A Runner’s Afternoon

I’ve long become used to the rhythmic thumping of my footsteps in my ears. Music floods into my head via the latest in wanky gadgetry, and I make a game of synchronising my gait with the beat.

Running has become my ritual. Rain, hail or shine, I run for half an hour before work, and for half an hour during lunch. I run, I run, and I run some more.

Such is the life of someone who has been given a third chance at life.

After my first attack I thought my life had been destroyed. I cursed the gods on high for their cruel games, and I wallowed in self-pity. And how was that wrong? I was cut down in what I thought was my prime, separated from my friends, forced into a new environment. At the time, I thought I had lost everything.

In some stupid, adolescent form of protest, I fought against my fate in the only way I knew how. I didn’t follow the doctor’s orders. I slacked off with my medication. I rarely exercised.

Retribution was swift and unforgiving. My eyes we opened to a whole new definition of the word “loss”. Even now the pain is a little too much to bear.

And so I run, I run, and I run. This is my penance; every day for a decade I have run.

Has it really been a decade?

The tracks cycle on my player, and I take the chance to look ahead and refocus. Thinking on the past will get me nowhere. I need to look up, look ahead, look beyond.

Wait.

A flash of recognition shoots through my brain like lightning. For the first time in ten years I break my stride and turn around.

A figure sits on a park bench beside a pond. I must have run past the same bench thousands of times, but this is the first that I’ve seen this person sitting there. She tears the edge from her sandwich and throws it into the pond. A duck lazily swims over to it and collects it.

If anyone else in the world were to witness that hand they would think nothing of it. And true, the years have been kind to it; the deep purple markings I knew are now faded to little more than a shadow.

“Hanako? Hanako, is that you?”

The hand’s owner turns to face me, and no amount of cardiac exercise could have prepared me for this. Here, a million miles and a million years from when we last met, sits Hanako, in the flesh.

Her trademark bangs are gone, but she has grown her hair. Or maybe not, it’s hard to tell whilst she’s sitting. As with her hands the scarring on her face has subsided.

“Hisao? What are you doing here?”

Hanako stand upon recognising me. She’s grown since we last met; slightly taller, but much more mature.

Well, of course more mature. She’s a woman now…

What the hell? I can’t even concentrate. Endorphins and Lactic acid are clouding my mind. Focus man, focus. The past is just that. The things that you lost can never be returned.

“I, uh, work not far from here. I run by here every day, but I’ve never seen you here before… geez how long has it been?”

Hanako tilts her head slightly. Shit, I shouldn’t have said that. No doubt bad memories are flooding through her head right now. Damn, she has a pretty head. I don’t think I’ve said that about anyone before, but she has a pretty head.

“Too long… too long indeed. I’m here on business, staying in the hotel across the way.”

She waves her hand behind her somewhere. I suppose the specifics don’t really matter. But the big surprise is the change in her manner. Of course, I saw the beginnings of this Hanako way back towards the end of high school.

I suppose our relationship then was like a caterpillar forming its cocoon. Progress was made, but it wasn’t the end state. Before me now is Hanako the Butterfly; fully developed, ready to take on the world.

A pang of sorrow hits me as I realise that I wasn’t the one to be there when she did emerge.

“Wow, a business trip. Sounds like you’ve done alright for yourself…”

Without warning my watch starts to beep at me. Two shrill beeps, then a second’s pause. Repeat. In the past it was a reminder to turn around and head back to work. Today it is a wedge between myself and my old friend.

“Shit, I have to get back to work. Look, are you free this afternoon? It’s Friday, so I can leave a little earlier; do you want to catch up for a drink or a coffee or something?”

“Sure, I think I’d like that. There’s a nice cafe near my hotel, it’s on the main road, I think it’s called ‘Statement’.”

“Yup, I know the one. I can meet you there at about five… or is that too early?”

Hanako shakes her head. The short movement sends her long hair dancing, punctuated by flashes from her crystal ear rings.

She never wore ear rings when we were dating. They suit her.

“Five is fine. I’ll see you there.”

