Part 105: Six Meters Closer to HeavenUpdate 94: Six Meters Closer to Heaven (Act 2, Scenes 13-15)
This update doesnt contain a sex scene, but it does show just enough skin for me to mark it as not safe for work and spoiler it. PG-13, but I definitely wouldnt let your boss see youre reading it.
What does one do on a lunch break if not eat? It turns out that, between the two of us, we don't really know. Fortunately, passing time is an activity that manages itself just fine. Even though there's no conversation to fill the silence between the passing seconds, no pointless activities like cloud-gazing to spend upon the minutes between now and then, time marches on relentlessly. I keep checking the time on my watch, then decide it's a dumb thing to do. Instead, I try to hold out for as long as possible before I check it again. Maybe I can hold out for six or seven minutes.
Rin remains silent, idly looking up at the cerulean expanse above us. I wonder why, more often than not, we don't speak much. She said that she doesn't like speaking because of her perceived difficulties with expressing herself properly. As for me, I think I just got sucked into the habit at the hospital, where I spent such a long stretch of time never really talking to anyone. Most of the time I feel comfortable about this quiet mood. And even when I get the feeling that I have to break the silence, it's always so difficult to come up with something to talk about when it's with Rin. She and I are on such different wavelengths that nothing seems to be on common ground.
HISAO: "What is that you like about the sky so much?"
She turns to me, her eyes dark and serious.
RIN: "Sky is the only thing that is perfect. I know it. You could say I'm an expert of sky if you wanted. And I am even if you didn't want to. A sky expert. It's always different, but it's always perfect also when it's different."
I follow her gaze up into the boundless blue expanse, thinking of her words.
HISAO: "Have you ever wanted to be something different?"
RIN: "It wouldn't be so bad to be the sky."
HISAO: "No, I mean, someone else, someone different. To go to a normal school like everyone else, not have to worry about stuff..."
RIN: "What stuff?"
I try to find the right words for a moment, but can't manage to form a sentence that I'd be comfortable with actually using.
HISAO: "Man, I don't really want to say it aloud."
RIN: "Try. I'm not so good at mind reading."
HISAO: "Don't you ever want to not be disabled?"
She thinks about this and then shakes her head, frowning.
RIN: "That's a hard question. I don't know what to say."
HISAO: "It's okay if you don't say anything. For some reason, I'm just so unsatisfied with who I am right now that I'm constantly thinking stuff like that. It's pretty hard to admit, but there it is."
Honestly, I feel relieved about finally saying it aloud to someone, even if it's just Rin.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Lullaby of Open Eyes
RIN: "I think I want to be different, sometimes. I've thought about changing myself lately, but it's a bit scary, like walking backwards with your eyes closed. The difficult part is to know where your toes are not pointing at. I mean, directions. Even if I don't do anything, I would never stay the same. It's like my old paintings. They are different than what I paint now, because I'm different, but they are still my paintings so there's something same. That's really strange. I am different every day, but I'm still me every day. Who am I then?"
HISAO: "Is that a riddle?"
RIN: "If you want it to be. I don't know the right answer though, so you have to come up with it yourself."
HISAO: "Well, it's the sky, isn't it? Going by your definition just now."
I actually manage to surprise her by that. Maybe she had already forgotten about it.
RIN: "That's right! But I was thinking about myself when I said that. Very strange. Could it be that I actually am the sky?"
HISAO: "I don't think that's possible. Your logic's a bit off somewhere."
She looks down and shuts up and I can see she's quickly going over the deduction mentally, seemingly unhappy with the result she finally arrives at.
RIN: "Yeah, maybe I'm not the sky. Would make sense, I have a hard time knowing what kind of a person I am."
HISAO: "You're not the only one."
RIN: "It's like my mind is in some other place than the rest of me."
RIN: "Yeah. I wonder how it got there."
I have no answer, so a brief silence falls between us for a moment.
I shift my gaze back to the sky above us. The last time I really paid much attention to the sky was... I guess it must've been at the hospital. I could only see a thin strip of sky from the window of my room. If I walked up to the windows and pressed my face against the cold glass, the strip became bigger, but not by much. That sky made me feel sad and lonely, a reminder of the world on the other side. I wonder if there's another world beyond the sky we see from up here on the school's roof, as well. I can't stop comparing life at Yamaku to my hospitalization, but I really should. I'm not there any more. The narrow sky from the window of my hospital room, the faces of the doctors, the faces of my parents. The off-white walls everywhere. Iwanako's letter, echoing the words she never said. They're things of the past now.
