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The Five Stages of Renewal, Prologue

Self -realization is something ought to be sought, for being forced to look at the truth often feels like being doused with cold water in the middle of winter. My experience of course, I consider to be the exception, and not necessarily the accepted rule, for self-realization does not exempt your sorry hide from being doused in cold water as well—only this time, you do it yourself and only for yourself—under your own circumstances, your own conditions, followed by your own acceptance to the present which you have chosen. A path you planned, a path you laid out and built, and while it isn’t necessarily the one you’d take, it’s the one you made; and whether or not you’re proud of what you’ve built, it doesn’t matter, for it couldn’t care less of how you feel about it.

“S-sounds like a lame attempt to catch your eye does it?” An unconfident voice came from beyond the sheet of paper I have in front of me.

“No idea.” I answered honestly.

My words triggered a response to the already agitated speaker, as she let out a mild ehh as if it was an instinct.

“B-but you said you’ll help me…” She pouts, looking down. If she were a dog, this level of cuteness or charisma would win me over, and I’d be willing to give her even the clothes on my back to help her out; if she were a cat, I’ll be sure to stay out of her way while still taking in to consideration her daily necessities. Fortunately for me, but not so fortunate for her, she was neither.

“I agreed to take a look at it and give you my thoughts. And currently, my thoughts are: I have no idea.”

Aizawa Rin, a second year of class 2-B at Gakushi High. I’ve known her name for as long as I could remember. Yet her face, voice, and everything else is something I’ve only come to know for the past year. Despite living near each other, we don’t, and won’t really pass as what people would normally consider Childhood Friends. In fact, I know a bunch of names from my neighborhood which I may have seen on the entrance’s locker name plates. The idea of friendship, interaction, and everything else is all but accurate in mangas and light novels; and if anything, they’re exaggerated and almost considered normal to those who have ever wondered what it’s like to live in said neighborhoods. Yet, I still impress myself on how I manage to remember so many names despite not meeting the person who owned the name.

“Why don’t you ask Takumi for help, I heard his father is an editor." Heh, don’t underestimate the amount of information I can hoard in my brain during dinner with my family.

“—Eh” Rin responded. “H-how do you know that?”

“What, you knew?” I said after placing the sheet of paper down on my desk, and crossing my arms.

“No… which is why I’m asking you, how do you know that?”  Her honest face implied that I answer honestly as well, not that I had a reason to lie anyway.

“Information tends to leak out during family dinner. They come out, and I somehow remember them.” I said, I hope I didn’t sound too proud.

Rin gave me a surprised look, no… wait, that’s the look of disgust mixed with surprise, as if she just saw shit when opening a toilet stall.

“You actually remember useless information a lot huh… you’re actually a pretty scary guy if you start to gossip.” I suppose I deserved that, so I shrugged.

“Oy.” I said defensively. “It’s not like I have enough friends to gossip anyway.”

Before Rin could start her maniacal episode, she needs to start it off with a scoff, followed by a sneer, then a mischievous grin, and then…

“HAHAHAH” As expected. “I’ve never met anyone who’d so easily admit their friendlessness before!” She said before resuming her laughter.

“Well, you just did.” I replied, before finally crossing my legs slightly as well. Rin giving me another surprised look, this time, it really looks like surprise without a taint of disgust.

“I suppose you’re right…” She said quietly, as if all her previous laughter was just my imagination. She stretched her arms and body back, slightly exposing her stomach, before finally releasing a satisfying sigh. Of course, I don’t feel any of the satisfaction, on my side.

“Hmm, well it’s not like I can just go talk to him and ask him to read this… and it’s not like having an editor as a relative means having the same interests as them.”

I suppose that’s a fair point. My mother is a doctor, yet I show no hint of interest in medicines; my sister is on a track team, yet my stamina is instantly exhausted after five minutes of running.

“—So don’t just assume anyone’s abilities just because of their behavior and appearance!” Before I started ignoring her pointless monologue, I listen again only to hear her arrogant lines.

I let out a sigh of my own, wanting to move away from this topic.

“So? Why did you ask me for my help with this anyway? It’s not like I write or anything.”

“Ah, well, you see, I mean…“ Just get to the point woman. “You’re very quiet in class, and you read a lot during break too, so I thought you’d have more experience with this…”

I want to slap this bitch in the face so hard.

“You just said not to assume anyone’s—“

“N-never mind about that!” Rin interrupted. I wasn’t about to let this rudeness pass, so I flicked my finger on her forehead as a response to her rudeness.

“—Ow!” A natural response, as she starts rubbing her forehead.

“Listen here.” I said as I began to reposition myself on my seat. “It’s not like I’m quiet by choice, if people were to talk to me, I give out a response all the time.” This much is true. “And simply reading books doesn’t make me a writer. It’s the same with being able to enjoy movies without being knowledgeable about directing or acting. Bottom line is, I enjoy taking stuff, but I don’t necessarily know how to give.” I replied before closing my eyes to rest, her figure is starting to tire me.

“Wow. You’re a selfish person.”

This bitch.

“Yeah, that’s right. I’m a selfish person.” I arrogantly replied. “But tell me, when was the last time you’ve done anything out of the kindness of your heart?”

Silence filled the room.

“I… uh… fed a stray cat before.”

“—And so have I, but does that make me any less selfish than you?” I replied abruptly.

Silence filled the room again.

If my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me, then I’d say Rin is looking really gloomy right now. She’s looking down, as if in deep thought, not that I’d know what’s going on in that thick skull of hers. Yet I catch a hint of enjoyment from her despair;

She was smiling.