——————–

Hanako wears the same suit she did in the park; a light grey with a white pinstripe. Were anyone else to wear her skirt you would call it “long”, but this is Hanako. To me, her 3/4 –length skirt looked like a miniskirt. I’m 18 again and swimming in hormones.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve ordered a bottle of wine. I wasn’t sure how long you were going to be.”

Hanako’s diction leaves me nearly dumbstruck. Only now do I realise the timbre of her voice, something that I never really paid attention to back in school. I need to ask her questions, lots of questions, meaningless questions, anything to get her to speak back to me.

“No, not at all. And sorry for being late; I just couldn’t get away from work as early as I thought. I was going to call you but I don’t have your number, so…”

“Well then we’d better fix that. What’s your number?”

Hanako’s fingers dance over her phone as she enters my details. She finishes by calling my phone, completing the cycle.

“So tell me Hisao, what are you up to?”

“To be honest, nothing much. I’m working as an actuary for a life insurance firm. I work out when people are due to die to see if it’s worth insuring them. 15.7 years. That’s all I have left, in case you were wondering. Before I took up running that could have been halved. I can’t even get insurance from my own employer.”

“Sounds gloomy.”

“It is, but it pays the bills and then some, so I can’t complain. What about yourself? I don’t mean to be rude but you’ve changed quite a bit.”

Hanako looks up and away, as if recounting the entirety of her life since we last saw each other and picking out the highlights for me.

“Well, I guess I have. But a lot of things happened… including your… you know.”

“Heart attack. It’s all right, you can say it.”

“Yes, your heart attack. That made me realise many things, and so I went away to get some help.”

A wave of old anger sweeps through me. When I awoke in that grimy hospital room for the second time she had gone. No note, no phone number, not even a damned message left with the nurse. From my point of view she simply disappeared.

But as much as it pains me to say it, maybe that was the best thing. To finally see Hanako confident enough to show her face to the world and to talk freely is worth any amount of my own suffering.

“Well, whatever you did, it certainly worked! I hope I’m not being too direct, but you look amazing.”

“T-thanks.”

Ah, maybe My Hanako isn’t totally lost. Her cheeks blossom crimson, and her trademark stutter, equal parts enticing and irritating, returns.

The wine arrives and the waiter pours us each a glass. We both order a light meal, and he retreats into the shadows, leaving us alone again.

“Anyway, after I left… that place… I went back to university. I changed my major, and now here I am, writing reviews.”

“Reviews? For what?”

“Hotels, food, clothing… whatever, really. There’s a lot of magazines out there, and a lot of websites, newspapers, travel guides…. All up, there’s a lot of reviews that need to be written. And so I write them.”

“Huh. I never thought of that. Is it fun?”

“It pays the bills, and then some.”

“I see.”

We both sip our wine. With the initial “What are you doing” conversation out of the way, we find ourselves with little to say. When we were dating our relationship wasn’t really built on conversation. More like mutual interest.

The food arrives, giving us a reason to not talk, but it is soon gone, as is the bottle of wine. Hanako orders another, and the waiter asks if we’d like to move from the dining area to the lounge.

“You say you do travel reviews; have you been anywhere interesting?”

“Yes and no. Most of the travel reviews I write are made up, anyway. I’ve read enough about exotic places to make them seem real enough.”

“Isn’t that fraud?”

“Not really. The people that read magazines like the ones I write for never go on holidays anyway. So instead I give them a holiday in their mind.”

“So you’re doing them a service by lying to them?”

“Such is the way of the world, Hisao.”

The wine is starting to take effect. Even this New Hanako seems to be relaxing into the mood. The second bottle goes as quickly as it came, and the waiter asks if I’d like another.

“I’m not really partial to wine, but I’ll have a whiskey on the rocks thanks.”

Hanako ponders this for a moment before ordering some cocktail with an exciting yet forgettable name.

————–

Hanako’s hotel room seems nice, with modern, chrome fittings. The centrepiece, as with most hotel rooms, is the bed. And it is there that Hanako and I embrace.

The last time we met like this, I had sex with Hanako the Virgin.
Tonight, however, I make love to Hanako the Woman.

—————–

Sunlight pours in through the open curtains. I guess neither of us payed the drapery any heed last night.