I wish I could forget everything up until now and that time would stop completely. There would be only me, Rin, and the sky, an eternal lunch break on this rooftop. Perfect, unchanging, and forever.
HISAO: "I'm not sure if I like or hate this school."
RIN: "I could have gone to a normal school if I wanted, but I chose to come here."
RIN: "I just decided I would. Kind of like melon or plum jelly."
HISAO: "Do you think it was a good idea? I mean, there are a lot of good things about this school, but I think there are a few bad things also."
RIN: "I know. I kind of collect people, because they are interesting. People here really are amazing. Most of them. But not all. Some people can't take it. They hurt too much. It gets really bad sometimes, you know. They hurt. I wonder if you're like that too? I hope not. I don't like things like that."
HISAO: "Hey, I'm not your case study. And I'm not going to give up and die or anything. Anyway, I meant more that this place is too distant from the real world."
RIN: "What's the real world?"
HISAO: "Everything out there. Real people, with normal everyday lives that fit together like a puzzle."
RIN: "You don't think we aren't like that? Real people?"
HISAO: "Maybe we aren't. Well, no, we are. I just meant that it feels more like we're the leftover pieces."
Rin thinks for a while, her almond-shaped eyes narrowing as she bites her lip a little bit, like a child.
RIN: "Is it hard to be disabled?"
Her question earns a dry chuckle from me.
HISAO: "You tell me. You've been in this business a lot longer than I have."
She thinks about that for another while.
RIN: "I don't really feel that disabled. I mean I do pretty much everything differently, but it's not that hard. I can always practice.
RIN: "I've started to practice food things this year. I think I'd want to learn to cook in a real kitchen someday."
HISAO: "That's admirable, but I don't think it's just a state of mind."
RIN: "Maybe not to you."
I have no good counter to that, so I concede by falling silent. The situation is making me more and more confused. I know what I want, but don't know how to reach it. Rin seems to believe she can simply will herself into the shape she thinks she needs to be, but can't decide whether she wants to be a bird or a butterfly.
RIN: "I think, in the end I'm not really that happy with who I am either, but that doesn't mean I regret being who I am.
RIN: "That's the thing that's wrong with you, Hisao."
I've only started to process that rather blunt statement before Rin suddenly hugs me.
HISAO: "What are you doing?"
I've never been hugged by a girl with no arms before. To be honest, it doesn't really, physically feel like a hug. The awkward way she presses her body against mine and the lack of embracing arms makes it feel like she fell on top of me.
But the warmth of a real hug is still there, and that's how I recognize it for what it is.
RIN: "I'm hugging you, Hisao."
HISAO: "I know that, but..."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Comfort
RIN: "Is it wrong? I thought this is what you're supposed to do. I'm not really used to this kind of thing. The first time Emi hugged me I got surprised and kicked her in the stomach. I can kick pretty hard so she hasn't been hugging me an awful lot after that."
HISAO: "It's not wrong. Just, no, it's just me... things are a bit hard for me, for the time being. I can't seem to react properly to anything."
RIN: "Really? So it is hard being disabled after all?"
I guess she has me cornered there. I don't have the energy to start arguing against it, but I feel like I have to get something out.
HISAO: "Well, I... no, it's not hard. I think it's just me overthinking things. I really wish I didn't feel so sorry for myself all the time."
I wonder if I always was this fragile or if I became this way after my incident. Nothing had ever truly shaken my world like that before, so there's no telling. Rin presses her cheek against me tightly. I can feel the warmth of her body close against me. Her body temperature feels really high, as if she had absorbed the sunlight into herself and was now sharing it with me. Or perhaps it's a natural state for her.
It's the most comforting thing I've felt in a long, long time.
RIN: "Wow, your heartbeat really does sound really weird. It's like a drunken percussion orchestra."
HISAO: "Please don't say stuff like that. I get very uncomfortable."
I laugh at her comment anyway, in an attempt to ease the tension. It sounds a little bit too forced.
HISAO: "Man, I'm sorry I'm such a mess."
RIN: "It's okay. It's the best part of you."
HISAO: "Hearing that doesn't make me happy."
She breaks off the hug and settles down. An awkward silence falls upon us like a blanket; me feeling embarrassed about myself and Rin trying to arrange her expression to something she likes. One last time, I glance upwards.
HISAO: "This rooftop is really great. It's like I'm just a little bit closer to the sky."
