Part 109: The Edge of the WorldUpdate 98: The Edge of the World (Act 3, Scenes 4-5)
Here, the path branches depending on whether or not you left the art club. In retrospect, calling it a mini-route is overkill; its really only one scene with a different choice at the end. But no matter which scene you get, the choice you make directly impacts which Endings you have a shot at.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Raindrops and Puddles
Like Emi, I have a club meeting of my own, so I head straight to the art clubroom at the end of the hallway. Only a few members are present today, so the mood's even more laid-back than usual. Rin is off working on her exhibition project, but I wonder if the rest are simply just playing hooky, defeated by the heat. I half-assedly sketch something with a piece of graphite, but do a poor job of it. My fingertips are turning pitch black from holding the graphite and smudging it on the paper, accidentally and on purpose. I've improved a little, but Rin's level is still far beyond my reach.
Eventually Nomiya comes in and makes his way around the room, checking on what we're doing and giving comments on the works in progress. He stops behind me and bends closer to look at my poor sketch.
NOMIYA: "Tried to take a few pointers from Tezuka, have you?"
HISAO: "Uh, well, I've looked at how she draws but I haven't exactly asked for advice, no."
NOMIYA: "Let's see here."
He casually picks up the piece of graphite from my hand and lightly draws some faint, barely visible lines over my sketch, to illustrate places that need improvement. I already feel frustrated about not seeing the obvious flaws before, but with a couple of careless-seeming flicks of the wrist, Nomiya has made them plain as day. Straightening up, he throws a sideways glance at the seat where Rin usually sits.
NOMIYA: "Such a nostalgic feeling, almost like a bird flying from the nest. I'll miss Tezuka when she graduates. It begins from here, you know. Nearly makes my eyes a little misty."
HISAO: "Do you really think she has a chance to make her big break with the exhibition?"
Nomiya turns looks up from my sketch, adjusting his glasses. He rubs his chin, looking contemplative.
NOMIYA: "Why not? It's not like she's going to be an overnight smash hit or anything, but getting the word out there is very important. Connections are pure gold, maybe the most important thing to gain if she is to become an artist. Word of mouth is very powerful in these circles. She has some advantages, like her young age and technique. You know, the feet. People will be naturally curious about extraordinary things like that."
His words have an unpleasant ring to them.
HISAO: "Isn't that just exploiting her disability to make her more popular? It sounds fishy."
NOMIYA: "Ah, now, now. It's not like that at all. Think of it from another perspective, like an artist. Would you rather have Tezuka hide herself completely from public view, as if her condition were something shameful? Some people will call it exploitation if we promote that aspect, or discrimination if we hide it. All considered, we're just being honest about it. There's nothing wrong with that, right, my boy?"
HISAO: "I guess so."
NOMIYA: "It's true that disability always has all sorts of implications in society, often nasty ones, but brushing things under the carpet won't help at all. I'm sure Sae will handle her side of the issue with delicacy. I've known her since art school and she's most reliable."
HISAO: "Why is she going so far for Rin's sake? Because it's you who asked?"
NOMIYA: "Oh, she has her own reasons too. Trust this old man, she's more kind-hearted than she looks. Ah, but don't let her know I said that."
He gives me a big wink, and covers his mouth with his hand, as if to push the remark back in. I remember the curious way Miss Saionji looked at Rin almost the entire time during our visit to the gallery. It was like that woman was trying to imprint everything about her into her memory. Or maybe it was that Rin reminded her of something else.
NOMIYA: "Mostly Sae simply adores young people with a passion for art. Her gallery specializes in this very thing, bringing up-and-coming talent to the public. It's a perfect fit for someone like Tezuka."
HISAO: "I don't even know if she really wants to become a career artist, though. But I guess that'd be the logical next step."
NOMIYA: "I don't have the faintest idea. Like they say, a teacher can only show the door, it's the student who has to walk through it. An old, tired saying, but still quite true."
He leaves to chat with the pair of second-year girls working on some watercolors. Even though he said that clichéd thing, it feels to me like Nomiya is trying to prod Rin through a certain door in particular, but I can't blame him for that. I literally shoved Rin towards that door what with my speeches about wasting opportunities and whatnot. Nomiya feels like it's time for him to let Rin test her own wings. He has absolute confidence in this endeavor.
I wonder why I can't shed the anxious feeling I have inside of me. It shouldn't have anything to do with me. Maybe I'm just bothered by exactly that: I really don't have any part in this. I would... I would like to be a part of Rin's life, and her a part of mine. Like friends should be. That's what she called us. I wonder what she really meant.
I feel like I'm so far apart from her, even when I'm not. It's the same as with Rin and Emi. I can't understand her.
What am I, for her?
>I want to support her.
>I want to understand her.
Everything weve heard out of Rins mouth so far screams that she wants to be understood. She may use her quirkiness for comedy sometimes, but we know damn well she can barely get an idea across at the best of times. The only time she ever clearly and unambiguously communicated a thought was when she told us to buzz off because she was on her period. She knows this, and she hates it, and the way it hurts her relationships tears her up inside; shes basically said as much. She wants to be able to make herself understood. But thats not the whole story.