Hanako is already awake, buttoning up her blouse. I roll over slightly and catch a whiff of her shampoo from her pillow; something coconut-y. I smile to myself. After so many years, Hanako and I are together once again. Everything feels right with the world.

“Morning.”

“Oh, er, good morning, Hisao.”

Almost unconsciously I see Hanako toy with her left ring finger. In the bright morning light I see the telltale band of light-coloured skin at the base of her finger.

Until recently, Hanako has been wearing a ring.

“H-Hisao… There’s something I have to tell you…”

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79 thoughts on “A Runner’s Afternoon

    1. Because things don’t always go how you think they will. Let’s face it; not many people end up with their highschool sweetheart.

      I think, in many ways, that this is one of the good things about ending the Hanako path (as with many of the other paths) in such a short manner. You don’t have to go through all of the heartache that will come with later life; you can bask in the glory of that first love.

      1. You are projecting your own butthurt in real life into a ‘fiction world’ because you want people to experience the anguish the unfairness and injustice you faced yourself, am I right?

        Sheesh, way to go, ruining a great many peoples’ shortlived sense of warmth. Thankfully I’m not too much of a Hanako fan but I think I speak for a lot people when I say, “FUCK YOU NIGGER DICK”.

      2. Actually, no. In fact if you looked around you’d find out that my “IRL” world was quite the opposite. That is what “fiction” is all about, bro.

        When I wrote this I was originally thinking “Hey, great, she went off, lived her life, married some guy because she wanted to be happy, but ended up screwing it up and getting a divorce. Now she finally gets back together with Hisao… isn’t that sweet!”

        But no, one Anon read the wrong meaning, and now the lot of you have been hive-minded into thinking that she’s a cheating wife.

        Congradulations, 4chan, for proving to me, once again, that practically none of you have any shred of individuality left.

      3. I don’t actually disagree. Horrified reaction is mainly anticipating anon’s reaction to “OMG BAD END FOR MY/YOUR FAVORITE GIRL! IT’S 100% CANON BECAUSE A KSDEV WROTE IT!”

      4. Oh god, you don’t know how happy i am to hear that.
        Originally, after reading the story i thought that she either wanted to marry hisao, or as it is how you intended it to be, her recently getting divorced, but after reading the comments, i started to think she was actually cheating on her husband.

  1. Way to go on taking a shit on every fan of your route and completely wasting the last 4+ years of your life by making this awful short story you probably spent 20 minutes on. Turning the sweetest girl into a complete cunt. What an amazing and unique twist. Yes Im Mad.

  2. You seriously let Hanako change from the cute, sweet, shy girl she was to a cheating wife? What the hell, man? Just… The fuck? Why’d you do that?

      1. I see, I took the “until recently” as a “she took it off to have sex with hisao”, glad I am mistaken.

  3. Man now I wish I could have seen how the last half of Hanako’s path would have played out under you compared to Suriko.
    Love the style though, I hope to read more.

  4. Ill take this as a “what if” but I’m not going to take this as canon. It’s a interesting story but it doesn’t seem to fit the ending of her line.

  5. >that feel when i inadvertently brought unwarranted hate upon Cpl_crud by posting this story on 4chan
    Umm…sorry.

      1. Jesus and now I know how old this story is. I didn’t even know it was from 09. I noticed you haven’t exactly answered whether you find it canon or not other then from the 09 thread saying “This is not canon” Do you still find it uncanon?

  6. I guess it’s not out of the realm of possiblity.

    But, strictly speaking, it’s not in the game, so it’s not cannon.

    I imagined that this would be the outcome if you continued down the “friend zone” path. Good end might have different consequences.

    Also note that the 09 path was pretty much set; suriko re-did the words of Act 4 to make it bareable (my endings were even more rushed, but I think thy became the seeds of suriko’s frankly awesome act 4).

    1. It’s good you leave it out for interpretation and I do like the story. I love myself some “what if?” stories. Though I think you should be a bit more optimistic. Do high school sweethearts usually stay together? No. But it can still happen. And it seems like your good ending to Hanako’s seems to have the most chance of them staying together then all the other girl’s endings. I’m sorry people are so hostile towards you for this.

