Part 102: In Her Own ImageUpdate 92: In Her Own Image (Act 2, Scenes 11-12)
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Katawa Shoujo OST - Nocturne
Thus the languid days of mid-June pass by. I mail my letter to Iwanako, and receive no reply. Having decided to ditch the old me, I start observing my fellow students even closer than I did before, hoping to understand how other people cope with their own issues. I start seeing things I didn't before, and it makes me wonder if I've been wrong twice. Superficially, everyone is abnormal yet so strikingly normal that it shocked me at first. I admired the way my new school mates turned my prejudices around just like that, simply by being themselves. Now that I've gotten used to it, I begin noticing other kinds of tones in the people surrounding me every day. There is this soft, numb sadness all around me. I can see the effort everyone has to make just to get through the day, and how it weighs on their shoulders, like it weighs on mine. Even the brightest smile is just slightly subdued, every outburst of annoyance just slightly dampened. It's subtle, but it's definitely there.
I try to think what it means, what I can learn from others. I wonder if deep down, everyone is as lost as I am. Is there even one person in here who has truly found peace? I start to feel doubtful about myself once again. I can't decide whether these people are happy, unhappy, or if they've just learned to cope and now live in an unfeeling limbo like I did all spring. I escape from these feelings into the towering piles of books I carry to my room from Yuuko's sanctuary. After realizing that this will just shut me down even more, I start going to the art club's room more often, usually whenever I can. Rin too seems to spend more time in there than in her own classroom. I've often seen her totter towards the door at the very end of our corridor. That wooden door and the room behind it, smelling of paint and paper, seem to mean more to her than the rest of the world combined.
She says she has special permission to use the room, which I don't doubt at all. I don't think Nomiya would deny Rin anything. He seems to dote on her like an uncle upon a favorite niece. The object of his affection, however, has no favorites. She says she appreciates the teacher a lot for going the extra mile for her sake, but even when she says that, her expression is the same as always. It's as if she was talking about a particularly unremarkable rock that she saw the other day. I can't really figure out their relationship. Rin doesn't seem to let anyone close. I don't think even Emi could say she's crossed the gap that seems to separate Rin from the rest of the world. I don't understand it. She seems so indifferent, yet so passionate at the same time.
Somewhere, the school bells ring the last call of the day. I realize I've been zoning out for who knows how long. Dazed, I sit up straighter, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. The pungent smells of linseed oil and turpentine mix in my nostrils as I draw a deep breath. I feel drowsy and lightheaded. It's already this late and a few club members left early, so it's just me, Rin, the teacher, and two other girls who are also about to leave.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Air Guitar
Rin is sitting to my right, slowly working on a painting while I'm idling the time away. I don't think she realizes I've been watching her this whole time.
With a nimble move of her delicate ankle, she dips the brush into crimson paint and presses it lightly onto the canvas. A stain spreads around, as if the brush was bleeding. Her progress has slowed down to a crawl. By now I've learned that this is dangerous for her technique, as the paint must not be allowed to dry before she's finished. It occurs to me that I am literally watching paint dry. And yet somehow I'm not feeling bored, despite spacing out just now.
Most of the time, the art club is very relaxed and free-form. Apart from times when Nomiya gets really excited about some technique or style he wants to teach us about, everyone is free to pursue their own interests. Lacking one, I keep floating around without a direction. I try this and that, but nothing really leaves me with a deeper impression, not to mention that I don't seem to have a special knack for anything.
Well, I did get praised for my attempt at watercolors, and I felt pretty good about that, myself, but that's it.
I suppose it's to be expected. I joined the art club mostly on a whim, after all. I'm thinking that maybe I should quit the club, if it's going to be this pointless. But there's nothing really wrong with pointlessness and I can't exactly say I'm unhappy. Unsatisfied maybe, but I've got only myself to blame for that.
As the pair of girls exit the club room with a cheerful bye-bye, Nomiya stands up from his desk. His chair scoots back with a loud screech that breaks the harmony of this quiet afternoon. He taps a pile of papers in his hands twice against the tabletop in order to straighten them, then stretches his back.
NOMIYA: "I have a faculty meeting to attend, so I can't stay. I'll have to do some paperwork later, so if you want to stay we can talk then. Sorry about this."
There are two people here, but he's really talking to only one of us. Nomiya spends extra hours of his time mentoring Rin after official club hours are over, and I'll bet he'd like to discuss his plan of getting Rin's art into a gallery a little more.
