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Life After The Path Ends

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Two Days Later

 

I wake up the next morning and begin to do some light cardio. Ever since the nurse basically forced me to get in some exercise, I've started doing just something light in the mornings; and after my talk with Lilly about the future I've put in a little bit more care about what happens to me and my body.

  Yesterday came and went without much happening other than Hanako and I spending lunch together. The two of us did set a time and date for our picnic though, after today's Saturday classes. Late last night I went to the convenience store in town and got some ingredients for homemade sushi. 

I spend most of my morning preparing the sushi for later, however I can’t seem to cut the fish properly, and it appears to be in pretty big chunks. I’m sure it will be okay, but the presentation is a little off…

By the time I am as pleased as I'm going to get with the sushi I take a look at the time and see that I should have left for class a few minutes ago. I audibly make a sound of panic and rush out my door. I close the door behind me, and like a scene out of a horror movie when I turn around a familiar figure silhouettes my vision 

“Hey man, what was with that noise? I was right outside your door when I heard you scream,” Kenji’s voice finds me in my mild panic.

I don't think at the moment about how weird it was that he was right outside my door even before I realized I was running late. 

“I thought you were cutting class, and wanted to ask if you could help me with something,” Kenji continues. 

“Hey, sorry, not cutting class, just running late,” I try to quickly explain and make my way past him. 

Kenji moves slightly in the way I’m going, slightly blocking my path.

“I still really need help building that shelter for when the new great war starts. I want to be fully prepared,” Kenji continues even though he now knows I'm in a hurry.  

I make a face at his conspiracy. “Didn’t I already tell you ‘no’ to that?” I ask

“Well yeah, but I wanted to see if you've changed your mind, I mean, we’re bros, right?” He asks with the utmost sincerity. 

“Y-yeah,” I stutter hoping that Kenji doesn’t question it. 

“And hey dude, I can sweeten the deal too, if you help me build the shelter, we can share it when the war starts! We can hang out until the whole thing blows over,” He says earnestly. 

I give a slight smile at how excited he is, but I also shutter at the thought of spending more than a day with Kenji. 

“Sorry, Kenji, like I said last week, I've already got plans,” I give a half truth. I don't actually have plans yet, but Lilly is coming home tomorrow, so Hanako and I will probably hang out with her. 

“Man, that sucks, it's a 3 day weekend too,” Kenji says a little dejectedly. 

“Sorry again, but I've gotta get going to class,” I say to try and escape. 

“Haven’t classes already started?” He asks. 

I panic for a second, but realize that they haven't started yet, Kenji just has bad time management skills.

“Not yet, but I really gotta go, dude,” I say and slip past him finally. 

“Alright, well I’ll ask you again tonight, see ya man,” He says as I'm walking towards the dorm commons.

I really hope he doesn’t ask me again, I can't tell him who i'm hanging out with or he'd find out i have a girlfriend, and that wouldn't go over well. I finally make my way out of the dorms and outside, I do my best fast-walk trying not to strain myself after the panicked state my heart was already in over being late. As I walk towards the main entrance of the main building I catch a glimpse of a familiar dark set of hair with a female uniform sneak inside. I quicken my pace to catch up with her. 

I finally open the doors leading into the main building and I call out to her “Hanako?”

She turns to me with a look of confusion. “H-Hisao? You're gonna be late,” she says in her usual shy voice. 

“I got distracted this morning,” I said, putting a hand on the back of my neck. 

“Me too,” she says quietly. 

“I was busy packing up food for after classes,” I explain. Hanako smiles at this.

 “Is it the same for you?” I ask?

Hanako looks down at her feet “Mhm, no… something else,” She says in a way that worries me. Hanako holds out her hand for me to take it, and that takes a lot of the edge off. Something has her worried, but she’ll talk about it on her own, right? 