  7. >Hanako becomes emotionally attached to Hisao due to her loneliness and PTSD, among other things
    >the two share their deepest fears and their deepest love
    >despite the mistakes and misunderstandings, they turn out alright
    >suddenly, face heel turn out of nowhere and she goes and leaves him for no reason
    excellent writing
    good thing Suriko redid her Act 4, huh?

  8. My bad, the way it was written — and the last line, especially — make it sound as if she is in fact a cheating wife. Like she’d been hiding the ring or something. But I see what you were trying to do, and your explanation is comforting, it makes sense (even though it DID sound more “oh btw I’m married”). Gives a bit more depth to it, makes you wanna read on.

    1. Quite honestly, I think that WAS the original intention, and that crud is probably just some retcon to (very slightly) allay the massive waves of butthurt backlash from anons still in their emotional glow from just having finished KS who aren’t ready to deal with adult feels yet.

  9. you just took a shit on the best character in the game, she finally got the chocolate. While im not one to scream MAI WAIFU, i did feel rather attached to hanako.

  10. Nice job, I can see it, tho, nothing is impossible.
    Interesting potential life-path for people. I can’t say I thought it was great as it’s kinda sad, but life isn’t all sunshine and hookers.. so. Thanks for the possible life-thread tho, something to think about.

  11. A very interesting ending which honestly is a very likely ending.

    It seems that many of the audience may not realise how relationships work in the real world and this has a much more adult feeling to it.

    Thank you Cpl, your work continues to astound me.

  12. While I agree this somewhat reflects what happens in 99% of all high school romances, I honestly thought you should have kept it to yourself.

    Most people don’t read romance novels or watch romance dramas for it to reflect real life. If I wanted to read about real life, I’d rather live real life.

    With that said I think your work was beautiful either way, but Hanako didn’t deserve this. And the insurance agent thing was obviously a troll.

    1. I suppose I should mention that I set out to make people not like this future. Not to troll people, but to stretch myself to see if I could still make peopel (mainly myself) feel for Hanako should something like this happen.

      The amazing response to both parts of this tale remind me that I can still actually manage to hold a story together.

      Sometimes you have to like the knife to make sure it’s still sharp.

  13. I personally feel that this is written too out of character for Hanako, but good job. I expected something else though. The vocabulary used just too un-Hanako. I’m sorry but it really doesn’t ring any bells with my impression with Hanako. Good effort anyway.

    1. This was written partway through the path, so inconsistencies are inevidible.

      Still, I think that it was a logical progression. Each to his own; I guess Hanako is totally out of my hands now…

  14. It’s actually not suprising that people seems to misslike the story. It’s not that it’s bad at all, well writen, most of the time, had a nice flow most of the time.

    The source of the hate is merely because the writer and the reader knows the character in two completely diffrent ways. For a reader, Hanako suddenly leaving Hisao after a heart attack, losing her trademark scars, suddenly very open, will feel very unnatural. They really care about this character, and some of these changes come so sudden, they feel cheated. It’s the way it is when you don’t really give everything the intended thought. What they want to read is a happy continiuation of a happy ending, just to feel the feelings of a relationship with her, that wasnt’ included in KS.

    This was not the intention of the writer. He wanted to make you think, He wants you to see how Hanako has changed to the better, even without the help of Hisao, she even moved on. She is independent now. She has a future. He also wants to show us the darker parts of the story, everything isn’t just a happy fairytale, even though it may seem like it for a while.

    In shorter words, The readers read this and expects a happy good old fasion future, while the writer wants to go deep into the character, and really show a diffrent side of her. He wants to tell a long emotional story with very few words, that one just can’t grasp skimming through.

    Well, this is just my opinion however, i might be wrong, but this is how i read the story, and how i see the situation.

  15. Ehm, may i say one that i just recently started playing and from the start loved Hanako and her path. The character build emotionally and mentally was great and the ending didnt leave you with a simple “And they live happily ever after”. I would have found that boring and rather unoriginal if you had done that. So i want to say thank you for a wonderful story and path to follow in the game.