RIN: "It's all right. I think I'll probably be here, but it's not a big deal if I'm not. I don't really have much going now."
Rin answers without moving her eyes from her work in progress. The tone of her voice is neither the polite kind expected when talking to a teacher, nor her usual monotone.
NOMIYA: "So I won't need to send a search party if you aren't here?"
RIN: "Yes, no thanks, I don't like to party. We can talk later."
NOMIYA: "Good girl."
Smiling, the teacher picks up the rest of his papers and makes his way to the door. I glance at the clock above it and then at my watch to double check. They're three minutes apart, but nevertheless the club's meeting time is over now. Rin seems intent on staying here to work on her piece while waiting for the teacher. I can't quite imagine what their one-on-one time would be like. Would they actually discuss anything? Rin is always so subdued in what she says, and when she does say something it's difficult to understand what she's talking about. Maybe Nomiya just talks endlessly like he does at club meetings, letting Rin absorb what she will from his infinite well of art knowledge, like a sunflower turning to face the glowing sun.
HISAO: "Do you mind if I stay? I er... thought maybe I'd give watercolors another try."
I blurt out the excuse sort of accidentally, embarrassing myself. Rin doesn't take her eyes off her painting.
I shift around in my chair, then get to fetching a cup of water, brushes, colors and some paper. The sound of my footsteps invades the still afternoon air. Before starting, I try to recall what the teacher told us, an important philosophy of the medium: working with watercolors means more working with water than working with color. I try to keep that in mind, and dip my tiny sable brush into the water cup. I'm mixing yellow and blue, trying to capture the sunlit treetops outside of the window.
The sun is low, so the yellows are more pronounced and everything looks darker. I still can't quite connect what I see with what my hand does with the paints, but it's a passable attempt for my level. After a while I start losing my focus and move the paper aside, deciding to watch Rin work for a while, instead. That little while stretches first into a long while, then into a really long while.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Raindrops and Puddles
Rin paints, her entire being fully concentrated on the brush between her slender toes and the painting coming to life one stroke at a time. She seems determined and yet at the same time relaxed, effortlessly moving the brush around, never hesitating. Colors meet and part, mix and cover each other on the canvas, bending to her quiet will. I don't know anything about composition, structure or any of that stuff, but I really like Rin's paintings. I like how she looks when she paints. As usual, the silence between us compels me to speak rather than merely wait for her to open up. She might end up saying nothing at all.
HISAO: "Do you mind if we talk?"
RIN: "I don't mind."
HISAO: "I kinda wanted to ask more about why you get so weird about this thing the teacher wants to arrange for you."
Rin picks up a tube of paint and squeezes it between her toes on a palette almost as easily as someone with opposable thumbs would. Taking up a brush again, she replies.
RIN: "A lot of things. And some not-things. Unthings. I don't think that's a word."
HISAO: "Do you want to talk about it?"
I try to reach out to her clumsily, ignoring the embarrassing feeling of awkwardness. Rin keeps her focus on the painting, spreading more and more paint on the canvas, her lips forming a perfectly straight line as she concentrates on the job.
RIN: "Not really. Talking is hard. I mean, it's not hard, I'm talking even now. But saying the right things is really hard for me. No matter what, I just can't say the things I want."
HISAO: "That sounds weird."
RIN: "It's true. I say all kinds of things that I don't really mean all the time. And sometimes I forget words and then I use the wrong words. I even come up with new words for things that already have some. That's the worst thing. I get really nervous and everything comes out a mess and even I don't really understand what I want to say.I think there's something wrong with me that makes it like this. Remember when I said I can only think of four things at the same time?"
I nod wordlessly.
RIN: "It's not really four. I mean, it is four, but everything else is also there kind of in the background. Like being at an amusement park and a beehive at the same time. But that's not the point. I used to do better. Like six or seven things. I think so, at least. I feel like I'm becoming dumber."
HISAO: "I think everyone has times when they feel like they can't say the right things."
RIN: "But it's there all the time. Stronger and deeper. Yeah, deeper is a good word. I like that word. Deeper. It's that feeling of being underwater. Maybe it's just art. The more I paint, the more words I forget. Maybe at some point I will forget how to speak completely. It feels like I'm slowly forgetting everything. Do you remember what you thought about things three or four years ago? I don't."
A long pause ensues, during which time seems to bend around itself, almost tying itself into a knot. I don't think I've ever heard Rin talk this earnestly and for so long about anything before.
