Haruka's Diary
Chasing After Rainbows: December 2012

31 December 2012

An Unexpected Wish (Part 8)

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The girl Nanami saw appeared to be a student from the well known prestigious Mizuho Girls Academy. She looked very much like the president of Nanami's school computer club who graduated last year. Is this her sister? Moreover, for a girl who attends the academy that is known for people to to be knowledgeable, gentle, and feminine, her playing violent games clearly designed for men of ages older than her seems far out of place. Nanami thought that this could be their secret way of relieving stress and anger hidden behind the smiling faces. As much as Nanami wanted to know,

"Hey..."

The Mizuho girl had a worried look on her face. Nanami wasn't sure if the Mizuho girl is angry for trespassing. Before the Mizuho girl got closer, she received an incoming call from someone. It now looks like Nanami was given more time to come up with an excuse.

"Huh? When did you say that was? A minute ago?!"

Silenced followed as the unknown caller talked as the Mizuho girl looked in the direction of Nanami. Her face became more bewildered as the call continued on.

"...but she's here at my house now. The apartment complex not far from where my parents live. Yes, I know it's impossible to travel from her house to here in a minute... What? You saw those lights when she vanished in front of you? I better ask her."

Nanami wondered how the unknown caller on the other end of the line knew that there were flashing green lights before finding herself in the white void, or how they knew the Mizuho girl. The Mizuho girl looked at Nanami more attentively after ending the call.

"Ah, Fujibayashi-san. You may know me as the computer club president that graduated from your school last year, but I'm also your cousin's boyfriend's sister. Your cousin's name is Kotomi Miyazawa, right?"

The Mizuho girl was abrupt and reluctant to say the word "sister" as if she wasn't used to saying it. However, at the mention of knowing her cousin well, Nanami relaxed a little. The Mizuho girl's name is Saeko Hisakawa.

"If you graduated from my school, then why are you in Mizuho High now?", Nanami noted. She also decided not to raise the topic of her mismatching name tag or the game she overheard Saeko mentioning earlier. Saeko's face says that she has been anticipating this to be asked, but at the same time, hoping it wouldn't be asked.

"Er, that is something I don't really have a choice over that I would rather not talk about now."

Nanami couldn't help but notice how beautiful the Mizuho uniform is, or how they are perfectly designed to accommodate her large breasts that were bigger than Nanami's or Saeko.

"...including what you are staring at. I know it's distracting, but I can't do anything about it. And please pay attention to what I'm saying." She abruptly added, as if she already knew.

"Anyway, your cousin told me you were at your home just a minute earlier, but you are here now in my house, which is in a different prefecture of where you live. What happened? You can tell me the details: the thing that caused the flashes of green light you saw had changed their victim's lives completely, and I'm one of them."

"You? You look normal." Nanami replied coldly.

The Mizuho girl suddenly stabbed herself at the chest with a sword that was hanging on the wall in the room. She did yell in pain and lay dead with the pool of blood around her became bigger. However, she suddenly stood up and, on removing the sword, the injury and blood disappeared, and her uniform repaired itself, as if that never happened.

"Do you think this is normal? I am unable to die even if I tried to. I'm also supposed to be as old as your cousin, but I still looked of the same as I was several years ago. I'm like a zombie, but my heart is still beating, my skin is not rotting, my intelligence actually increased. Be lucky that I'm unable to fight or get angry, even if I wanted to."

"I found myself in the white void for what seem like forever. Then my dad's office desk appeared, which I never saw before or found anything interesting with it. Next thing I knew, the white void constructed this room that looked like I entered a place in a game that was being loaded shortly before you came in. I don't know what just happened."

Nanami did not mention about adjusting settings that has alien writings on it. She didn't think it was anything important.

"Wait a minute. Are you saying that everything around us, including ourselves, is processed by some computer-like thing? That would explain why things that can't be scitinfically proven happening has happened. Not too sure.", Saeko pounders. "That, or you are still in that world of white void's virtual simulation, and I'm some NPC, or the you I'm seeing is an interface to communicate with the you there. Since you can change your scene, it would appear to others that you teleported. What I do know is that I have encountered the thing that did this to you myself, and has known to change people's lives forever. What I just demonstrated is one of the many effects of what it did to me."

Nanami understood what some of the words that Saeko said. What she didn't understand is how did she find herself in Saeko's house if she has never been there before, or thought of it?