    Onto this short story.
    I love it, not only for its illustrious writing style , but for the mere controversy that you have brought with it. Yes i can understand the “YOU BASTARD, WE WILL BURN YOU AT THE STAKE FOR THIS” Side for her having gone and married and SEEM like a cheating wife.

    But as you yourself had said it was to appear that way. Befor even reading the comments i took a moment to think and came to a idea much like yours on the possibility of divorce, the ring merely now protects her from the awkward stares and pick up lines. Another thought was, perhaps she wears a ring to simply look protected. Many ideas come to mind. In the end im left with only what i want to believe and simply put that is that Hanako is a stronger more independent women now and can function in society like Lilly had hoped. I am not the writer so i dont know if they get back together though i would hope.

    So in closing i would simply like to thank you Crud for another part to a great story, and i look foreword to any possible Hanako related works, keep it up.

  16. Crud, I must say I’m surprised at the amount of negative – and spiteful – feedback you’ve received for this story.
    People don’t want to have their dreams and their fantasy shattered. People don’t want to deal with reality, the fact that people (Hanako in this story) move on with their lives and are greatly changed by their experiences while doing so. I hope that you understand that this is a natural response for people, and so haven’t taken too much offense.

    Anyway, as for the story itself – awesome. I’m not a great critic, but I can say honestly that I loved it. It’s a very well written story, done by one of the authors involved with the actual game… it’s like a fanfic, a really great one.

  17. Thank you, cpl_crud. The initial feels that’ve sprung up reaffirms me that you can indeed hold a story together, and I wish you best of luck in being able to retain that talent.

    Personal Motive: I want to see more. But please….write some cheery stuff once in a while, I can only cry so many manly tears.

  18. I’m really glad that isn’t canon. As John said before, people don’t want to have their fantasies shattered, especially when it’s a novel where a guy romances girls with disabilities in special school (which has almost zero chances of happening)

    They loved KS for it’s feel of lucid dream, where everything is possible, I guess. Where they could help a very shut-in and timid girl with serious psychological problems to become loved and open.

  19. Just a random thought when I read the comments…

    “Ohmigosh, iz diz Hanako bad end cannon bcoz its made by dev????”
    “Of course not, it’s not shooting cannonballs, dummy.”

    But seriously, I first thought she was a widow. Then a divorcee. And it never occured to me she could be cheating. Thanks for shattering my image of Adult Hanako, commenters.

  20. This is genius, reading the comments I noticed you wrote on how this would be an continuation to the “friend zoned” path. I think this ending fits perfectly. Thanks for even writing this sir, well done! Now i’m gonna scurry on and read the second part lol

  21. I liked this very much, first I thought (like everyone ,it seems,) that she was cheating,but it’s good to read that she is divorced and that this is like a happy end to a sad continuation of a story I very liked.

  22. This will be TL but I hope it won’t be a DR.

    Firstly, a hearty thank you and much respect to Cpl Crud for his hand in creating something that has provided me with a good deal of enjoyment. I find that it’s far too easy to be cold and unfeeling – and when someone can make you truly feel – that’s a treasured thing.

    I’m a little surprised to see how many people hated on the concept of Hanako becoming an adulterer (even though that’s not what happened). This is a woman who as an 8yo had to be pulled from or pushed her way out from her mothers charbroiled body no doubt directly beside her matching father who was as dead as everything she had come to know in life. She then got to live in a hospital in agonizing pain, and after that, was branded a freak and maligned for 9 years before she met her first friend (in Lilly). Even amongst so many whom society had cast aside at Yamaku, she was an outcast. I’m having trouble with the concept that anyone could imagine this character growing to be flawless and saintly. If the worst thing she had done in her adult life was be unfaithful, that in itself would be speaking quite a bit for her character. The fact that at least in this instance, she wasn’t, says even more.

    What bothers me is that people are more worked up about that than the concept that she went to a mental hospital and then made no attempt to even contact Hisao after being discharged. I can see that she was still young and fragile and his heart attack and the concept of him dying on her would’ve been shattering – but it’s hard for me to accept that someone who lived with isolation for the vast majority of her life to that point would have left one of the few people she was connected to in any way without at least an explanation. I know it’s a little contradictory that I would give her a pass on adultery but not leaving one of her best friends/love interest high and dry – but it just seems much harder to accept.

