Sad Words in Snow
Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there's only love in the dark
Nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the heart"
-Bonnie Tyler, "Total Eclipse of the Heart"
I recall that this park was very green the last time I was here. It's probably not right now, as it's the middle of winter. It must be covered with a thin layer of white, since the snow started earlier today. It's the first time this year that it's snowed here; nothing is quite like the feeling of a snowflake landing on your skin, so I take note of these things.
I'm not really an out of doors sort of person, but there isn't much for me to do indoors, in my condition. There aren't many brail books, and there aren't any brail manga or video games, for obvious reasons. Not that there are many things for me to do out of doors, either. Still, it's nice of my wife to take me for walks occasionally, just for a change of pace.
So I slowly phth phth my way though the park while my wife does her shopping across the street (phth phth being the sound a cane makes when you stick it in two centimeters of snow). It's enjoyable. Just because I'm blind doesn't mean I'm infirm, so I'm not worried about slipping, especially in such fresh snow. It smells nice, too. Fresh, I guess. As I said, the feel of snowflakes landing on bare skin is interesting, and not unpleasant. And if I'm far enough into the park, I can stop and hold my breath and listen to the snow settle. At least until the next train arrives at the station, as one is doing now. Oh, well.
When I take another breath, I realize I'm not alone.
She's very quiet. Or, she just approached while the train was pulling in. Either way. It's her perfume that gave her away. It's low key, but with no scents but the fresh snow and the sleeping trees, it is hard to miss. And I recognize it, but I'm not sure where from, which means it's probably something I haven't encountered since before my sense of smell improved to compensate for my blindness. And now, listening, I can hear her take a breath before she speaks.
"Sensei?" The voice is soft, sounding unsure, but instantly recognizable. It's her. My first true student, the one who gave me so much trouble… yet gave me so much. I wish I could see how her abilities have turned out.
I smile toward her. "You're right, it's me. How are you?"
"Hello, sensei! It's~"
"I know. I could never forget your voice, even if I can't see your face again. You were my favorite student, after all."
"Really?" A pause. "Sensei, don't say such things. You didn't like me at all."
"Only at first, and only because of circumstances."
"Well, I still can't have been your favorite student; you had much better students than me. Ones that didn't get in your way or upset you so much." She sounds surprised and pleased, even as she objects.
"Nonsense. I bet your work is great now! I've always regretted never getting a chance to see how good you could get."
"Sensei," she murmurs, "you're making me blush."
I smile. "Come on. Let's find a bench that's not too covered in snow. I'd like to hear how your life has gone."
"Alright. I can't stay too long, though." I can hear the smile in her voice.
I know where the bench I want is; it's the bench my best friend and I spent two nights on a long time ago, when we'd first come to this city. I've come here a lot since he went back home, both before and after I lost my sight. It's near where we are, so I'm able to find it without any difficulty. If she is surprised by my ease of navigation, she doesn't mention it.
"So," I say as I sit, "what are you doing now? How have you used the skills I taught you?"
"Well... Actually, I work for Cubesoft now..."
"That's wonderful!" I beam in her direction, which is probably a little disconcerting for her. I never smiled very often when I was teaching her. "I'm sure you're their most valuable employee. They're one of the biggest names in the gaming industry, I hear."
"Yes. I'm part of most of their important projects." She sounds pleased with herself, despite her modesty. As well she should. She did have a pretty good teacher, if I do say so myself. We are both quiet for a moment, then, out of the blue, she says, "I'm sorry I couldn't make your wedding."
I shrug. "It's no big deal. I'm sure you had better things to do than go see your useless, blind ex-teacher get married to some woman you barely knew."
We are close enough that I can actually hear her hair brush across her shoulders as she bows her head. "No," she says. "That's not the reason." I'm confused, and don't say anything. She takes a deep breath and says, "I spent the day crying."
It takes a moment for the meaning of her words to sink in. "Oh," is all I manage to say.
"I don't think I ever really loved you," she whispers. "But you were important to me. When you lost your sight, and had to stop teaching, I wanted to be there for you. I couldn't..." Another deep, shaky breath. "I had too much going on. But she was there for you. She took care of you, helped you learn how to get by in a world without your sight, when your sight meant everything to you... It's no surprise that you fell in love."
I am speechless for a long time. We simply sit; I listen to the snow, and she tries not to start crying, I think. I know I have to say something, and slowly formulate something that won't make me sound like too much of an ass. Finally, "Can I tell you something?"