“Really… this is why…”

“—So. Are you going to ask that Takumi fella?” I interrupted. “I mean, I can give you my half-assed opinion if you’d like, but if that Takumi fella really is better than me, then you’re gonna miss out—“

Rin shook her head, letting out a friendly mmmn before her head went still, as her eyes locks on mine.

“It’s fine, I’d like to hear yours specifically.” She said while still preserving her smile.

I took a deep breath, as I start to organize my thoughts. It wasn’t a bad read, really. And while some might say it’s a bit opinionated, I’d say that why it’s not a bad read. The writer, Rin, gives little to no care of what anyone or anything thinks, given that they are able to think. It triggers some sort of emotion that may have been sitting idle in a reader’s heart and mind for some time. To be honest, it’s actually pretty decent… that is… until—

“This is supposed to be the farewell message to the upperclassmen right.” I voiced a question that sounded more like a statement.

“Y-yeah…”

I resisted the urge to karate chop her skull with my hand, to do so, I had to take a deep breath and sigh once again.

“First of all, this doesn’t like a farewell message.”

An imaginary arrow struck Rin’s ego.

“Second of all, your message about self-realization is good and all, but frankly, no one cares about your personal experiences.”

And another arrow…

“Third of all, we’re taking into the account of the upperclassman’s experience here, not yours.”

And another…

“Fourth of all, does it really have to sound this gloomy? It’s okay to give some sentimentality in your message, but are you secretly wishing for one of our senior’s to be in distraught and commit suicide?”

And…

“And lastly, This. Does not. Sound. Like. A. Farewell. Message. where the hell did these words even come from? It sounds like an opening monologue of an extremely cool character in a very crappy TV drama.”

Another…

After being hit with so many arrows, it’s to be expected that she looks like an overused pincushion.

“…Isn’t that way too honest…” Rin hopelessly said in defeat.

“I’m sure I held back a bit.” I replied.

“A bit…”

“Yeah, so if you’re done bothering me as the last person on your list, I’d very much like to go home at this point.”

“But—“ I got up, as the chairs made their creaking noise. I suppose the noise was loud enough to prevent Rin to finish what she had to say.

I grabbed my lightly filled bag and started to walk out the room in silence. Not bothering to look at Rin’s face again, but then again... I suppose I owe her enough for me to offer some half-assed advice.

“Say, Rin.” I say this, not expecting her to reply “yeah?” but simply to open my next statement. “That thing you wrote could pass for something else, I’m not sure what, but I’m sure it’s not for a farewell statement.” I could sense her bitter expression from a mile away as I said this.

“Why don’t you practice saying what you’d say if you were parting with someone you knew for a long time but aren't necessarily close to? Be formal, and be precise. You can use sentimentality to trigger some emotions, but don’t go too overboard. We don't want our seniors to be distressed for graduation after all.” I pause.

“Well then… See you tomorrow.” Were my last words before closing the sliding door of the classroom.

Half-assed I thought, definitely Half-assed.

Discussion (4)

  1. Kyrin Knightsbridge

    Hai, Tobi, I think this is the first time I’ve read a piece of yours! I hope you don’t mind if I share some of my thoughts on your work!

    At first glance, this seems like a pretty typical start to a slice-of-life story. The setting is one we’ve all seen before, and the dynamic between the main character and Rin isn’t all that unique. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that! I get the feeling that you’re going for a tried-and-tested formula here, and that isn’t necessarily the worst thing if you have the skill and talent to pull it off. You should know, though, that the slice-of-life genre relies very, very heavily on the quality of the author’s writing. Most slice-of-life pieces don’t have the luxury of falling back on a strong, plot-driven story due to the limitations of the genre, so make sure your writing is of a high enough standard to set your story apart from the many thousands of others out there!

    Now for the technical stuff! I get the feeling that you have a little bit of a tendency to use big words in places where they aren’t necessarily the best fit. You should keep in mind your setting and narrator’s character as you write! Try to choose appropriate words which deliver the impact you want rather than overdoing it with the bombast. You should also be careful not to overindulge in awkward, long-winded sentences. A simple, well-written sentence will have more punch, in addition to being more approachable and easily understood. Periods are your best friend! I noticed a few places where you were inconsistent with tenses. This is a pretty basic miss that undermines your readers’ immersion, so be sure to get all of them next time you proofread.

    Having read through this, my advice to you would be to read other slice-of-life fics, whether it’s on this site or elsewhere on the internet – but make sure they’re highly rated! Try and get a feel for how other authors work within the limited framework of the slice-of-life genre, whether it’s in terms of their prose, their worldbuilding, or their character interactions. I think you have quite a lot of room for further improvement, so I’ll be looking forward to reading the next story you share with us! If you have any other questions about my comments and want to get in touch with me, I’m on Discord as Kyrin#2458!

    1. Tobi Post author

      I appreciate the feedback, it certainly is a genre I don’t have much experience with, but I intend to finish and see this one through. Lately, this scene has been playing out in my mind over and over, and it’s been driving me nuts for the past month, so I’ll just have to keep writing and see where it takes me.

  2. Justice

    This came out of nowhere. I enjoyed the story to wanting to read future installments. It was a entertaining bickering match between the two characters over a topic I had to get to the end to really understand. You established a history between the two, or lack of since your main character doesn’t consider Rin a friend per say.

    Also, what is the main character’s name? I don’t recall that or was it left out intentionally? I may have just missed it.

    I’m a stickler when it comes to visual details as I like to picture the scene as I read along. Wanted to make a note that was not available here. I had to substitute how they looked and the environment with characters from Hyouka Classic Literature Club, using Hotaro Oreki and Eru Chitanda as reference.

    Regardless, I like this story. You have some fun characters here.

    1. Tobi Post author

      Glad you enjoyed it, I’ll be updating it from time to time.

Comments are closed.