Think about who she surrounds herself with. We dont know much about her parents theyre almost as absent as Hisaos are from the narrative but we know at least they dont mind letting her put her studies on hold for her art. Rin really does like Emi; she seems to actively seek out her company, they banter like old friends, and they both express fondness for each other. But they also openly admit they dont understand each other, and neither has any inclination to change that. Nomiya barely grasps her needs and motivations, given how baffled he is by the idea she might not want to leap into exhibiting her art while still a high school student, but its not like she left art club or accepted it immediately when he brought it up. For all the pressure he put on her, he ultimately left the decision up to her after making the circumstances and requirements clear. While the information they get back might be garbled, they all send information in confident it will be understood.
While the theme of agency Ive been driving home throughout the LP fell by the wayside during the Shizune shitshow, this route brings it back in full force. Its tempting to think of Rin in passive terms as someone you can help, someone you can bring into the outside world. But she neither wants nor needs someone there to change her or interpret for her. Has she ever actually asked Hisao to try and figure out how she thinks? Shes frustrated to tears that she cant get her feelings across to save her life, but did she ever say she wants to change how she thinks, or that shes unhappy with how her head works anytime other than when shes trying to talk to somebody? Does she understand herself? If not, how much does she care?
They say to know a thing is to control a thing, and while thats kinda bullshit (you can understand something without having any power over it), knowledge of something includes knowing how it works and where it begins and ends. I dont think Rin wants someone else to know her unless its on her own terms. I think she wants someone there who is ready to listen.
=>I want to support her.
I want to be there for her if she needs support from a friend. It's the least I can do. How could I call someone my friend if I can't be there for her if she needs me?
Nomiya's boisterous laugh fills the quiet afternoon just as the club meeting ends. He pats one of the girls on the back encouragingly. I think about all the things that have led me to this point, all the things I've shared with Rin during the few weeks I've been at Yamaku so far. I understand so very little, in the end, but I'm sure of one thing. If I want to keep going what I have with Rin, I have to throw myself into whatever'll come out of this exhibition project, along with her.
I turn my gaze back at the black mess of a sketch and the near-invisible guiding lines the teacher drew over it. No pattern emerges, nothing that could take me further than I am. I put the graphite down on the table and think hard and honestly about what I really want.
If we quit the art club, wed end up in the library talking to Yuuko, whos uncharacteristically energetic after barely managing to pass a course, until we get bored and sit down to pretend to read something in classic Hisao style. Eventually wed get a choice between I want to be with her more (Hisaos lonely and shes my only source of social interaction) and I cant leave her alone either (he wants to give her support and guidance, though he clarifies hes not interested in white knighting her and just wants to stay by her side). Whichever scene you end up in, the game does or doesnt trip a flag based on the choice you make at the end and routes you back on to the main plot.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
(Silence, Street Noises)
The next day, I take the bus into the city. It goes twice an hour starting in the morning, passing by the front gate of Yamaku at 20 minutes past and 10 to the hour. The ride takes considerably longer than the one Nomiya gave us in his car. I slowly read a book as the bus makes its rounds through the suburbs, pausing at almost every stop to pick up someone or let them out. Eventually we make it to the last stop at the city center. The city is fair-sized, but not too large, and seems too quiet. Nevertheless, I enjoy the atmosphere. Despite being slightly directionally challenged, I find my way from the bus station to the gallery without too much effort, and soon I find myself staring at the big letters saying 22nd Corner.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Air Guitar
Inside, the gallery owner is intently studying a large painting hanging on the wall, a portrait of an old man.
HISAO: "Good afternoon."
She turns around to look at me, and a smile of recognition spreads on her lips.
SAIONJI: "Oh, aren't you the young man from the other day, Shinichi's student... Hisao, was it?"
HISAO: "That's right. Good afternoon, Mrs. Saionji."
SAIONJI: "Please, just Sae. I don't want to feel any older than I am. You know, I'm so glad that even young people show interest in art nowadays. It's so refreshing. What brings you here? Surely you aren't just on a courtesy visit, all the way from your school."
HISAO: "Ah... I actually came for Rin. I was hoping to see how she's doing."
SAIONJI: "Oh, is that right? Well then, you need to step back outside. You see, the atelier is actually at the next door on the right down the street, and up the stairwell. Just climb the stairs to the top floor. There's only one door there, you can't miss it."
I give Sae my thanks, exit the gallery and locate the door she was talking about.
It leads to a dark stairwell which reminds me of the stairs leading to the roof of the school building.
I think it is the same picture they use for the stairwell, just reversed and darkened. I could be wrong, though.
The stairs are steep, and even though it's only five floors, my breathing gets heavy before I reach the top. An unassuming wooden door waits for me there. It's unlocked, so I knock and enter.
