Part 8: Shared LibraryUpdate 7: Shared Library
Side by side, my pace carefully slowed to match hers, we slowly walk through the hallway. It doesn't take long for us to arrive at the door to the warm-looking room, apparently situated in the center of the floor rather than either wing.
HISAO: "Ladies first."
She gives an appreciative smile at the gesture, taking the lead as we file in.
Katawa Shoujo OST Fripperies
To the left is the wooden library counter, with the library proper being on the right. It easily dwarfs my old school's library, with the distinct smell of old books giving the place an almost old-world air. There don't seem to be a lot of students here. Considering the time, it isn't a big surprise; everyone's probably either in the school grounds or the dorms.
LILLY: "Yuuko, are you here?"
She says it to thin air since the librarian doesn't seem to be present and of course Lilly can't see this. What's unexpected is that it draws a reaction. Something from under the counter thuds against it, followed by a quiet wail. The origin, apparently the librarian, quickly crawls out and bounces up to extremely rigid attention.
YUUKO: "Hi, Lilly. How can I help you?"
Her voice is strained in a failing attempt to sound casual and she's rubbing the back of her head.
LILLY: "Good afternoon. What happened just now? I heard a strange sound."
YUUKO: "It's nothing, I just hit my head. See, I dropped an eraser under my desk and while I was looking for it a pencil dropped and when I was looking for both of them you came and surprised me..."
LILLY: "Are you all right? I'm sorry, I couldn't know"
YUUKO: "It's okay! It's okay, sorry for making you worry. This is nothing, I've had worse happen to me."
She's quick to reverse Lilly's apologies, almost frantically trying to push aside the possibility that she could be in any way inconvenienced by bashing her head on the counter.
YUUKO: "Yes... worse things have happened, hehehe..."
The girl fidgets with her fingers as Lilly doesn't seem to drop her concerned expression, and then she shuffles some papers around the counter for no reason. A little shorter than Lilly, replete with glasses, freckles and a very troubled look, she seems to fit a library perfectly.
YUUKO: "Ah, Lilly! Did you get my message?"
LILLY: "Message... hmm... Oh, the two imported books that arrived?"
YUUKO: "Right! Right! They finally came! I can't believe it took so long, but"
Amidst her celebrations, partially for managing to change the topic I'm sure, she notices me from the corner of her eye and freezes on the spot when she does.
YUUKO: "Oh no, I'm sorry for not noticing you before! Did you need to check out a book? Or return one? I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
The way she can so quickly shift between moods is a little unsettling
LILLY: "He's with me. Yuuko, this is Hisao, a new student. Hisao, this is Yuuko, the school librarian."
HISAO: "Pleased to meet you."
YUUKO: "Hisao. Right. Hisao. Pleased to meet you, too. Hisao."
For a second she visibly attempts to engrave the name on her mind so she won't forget.
LILLY: "Yuuko often arranges to import foreign books in Braille for me. Would you like to tell Hisao a little something about the library?"
Lilly's innocent suggestion is met with an expression of abject terror.
YUUKO: "I... Please Lilly, I can't. I don't know what he could be interested in. This is too much responsibility.
How it's any responsibility at all I don't get, but her objection is so sincere I don't doubt for a second that she would rather disembowel herself on the spot than tell me where the light novels are.
HISAO: "So, there are a lot of books in Braille here?"
I attempt to save the day by asking the first thing that pops into my head. It seems to work at least partially, as Yuuko seems to... not exactly relax, but at least look slightly less tense.
YUUKO: "Well... I think about a third or a fourth of Yamaku's library is either in Braille or audio."
Makes sense, given all the blind students that'd be here.
HISAO: "If it's only that, how come this library is so big in the first place?"
YUUKO: "Ummm, well, we get a lot of new books regularly because the library is adequately endowed. That's probably why. They spend more on new books than on my salary, and then I have to organize and shelve all of them. It's so troublesome and they weigh so much, I wish I could quit this job. ..."
A very awkward silence follows this revelation of too much information.
HISAO: "Umm, I'll go check the aisles then, if you don't mind."
It's probably best for all of us if she doesn't keep talking to me.
LILLY: "Very well. Meanwhile, Yuuko, I would have those books if it's all right with you."
My first impression was right; the library is surprisingly big. Ambling down the narrow aisles, I study the spines of the books in random order, occasionally sliding one out to read the blurb, taking it with me if it looks good. In a few moments I have a respectable stack of books in my arms. I guess I'll never be stuck for choice in here. The normality of the library sinks in. Sure, there are large-print and Braille books scattered throughout, but it is what it is: a library. It's as if the calm mood from the room I had tea with Lilly in snuck with us in here, unless it was here to begin with. Something about that puts me at ease, just like before.
