had made.

That documentary on the Boshin War had definitely been influential here, she realized upon looking at them. Shingyoku's male form and Konngara looked like they had just stepped out of feudal Edo, with the samurai-style robes for Konngara and the Shinto priest look that Shingyoku had. And of course there was Hakurei Reimu's miko outfit, but that was at least always meant to be somewhat antiquated. Of course, she didn't want them to look like perfectly historical outfits. Shingyoku was fine as he was, but Konngara looked too plain to be an astral knight, so she had given Konngara some dangly bits of black and red cloth coming off her shoulders to make her look more intimidating. She couldn't do anything about the horn in the middle of her forehead, though. Or was that supposed to be a dagger? Anyway, she was not a prop designer, so she left well enough alone.

Mima had been somewhat of a challenge to design. Aside from Reimu's outfit, she had probably put the most mental effort into Mima's. Apparently she was a vengeful ghost that would attack Reimu when Reimu chose the Hell route in the story, according to one of the note scraps she had found in the notes the kannushi had sent her. So to reflect that vengeful nature, she had been given a bloody dagger. She was meant to be a ghost, so she had a ghost tail, but obviously she couldn't design an outfit for someone who was a ghost, so she made the skirt long enough to conceal an actress' legs, and attached a ghost tail to the back of it. The green and red threads along the bottom of it had been added to give her a splash of more colours.

Then she had remembered that the kannushi had said multiple times in his backstory script that despite how serious things in the setting looked, it was not actually all that serious. So she had also given Mima a somewhat poofy-looking blouse, to make her look slightly on the ridiculous side, and a white cap to give her a matching accessory. The cape had been a distinct part of the design the kannushi had given her, but she had disapproved of that part; she didn't think such a heroic look suited a vengeful ghost, so she had taken her scissors to it and given it a tattered look.

She still was not completely satisfied with it. If she could get the chance, she wouldn't mind redesigning Mima's outfit. It was not a very unified theme as it was. Maybe more blue next time.

Speaking of blue, she saved a bunch of it for Sariel's first form. Sariel's second form looked like some kind of purple miasma, which she couldn't... well, she could probably design something like that, but it wouldn't be so much a costume as it would be some kind of purple cloth to hide under while fighting on stage with the heroine, Reimu.

Sariel's first form was way easier. She had noticed that unlike all the other characters except Elis, Sariel didn't have a Japanese name. In fact, she was fairly certain that was some kind of Hebrew name-- probably related to angels, if the six wings did indeed mean that Sariel was a seraphim. But she didn't know a thing about that part of Christianity, though. Isabel would know. She jotted it down in her notebook to write to her later.

Anyhow, Sariel was all blue and white and silver. A nice colour combination, she noted as she worked on it. She didn't know much about Christianity, being somewhat disinterested in religion, but she did know that angels were technically without gender; or more accurately, that the limited concept of binary genders didn't apply to them. So she went for an androgynous look. No skirt for Sariel, but robes instead, to look intimidating. The back of the dress would need holes in it to accommodate the six wings the actress would have to have, so she left the back of the long blue robe plain.

She wanted the front of the robe to be less plain than the rest, but she didn't know what sort of pattern or insignia to sew onto it. It was a pity she had never gotten into Evangelion like seemingly everyone else at the Japanese-Peruvian community center did, because she knew that the Tree of Life imagery would have been perfect to sew onto the front of the robe. She could only remember its faint shape, but not the details, and she didn't want to screw up something like that by half-assing it. So in the end she decided to forgo the deep religious symbolism and used some special silver thread to sew in an insignia of a silver wing on the front of Sariel's blue robe.

The rest left were also all female, which she enjoyed. Women's clothing was much more fun to make, in Mari's eyes. Skirts were cute as hell and also opened up a bunch of possibilities with patterns that you just couldn't pull off the same way with pants or trousers.

She had wanted to make the female form of Shingyoku less plain-looking than the male form. Judging from the small sketches with labels that the kannushi had given her, the humanoid forms of that character had red eyes, and the female form red hair, so she wanted to give her a matching outfit. She was happy that she had gotten so much red fabric from the crafts store, because it really came in handy to make her skirt. She used some of the white scraps from making male Shingyoku's robes and used them to make some abstract images on female Shingyoku's skirt, though all that would be visible from the audience's point of view would be the white sun and a lightning bolt on the front.

She also wanted to have some continuity with male Shingyoku, however, to give a visual hint for the next form. So she gave female Shingyoku a blue capelet. Instead of using white cloth, she had sewn grey cloth onto that, in a cloud pattern. Most of it wouldn't be visible to the audience for the most part, though maybe if the actress in this outfit turned her back towards the audience once or twice, then they would see the work she had put into this.