We silently walk to class together casually even though we are both late. I drop Hanako’s hand to reach for the door to Mutou’s classroom, and I try to quietly open it. I’m greeted by everyone's gazing eyes. Shizune and Misha look delighted at my plight, and Mutou’s eyes worry me the most; He wears a look of disappointment, or maybe it's his way of worrying. 

“S..Sorry,” I barely manage to get out. I make my way from the door frame to my seat in my own walk of shame. Hanako walks to her seat without looking up, but if she did she’d meet with a few of the eyes all around the classroom. Mutou says nothing at my apology, and slowly starts to return to the lesson we had interrupted. 

Throughout the whole class Mutou kept glancing my way and it was almost uncomfortable how much he did it. 

The lesson had finally winded down, and now Mutou was handing out assignments that were to be worked on in class for the remainder of the time. Upon seeing every student had received the paper Mutou looked at me.

“Hisao, do you mind stepping out for a minute with me?” He asks. 

I've been expecting this ever since I walked in. I nod and stand up from my seat. Mutou walks over to the door and opens it, gesturing for me to leave the classroom. 

I walk into the hallway and Mutou follows behind closing the door. 

Mutou sighs and looks at me with a serious look. “Hisao, are you in a relationship with Miss Ikezawa?” Mutou asks me carefully. 

“I… yes,” I say, deciding not to lie. 

“Hmm,” He begins, then pauses trying to find the words to say. “This school does its hardest to prepare all of its students for the outside world. I've seen the good you’ve done for Miss Ikezawa, but is this really best? I worry for her development, as I do yours” He says calmly. 

I take a moment to gather my thoughts, it's not like I haven’t also thought of this. But thinking of me needing to be careful with her is exactly what she hates. 

“Hanako is still coming out to the world around her...slowly. Even though there have been hiccups, she’s still doing it. I know that some people might disagree, but Hanako keeps getting stronger, and I want to be there to support her. I'd never hurt her, and I'd try my best to not ever hinder her.” I say firmly. 

“Hisao, I trust you, but you need to make sure that she doesn’t overly depend on you, or else you’ll both be hurt. I hope for you two to be happy; and please, don't break her heart.”

 “I promise, Mutou,” I say with confidence. 

“Please don't let this become a mistake,” He says in a worried tone. 

He opens the door to the classroom and walks back inside, leaving the door open for me. I take a moment to absorb what just happened and try to sneak back into the room. Misha grins at me, and I avoid eye contact from there. Hanako doesn’t look up, I wonder and hope that she hasn’t been like that all class.  Mutou’s last words linger around in my mind for a while. Of course we confessed to each other and I love her and she says she loves me. I have to have faith that we both know what we’re doing. 

Just as soon as I start focusing on the assignment Mutou handed out, I feel a tap on my shoulder. When I look up I'm greeted by Shizune and Misha's eyes, still in their chairs. Shizune signs and Misha starts to speak.

“Hey Hicchan, Shicchan and I have a lot of student council work to do this week and wanted to know if you could help us after class?” Misha says giving her best puppy dog eyes. 

“Sorry, I can’t. Busy,” I try to push them off. 

“Why not?” Misha pouts. 

“I-... I have a… date,” I quietly say so that no one else can hear. 

When Misha signs this to Shizune, she looks satisfied enough, and signs something to Misha before looking back at her own work. 

“Shicchan says to have fun,” Misha says gleefully 

“Thanks,” I reply and get back to my work. 

 

[Time Skip]

 

 As the bell rings signifying that our saturday classes are now over I look around the room. I see a few students rushing to finish their work to turn it in now, but see Shizune and Misha must have finished a while ago. Misha looks up at me and offers a sly double thumbs up before pointing at Hanako. 

I turn to Hanako and see her reading peacefully at her desk. I’m reminded how she used to wait timidly for lilly in this situation, but I guess now she's happily waiting for me. I stand up and take the assignment to Mutou’s desk and then walk back to Hanako. 