I reach the end of the aisle and find a collection of desks, set up for study or personal reading. Going a little further, though, I discover a nice quiet corner at the back. While the rest of the library has the odd student sitting at a desk either reading or stealthily sleeping, the back is pretty much deserted. As I glance around, I see someone who I recognize sitting on one of several beanbags.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Everyday Fantasy
It's the dark-haired girl from my class. The one who snuck out of the classroom earlier. She's reading a book, keeping it close to her face which makes her look like she's really into it. From the way she was acting today, I had her pegged as more of a delinquent than a bookworm. In fact, her mysterious disappearance from the class raises all sorts of whys in my head. Intrigue floats slowly but surely towards the surface, and before I know it I'm walking towards the mysterious long-haired girl. I guess there's no harm in introducing myself as I would with anyone else. She's a classmate after all. Walking over to another beanbag, I take a seat and lay my books beside it.
The girl starts, looking scaredly up at me from underneath her fringe. This is the first time I've seen her this close. Underneath her long, dense bangs, I can see that part of her face, at least a third if not a half, is pretty badly scarred. My eyes are immediately drawn to the scars, subconsciously peeking past her hair until they meet her own eyes. For a second, I am shocked, and divert my eyes to the book in her hands, before I realize that looking away probably only makes it worse.
It takes too many seconds to collect myself and remember what I walked up to her for.
>"Hi! I'm new here. Hisao Nakai. We're in the same class."
>"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."
=>"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."
HISAO: "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."
HANAKO: "It... it's okay."
The girl certainly doesn't look like it's okay, but I let it slide.
HISAO: "So, umm... do you mind if I sit here?"
She seems to be very uncertain whether it's okay or not for me to sit, but finally she nods, just a little.
HANAKO: "O... okay."
I take the seat next to her, and she hides herself behind her book. 'Life of Pi'... Never heard of it.
HISAO: "So, errr... sorry again for startling you. I'm Hisao."
She looks up from her book, stalling a little before replying.
HANAKO: "I... know. We... are in the same... same class."
Her speech is stilted and so quiet that it is barely audible even in the still library. Somehow I think that my 'delinquent' impression of her was wrong.
HANAKO: "H-H-Hanako. I'm... Hanako. ..."
I resist the urge to say 'that's a nice name' just to have something to say, but really, it's the only thing that I can think of. I feel like an idiot. Everyone here must be used to being different to each other, and here I am being all bothered and fussed about that kind of thing.
HISAO: "Don't let me interrupt your reading. I'll... just check these books if you don't mind."
She nods a little, and sighs a little sigh of relief So I try to read the covers and the introductions of the books I picked up and she buries her face in her book. Uncomfortable silence consumes us. My eyes still wander to her direction, and I sneak peeks at her flowing hair and the scars it's hiding. After a while I realize that she's doing the same, and only pretending to immerse in 'Life of Pi.' Her gaze is not inquisitive at all though, it darts around like a scared rabbit. When our gazes finally meet, the chain reaction is unstoppable. She stands up forcefully from the beanbag and takes a deep breath."
HANAKO: "I... I... I..."
Without warning, Hanako takes off and runs towards the counter. Her hare-like takeoff catches me so off guard that I don't manage to go after her until she has a good head start.
If you take the other option, you cheerfully try to chat her up. Hanako, who jumps every time she hears a loud noise, stiffened up the moment she saw you, and just watched you stare at her scars. She panics a lot faster and practically runs away screaming. You dick.
Katawa Shoujo OST Stride
By the time I reach the counter she is nowhere to be seen. Lilly and Yuuko are happily chatting away. Knowing that I won't be able to catch Hanako myself, I approach the girls.
HISAO: "Hey, did you see... er... notice a girl run past here?"
YUUKO: "Um, maybe... what did she look like?"
HISAO: "Long, dark hair. Kinda shy. She had... well... some scars... on her... face."
LILLY: "You wouldn't be talking about Hanako, would you?"
HISAO: "Yeah, that's her. I saw her reading and tried to talk to her, but I think I scared her off or something."
LILLY: "Oh dear. Yuuko, would you excuse me, I had better try and find her."
YUUKO: "S-sure. I'll just hold onto these until you come back."
HISAO: "Um, what's going on?"
LILLY: "I'm sorry, but I'll have to explain it to you some other time."
HISAO: "Right. I'll see you later then..."
Lilly hastily grabs her cane and hurries out of the library, leaving me alone with Yuuko.
HISAO: "I don't think I'll ever get the hang of this place. Did I do something wrong?"
YUUKO: "What did you do?"
HISAO: "Nothing! I was just looking for some books and then she got this fit and ran off. The most offending thing I can think of was that I might've looked at her general direction a few times."
YUUKO: "Well, she is a very timid girl. You have to be very careful around her. She can be very jumpy, I think, and she's not accustomed to talking with other people."
HISAO: "Isn't that a bit... strange?"
