First thing's first - special thank you to Softnum for helping me reduce the time these updates take to write by like 90%. I used to have to write every single line and it took a dog's age.
BGM: Ohayou Sayori!
: Glad to see you didn't run away on us. Hahaha!"
You gave me cupcakes. You're never getting rid of me now.
: Nah, don't worry. This might be a little strange for me, but I at least keep my word."
Well, I'm back at the Literature Club. I was the last to come in, so everyone else is already hanging out.
: Thanks for keeping your promise, Mitayo."
: I hope this isn't too overwhelming of a commitment for you. Making you dive headfirst into literature when you're not accustomed to it..."
: Sayori told me you didn't even want to join any clubs this year. And last year, too! I don't know if you plan to just come here and hang out, or what...but if you don't take us seriously, then you won't see the end of it."
Nanaki is the traditional tsundare character and she just loves getting on everyone's case. This is probably due to her age, though there might be a little Napoleon syndrome going on as well.I can't help but admire her spunk, though she does lay it on a little thick at times.
: Natsuki, you certainly have a big mouth for someone who keeps her manga collection in the clubroom."
Natsuki finds herself stuck between saying "Monika" and "Manga".
Swiftly defeated, Natsuki plops back into her seat.
: Don't worry, guys~ Mitayo always gives it his best as long as he's having fun. He helps me with busywork without me even asking. Like cooking, cleaning my room..."
: How dependable..."
: Sayori, that's because your room is so messy it's distracting. And you almost set your house on fire once."
I do hope those two things aren't related.
: You two are really good friends, aren't you? I might be a little jealous..."
: How come? You and Mitayo can become good friends too!"
Friends...? With another...g-girl??
: Oh, oh! Yuri even brought you something today, you know~"
: W-Wait! Sayori..."
: Eh? Me?"
: Um... Not really..."
: Don't be shy~"
: It's really nothing..."
: What is it?"
: N-Never mind! Sayori made it sound like a big deal when it's really not...uuuuh, what do I do..."
Spit it out, Yuki.
I guess that means it's up to me to rescue this situation...
: Hey, don't worry about it. First of all, I wasn't expecting anything in the first place. So any nice gesture from you is a pleasant surprise. It'll make me happy no matter what."
: I-Is that so..."
: Yeah. I won't make it a big deal if you don't want it to be."
: Alright...well, here."
Yuri reaches into her bag and pulls out a book.
: I didn't want you to feel left out...so I picked out a book that I thought you might enjoy. It's a short read, so it should keep your attention, even if you don't usually read."
: And we could, you know...
This is Steven King, isn't it? I'm gonna wager that it's a copy of Kujo.
As an aside, this game loves ellipses but Yuri is - hands down - the worst offender.
Th-This is...how is this girl accidentally being so cute? She even picked out a book she thinks I'll like, despite me not reading much...
: Yuri, thank you! I'll definitely read this!"
I enthusiastically take the book.
: Phew...well, you can read it at your own pace. I look forward to hearing what you think."
Now that everyone's settled in, I expected Monika to kick off some scheduled activities for the club. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Sayori and Monika are having a cheery conversation in the corner. Yuri's face is already buried in a book. I can't help but notice her intense expression, like she was waiting for this chance. Meanwhile, Natsuki is rummaging around in the closet.
I'll be the first to say that I don't know what these clubs generally do, but it seems like Yuri is the only one actively pursuing any sort of literature. If anyone audits this group to find out whether or not they DO what they say they do, theyre all in trouble.
But at the same time, I would feel bad for distracting her from reading. I catch a glimpse of the cover of her book. It looks like the same book that she lent to me...more than that, she seems to be on the first few pages.
This sort of tampers down the gift a little bit. She got us a book that she thinks we might read, sure, but it's closer to being a book she just plain likes and hopes that we will too. Maybe I'm just being cynical, though.
Crap--I think she noticed me looking at her...she sneaks another glance at me, and our eyes meet for a split second.
BGM: Play With Me! **New!**
But that only makes her hide her face deeper in her book.
Is this second grade? What are we doing here, exactly? You're teenagers. Act like it.
: Sorry...I was just spacing out..."
I mutter this, sensing I made her uncomfortable.
: Oh...It's fine. If I was focused, then I probably wouldn't have noticed in the first place. But I'm just re-reading a bit of this, so..."