“Are you ready, Hanako?” I ask. 

“Mhm,” she responds with a nod. 

Hanako deposits her work on Mutou's desk as well, and we both walk out of the classroom. She stays silent as we walk out of the main building. Hanako also isn't grabbing onto me, which worries me for a second, but then I think it might be nerves. When I see the dorms I start to speak up. 

“I’m gonna go get changed and grab the food, okay?” I let her know. 

Hanako looks somewhat shocked at what I said.

“What's wrong?” I ask. 

“N-nothing, I just don't have an outfit picked out,” she stammers.

I let out a quiet laugh. “You don't have to change if you don't want to,”

“B-but then it'd be...weird” Hanako argues.

“You do have a point, just pick something out?” I ask cautiously. 

Hanako makes a quiet groan. “Okay…,” she finally agrees. 

I wave to her as I make my temporary goodbye. I wonder why she would be so worked up over picking an outfit? I guess I shouldn't complain, I just plan on wearing a sweater. The curse of male fashion strikes again. I grab all of my things I need from my dorm and make a quick change of clothes. I find myself back at the crossroads between the male and female dorms. Then I wait, and wait, and wait. 10 minutes must have passed already, I should check up on Hanako. 

I pull my phone out of my pocket and call her. The dial tone rings for a few seconds before I hear the sound of the call connecting. 

“Hisao? I'm sorry, I'm making you wait, aren't I?” I hear her voice say in a state of worry. 

“No, no, you're fine, but what's taking so much time?” I ask. 

I hear a low mumble, not audible over the phone. 

“I couldn’t hear that, Hanako, sorry,” I say to try to get her to say it louder. 

“C-could you come to my room?” she asks shyly. 

“I'll be right there,” I say to try to comfort her. 

Closing my phone, I start my walk towards the girls dorm. I’ve already been in here a few times, all of which to visit Hanako or Lilly, but this is one of the few times I don’t have to sneak in late for a tea party or early in the moring. I see a few girls hanging out in the commons, and I try my best to make it look like I belong here. It's only after I see some students with, I assume, their boyfriends before I relax and camly make my way to Hanako’s room.  

I quietly knock on her door and follow up by telling Hanako that it's me. I hear the sound of the door being unlocked, and I prepare myself for whatever the hold up could be. The door opens just a crack before I see Hanako peer her head out from behind the door. 

“Whats up?” I ask carefully.

Hanako takes a deep breath and walks backwards from the door, I open her door and walk in. I’m treated by the most beautiful sight I could imagine. My mouth hangs open as I look at Hanako. 

“H-Hisao, stop looking at me like that,” she complains, and turns her face away from me. 

Hanako is wearing a beautiful frilly yellow sundress. Her shoulders and upper back are exposed, as are her scars.

“You look stunning…” I tell her and take a step towards her. 

Hanako shudders and looks at me with a flushed face.

 “T-thank you,” Hanako quietly whispers through a smile. 

“O-oh! The reason I asked you to come here…,” Hanako continues to try and focus. 

“I… Lilly and I picked out this dress a long time ago, and I promised her that one day I’d wear it. I wanted to wear it out today, but I can’t not think about-,” Hanako starts to choke up.

Hanako seems to want to say more, but for some reason or another, can’t. I look into her eyes and see the pain written on her face. This outfit is probably the most exposing clothes I’ve seen her wear, and even though she’s shown me all of her scars, it must take a lot more effort to show it confidently to the world. 

I gently place my hand on her scarred shoulder, and she looks up at me “Hisao…?” she quietly asks. 

“You are wearing it though. Even if it's not where you quite imagined, right?” I start. 

Hanako nods.

“Then you can wear it where you want to another day, you don't have to push yourself like this, it's okay to take it slow,” I try to compromise with her. 

“I’ve taken it slow for so long... I never thought I’d ever wear this, but Lilly was so happy when she felt it…,” Hakano trails off into silence. 