RIN: "It's like I'm fading away from the world."
Rin's foot has stopped its work on the canvas and she is staring at her painting, unmoving, as if gazing at some faraway horizon. Sunlight briefly glints in the corner of her onyx eyes. Something floats up into the top layer of Rin's being and she lets out a long breath.
Then she blinks and it's gone.
RIN: "Paintings stay behind. When I look at my old things, I remember what I was thinking back when I made them. They make me feel like I can be with all the past mes when I was a different me. I guess they are the proof of my existence."
She uses the exact same words Nomiya used when he spoke to us of the nature of art. I didn't think Rin was paying any attention, back then. I wonder if she was listening, or whether she had heard the same passionate speech from Nomiya before. Either way, I feel overwhelmed.
HISAO: "Boy, are you complicated. I would've taken up writing a diary."
Her eyes quickly flicker to my direction and then back to the painting, but she doesn't pick up the brush any more.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Parity (Rins Theme)
RIN: "That's a great idea. Why didn't I ever think of that?"
HISAO: "Are you being sarcastic?"
RIN: "What's sarcasm?"
I don't call her on the joke, if it is one. Right at that moment, Nomiya returns from his meeting. He waves to us a very melodramatic hello, mildly surprised to see me here along with his pet student. Walking with a boisterous gait to his desk, he drops his papers upon it. He picks up a handkerchief and cleans his glasses with incredibly meticulous care before walking over to us. Before he is within earshot of us, Rin says something to me in a quick, quiet voice.
RIN: "Change is the scariest thing in the world to me.
RIN: "And I seriously don't know if I want to change into a person who could do the thing the teacher wants me to do. I don't know if I could even if I wanted to."
NOMIYA: "Hello again!"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Stride
He smiles a bit sheepishly, looking at both of us with uninhibited interest.
HISAO: "Ah, nothing. We were just talking about that thing with your acquaintance and the gallery. For Rin's works. Sort of."
NOMIYA: "Oho? Any decisions?"
I look at Rin, who is trying to arrange the bothered expression on her face into something else.
HISAO: "Anyway, I don't think I have much else to say, other than that you should go for it."
>"You'd be wasting your talents otherwise."
>"You won't get a chance like this again."
>"You should aim high."
Rins route has a deserved reputation as the most complicated in the game, with unclear choices tripping obscure flags and bouncing you unpredictably between endings. Thing is, its not actually that complex, its just hard to explain verbally and I cant find any diagrams that dont have spoilers. So lets give it a shot.
Remember those three choices we had to make? Each of those answers is connected to a choice we can make in this scene; pick one of the two options, it activates one potential choice and deactivates another. You reach the scene, you have three active choices to pick from. So far so good. Each choice in this scene, in turn, either trips a flag or doesnt; much later in the route, the game checks to see if that flag is active or not, then based on that directs you into one of two mini-routes. While different thematically, mechanically speaking theyre nearly identical, each closing with a choice that starts the Ending selection process in the same way. As far as the games concerned, this choice is nearly irrelevant to where you end up.
Of course, players dont know that unless theyve charted everything out or have a guide on hand. It isnt clear what these choices mean, it doesnt tell you when the changes kick in, and it happens so far down the line you mightve forgotten what you chose. It doesnt help that the effects arent evenly distributed; of the 3 questions we dealt with earlier, only two can activate choices here that trip the aforementioned flag. Picking randomly, you have a one in four chance of hardlocking yourself into the mini-route you get when you dont trip that flag without realizing it. And on top of everything, these choices all change what happens next in this scene with no obvious connection to anything else. Its a mess.
Fortunately, I know which answer does what. In this case, "You'd be wasting your talents otherwise" and "You won't get a chance like this again" dont activate the flag, while "You should aim high does. Since we said that art isnt bullshit earlier, for reasons Ill explain later well be leaving that flag dormant for now.
>"You won't get a chance like this again."
HISAO: "I mean, the teacher is probably right. You're not going to get a chance like this again. People don't get many chances in life, and you shouldn't waste any of them even if you have doubts."
Rin stares at me unresponsively. It's like my words don't have any meaning to her at all.
RIN: "I don't think I want to talk about this. I'm going."
Rin stands up and trots out of the room without anyone saying anything more.
HISAO: "I'm sorry. I think I made her upset."