: That's the book that you gave me, right?"
: Mhm. I wanted to re-read some of it.
: Just curious, how come you have two copies of the same book?"
: Ah...well, when I stopped at the bookstore yesterday--"
: Ah, that's not what I meant...I mean--I...just happened to buy two of them."
A perfectly normal thing to do.
: Ah, I see."
There's something fairly obvious here that Yuri isn't telling me, but I decide to let it go.
: I'll definitely start reading it soon!"
: I'm glad to hear...once it starts to pick up, you might have a hard time putting it down. It's a very engaging and relatable story."
: Is that so...? What's it about, anyway?"
Yuri closes the book and scans her eyes over the back. The book is titled "Portrait of Markov". There's an ominous-looking eye symbol on the front cover.
: Alright...I just wanted to make sure I don't accidentally give anything away."
: ...but as soon as she does so, her life gets really strange. She gets targeted by these people who escaped from a human experiment prison...and while her life is in danger, she needs to desperately choose who to trust. No matter what she does, she ends up destroying most of her relationships and her life starts to fall apart..."
As far as I can tell from a semi-thorough Google/Amazon search, this book does not actually exist.
: That's kind of--!"
That's kind of dark, isn't it? Yuri made it sound like it was going to be a nice story, so that dark turn came from nowhere.
Please stop giggling about this weird dark book, Yuri.
: Are you not a fan of that sort of thing, Mitayo?"
: No, it's not that...I mean, I can definitely enjoy those kinds of stories, so don't worry."
: I hope so..."
Yeah... I totally forgot that Yuri is into those things. She's so shy and reclusive on the outside, but her mind seems to be completely different.
: It's just that those kinds of stories...they challenge you to look at life from a strange new perspective. When horrible things happen not just because someone wants to be evil, but because they have their own goals, or their own philosophy that they believe in. Then suddenly, when you thought you related to the protagonist...they're made out to be the naive one for letting their one-sided morals interfere with the villain's plans."
: I'm...I'm rambling, aren't I...?"
You are a little bit because I'm not following. I mean, I kind of get what she's talking about with the pursuing ideas from an opposing angle thing, but I'm not sure how that relates to the story she described.
: Not again...I'm sorry..."
: Hey, don't apologize...! I haven't lost interest or anything."
: Well...I guess it's alright, then. But I feel like I should let you know that I have this problem...when I let things like books and writing fill my thoughts..."
: I kind of forget to pay attention to other people...so I'm sorry if I end up saying something strange! And please stop me if I start talking too much!"
I remember reading once that one of the worst things you can do is to shut someone down when they're genuinely excited about something. You can just see the enthusiasm wither away and it's awful to watch.
: That's--I really don't think you need to worry...that just means you're passionate about reading. The least I can do is listen. It's a literature club, after all..."
: Ah--that's...well, that's true..."
: In fact...I might as well get started reading it, right?"
: Y-You don't have to!"
: Ahaha, what are you saying? Just a moment ago, you said you were looking forward to it."
This is a snuff book, isn't it? That's why it doesn't supposedly exist and why you're suddenly apprehensive about us reading it together.
: Let me just get the book..."
I quickly retrieve the book that I had put into my bag.
: Alright...it's fine if I sit here, right?"
I slip into the seat next to Yuri's.
: Ah...! Yeah..."
: Are you sure? You seem a little apprehensive..."
: That's...I'm sorry...it's not that I don't want you to! It's just something I'm not very used to...that is, reading in company with someone."
Also seriously inside the bubble of an introvert's personal space. We've known Yuri for less than twenty-four hours now.
: I see...well, just tell me if I end up distracting you or anything."
I open the book and start the prologue. I soon understand what Yuri means about reading in company. It's as if I can feel her presence over my shoulder as I read. It's not a particularly bad thing. Maybe a little distracting, but the feeling is somewhat comforting. Yuri is in the corner of my eye. I realize that she's not actually looking at her own book. I glance over. It looks like she's reading from my book instead...
Reading over a shoulder is an interesting trait to have, I suppose. Mitayo doesn't seem to mind too much, at least.
: S-Sorry! I was just--!"
: Yuri, you really apologize a lot, don't you?"
: I...I do? I don't really mean to..."
: Sorry...I mean--!"
: Ahaha. Here, this should work, right?"
I slide my desk until it's up against Yuri's, then hold my book more between the two of them.