“Whether or not you decide to wear that, change, or anything else. It's okay, Hanako,” I say and pull her close and hold her. Hanako wraps her arms around me and we remain like that for a short while. 

“Okay, I decided what to do!” Hanako says a little excitedly. 

I look up at her and she makes her way over to a dresser and opens the top drawer, she looks back at me, and I look away. I know I’ve already seen all of her, it still feels wrong to not give her any privacy. 

Seconds pass before I hear Hanako call out to me. “Hisao? I think I'm ready.”

I look back to hanako and notice she didn't change out of her dress, so I looked away for no real reason. But now she wears a familiar jean jacket that covers her arms and shoulders, but only goes down to about her stomach. The yellow sundress pops out against her navy blue jacket, but she still looks beautiful. I hold my hand out to her and she takes it gently. Hanako smiles and I return a smile.

“Oh! I almost forgot my things for our picnic,” Hanako exclaims louder than I would have expected. 

I see a bag on her bed and let myself over to it and add it to the things I'm already carrying. Hanako lets me carry it and we continue out of the dorms and make our way to the front gate of Yamaku still holding hands. I'm really glad that Hanako doesn’t seem to mind holding hands even with all of the other students.

I look over at Hanako to see how she's doing and I’m treated with her eyes looking right back at me lovingly, it makes my heart flutter for a moment. The sun gives Hanako’s skin a golden gleam, making her look radiant. I give back the same loving eyes and we continue to walk past the gate. 

 

[Time Skip]

 

Walking down the street with Hanako, we see the very same park that we confessed to each other. We give each other a knowing look, due to the good and bad moments we shared here that day. I hope that today will change our perception of this place to be better. In the park I find a nice spot under a tree and ask Hanako if this will do. Hanako somelmly nods, and I begin to pull a sheet out of my bag and spread it on the ground. I sit down and pat the ground across from me motioning Hanako to sit down. Hanako reaches by me and grabs her bag. 

“S-so.. I made homemade croquettes,” she says, as if asking for my approval. 

“I can’t wait to try them,” I tell her earnestly. 

“I uh- tried to make sushi,” I said, proposing it like a question. 

This elicits a giggle from Hanako, and in return a smile from me. 

“I think it will be great,” Hanako says excitedly.

“O-oh!,” Hanako exclaims and reaches into her bag once more, and pulls out what appears to be a thermos. 

“I-I brought us some tea… if you'd like I could pour you a cup?” she asks in a cute voice. 

“I'd love that,” I state simply. 

Hanako takes out two paper cups from her bag and pours us both a glass. I give her my thanks and take a sip. Not my favorite, but I know it's a good middle ground between Hanako and I’s tastes. 

I put down my cup on a relatively flat part of the ground, and take out the last item from my bag.

“I also bought some rice balls too if you want one,” I tell her. Hanako flashes me a smile in response. After our short setup we finally began to eat. while we eat I steal a few glances at Hanako. I swallow the food in my mouth before speaking up.

“That dress looks so beautiful on you, Hanako,” I say, still a little lost for words. Before, back when I was in her room, hearing her consider wearing just the dress without her jacket amazes me. The same girl who wears her hair over her right side to hide her scars wanted to wear something so freeing. 

“I was… scared but no one seemed to stare, so that makes me happy,” Hanako says with a shy smile. 

“I’m glad that you wore that out today,” I say

“M-me too,” Hanako quietly agrees. 

We continue to eat our homemade foods, and drink tea until we’re both full. 

“Those croquettes were amazing!” I compliment her.

“T-thank you, I liked the sushi,” she says. I still don't really think it looked much like sushi, but at least she gave me that courtesy. 

“We should probably go now,” Hanako says a little sadly. 

“We can stay here until the sun goes down if you really want,” I try to offer. 

“Mmnh...,” Hanako makes a groan.

“What's wrong?... It wasn't the food was it?” I joke. 