YUUKO: "I wonder... It's just how she is, I think."
Yuuko doesn't sound all that convincing. Then again, maybe this is just the norm around here. Everyone has their own problems, or else they wouldn't be here.
If you approached Hanako aggressively earlier, Yuuko guilt trips you about being insensitive and calls you tactless. You dick.
HISAO: "But how should I deal with these people? Forcing myself to act overly casually only makes me feel phony. Like I was supposed to be ignoring the elephant in the room."
Yuuko fidgets, looking like she wants to say something to that, but resists it.
YUUKO: "I think it's an elephant only if you feel that way."
I guess she doesn't have a good sense of self-restraint. It makes me smile, and she blushes heavily.
YUUKO: "W... what? Did that sound stupid?"
HISAO: "No no, it sounded really wise. I guess you're right. It's more about me than anyone else."
Neither of us has anything to add so Yuuko fills the silence by shuffling some papers around. People who have papers on their desks really like doing that.
YUUKO: Did you find any books? I should be closing soon. I mean this library should be closing. But I have to do it. I hope that's not too inconvenient for you.
HISAO: "Oh. Yeah, I want some books, but I left them over there because... ...I'll just go get them."
I fetch my stack of books from beside the beanbags where Hanako and I were sitting and return to the counter.
YUUKO: "Wow. You read a lot, don't you?"
HISAO: "I surprise myself with that too, honestly. At least, when I really think about it. I had a lot of free time earlier this year, so I just kind of... started reading books to fill that time. I couldn't do much else."
YUUKO: "I see."
But she doesn't say anything else, and just checks out my books for me. I guess this is what they call 'tact.
Holding the library books with one arm, I trawl my pocket for the key to the door. A sudden sound from behind startles me, making me nearly drop the books I'm carrying or the key that I almost managed to get into the lock."
KENJI: "Who is it?"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Out of the Loop (Kenji's Theme)
I turn around to see who is talking to me. It's Kenji. He seems to be in a friendly mood, although the light glinting off his glasses in the dark gives him a sinister look.
HISAO: "It's just me."
This makes him pause and lick his lips nervously.
KENJI: "Who is me? I don't know anyone called me. Are you some new guy again?"
His voice is suddenly strained and quick.
HISAO: "Yes... but we've met before. Yesterday."
KENJI: "I don't think so, I would remember someone who I met only yesterday. ...When was that? What day is it today?"
I try to ignore him. Is he joking or what?
KENJI: "Prove that we've met before!"
HISAO: "You live across the hall. You're Kenji."
Kenji jumps back, his eyes filled with an uncomprehending fear.
KENJI: "How do you know my name? Damn, this can only mean one of two things: Either we have met, and you are telling the truth, and I just can't remember it, or you are a spy."
KENJI: "A psychic spy."
His eyes dart around me, trying to peek into my room, although it's hard to believe he can see anything through those thick glasses. His mood swung from friendly to manic in less than a minute.
HISAO: "I'm not psychic."
KENJI: "How do I know that? I'm not a mind reader."
Kenji points a finger in my face damningly.
KENJI: "...Unlike you!"
HISAO: "Stop that, man. We met yesterday. What's wrong with you? I live in this room."
KENJI: "Lies. If you think you can pass as Hisao because I'm legally blind you are sorely mistaken. You don't even look like him. I mean, the resemblance is real, real slim. Maybe at a distance, but who do you think you're kidding?
I want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him. Exasperated, I rub my eyes and let out a heavy sigh.
KENJI: "Stay there."
Kenji comes closer, one careful step at a time. I stay still, lest he assault me physically, although I doubt he could do much damage even if he did.
KENJI: "Oh, wait, I see it now. Damn, it really is you."
Sighing again, and then once again for good measure, I step backwards, just in case.
KENJI: "What's up, man? You don't look too good. I think. Something wrong?"
HISAO: "I don't know. Just had something stupid happen to me. A few stupid things, actually. Even if you discount this one. I can't get a proper touch on other people here, and I have no idea if it's because of me or because of them."
I don't know why I'm telling this to Kenji. It's not like we've had any contact either.
KENJI: "That's rough, dude. Yeah, I'm sorry about calling you a psychic spy and all, but you can never be too careful.
KENJI: "It's the hard reality we live in."
I'm slowly starting to think that Kenji isn't necessarily living in the same reality as the rest of us.
KENJI: "You see? This is how it is, this world. There is no justice. You see? Even when I lose, I win, because I don't lose the lesson."
HISAO: "...What does that even mean?"
KENJI: "It doesn't matter."
He dismisses it flatly with a wave of his hand.
KENJI: "So what happened? Why the long face? Do you have a long face?"
HISAO: "Eh, it's nothing. I just scared some girl off accidentally. Literally too, she actually ran away from me. Was my fault, really, I think. I'm not really... used to all this yet."