    1. Ok, I’m a moron who didn’t know there was a second part. Now that I’ve read it – all apologies, Crud. Well played, indeed. I’ve been hoping there was something more of Hanako – the whole time drawing images of her older in tank tops with her hair pulled back with a “let them stare” mentality. I just found this today and I must thank you once more for giving me something to feel good about.

  23. Man….why…I just….I hate this so much. My favorite path was Hanako’s, and I figured the epilogue might not be the happy ending I was looking for, but…man, I’m sorry, I’m just really bummed. When I heard of something more, I imagined another night, eyes glued to the screen as I read for hours. Not saying it was a bad ending, but I was hoping for so much more. More detail, more emotion, more explanations. I’m sorry, I may have been too greedy, but as a HUGE fan of Hanako’s route, I’m disappointed

    1. Oh well, that is a shame. I’m glad at least that a story that I have written was able to elicit such emotions.

      I hope that you find another story that can cause you such addiction.

  24. beautiful! The end was a confusing and depressing in some way but it also hints on the two coming together (after seeing some of the comments)

  25. I like how you have her become a reviewer. I figured she would do something journalism-ish, considering what club she joined in the Lilly arc.

  26. I also like that this addressed my concern that she might replace her absolute dependance on Lilly with absolute dependance on Hisao, which was one of my gripes about the ending without the epilogue.

  27. I love the story for me the “feels” flutter like a butterfly with this story.knowing that the world is a sea of shit where what most people think will work out really doesn’t. So reading this reminds me that theres some out there like the last great thing waiting for you at the end of the road. Also its nice to see that this girl who was timid, shy, and nervous to go out and view the world has now changed so drastically…… For the better of course like i said she feared the world now she gets to see the world for a living without any fear in mind. The fact that she matured so greatly to even get married (and divorced) really shows the development of Hanako.Thanks for making this it was a enjoyable and reminded me of the tears that was shed for this gem of a visual novel/game or whatever you call it :P.

  28. I’ll not be long here (not after the post on part 2), but reading the coments is fun how so many jump to conclusions and start throwing hate around >.<
    Even if now after reading part 2 most have already said "Uhh, sorry about before Crud, we love you!" I just wanted to put my own shot(?) thank you for all this great work man!

    Keep that "pen" up!

  29. I’m sure you troll in some way but still a good story.
    I think that the emotion of who likes Hanako makes it’s better, it’s a sad story. (and I think that is the intent)
    I’m not sure that it’s comptatible with the final version of Hanako but the collective nature of the writing makes many possibles viewpoints on her.

  30. For precision, Hanako is my favorite character but I’m not offended by criticism on her; of course this story made me sad but this is the intent; i don’t think that the sadness of the story could touch a guy who don’t like Hanako. (and i don’t think that cpl-crud hates his character, maybe a little tired with the hanabros)

    1. Not really tired of Hanabros, but I was taken aback at the hate that came from the people that misunderstood the meaning of this story.

      A Runner’s Afternoon Part 2 was a response to that, to show that sometimes you can misunderstand what someone means.
      It takes a lot of practice, but I think everyone benefits when you try and think of more than one reason for everything you see/hear/read.

      Misunderstanding is the cause of most arguments. How many times have you fought with someone, only to realise that you are only disagreeing on about 5% of a topic?

      Thanks for visiting and favouring so many of my posts.

  31. Personally, I love this cause shit happens and people change but its still nice. Sure it hurts emotionally when reading this but hey, we are put in the shoes of Hisao and its not completed so it leaves us with our own interpretations but you don’t have to shit on poor cplcrud

  32. You good sir have my respects. You have the touch, you can´t lose it. I will keep an eye on you, not literally that will be creepy.

  33. Hi. I’m korean translator for katawa shoujo.
    My team made korean patch of KS in recently.
    Many people in korea are interested in your blog and this post, ‘A Runner’s Afternoon’.
    Would you let me allow translate this post in korean?
    If you allow, I’ll translate and introduce to korean.
    TNK.

    1. Sure, I’d be happy for you to translate it.

      There have been a few posts that have been translated one way or the other, so please feel free!

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