RIN: "I know a better place, but we can't go there on lunch break. I can take you there sometime if you want."
The bells ring for the beginning of the afternoon classes and Rin stands up to make her way downstairs. I don't hurry after her, deciding to stay up here for just a little while longer.
HISAO: "Thanks for the hug."
RIN: "Thanks for not kicking me."
After Rin leaves I finally let tears roll down my cheeks and cry for my condition for the first and only time in my life.
Then I cast away that hollow person lying on the hospital bed, forever.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Two days later, I'm feeling less miserable. I even go for a long, brisk, healthy walk like the nurse recommended, something which I had avoided and dodged with all sorts of excuses earlier. I feel more active in class as well, delighting our science/homeroom teacher, Mr. Mutou, with correct and promptly delivered answers. The break right now between the two morning classes is too short for any sort of meaningful activity, but too long to just spend it sitting in the classroom and doing nothing.
Going out into the hallway isn't much better, but flexing my stiffened muscles is a better use of time than letting them get even stiffer by staying seated. The door of the neighboring classroom door opens and the students of 3-4 emerge to further fill up the already semi-crowded hallway. It seems their teacher kept them in for a few extra minutes. Emi is among them.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Standing Tall (Emis Theme) (Crowd Sounds Continue)
She notices me noticing her, which almost makes me look away on reflex. I don't, however, and Emi smiles at me as she happily skips towards me past the other students. Emi looks pretty energetic, showing no sign of illness whatsoever. It seems she recovered from the cold.
EMI: "Hey! Good morning!"
HISAO: "Nice to see you back on your feet. Feeling better now?"
She looks fine to me, but I still feel compelled to ask.
EMI: "Thanks! And yeah, I do. It was just a cold, nothing serious."
Emi laughs confidently, as if to emphasize her condition. I wonder for a moment what would count as serious in Emi's book. She seems to be eager to put the topic aside, though.
HISAO: "Where are you going?"
EMI: "Off to Rin's room to see if she's awake yet."
HISAO: "Oh? She skipped the morning class?"
A sheepish smile emerges on Emi's face and she gets slightly flustered.
EMI: "Err... not exactly. It seems that she caught the cold that I had."
HISAO: "Sorry to hear that. Well, she was out in the rain on Sunday with us, after all. I saw her on Monday and she was feeling a bit under the weather back then too."
EMI: "Yeah. Anyway, I'll ask the nurse for some cold medication to give her if she doesn't get better soon."
(Silence, Crowd Sounds Continue)
She leaves for the girls' dorm. I want to go with her to wish Rin well. I want to tell her that I'm better now too, but it doesn't feel appropriate. An unspecified feeling diverts my thoughts away. Somehow I just can't summon the resolve to go in there. Is this what Iwanako went through when she tried to tell me what she felt?
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Even though I'm feeling more energetic, I'm still hesitant about going over there to talk to Rin. It's not until two days later, on Friday, that I finally gather enough courage to enter the girls' dorm. I ask the first person I meet inside for directions to Rin's room. I knock on Rin's unmarked door and wait.
After a few seconds of silence I hear something rustling inside the room. I start wondering if maybe I should've brought something for her, like a can of warm coffee or some oranges. I could have peeled them for her. Well, too late now.
The door opens soundlessly - it was already unlocked - and I find myself staring at Rin, who stares back at me. She looks like she just got out of bed, with her hair all messed up.
...and barely any clothes on.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Parity (Rins Theme)
There is a strange, stupid-looking smile on Rin's face. I'm not exactly sure why. Rin smiles so rarely that it seems to be out of place every time. Especially so now, given her partially undressed state. Said state makes me feel extremely conflicted about whether or not this was a good idea. Her cheeks are flushed rose-red, contrasting with the milky-pale complexion of a person who doesn't get enough sunlight. Her forehead looks sweaty, as though she might have a fever.
HISAO: "Um, hi."
Now what? I didn't plan anything further than this, and Rin is staring at me with those expectant eyes of hers again. Something about this situation gives me very strange vibes. Her eyes are even more vacant than usual and she seems to have a hard time focusing them on anything. The lack of clothing is disturbing, but since she herself doesn't seem to be bothered, why should I be?
I keep telling myself that.
HISAO: "Err, I thought I'd pay you a visit since you haven't been at the art club... and I wanted to talk with you and wish you well."
Rin doesn't show any sign of recognizing what I just said, making me wonder if she actually understood my words, or if she even heard them. Maybe it's the fever making her groggy; she might've actually been asleep before I came over.