"So, can you think of getting yourself back home? Try de-constructing this scene and think if your home. I can't give you helpful hints as I don't know how yours work, and very different from me.

"But I don't know how I did it," said Nanami in a slightly scared voice, but at that moment, Saeko appear to be blushing excessively for no apparent reason, and showed signs of discomfort on her body, but otherwise appearing to pretend as if this wasn't happening. Nanami wondered if she unconsciously doing this.

At the next moment, Saeko suddenly fell forwards onto the floor with her front facing the floor, but there was a loud bang follow by the ground shaking when the hit the ground, with noticeable cracks on the floor around her.

Saeko could lift up her head, hips, arms, and legs, but she can't lift her chest as if it is a part of the floor. She touched her breasts as if she was verifying her suspicion of those being the cause for her current situation.

"Er, Nanami-chan. Could you help me get back up? My body doesn't even have the strength to turn myself around," said Saeko as she spoke towards the floor, with a tone of annoyance in her voice.

Nanami tried to lift Saeko back up with all her strength, thinking that she was joking. Lifting up her body felt like the weight of any normal girl of her age, until where it came to Saeko's upper torso that it felt extremely heavy for Nanami to be able to lift up: they are heavier than the heaviest thing Nanami has managed to carry.

"I would like to help accommodate you home since I know where it is, but as you can see, I can't get myself up. I don't know how long I would be stuck like this. Could be weeks before someone notices I'm missing, so um, could you tell Kotomi about my situation? You don't need to rush, but I don't want to be stuck in this position forever either. You should hurry if you don't want to worry about missing the last train on the way... Wait. Do you have any money with you? You were at your home before you appeared here weren't you?" said Saeko while trying to turn her head towards Nanami.

"No," Nanami said simply. She was about to simply shake her head, but then realized that Saeko might not be able to see that.

"I have money in my skirt pocket. You can take all of my money in there. It's small change compared to my seemingly infinite income."

Nanami took a look at the money she had: she had a lot of ten thousand yen bills with her. She wondered if Mizuho girls were rich or Saeko only.

"I know it might feel like you are stealing money from me given my position, but I'm letting you take it. You are Kotomi's aunt, aren't you? Just leave everything else behind. Besides, I have access to more cash somewhere when I need it. You can use my computer to look up the route to get home."

Nanami knew that she was Kotomi's aunt, but it feels weird to her to be called that since she is younger than Kotomi in age. Saeko confirmed the station Nanami saw in the route guide was within walking distance from Saeko's place, and then gave her directions to get to get there. Nanami felt guilty for leaving Saeko there, but it can't be helped that Saeko is stuck there and too heavy to be moved.

The whole experience was shocking to Nanami. What felt like hours and days to her in that world of white void has actually only have a few minutes passed in the real world. She isn't quite sure if she is still in the white void because it seems to be constructed in front of her eyes. She could be interacting with the real world while still in the white void, the world around her is simulated and not real, or her "real world" is just one big computer simulation taking in the past of what she is actually in where it's advance enough to have everything look and feel real.

She doesn't know what to believe.

28 December 2012

637th post: eBooks (Eletronic books)

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Recently, I have been gaining interest in reading books. It wasn't until I started a movie marathon of the Harry Potter film (grew up with it) that I felt the desire to wanting to read it: I had read the book versions of the whole series (except the 7th, which I had only seen the movie version), and knew that there were things in the books that were omitted from the film version. The problem is that I seem to have misplaced it, or was not with me when I wanted. (I can't carry a lot of books with them weighting me down or leaving little room for other things, especially with the 4th volume onwards.)

Well, you do know that I write my own stories on this blog. About two hundred thousand words on last count. Weeks earlier, I wrote down the first 3 parts of Teary Promise on sheets of lined A4 paper I had lying around: it took up 22 pages, and I had to take a break to rest my hand at every 3rd or 4th page. (I found typing errors as I did it.) I myself was shocked at how many pages they took up even though they don't seem that long on the blog. How are all of this related to ebooks?

Prior to gaining an interest in ebooks, I actually already have some stories in PDF format, and read things like news articles, reviews, etc online, so the concept is not new to me. I already knew about e-ink displays and ebook readers that uses them back then, but I don't see them at the electronic stores I go to. Even if I did, they cost outside my budget, and the thought of having them is one of the last things on my mind. What drove me is the accumulating electronic-based reading material. I already have an iPod Touch to read them, but the screen is just too small for me to read comfortably, and an iPad is just too expensive with features that mostly duplicates my already-existing iPod Touch.