NOMIYA: "Hahaha, don't worry about it. She'll be fine, I'm sure. I'll talk to her later."
Each choice Hisao makes has him give a different little speech, and each speech gets one of three responses. Two options get you the one we saw here, where Rin, offended, stands up and ends the conversation; two others have Nomiya step in and interrupt Hisao before he gets on her nerves. The last two, the ones that activate that flag, have Hisao work himself up and start ranting before Rin disengages. Remember this, itll come up again later.
Nomiya looks at me over his circular pink glasses, smiling sympathetically.
NOMIYA: "You've made friends with her then, Nakai?"
HISAO: "Uh... well, something like that, I guess. Depends on how you look at it. To be honest, I'm not really sure."
It's more like me and Rin just tend to hang around each other irregularly, talking or not about something that more often resembles some twisted mockery of philosophy rather than normal, everyday things that friends chat about.
NOMIYA: "Well, that's all good, isn't it? You're a new student and we should be promoting integration into the student body and such. I can't remember all the buzzwords they spew at faculty and Yamaku Foundation meetings, but that's how it is. Tezuka isn't the most social person around these parts, either."
HISAO: "Yeah, that's definitely true."
NOMIYA: "So she's talked about my suggestion to you?"
HISAO: "Oh, no, not really. I think it's been more me pressing her to decide something. Maybe I shouldn't have."
NOMIYA: "No, I'm sure it's fine. I'm too soft with her, even when I shouldn't. I don't really know how to handle Tezuka, she's so independent and willful. I wonder if this is what every old geezer of an art teacher who got his hands on a young and fiery prodigy felt like."
He chuckles ironically to himself a little bit, turning to face Rin's latest work which she left drying on the easel. She departed so abruptly that I wonder if she considers it finally finished.
NOMIYA: "So, let's see the painting then."
He leans in closer, peering at the canvas.
NOMIYA: "It draws you in, doesn't it?"
Nomiya stands back straight, his face a dreamy, nostalgic visage. I don't answer him, as he seems to be taking my agreement as a given.
NOMIYA: "I sometimes stay here after hours just to look at Tezuka's paintings. She's really just prodigious, and at such a young age. I get shivers just thinking of what she could become with a few more years of refinement. You asked what makes an artist, remember? This is it. They take a piece of the world and reshape it in their own image. Metaphorically, of course. Looking at her makes you wonder what the world looks like through her eyes. It's a wonderful thing, to be young and full of passion, the most extraordinary time of your life. You would do well to remember that, Nakai."
HISAO: "Yes, sir."
NOMIYA: "It's so silly. People always ask artists Where do you get your ideas? as if ideas were something sold at the market for pocket change. You can't explain inspiration. For people like Tezuka, it's like breathing. It's an instinct. I've met maybe one or two with the same kind of raw potential. But no amount of potential will amount to anything if one doesn't work to realize it. It's practice, technique, skill. Draw for an hour every day for a few years and even the most hopeless case becomes a passable artist. Tezuka is not brilliant because she was born with a natural talent for this kind of thing. She's brilliant because she works harder than anyone, ever since she learned to hold a pen, most likely. And all of it with her feet, no less. Absolutely phenomenal."
Silence finally lands in the clubroom as Nomiya lets himself get drawn back into Rin's painting, gently murmuring acceptance toward the still-wet canvas.
HISAO: "What kind of things do you paint yourself?"
As if waking from a reverie, he looks at me, surprised at my talking to him.
NOMIYA: "Oh, I don't. Not any more. I became an art teacher only after my career in that field came to an end. Now I just pass on knowledge to the next generation."
The way Nomiya answers is curious, both giving and withholding information. I feel like asking more, but he cuts in before I get the chance.
NOMIYA: "Now you should run along, my boy. It's almost dinner time, isn't it?"
HISAO: "Yes, sir. Have a good evening."
NOMIYA: "You too."
I quickly collect my stuff and step out into the deserted hallway, leaving the teacher alone with his musings. The weekend will be here soon. It's amazing how fast time flies here. I promised Emi I'd join her for the celebration of her triumph at the track meet last week. That should be plenty of fun.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Katawa Shoujo OST - Daylight
HISAO: "Are you sure you want to go?"
The weather that has been wonderful for all of June has finally taken a turn for the worse. The leaden clouds drooping over the town look worrisome and the air feels heavy and still, just like before rain. The forecast says there's a 60\% chance of rain this afternoon. Maybe this will mark the beginning of the rainy season.