A simple white blouse went under that, then she also noted red shoes under that long red skirt, and a cute red bow completed the look. Well, that was it for her part. The sketch had the character wearing some sort of horns or antlers on her head. She couldn't make something like that, so she just ignored it for now.

She had also taken what she had learned from that kabuki theatre performance she had watched on video, and as a result, female Shingyoku's outfit was unique among all the others in that it came apart really easily, just by unfastening some tied-together threads on the sides. Those threads were all that held the outfit in place, and pulling on the threads would make it fall off the actress and reveal the outfit underneath.

The last one to be completed had also been her favourite, both in terms of making it and regarding the original sketch from the kannushi. Elis was absolutely adorable. The rough sketch had given her appearance as having big bat wings and long blonde hair and a red star on her cheek. As before, she couldn't do anything about wings, but she could give Elis a somewhat poofy long red skirt, with curlicue patterns in purple thread along the bottom hemline. The same colour of purple was used to make her vest, over a white blouse. (She was a little worried that she kept using white blouses, but they contrasted well against the rest of the colours, and she didn't want to put a whole lot of work into clothing items that the audience wouldn't ever see.) Another cute red bow tie to match the red hair bow in Elis' hair, and it was done. The white blouse and purple vest would need to have cuts in the back to accommodate her wings, again, but she didn't mind at all. Big purple bat wings made her adorable. There was also some sort of wand with a star on the end, but that was a prop, and therefore it was not her responsibility.

That was it for the outfits she had made. There were a few more she hadn't; Shingyoku's orb form, Yuugen Magan, Kikuri, and Sariel's second form. She had ideas for those, though. Shingyoku's orb form would need to be a large shield of sorts, concealing most of the actress, and when it came time to 'change' on stage into female form, the actress would come out from behind the shield and toss it away, and from there she could easily change into Shingyoku's male form.

Yuugen Magan was tricky, but she thought it could be done. What it needed was a frame made of light but not easily broken material, like thin bamboo rods with wire to reinforce them. On this frame, the five eyes that made up Yuugen Magan could be glued on. Under the third eye, the one in the center, the yellow lightning bolts (that would be yellow cloth over the bamboo rods and wire) converged to create some kind of electrical storm.  This would be the actress. The actress would have to wear a tight black cloth bodysuit, and there would be patterns of yellow all over her top. The third eye would be a face mask. The other four eyes would be resting on her right and left arms. It was definitely awkward, but she thought it could be done.

Kikuri's was also somewhat tricky, but nowhere near as labour-intensive as Yuugen Magan. Like Yuugen Magan, the face of the coin would be a face mask of sorts, going down to her arms. It would be a wooden circle, with golden or yellow coloured cloth stretched over it, but not too tightly. It would fit over the neck and shoulders of the actress, and the imprint of her own face would be Kikuri's face. Alternately, the image of Kikuri could be painted right onto the cloth, but that might be a problem if the image of the face and the actress' face didn't always line up exactly. There would also be dangly purple cloth falling down from the edges, to represent purple flame.

Sariel's second form would be comparatively much easier; just have the actress throw on a dark purple cloth.

Mari didn't give much thought as to why these characters were designed the way they were. She assumed they were symbolic somehow. Surely the play's dialogue would reveal the mystery, anyway. For her part, she just guessed that they were probably all manifestations of Reimu Hakurei's internal demons, and confronting them as enemies would be the catalyst for her character development.

Anyway, that was it for now. Her arms were tired and her hands sore, so she couldn't actually write back to Isabel's letter just yet. Both of her letters had reached their destination by this point, actually; Isabel's reply was already here, while she expected that her parents' letter back would arrive tomorrow.

It was also sort of embarrassing to admit, for such a highly skilled seamstress like she was, but her fingertips were covered in bandages, in part to stop the small bleeding from accidentally poking her own fingers with needles from getting onto her clothes, and in part hoping to avoid pricking her fingers again.

Still, she was quite satisfied with all the work she had gotten done.

The phone rang. Mari looked at it nervously. That was probably the kannushi. No one else, aside from her sister and her parents, had her number.

She picked it up. “Hello?” She was not caught by surprise this time, so she didn't accidentally start speaking in Spanish.

“Hello. Is this Saihoshi Mari-san?”

“Yes. I recognize that voice. Are you--”

“Kannushi-san, yes.”

“Oh, good, just the man I was hoping to speak to.” Mari looked over at her mannequins. “I have finished the majority of the costumes you asked me to make.”

“Th-- the majority?” His voice sounded surprised. “How many have you made?”