KENJI: "A girl? A cute one?"
Cute? That's a hard question. She had a nice body and really beautiful hair... but the face...
I guess it could go either way.
>She was cute.
>She wasnt cute.
=>She wasnt cute.
HISAO: "Not exactly cute, no."
Fair, but still kind of a dick move to just come out and say that. The things I do to show off parts of this game
KENJI: "There are a lot of cute girls here. A strangely disproportionate amount... I believe this is one of the dark secrets of this school. I tried to warn you man, but did you listen..."
I don't remember any such warning.
HISAO: "Dark secrets?"
KENJI: "Yes, dark secrets. Extremely dark. Like a black hole. Have you noticed that the number of girls in this school is slightly but significantly higher than the number of boys? It's like 60-40."
He turns his head to the left and stares off into the distance at nothing.
KENJI: "Why is it like this? I mean, to the untrained eye, it doesn't appear to be that bad, but that is a full 20%. One would think that a school with such a huge pool of women would be a man's dream. But no! What I am about to tell you could blow your mind. Are you ready?"
I don't know where this is going, but I think I won't be missing much by cutting out now.
HISAO: "No, I am not ready."
I only get as far as turning the doorknob before Kenji starts talking again, showing that he doesn't really care if my mind is blown or not.
Katawa Shoujo OST #19 - High Tension
KENJI: "I believe that this school is a battleground. The site of a feminist infiltration.
KENJI: "This disparity in the number of men to women is a clear sign of how far they have come. In case this cold war turns hot, they will have superiority in numbers. Just another skirmish in the eternal war against the forces of the feminists... They're everywhere. In Japan, women outnumber men. It's not a 60-40 split, but it's only a matter of time, man... Even in America, women are the majority by a hair. They're building up their numbers. In the past, the buildup of a military has always been the clearest sign of imminent war. Japan is just the first step. Our economy is badass, and the country itself is small and isolated, yet a huge part of the Pacific in terms of political value. The perfect target. They are so cunning... As expected of women. Soon, the day will come, when...
Kenji's voice trails off ominously.
KENJI: "That is why you can't trust them. They will string you along, and then kill you, just as they killed me. You will end up just like me."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Out of the Loop (Kenji's Theme)
HISAO: "Oh, hell no..."
I can't stop myself from blurting it out.
KENJI: "Hey! What the hell does that mean?!"
HISAO: "You said it, not me."
It's the best I can think of.
KENJI: "So? You're not supposed to say something like that! Damn, so rude. Where was I? Oh, yeah, vast feminist conspiracy."
HISAO: "Stop it. Stop! I lost you way, way back there somewhere. Somewhere around 'feminist infiltration.'"
KENJI: "Too hard to follow? It's cool, I have some graphs and stuff in my room. And puppets. You like puppets?"
HISAO: "No puppets."
KENJI: "You don't like puppets, okay. Graphs are still cool, though, right?"
He speaks energetically, responding almost before I'm done talking, moving his hands in an animated way as he continues to rant on. This is too strange. I had him pegged as relatively normal, but it's clear that I was wrong.
KENJI: "Something on your mind, dude?"
HISAO: "Just thinking about what it's like to be the last sane man in an insane world."
Kenji frowns, looking deeply upset.
KENJI: "You mean that's you? That can't be, because I'm the last sane man in an insane world. That is my dream, you can't just steal a man's dream. What the hell, there can't be two last sane men. It would invalidate that whole last part... and that part is kind of important. There can only be one, like in that foreign movie where there could only be one, and in the end there is only one dude left, because that was the point."
I have never seen anyone talk so heatedly and so defensively about absolutely nothing before.
KENJI: "Anyway, if you wait here, I can get my graphs. I also have a list of the other dark and complex conspiracies that this school holds, as tangled as... Quick, finish my analogy for me. Be a pal."
HISAO: "I'm going to go to bed now. It's extremely late."
KENJI: "That doesn't sound like an analogy. But whatever. I like you, you seem like a cool dude. Most people don't understand what I'm talking about when I try to explain the vast feminist conspiracy to them. Denial is a terrible thing. Later."
Can you tell this part of the game was written in 2009? When 4 Leaf Studios released the demo (the entirety of Act 1), the term alt-right didnt exist, Gamergate was still five years out, and Trump had yet to commit to any political ambitions. The seeds had already been sown, but they havent borne fruit yet. The game treats Kenji as a joke, and in retrospect thats an incredibly uncomfortable position, but its not like we can travel through time to fix it. I will fight for this game's virtues, but I will never deny its flaws.
He claps me on the back and then vanishes into his room so quickly and quietly it's like he didn't even open the door but instead walked right through it like a ghost. I don't know if I can fully digest what just happened, so I give up and just go to my room, kicking off my shoes before falling facefirst into bed.