EMI: "Of course I'm sure! I've been waiting for this all week!"
Emi had planned a picnic at some nearby park, with snacks aplenty bought from the convenience store, but with the weather this gloomy, it seems risky.
EMI: "I asked some other people to come too, but they didn't want to go because of the weather. We have to prove them wrong!"
HISAO: "Wrong how?"
EMI: "You know, like how it always rains when you think it won't, and when you think it will, it doesn't? We'll go no matter what, so it's a win-win situation! I've been going without sweets for weeks because of practice for the track meet. But now I can splurge on anything I want. Nothing is going to stop me now!"
HISAO: "I thought you were all about a healthy lifestyle and stuff."
EMI: "Ohoho, Hisao, you understand so little. There's not a single girl on this planet who doesn't love sweets!"
RIN: "I don't like sweets."
EMI: "She doesn't count. Anyway, is this clear?"
HISAO: "Completely. We will go and eat our fill of sweets."
EMI: "Damn straight we will. I'm going to have to work it off later but it's so worth it."
Emi seems to be extremely determined about this. She is positively exhilarated, brimming with energy as always, but something seems special today. It looks like she can hardly stop herself from jumping up and down on the spot.
EMI: "Come on!"
I grasp the wooden handle of the umbrella I brought and start to follow the two girls, who seem to have no qualms about leaving me behind if I keep daydreaming. My umbrella is really fancy, the old-fashioned kind with a curved handle and a metal spike at the end. It used to belong to my grandfather. It looks like an antique, but it's in really good shape; almost as good as new. It's really big, too. I remember how my grandfather, my grandmother, and I all fit neatly under it when a rainstorm caught us on an afternoon walk years ago, when I was around nine or ten. My grandparents are both gone now, but I still have the umbrella to keep me dry when it rains.
We walk along the road leading down from the school towards the convenience store, the clouds casting their dark shadow down on us. The weather seems to be taking a turn for the worse and I am pretty sure I just felt a raindrop on my head.
HISAO: "Didn't you guys think of taking umbrellas? It really looks like it'll rain."
Rin looks at her limply hanging sleeves and shrugs her shoulders.
EMI: "I don't have one. Besides, a little rain won't kill us."
She pushes her chest out, looking very confident about that.
EMI: "We aren't made of sugar!"
HISAO: "I thought that's exactly what girls were made of, especially considering what you're planning to gorge yourself on today."
She just sticks out her tongue in reply.
The walk down from the school to the local shopping district is not a long one, but it's not very short, either. It's all downhill so our steps roll easily, but time stretches out nevertheless. The distance is right there, in that gray area where you don't expect the trip to be quickly over with, but you aren't preparing for a long walk, either. Thus, the trip is slightly too long to stay comfortably quiet the whole time, though the girls don't seem to mind. Rin walks calmly ahead, seemingly lost in thought. I'm kind of wary about starting a conversation, since the last time didn't end very well for either of us. I haven't exchanged a single word with her since then. Emi, on the other hand, is way too happy about just walking. She seems to literally jump a little on every step, or skip over cracks, or balance on the edge of the sidewalk. Every now and then she comments on something to which Rin replies in an automatic-sounding, nonsensical way that makes Emi giggle a little.
As we reach the bottom of the hill, the first raindrops begin to fall. I feel one hit the top of my head, then two more hit my nose in quick succession.
(Sudden Silence, Painfully Loud Lightning Strike, Rain Sounds)
It's not one or two rainclouds any more. The entire sky has turned shadowy gray, billowing rainclouds swirling right on top of us.
EMI: "Oh, shoot. I guess we aren't going to have a picnic then."
HISAO: "What now?"
RIN: "Maybe we could have a rain picnic. A picnic in rain."
EMI: "No, we'd all just catch a cold and I don't like getting me or my snacks wet."
RIN: "I kind of like it. Not the snacks part though."
Emi considers our problematic situation for a moment while I open my umbrella and lift it up, trying to hold it so that all three of us get covered.
EMI: "Hey Hisao, have you been to the Shanghai yet?"
HISAO: "It's a café somewhere around here, right? I've heard of it."
EMI: "It's a nice place. Let's go there and wait out the rain. If it's just a really quick shower, we can still go for the picnic, and if it gets worse, we'll just order cake there instead."
Neither Rin nor I have better ideas, so with Emi taking the lead, we start walking briskly along a side street.