“Let's see...” Mari counted them off as she pointed to each one. “Mima, Elis, Sariel's first form, Shingyoku's female form, Shingyoku's male form.” She pointed to the two folded ones. “And Konngara, and Hakurei Reimu-san's miko outfit, as well.”

A pause on the line. “I see you did get my letter, then. When did you get it?”

“Ah, about seven days ago.” Another pause on the line. She got nervous. “A-ah, should I not have gotten started immediately? Did you have anything else you wanted to send me first? Or any more information or sketches to give me?”

“That's seven outfits in seven days.” His voice was monotone. Mari's heart was racing. Oh god, what had she done wrong?

“N-not seven days! I had to spend the first day reading your sketches and notes and at least drawing out some larger patterns on my own paper, and then I had to go buy all the fabric... I didn't want to get more expensive fabric because I didn't want to waste the money you gave me, so they're just the usual cotton-poly blend...” She was babbling now, and she knew it. She tried to stop. “U-um, did I make a mistake? I apologize, truly, I'm really sorry, I should have probably called--”

“N-no! That's amazing. Amazingly fast. I didn't expect... wait, they're completed and everything?”

“Y-yeah,” she stammered. “They're hanging here on the mannequins I use to make dresses. I don't like leaving a project half-done before moving on to a new dress, so I finished each one in full before I went to do the next one.”

“Seven full costumes...”

“W-well, I didn't do all of them. I was not sure how to do a few of them. L-like, Kikuri, and Yuugen Magan's costumes seemed sort of weird... I mean, I could probably do them, except probably Yuugen Magan, that one's just weird... but I wanted to check in with you before...”

“Which ones did you not do?”

She swallowed. That sounded really accusatory. She was worried instantly.

“Yuugen Magan and Kikuri, like I mentioned... and Sariel's second form, and Shingyoku's orb form. I-I'm sorry, should I have--”

“No! In fact, it's good that you didn't do those. I think you've done all you can do on your end. We can take care of those on our end.”

Mari drew in her breath.

“S-so, I should stop here?”

“You certainly can! I'm just amazed you got those seven done so quickly! You're amazing, Saihoshi-san!”

He sounded so happy. Mari had to smile, feeling a huge weight being lifted off her chest.

“T-thank you, kannushi-san...” She felt herself able to breathe again. “S-so, when would you like to see them? I'd like to make sure they match your mental image of the costumes you were thinking of when you made those sketches.”

“No, I'm certain that whatever you've come up with, it'll be perfect,” he said over the phone. She was happy that it was over the phone, because she flushed dark red upon hearing that. Even on someone with dark skin like hers, that level of flush would have been noticeable, and therefore embarrassing.

“B-but... I'd like to be certain, even if you have that kind of faith in my designs. I-if nothing else I'd like to be on hand, t-to be able to adjust any sleeves or seams to make sure they all fit perfectly.”

“Ah, I suppose that's true... ahahahah, I'm sure it won't be a problem, though!”

Even on the phone, Mari was boggling. Just how happy go lucky WAS this man??

“So should I...” she winced at what she was suggesting. “Should I take these over to the theatre? Wherever the theatre is, I suppose...”

“Oh, that's right, you've never been. Hmm... I'm not sure that is a good idea,” he replied. “The theatre is kind of far from where you live. I think I mentioned once that it was at a distance from the city. And didn't you say that you had an anxiety disorder?”

She took a breath. “Thank you for considering my limitations, truly. But if I don't go, then I won't be able to fix the costumes on the spot, and I couldn't then in good conscience accept your payment. And at the same time, going outside makes me very anxious. I don't know what to do.”

“Hmm...” In her mind, Mari imagined a man in priests' robes scratching his chin. “I do not want to stress you out. I am certain that you have already done amazing work in a very short amount of time, Saihoshi-san, and I am very impressed by your commitment. I also don't doubt that you've done good work with the outfits. I have an idea. How about this: I will send one of the ladies over to your apartment to pick up the costumes, and we'll bring them over here to the theatre and try them on. I doubt this will be the case, but just to reassure you, if there are major errors, we will send them back to you with notes and you can adjust them as necessary. Will that satisfy you, Saihoshi-san?”

Mari brightened as she heard his plan. “Y-yes! It very much will. Thank you for being so understanding, kannushi-san!”

“Good, good. When shall I send her over? I really was not expecting you to finish so early, so you've still got time before the first dress rehearsal. You don't have to send them over immediately if you don't want to.”

“No, that's fine, I could always use the time to make adjustments. But on the other hand, my fingers are quite sore.” She looked at her bandage-covered fingertips. “And I'm going to be somewhat busy tomorrow. How about... in three days' time? Is that fine?”