: Ah...I suppose so..."
Yuri timidly closes her own copy. Once we each lean in a little bit, our shoulders are almost touching. It feels like my left arm is in the way, so instead I use my right hand to hold the book open.
I used to share textbooks with people back in school. It was super awkward and I hated every minute of it, so I'm glad Mitayo and Yuri seem to be enjoying it well enough.
: Ah, I guess that makes it kind of difficult to turn the page..."
Yuri takes her left arm and holds the left side of the book between her thumb and forefinger.
I do the same with my right arm, on the right side of the book. That way, I turn a page, and Yuri slides it under her thumb after it flips to her side. But in holding it like this...we're huddled even closer together than before.
It's actually kind of distracting me...! It's as if I can feel the warmth of Yuri's face, and she's in the corner of my vision...
Less than twenty-four hours. We've known this girl for one day.
: ...Are you ready?"
: To turn the page..."
: Ah...sorry! I think I got a bit distracted for a second..."
I glance over at Yuri's face again, and our eyes meet. I don't know how I'll be able to keep up with her...
: Ah...that's okay. You're not as used to reading, right?
: It's probably the least I can do since you've been so patient with me..."
"I understand that you're slow and I accept your flaws."
We continue reading. Yuri no longer asks me if I'm ready to turn the page; instead, I just assume that she finishes the page before me, so I turn it by my own volition. We continue the first chapter in silence. Even so, turning each page almost feels like an intimate exchange... my thumb gently letting go of the page, letting it flutter over to her side as she catches it under her own thumb.
Only a visual novel could make a sensual moment out of reading.
: Hey, Yuri...this might be a silly thought, but the main character kind of reminds me of you a little bit."
: You...think so? How does she?"
: Well, I guess she's more blunt in a lot of ways...but she also second-guesses all of the things that she says and does. Like she's afraid she'll do something wrong. It's not like I can see into your head or anything...but they're kind of reminiscent of some of your mannerisms."
: I-I see..."
Yuri remains silent for a moment.
: But Mitayo...that's probably a terrible thing to have in common with her!"
I get what Mitayo's going for but Yuri's right, that's not a very flattering feature.
: W-Wait! I didn't mean it in a bad way or anything! Sorry, I really didn't know you were self-conscious about that sort of thing..."
: I guess I more meant that it's kind of cute..."
: A-Ah-- what are you saying all of a sudden...? I...!"
: I think it's about time we share today's poems with each other. We might not have enough time if we wait too long."
Yuri exhales, spared from finishing her thought.
: Is that alright, Yuri? You look kind of down...I'm sorry if you haven't been looking forward to this..."
: Ah, it's not..."
: ...It's fine."
"We were, uh, kind of in the middle of something special but it's cool. Poems are cool too."
Yuri releases her hand from the book, causing it to close on top of my thumb.
: Alright...I guess I'll do some more reading tonight. Or would you prefer I only read it with you?"
: Um...! I...guess I don't have too much of a preference either way..."
: Hmm...in that case, I'll read a little more tonight. It'll be more fun to read with you after it picks up a bit, you know?"
: That's good reasoning.
Two chapters? Jesus. Is there a quiz on this?
I stand up. I make a mental note of where I left off in the book, then slip it back into my bag.
Be careful with the paper, I dont want you to cut yourself with all that sick edge we laid down.
My relaxation ends. I can't believe I agreed to do something so embarrassing. I couldn't really find much inspiration, since I've never really done this before.
: Well, now that everyone's ready, why don't you find someone to share with?"
: I can't wait~!"
Sayori and Monika enthusiastically pull out their poems. Sayori's is on a wrinkled sheet of loose leaf torn from a spiral notebook. On the other hand, Monika wrote hers in a composition notebook. I can already see Monika's pristine handwriting from where I sit. Natsuki and Yuri reluctantly comply as well, reaching into their bags. I do the same, myself.
I love how the majority of the group hates this assignment. Only Monika and Sayori - the club president and the VP - are into sharing poetry in any way.
BGM: Okay, Everyone! **New!**
Alright, guys, VOTE TIME - in what order should we share our poem with the girls? This is definitely an important decision that has REAL consequences and not a natural stopping point mixed with obvious and shameless response padding!
Im just kidding it doesnt even slightly matter beyond very minor text changes. Feel free to suggest if you want but no pressure.