On top of that, practically all of the screens I have came across uses backlight that strains your eyes. Although it did got better when everyone switched away from those bulky CRT screens, it was still not enough.

Problem with reading on an LCD screen is that you need a backlight to be able to see well with what is on the screen even though the room is lit. If you have a GameBoy, or Nintendo DS, you can see what it's like with the backlight off/missing. Even if you leave it on, particularly battery-powered ones, you would find that the screen would turn off automatically annoyingly often (at default settings) and/or the battery draining off quickly.

With the way e-ink displays work, you can see it quite well in room light, and consumes energy only to change what is being displayed (like flip-disc display on electronic signs that are mostly replaced by LED displays these days), which translates to better battery life for the device. Anyone will tell you that the LCD display drains the most power on your phone than anything else because it needs electricity to maintain what is being displayed, and more for the backlight.

Kindles offered on Amazon Japan in late 2012
I saw Amazon's Kindle as one of the cheapest ebook that has a lot of positive reviews, and one of the few that supports Japanese text (most of the ones I looked at don't). The local Amazon (right) doesn't have the basic Kindle I was looking for, so I looked at the American site. I think why they don't have it is probably a technical problem relating to text input, which is already a hassle entering Latin characters.

Why I didn't choose the Paperwhite version there? Well, I heard about complaints about the screen, and it costs more than the basic Kindle. The other two models you see are LCD-based and costs even more.

Since the second generation, they support a lot of different formats besides their own propriety format, especially PDF files. So, the real problem here is that Amazon does not ship the Kindle (to be fair, most electronics sold there too) to outside the United States, even though they do accept my non-US card as a mode of payment,

The way around this is to send it to a local (US) address, and then ship it to me from there. I never use this service before, but they seem to have been around for a while with positive feedback from people. So I registered with them before I ordered my Kindle. The provider is Comgateway.

This was taken hours before my package arrived at the US address
As of the time of writing, I have not received it yet. Even though I select the two-day shipping option (free if order is above US$25, or at least at the time I ordered), ordering it on 21 December, the last Friday before Christmas. However, the carrier Amazon used, UPS, does not work on weekends and holidays meant that Comgateway would not get until the following Monday. However, with Monday being the eve of Christmas, it appears to be a half-day to them and did not get delivered until 2 days later. (See above) Probably because they had a lot to deliver. Comgateway does seem to have receive the parcel with my tracking number on it, but, at the moment, they are in the middle of processing it before they could deliver it to me. Could have gotten earlier if it weren't for the weekend and Christmas.

On searching what they meant by "rescheduled due to the holiday", I came a lot of recent negative reviews about UPS. At that time, Comgateway has yet to receive my package, so I feel anxious about it being lost or damaged by irresponsible handling by them. Comments cited that DHL and FedEx, both are what Comgateway uses to ship, are a lot better than UPS in terms of how it is delivered and the number of complaints.

I noticed that there is a discount voucher that I can redeem to reduce how much I would pay to ship it from there, but that expires on the 31st! A narrow window to be able to use it.

17 December 2012

An Unexpected Wish (Part 7)

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Nanami found herself in a white void where everything she looked seems to extend forever with nothing in sight. She couldn't even tell if she is standing or lying down as she can't feel the gravity and with nothing in her sight but the shadowless white void for reference. She's not sure if she could even move her body, if she had any.

Nanami is confused on what is happening around her. She knew she saw some rapid flashing green lights (in her home, not sure) not that long ago. The place is dead silent: not even the sound of a book being flipped, or any soft sounds. Is this silent, empty, and white, a place that everyone calls heaven? The last situation Nanami remembered certainly did not seem the kind that she would be killed in.

After a few moments of being in this white void, not being able to do anything, things materialized around her as if she was in a video game, except that it looks real and she could feel the things that appeared. The object in question was an unfamiliar office desk with her family photo in it. Judging by the other things on the drawers of the table, it looks like it could be her mom's office desk. Nanami has never visited her work office before, and most companies these days usually have security features that don't allow non-staff anywhere near there. Still, it's just the table itself that appeared, not the whole office it belongs to.