“Certainly! I will go ask if anyone would like to pick them up from you and give them your address. Oh, that reminds me...”

“Hm?”

“Two... no, three things I might have forgotten to mention the last time we spoke. Saihoshi-san, did I mention that the Shanghai Alice theatre troupe is all female?”

Mari blinked. “No, you didn't.”

“Indeed it is. There are a few male roles, here and there, such as Shingyoku's male form, but all the actresses are women, and I don't see that changing at any time soon.”

“I see. It's the opposite of Noh and Kabuki, then?”

“Yes! Do you know a lot about Japanese theatre, Saihoshi-san?”

“No, I do not, I regret to say,” she said, chuckling a little. “But I did watch a documentary recently on the Muromachi period of Japan, and they mentioned that Noh theatre arose during that time, and that the actors are exclusively men.” And honestly, she had just been guessing on the kabuki part.

“Aw, that's too bad. But yes, it's like the opposite of those two. In fact, I think it takes more from the Takarazuka Revue's style, with an all female cast, but there's an important difference. Takarazuka does a lot of western romance stories, so they also have male roles. Females playing male roles, I mean. But this theatre group has all women, playing almost entirely female roles.”

Mari nodded along. “I see. It is indeed different. I like the idea of it, though.”

“Yes, I wanted my theatre troupe to stand out from the start. And also, they are performing original works, rather than adapting old stories to the stage or performing already-written plays. That's where I come in.”

“You're the manager and the playwright?”

“Indeed. And I also write the music. I handle everything so that the women can focus on acting.”

“Wow, you write the music too?” Okay, that was genuinely shocking. How could one person possibly handle all of that?!

“Yes! I've been writing music since I was in high school. If anything, I created this troupe because I wanted a medium through which to convey the music I compose.”

“I see.” She was definitely impressed.

“That was the second thing I wanted to mention. We'll be setting a public date soon for our debut performance. When that happens, would you like a ticket to come watch?”

“A ticket – eh?”

“Well, it seems only fair to invite the costume designer for our troupe to come watch. Normally I would have just sent you the complimentary tickets, but seeing as how you have trouble with crowds and all, I'm asking. Would you like to come watch us perform?”

“I-I... I'm... umm.” Mari winced. “I would love to, but...”

“How about this? I'll send you a ticket and you can decide whether to use it or not. No pressure, Saihoshi-san.”

“You are really...” Mari covered her face. “Really, absurdly... too nice to me, kannushi-san.”

Loud laughter on the other end. “Don't even worry about it! You've done so much work for us, this is just the smallest thing I can do to repay you. I'll send tickets along with my delivery girl. How many would you like? Would anyone else like to come along?”

“I--” She winced. “I'm not--”

“Eh, no worries, I'll just send you two. Oh, and the third thing I wanted to mention.”

“Yes?”

“This is very important for you to understand. You mentioned that you don't know a whole lot about theatre, so I must ask. Have you ever heard of method acting?”

“No, never.”

“Hmm... how to explain this.” He paused for a few moments. “Well, in order to play a role well, most actresses do research on the time period of when their character lived, or read on the experiences of people who lived in real life who were in similar situations as their character. That way, they can understand better what their character goes through, and depict their reactions accordingly. Are you following?”

“Yes, so far,” she said, twirling a strand of hair around her finger.

“Method acting takes those ideas and runs with them. It seeks to make the actress identify with the character they'll be depicting, or to invoke how they themselves felt in a similar situation, so that their acting on stage will be more realistic. And while I know that not all theatre groups do this, our own troupe of actresses decided they wanted to take it one step further.”

“Oh? How so?”

“In a lot of shows and dramas, characters who are actors sometimes do 'method acting' take it to the logical extreme of completely immersing themselves in the character. For example, if your character lived alone in a cabin in the woods, most method actors would research on what it was like to live in the woods, consult survival guides, and so forth. But the character on TV who's a method actor will actually go and live in the woods for a while to see what it's like, lose weight, gain muscle, and so on. Do you see the difference?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, our theatre troupe decided to do that in real life.”

“You... wait, what?”

“Our actresses are all in character. Well, right now they're just, ah, rehearsing their lines, but once they get them down, they'll be staying in character as much as they can until the performance so that they can best convey how their characters feel.”

Mari thought that sounded interesting, but then she remembered Yuugen Magan. How was someone going to stay in character as a floating set of five eyes?

Still, he sounded like he knew what he was talking about. “I see! That sounds highly interesting, kannushi-san. But... how is someone going to remain in character as a shrine maiden who fights demons and youkai who attack her shrine? That can't actually be done in real life, after all.”