“No.. I-,” Hanako pauses. 

Hanako stops talking and looks like she is having an inner battle. 

“I promised someone to talk to you about something…,” she begins again. 

If it were Lilly she would probably have just said her, but ‘someone’ is ominous…

“I haven’t ever said anything about her… but I have a therapist. She’s… nice. She helps me a lot,” Hanako confesses. 

“I... told her about what happened at this park… and she was very excited, but also worried…” Hanako looks down. 

“We- we shouldn’t have done that last week in my room… B-but!” Hanako interjects her own words. 

“I.. love you, Hisao.. And I want us to stay together,” she finishes. 

I give her a sad smile, knowing that I pushed her into haveing sex, and that will never change. 

“You’re right, and I love you too, Hanako,” I say, embarrassed of how I acted last week.

Hanako looks like a slight weight has been taken off her shoulders. 

“My therapist was excited to hear that I have you, but she wants me to start slow…,” Hanako says.

“She says… I should make more friends if we’re gonna be serious… and I want to be serious about us,” Hanako says confidently. 

“So… I thought… I should look for a club, maybe,” she says with less confidence. 

I think she doesn’t want to, but wants to push herself to greater heights. 

“That's a great idea, Hanako,” I try my best to be a supporter of her new goal.

Hanako makes a slight groan in complaint. 

“I hope it's okay.. I think most people know me as the scared girl…,” Hanako says sadly. 

“Hanako..,” I say.

“But they're right, so I need to try and join one… I’ve never talked to any student outside of our class besides ‘imsosorry’ or ‘Ivegottagodosomething’.. ,” she acts out her old habits and pauses. 

“And that's okay!” I try to interrupt her destructive thinking.

“Hanako, getting better at anything isn't linear, even a social life. You still responded to people like that meanwhile Lilly was already your best friend, and you still did that when getting to know me, but now you don't. I know you have it in you to make more friends, and with every new friend it gets easier, I promise.” I tell her. 

“I’ve never been good at making friends, Lilly was always really calming and that's what made it easy to talk to her, but you put in all of the effort and kept pushing me… But! never too far, I mean,” Hanako says cautiously so as to not offend me.

I give her a smirk to show that it didn't bother me. 

“If you join a club with a lot of things to do, then the conversations should flow naturally, shouldn’t they?” I try to give advice. 

“I mean, if there's something to do, then you can always talk about it, and that's easier than small talk,” I continue.

“That sounds like the student council..” Hanako thinks aloud. 

“N-no, I didn't mean that, but if you chose an interesting club it’d be easier to talk to people, I think,” I correct myself. 

“Maybe..,” Hanako says to herself. 

“We can go together to check out the clubs if you want?” I offer. 

“Thank you, but… I want to check them out myself, it’ll be a little scary, but I want to do it for myself,” Hanako psyches herself up.    

“Im.. really happy for you, Hanako,” I tell her and lean in close to her and give her a quick kiss. 

Something about this fills me with pride that Hanako is making decisions on her own that will help her, I think It might be okay if I fall more in love with her. Hanako seems to understand what she needs, so there's little for me to worry about.

“I love you, Hanako,” I reaffirm. 

“Me too, Hisao…,” she responds nervously. 

I look around us, the sky is turning a shade of orange, I smile and close my eyes free of any worry and lay down on the sheet. Today was a tough day, but I think we came out on top, Hanako’s confidence is growing, and I couldn’t be happier. All of this, plus Lilly comes back tomorrow, so what's not to be happy about? This might be one of the best days I’ve had in awhile. 

I feel a weight shift next to me and I open my eyes. Hanako now lies next to me on the sheet looking at the golden-orange sky. A warm feeling comes over my heart as I look into her violet eyes. I smile happily at her. 

“I’m glad we decided to stay at the park for a little while longer,” I say softly laughing over the hard conversation we just shared. 