As Nanami tried to pick up the picture, she noticed she doesn't have a hand to do so, and saw nothing when she looked down: she doesn't have a body. Without warning, she suddenly found herself falling from 2 meters above ground and, as soon she made impact on the ground, she suddenly found herself standing up with her body in her school uniform. Nanami was confused on what just happened: she did feel the pain from the fall, but the pain disappeared at the next moment where she suddenly found herself standing again. Even more puzzling was how was she falling from the sky if she was standing at the table just a moment earlier? There is no logical explanation.

Suddenly, something she couldn't see spoke to her. There was no voice, as if what it wanted was directly communicated to her mind so there was no miscommunication in terms of what was said, but it spoke in ancient words that she had a hard time figuring out what it meant: even the language she knows well, but from a long time ago, seems like a completely different language to her.

Nanami sat on the desk as it was being explained to her about something as the white void changed to recreate the scene where she first found her family dead. Symbols unknown to Nanami appeared, but when she pressed one of it, the dark house became lit, or changing the whole place look like its in the day. Whatever these are for, the voice speaking to her head did not explain, or translate what the symbols meant.

One slider seem to make more children look older, and at the same time, the elderly look younger. She also hit what appears to be a checkbox next to it. Nothing appear to have changed when selected. Nanami decided to focus more on the settings and not look until she's done. She's tired of changing things and looking back and forth to see nothing has changed.Another slider appears to be inaccessible until the checkbox above it was checked. This time, there are two sliders and both are at the left instead of the usual center followed by options she could select only one of the three options, but she did not touch this setting. The next option, Nanami just randomly chose settings. If only she could understand what the symbols meant. She paid little attention to what she was doing until her blouse became so tight that she felt being squashed harder than in a packed train. She didn't know what setting she did that caused that to happen, so she freaked out and selected a bunch of options in hoping that one of it would "release" her. She skipped on to the next setting when that happened.

(Author's note: These settings that Nanami adjusted turns all humans into only female teenagers and young adults, which has already happened in Alternate Dimension and in the early stages in Disorientated Feelings. One of the settings Nanami did had delayed it from happening immediately to about 10 years later. This one is happening separately and differently from Mizuho Academy's methods. The scene of Nanami shortly before finding her family dead was the only scene in Nanami's recent memory where a huge range of age groups and genders are visible to effectively preview what settings Nanami did would change. Nanami could not read the alien language that was presented to her, and she assumed they were just visual settings of making the depressing scene that was presented to her to be more happier. Lighting and weather is the only setting Nanami adjusted that is only for the preview, and has no impact to the real world.)

When Nanami was done, she saw a group of happy high school girls running what appears to be her house. Nanami was too preoccupied in figuring out the alien symbols and fiddling around with settings, that she didn't pay attention to the changes the settings she made to the displayed scene. Nanami wasn't sure if this was an image editor or editing the past., but on the latter thought, she was hoping change to a scene before her family was killed, except that she couldn't even figure out the language the complicated instructions are in.

After Nanami was done editing, everything in her view, except herself, was reverted to the empty white void she was in earlier, before the scene of of being in a large penthouse appeared around her. Nanami is confused if this is an another computer generated scene, or if she is really back in her world? If it is the latter, why did Nanami see it being created like a video game scene that has its textures and polygons not fully loaded before she sees it? Is her own world and existence computer-generated in the first place? Is she still in that world of white void? Is what she's seeing being done remotely? Unfortunately, none of those questions could be answered.

It's evening outside, but she wasn't sure if time has frozen while she was away, or several days has passed.

For a house this big, it's surprisingly empty. Items that lay around suggests that two adults and a teenage girl lives here, with the belongings of the said girl being more prominent. Family photos aren't seen anywhere on display.

"Finally home... I feel like playing that game to relief my stress. Not being able to express anger isn't exactly helping in lowering my stress level."

Nanami heard a voice form behind a door. She wasn't sure what kind of game the voice was talking about: could be a board game, could be a game on her phone, could be an activity. It wasn't until the voice mentioned a title known for being a console game with enough violence to be given a rating for the age of 18 and above.  It then occurred to her that there is the console in question just in front of Nanami that is attached to the TV in the large room she is in. Just before she could even think of hiding, the person whose voice it belonged to appeared and saw Nanami in the room. Nanami thought she is in deep trouble for being there, but how is she going to explain that she just "spawned" there?

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中野区, 東京都, Japan
帰国子女 英語能力は堪能。趣味はアニメや漫画やプログラムコードを編集。通常、あたしの小説を英語で書いてです。Grew up abroad &travelled to different countries. I write my own fictional novel on my blog.