“Well, we have our ways.” Quiet laughter on the other side of the phone. “But those are, shall we say... company secrets.”

“I see...” Mari didn't see, but as long as it kept the conversation going.

“Anyhow, this means that, well, don't be surprised if the young woman who shows up at your apartment acts a little oddly. She's trying to be in character. So don't be alarmed, it's just part of how our theatre company works.”

“All right, I will keep that in mind,” she replied. “Then I'll wait for her to show up in three days. Is that everything?”

“That is it for now! Thank you again for all your hard work, Saihoshi-san.”

“And thank you for being so understanding of me, kannushi-san,” she said. “I'll look forward to three days.”

The phone clicked, and she hung up.

Okay, so everything was turning out much better than expected. Tomorrow she was meeting Akihiko in the morning, and then writing back a letter to her parents. And at some point she was still going to go out for ramen. And then she had to go shopping for groceries, because she was dangerously low on food. Thank god for all the cereal boxes she had stocked up on, and thank god that she was perfectly content with not eating milk with cereal or else she wouldn't have been able to sustain herself on it.

She did want food to eat now, but she was honestly sick of corn flakes by this point, so she figured that if she woke up early... no, how about asking Akihiko what was a good place to eat breakfast around here? That was a good idea... yeah...

Mari realized, belatedly, that she was absolutely drained. She yawned and pulled her bed covers open. But she couldn't shake the sense that she was forgetting something...

“Oh, right.” She pulled off her wrinkled shirt and shorts. She hadn't bothered to iron any clothes over the past five days. She was not leaving her apartment, so who cared? Tomorrow she'd have to find something halfway decent to wear, she guessed, but if she was the only one who could see how she looked, she didn't much care.

Well, she was not the only one who saw how she looked.

With those off, she reached over to her table and pulled off the almost empty box of cheerios and, yawning loudly, she took out a small handful and walked over to her windowsill, where the magpies who always hung out there were sitting and cooing quietly. They didn't seem bothered when she reached out towards them and dumped the small handful of cheerios on the windowsill between them. If anything, they rubbed her hand with their feathers as she did so.

“Sorry, but I don't have any fresh bread. I'll try to get you some tomorrow, okay?”

The magpies seemed to understand, maybe. They cooed in response, anyway, and then feasted on the cereal.

She wondered what they would do if she died in her apartment. Maybe they'd fly and alert someone? The staff in the office on the first floor?

She snorted to herself. She shouldn't be ridiculous. Birds didn't actually understand human thought. Even if these magpies were kind of weird.

She yawned loudly again. Eh, it was not worth bothering herself with these thoughts when she was this tired.

Mari flopped into bed, and was asleep within minutes, her sore fingers and hands relaxing as she slept.

-----

End of Chapter Seven

The mystery thickens!

Also, cookie fanatic Mari... I can see her with boxes and boxes of cookies behind her as she sews, always well-stocked. :p
Mari is just lucky she lives in the late 90s and not the present era, because she would be the longest-playing fanatic for Cookie Clicker there is. When Isabel and her parents beg her to stop playing, she refuses. When they take away her computer, she would take out her savings and buy a tablet. When they cut off the Wi-Fi, I think there would have had to be an article in the local newspaper where she slaughters her entire family with a single 7-centimeter sewing needle.

Iced Fairy

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #27 on: December 02, 2013, 03:48:09 am »
"Method Acting."  Yes.  Indeed.

And interesting how he's so certain the outfits will fit.  *Iced adds to the list of theories*

OverlordChirei

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #28 on: December 02, 2013, 04:19:17 am »
I have three guesses as to what is going on behind the scenes with the troupe, but I'll keep those to myself and wait~

nintendonut888

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Re: [Nanowrimo] Weave the Stars
« Reply #29 on: December 02, 2013, 04:51:08 am »
Oh god more clothing description porn than My Immortal itself oh god noooooooooo.

Just kidding~ That was really fun to read, and I have all sorts of morbid ideas on what Kannushi-san is cooking up in this magical theater holed up outside town. Now that you're finished with NaNoWriMo, I hope to see plenty of updates. :3
nintendonut888: Hey Baity. I beat the high score for Sanae B hard on the score.dat you sent me. X3
Baity: For a moment, I thought you broke 1.1billion. Upon looking at my score.dat, I can assume that you destroyed the score that is my failed (first!) 1cc attempt on my first day of playing. Congratulations.

[19:42] <Sapz> I think that's the only time I've ever seen a suicide bullet shoot its own suicide bullet
 

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