She turns on her heel and withdraws from the door, walking back inside the small room. From the doorway I can see her walk to her bed and half fall down, half sit down on the messy pile of bedsheets. The open doorway seems to be more of an obstacle in my mind than the closed door was, but since Rin doesn't say anything else, I step through it, and into her room.
Rin is on her bed leaning against the wall, leaving the only chair in the room for me. She keeps quiet even after I sit down, so maybe she meant to invite me in but just forgot to say so aloud? An implied invitation, as it were.
RIN: "Very exciting. Nobody has visited me before."
The breaking of the silence draws my attention from the room to its inhabitant, who currently seems to be in the middle of a very profound thought process.
RIN: "Actually that was not true. About visiting. But Emi doesn't count even if she visits. She always pampers me too much. I think she's having too much fun. I think I've forgot how to put a bra on by myself."
She looks groggily down at her chest.
RIN: "Which is probably why I don't have one on, now that I think about it."
I haven't failed to notice that Rin doesn't have her shirt buttoned up either, but I try to keep my eyes strictly locked on hers. It's rather evident that she's not a very body-conscious person. My own body, however, is quite conscious of hers right now.
RIN: "She came to wake me up at half past seven today! Can you imagine that?"
She pauses for a while and glances up at my dumbfounded face.
RIN: "On second thought, you probably can. It's not like that reverse rainbow fish I tried to imagine earlier. That was hard."
HISAO: "Well yes, that seems like a pretty normal time to wake up if you want to go to class in the morning."
I'm trying to sound as reasonable as possible to counteract Rin's unreasonable annoyance.
RIN: "Told her to sod off. She gave me these meds and told me to take them."
I follow her eyes to the night table and then to the pill bottle sitting on top of it.
I pick it up and turn it around to look at the label so I can see what kind of medication Emi brought. Active ingredient... codeine?
HISAO: "You took all of these?"
RIN: "No. Yes. I've been eating some since there's so many of them. Seem to make this thing not so bad. Actually... I think I'm feeling just fine."
Her head lolls round and round, making it look like she is either trying to stretch her neck muscles or possibly pass out. She took several of these pills? Can that be safe? At least it's bound to have some side effects... which I'm afraid I am witnessing right now.
RIN: "I am feeling just fine... I am fine... just someone take this buzzing away from my head. I can't think straight."
The annoyed expression returns to Rin's face.
RIN: "It's like many of those insect things... or one really big insect thing. With lots of wings. Very much color and everything. What's the word for those? Oh, never mind. I remembered. It's butterflies."
She smiles slightly at her last observation. The small pause in her monologue is not long enough for me to dare saying something that could potentially, but not likely, salvage this discussion.
RIN: "I love butterflies. They are the best animal. Did you see any on your way here? Hisao."
She utters my name as an afterthought, possibly to make clear that she is now addressing me instead of just speaking her mind to whoever might be listening. This odd situation has left me speechless more or less since the moment Rin first opened her mouth. Now that she herself doesn't seem to have anything else to add, silence fills the small room. It makes me glance around again in an attempt to find something to talk about.
Rin's room is about as small as mine. The big window, which takes up most of the wall furthest from the door, opens to the east just like mine. It looks very normal, which strikes me as strange. I expected something more... different. About a dozen paintings - most of them in Rin's signature abstract style - and a few art posters are taking up almost all of the available wall space, but that's about the only real difference between her room and mine. The room is not exactly ascetic, but it doesn't look like what I'd expected from a girl's room, either. A faint smell of art... of paint and paper is floating in the air. It's the same smell the art room has. Rin isn't too concerned about being tidy, it seems; everything she owns seems to be arranged in various piles around her room.
HISAO: "Your room looks nice."
It's an empty sentence one uses to fill empty spaces in conversations, but my wits are failing me pretty hard right now.
RIN: "Yeah. Would you like me to show you the places?"
She looks down at her half-open shirt quizzically, making me inadvertently follow her gaze to her chest.
RIN: "Oh... I guess I already did."
I can't deny that, no matter how hard I tried to act properly.
RIN: "It is very nice that you came to see me. It makes me feel very... what's that word... you know, the one about things and stuff. Anyway, you came."
Rin's rambling makes me remember that I actually came here for a reason.
HISAO: "Hey, about what we talked on Monday. On the rooftop, remember?"
Rin doesn't seem to be exactly attentive right now, not that she ever is. I plow ahead and get it off my chest anyway.