“Now I'm ready to go,” Hanako responds with her own soft laugh.

“We can stay for a few more minutes. The sun won't set just yet,” I say looking into the ever orange-growing sky. I place my hand over Hanakos and see her at peace with my statement. We sit hand over hand for close to 10 minutes before the nagging realization that sunset is drawing closer every second. 

I sit up, disrupting our peaceful time together. Hanako looks at me with a knowing sadness written on her face. I give a slight smile in reaction to her, and start to pack up our little picnic. Hanako helps stuff items back in her bag, while I pack the rest of our items.

Finally packed up and cleaned, we reluctantly ended our first real date. As we walk to Yamaku, hand in hand, I realize we probably should have left sooner, but I think I can handle a little darkness if It meant watching the sun set with Hanako. 

Today was a good day, a necessary one, even. Hanako has shown me that she is serious about our relationship and is willing to do what's necessary to get out of the shackles of anxiety. 

The remainder of our walk is filled with a calm silence, there isn't much to say anyways. It isn't until we finally get past the gates of Yamaku before Hanako speaks up

“I’m.. glad we met, Hisao..,” Hanako says kindly before placing her lips against mine. 

I’m taken aback, but overwhelmed with emotion at her kiss. Holding her close we continue to lock lips in the dark of twilight. 

Hanako finally pulls back from the kiss with shortness of breath, evidence that it was our most intense kiss. 

“T-thank you for today,” Hanako says gratefully before running off back to her dorm. 

I stand there in amazement over what just happened. Snapping myself back to reality I make my way to the dorms before seeing a familiar face. I guess Kenji wasn’t lying when he said we’d see each other later. I walk up to him unworried by the possibility that he saw us. 

“Hey, man,” I start. 

“Huh? Oh, it's you dude. I was just doing some late night reconnaissance,” Kenji tells me.

“And how was that going?” I ask in a slightly snarky manner. 

“I found out why you wont help me with my bunker,” Kenji complains. 

“Oh,” I say in reaction before thinking more about what he just said “Oh! Uh you did?” I say rubbing the back of my neck.

“Mmhm,” Is all Kenji says.  

I wonder what the feminist hating boy will say next, this cant be good…

“I trust your judgement. You wouldn’t date a traitor to our cause,” Kenji says very anticlimactically. 

Kenji gives a weak punch to my shoulder. 

“You’re surprisingly cool sometimes,” I think aloud.  

“I’d like to think so,” says the scarf and thick rimmed glasses clad boy. 

“I don't resent all women, just the ones who want to take us over as the dominant species,” Kenji explains.

I’m immediately reminded why this conspiracy theory brandishing student is only sometimes ‘cool’. I think to ask whether or not he’s even met any women who claim to want to do something like that, but decide it's best not to. 

“How did you know I had a girlfriend anyway?” 

“Well even though I didn't know it was you, I did see your figure holding someone else very close for a minute or so,” the legally blind student explained. 

“And then you popped up right in front of me and then I knew,” Kenji continues. 

“Oh, Alright, well I'm heading in for the night, man,” I tell him. 

“Oh, great, I lost my key while I was observing the school grounds from up high, and I need your help man,” Kenji complains. 

“Where did you drop it?” I question, a little upset that I can't go back to my room yet. 

“Around that tree,” he simply states. 

I give a noise of complaint. “Come on, let's find it,” I finally say.  

 

[time skip] 

 

After some time I found Kenji's room keys in the grass around that tree he said he climbed. Honestly, what could he even see from up there… 

Finally back in my room I make sure to lock my door to keep away any more unexpected visitors. I think to call Hanako about picking up Lilly tomorrow at the airport, but don't want to cling to her after our already perfect end to the day; and she surely is already aware that we need to be ready. Hanako wouldn’t exactly forget about Lilly’s return. 

With that decided, I take some nightly pills and rest my head on my bed before falling into a slumber.