I hear her nod, a little "Oh!" noise when she realizes I can't see her, and she says, "Go ahead."
I take a breath, open my mouth to speak, and just exhale. That would have been terrible. I try again, and say, "You know, I'm not the only one who was teaching."
Dink, dink. I can just imagine her blinking in confusion with the strange accompanying sound effects from some of those cheesy nineties animes. I resist the impulse to smile, and just continue. "I learned a lot from my students; I think every teacher does. New techniques, new ideas, new strategies that they've never thought of before that might help a lot of people. Even if they don't teach us about the subject, they teach us all sorts of things about life and the world around us.
"When I first came here, I wasn't at all equipped to effectively deal with life. I was trapped in my own little world, and completely inept at dealing with other people. You may think that it was my wife who has taught and helped me the most to deal with this world, but you're wrong. It was you. I never could have reached the point where I had a chance with her without learning how to actually interact with and consider the feelings of others. That's what you taught me.
"I really treated you poorly for a long time. I'm sorry for that."
To my surprise, she takes my hand. "No, sensei! You shouldn't be sorry! I did nothing that deserved treatment of any other sort! I encouraged you at every turn. You were the one who taught me how to deal with life! How to not be so serious, not worry so much about what others think, how to see what was good in myself! If you'd never come here, I don't know if I could have made it this long.
"Perhaps we both could have treated each other better. But it doesn't matter, because we've turned out alright. Probably better than we otherwise could have..."
I squeeze her hand back. "Maybe."
Just then, I hear another voice I recognize, rapidly approaching. "-san! Where are you?" Footsteps crunch through the deepening snow, and, with unsurprising quickness, the owner of the voice reaches us. I know she is staring at me when she speaks. "Well, it sure took you long enough."
I can't help but chuckle. "I found her, and that's what counts, right?" The newcomer just sniffs.
My former student sighs and stands. "I need to get going, sensei. I have things to do, and a busy day at work tomorrow."
I stand too, keeping hold of her hand so that she can't start walking away before I'm done with her. "Wait." She stops, and when I am sure she's looking at me, I say, "Please, I want you to promise you will come visit me occasionally. I enjoyed talking with you again, and there are still a lot of things I'm curious about.
"I never did figure out how you pulled that trick in Moe-Moe Ball."
There's a pause, and then she giggles, the first time I'd ever heard her make such a sound; and even if it is ten years too late for her to be a giddy schoolgirl, she sounds like she would have made a good one, had her life gone better. "I don't know if I can give away all my secrets." She pauses, then says, "How can I find you?"
"We're in the phone book."
"Alri~ Wait. You know..." she sounds embarrassed, "I never have learned your surname..."
I grin. "Doesn't matter what it was. Do you really think Erika would take the surname of some gaijin? Just look for Hayasaka."
"Ergh. Don't grin like that; it brings back too many creepy GTL memories." She laughs and gives me a (very) light play shove.
"Just go do your work, 3vil 0ne." I continue grinning. "Take care, Miho-san. Be l33t."
"Take care, Largo-sensei. Let's go, Ping-chan."
I wait as the walked away, and wave at the count of ten. That's usually about the time people turn and look back the last time. I can hear Erika coming up behind me even before Miho and Ping's footsteps faded out. "Who was that?" she asks.
"An old student. Do you remember Miho Tohya?"
"The Evil Queen of Darkness? Do I need to go get you a crossbow now?"
"Stop mocking me."
"Of course, Largo-kun." She slips her arm around my waist and we started walking.
"Slow down. The snow's getting deeper; I don't want to slip."
"Oh, right, like I'd let you fall. As amusing as it would be, I don't need you pouting for the next week. That'd look just great to our friends, me abusing my poor blind husband."
"Speaking of which, you got beer, right?"
Author's Notes: Well, if I've done my job right, you were thinking that it was Piro and Yuki for most of the story (or at least not sure if it was Piro and Yuki or Largo and Miho), at least until Miho's response at the end of the third page, which is theoretically the climax. Yeah, I have long resolutions. If my understanding of what a dramatic twist is, is correct, that should satisfy that requirement. Assuming I've polled it off. Anyway, I justify the off characterization by the fact that all the characters are ten years older and neo versions of themselves. They've grown up. That and the ambiguity required for my dramatic twist. It's a little clumsy, I know. As are these sentences. :p
Incidentally, I view this as probably the best scenario for a Largo/Erika relationship; Largo for some reason becomes unable to take care of himself, and Erika decides to do so. Then the relationship grows as she does.