HISAO: "I just wanted to tell you that I'm going to be better from now on, I guess. I hate being pathetic, so I decided that I'm not going to be, any more. I guess... that's all."
RIN: "Okay. Isn't that good?"
The blurry words flow out of her lips slowly and uncontrollably.
RIN: "I'm happy for you I think. That's what I think. You shouldn't look so sad all the time. I mean, looking sad is fine if you are not sad, but you look sad like you actually sad. That's no good. Are you going on some training camp where they make men out of boys? Or mountaintop meditation?"
HISAO: "No, I don't think so."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Parity (Rins Theme)
RIN: "Oh. I guess that's fine too."
The sentences come out of her mouth, and probably her brain, one at a time with a small pause between each, making her gibberish hard to understand.
RIN: "I just think it seemed like a good idea. Maybe it's not."
Rin finishes with one more line, getting to say the last word over herself, an impressive display of what I can only describe as mental shadowboxing.
HISAO: "While I'm embarrassing myself, might as well tell you that I'm sorry that I said some stupid things to you last week. It's your own business to decide what you're going to do."
She seems to not register my words first, but then understanding lights in her eyes and she waves her head around in a way that could be interpreted as anything.
RIN: "It's OK. I probably said stupid things too. It's just sometimes a bit hard to keep my thoughts the way I like them. They are not very straight, at least most of the time. Not that I want to have them straight... I just wish they were at least in some shape. Round is fine too. But I need more definition. My thoughts are very messy. Messy."
She repeats the word melancholically, then flops lying down on her bed and nuzzles her head against her pillow, shutting her eyes.
RIN: "Enough. Tired. You should go. I'm going to sleep again."
She opens one of her eyes to look at me.
RIN: "Was it you who likes to look at sleeping girls? Or someone else? Maybe there were many of those. I can't remember. You can stay if you want."
HISAO: "No no, I'll leave. I have to... do homework anyway."
Her request stops me in my tracks, not that I intended to scoot off right away.
I look over my shoulder at the girl lying on her bed, again with the strangest kind of smile on her features. She should smile more often.
RIN: "I can walk you to the door. It's the least a gentleman can do."
Rin giggles like a little kid, making me beyond absolutely certain that she took far too much of her cold medication today.
RIN: "I have always wanted to say that."
Slowly and with difficulty, Rin first rises to a sitting position again, then she stands up with even more difficulty and more slowly still. As if guided by some masculine automation, my eyes instantly lower to the curve of her thighs and the striped panties, at which point my manners force me to lift my gaze back to Rin's eye level. It's getting almost too hard to do that. Rin is standing, although barely. It looks like she has trouble keeping her usually decent balance; again, probably a side effect of the medicine. She takes an unsteady step towards me, then another smaller one as she notices that it's not a good idea to try to take big steps. I feel my muscles tense as I prepare to catch Rin if she falls down.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Aria De lEtoile
She manages to take two more steps before she falls against me. To my surprise, neither her downwards momentum nor our slight height difference are able to stop Rin from pressing her heart-shaped lips squarely against mine. As our lips part after a confusing moment of nothing but the taste of... Rin, I look down at her, trying to find some explanation for this bewildering event. The euphoric smile of a madman broadens on Rin's lips again and
RIN: "I wonder if I will remember this tomorrow."
I am absolutely stumped on how to respond.
Rin takes a step backwards, separating her body from mine, and making me only now realize that they were even connected in the first place. The second step is actually a fall backwards, luckily straight onto her bed. The soft thud Rin's thin body makes against the mattress breaks the silence.
I move quickly over to her to see if she hurt herself, only to be met with the peaceful face of dreaming. Rin sleeps. She is lying diagonally across the bed, somehow managing to have simultaneously fallen asleep while standing up, and fallen down in a way that she didn't injure herself. Fool's luck.
I tuck Rin in, covering her with the sheets as well as I can. She feels very light, even though I am not that strong. I stand up to look at her, the oval-shaped face, the dark eyelashes shut against the feverish cheeks, the slender body covered with the pale sheets.
Rin sleeps. A conflict - no. Conflicts, plural, churn inside of me. I think about calling a nurse to keep an eye on her, but decide against it. After taking one more glance at her peaceful face, I decide that she'll be fine. I do pocket the remaining pills, though.
I exit the room, and close the door soundlessly behind me. I exhale deeply, only now realizing I had held my breath for the better part of a minute. Taking a moment to relax, I try to calm down my heart, racing like a jackrabbit.