Takes place during Chapter Seven. Introspective. Yukimura tries to deal with his debilitation over the winter. Angst, I-5

Character(s): Yukimura Seiichi

“O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2

He tried to sleep as much as possible.

At first he had made an effort to say awake, instead. To assure himself that, however his body might be failing, his mind was still alert and capable. Thought and coherence made him more than the mannequin he felt like, whenever the nurses had to dress or wash him. Besides, when he was alert he was as far as he could get from the lurking weakness that had pounced on him without warning, and stolen his life in the moment it had stolen his consciousness.

Sometimes he wondered it it had stolen his soul, too, and wished his hands had enough sensitivity to tell him that his body really was still flesh that might be responsive again, and not just flesh colored plastic. Though the latter would, he supposed, make it easier on the nurses.

When he caught his thoughts wandering in those directions, he gave up on alertness. A hospital room offered very little to focus an alert mind on, in any case. For a while, he entertained the speculation that it was deliberate—that the hospital staff had designed these bare, blank, square rooms specifically to depress their patients’ minds into a vegetable state so they would be less trouble.

He mentioned this to the staff psychiatrist, in a fit of useless temper, during one of the periods when he could breathe and speak on his own. He actually managed to laugh, the next day, when a stack of audio-books arrived. Those didn’t last him very long, but they did suggest that distraction might serve him better than simple alertness.

So then he started replaying tennis matches in his head. He reconstructed them with great attention to detail, going back, and back again, to add all the little things he remembered, the way he might groom a bed of some temperamental flower seedlings. His first match with Sanada, the heaviness of those returns against his racquet, the shock in those hard, brown eyes, the startled softening when Seiichi smiled and thanked him. His first match with Yanagi, the knife-edge precision that almost caught him in a lattice of predictions, the flare of his own curiosity, the falter and then fascination in suddenly blazing hazel eyes when he lunged beyond the cage of prediction. The mutual frustration that always accompanied the blood-red glint in Akaya’s eyes. The devilish gleam in Niou’s, just before some unsuspecting victim walked into one of his traps. The silent allegiance in the angle of Yagyuu’s head when they spoke, and the explosive speed of his shots. Jackal’s unbending pride that only showed when he played. The layers of Marui’s game, flamboyant over subtle, careless over sharp.

When he ran out of matches, he redesigned his garden, in his mind’s eye, wondering whether some honeysuckle would be more trouble than it was worth. It was about time to prune back the wisteria, in any case, before it harmed the maple with its showy burden of flowers and tightening vines.

There were times Akaya reminded him a lot of the maple and wisteria.

When he had his garden growing nicely, in his mind, though, he opened his eyes and the square, bland lines of the hospital ceiling hit him like a fist in the ribs. The stillness of his body made him frantic, panicked. This wasn’t how he was supposed to be. The respirator was suddenly obtrusive again, choking him.

His heart-rate finally set off the monitors’ alarms, and quick voices surrounded him. He felt a burning spread down his arm, and the world fell away.

After that, he slept as much as he could. After all, nothing else could possibly help him, it was clear now. And he wondered, while drifting between consciousness and unconsciousness, whether he was really alive, lying here without air or earth or movement or the scent of sun on clay, or if the machines just made it appear that he was.