The atelier is really just one big room, with the ceiling lower at one end than the other because the roof of the building is gabled. There is a huge skylight in the ceiling that acts as the main source of light for the room, bringing in sunlight that reflects off the white-painted walls. I suppose it's good to use natural light for art.
There isn't much in the way of interior decoration. No surprise, since the room seems to have been used as storage for a while. All kinds of boxes and office furniture are scattered around the place. The room is dusty since it's not been in use for a while. I can see that someone has made some effort to clean up a little, but it's far from immaculate.
Rin stands in the middle of the room with her back to me, staring at a half-painted canvas placed on an easel. Not working on it. Just staring, unmoving. She wears what must be second- or third-hand denim overalls over the standard school uniform shirt, much like the one I'm wearing. They look pretty worn, and are covered in paint spatters. From the way they seem to be loose or tight in places, I'm guessing that they weren't originally Rin's.
Rin doesn't judge my showing up as worthy of turning around, saying maybe something more than just a mechanical reply to my greeting, smiling, anything. She keeps on doing... whatever it is she's doing; probably some weird creative thing inside her head. Perhaps I should've expected as much. Still, I make another attempt at conversation.
HISAO: "This is a pretty cool place. Big, too."
RIN: "It is. Sae said I can use this as much as I like. I even have my own key."
HISAO: "So how's the work going?"
She doesn't answer for a while. I begin to wonder if she's already forgotten the question. As a cloud drifts over the building, shadowing the light pouring in from the skylight, the change in Rin's surroundings seems to wake her up.
RIN: "I don't know. It's like a huge ball. I don't really know which side is the right one. It's really huge. It's the hugest thing ever. Like a mountain growing inside of me. Like I swallowed a mountain whole. It's going to be hard I think. Really very hard."
I try to listen for undercurrents of stress or uncertainty in her voice, but I don't pick up anything like that.
RIN: "Why are you here?"
Her tone is not as unkind as the directness of the question would make it seem.
HISAO: "Well, you said that it'd be fine if I came to visit, so here I am. I guess it's not for any real reason, but I thought you might like company, or assistance, or maybe some"
RIN: "Hisao. Can you be quiet for about fifteen minutes? Maybe ten is enough. Five definitely is not. You can talk afterwards."
Her tone is sharp, nothing like I've ever heard from her before. There is no command, no annoyance, no anger. But her voice pierces me all the same.
HISAO: "All right."
With the silence that falls, anxiety creeps back into my heart. I wonder if it was a mistake to come here. Murmurs of traffic filter in from outside and I start to feel more and more uncomfortable. All my thoughts keep finding themselves returning to certain things that have been swirling relentlessly in the back of my mind for some time now. I feel like those thoughts will surface out of the tempestuous sea of my mind, whether I want it or not. Desperate to divert my focus, I fixate on Rin's back as my mind races.
I don't think I've ever studied anyone's back so intently before. Her neck, hidden by copper-colored hair which is - again - in complete disarray. That relaxed yet rigid posture, reminding me that Rin's physical appearance often tends to be as awkward as her various trains of thought. Those gaunt, delicate shoulder blades, visible through the thin white fabric of her shirt. The contours of her hips, curving down to her thin thighs.
It pisses me off.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Nocturne
Rarely does she ever seem to be looking at me, whether literally or figuratively. I, on the other hand, am always watching her back, both literally and figuratively. Whenever she is painting, whenever something catches her fluttery attention, whenever I don't forcefully make her listen to me. I can't reach through to her. Rin's heart is uncharted territory, dangerous waters, the blank areas on a map. The edge of the world? If I went too close, I wonder if I would fall off.
What do I think of her? Sometimes she's aloof and distant, and it annoys me. At other times her passion for the things she thinks worthwhile shines through, and it inspires me. I can't understand her. Still, I like her and consider her my friend. I suppose part of friendship is putting up with the oddities of the people you call friends. I have to admit, there is a lot of putting up with Rin.
What does she think of me? I have no idea. Last week, I thought she might have liked me romantically, what with the kiss and all. It forced me to ponder my own feelings too. This week, I am utterly confused. What would she do if I told her I liked her that way? I wonder if I really do. Damn, I can't make sense of even my own thoughts any more. It must be contagious.
Even if I said a thing like that, would it matter? Nothing affects Rin. Nothing.
RIN: "I'm done."
I find her turned around, now staring straight at me. It unnerves me. I try to remember what we - or rather I - were talking about before she requested a timeout.
HISAO: "Oh, right. I just came to... I don't know..."
RIN: "You still can't finish your sentences?"
HISAO: "It's not that."
She retreats from the conversation, slipping away from me once again. She doesn't return to painting, but instead keeps looking at me with that empty poker face of hers.
HISAO: "I wanted to talk about some stuff. I've thought a lot about things."
RIN: "What things?"
HISAO: "Like, what happened last week and so on."
RIN: "What happened?"
I get the feeling she's playing with me. Why, I have no clue. It is not a game she's playing with my head. I'm pretty sure she doesn't deliberately try to screw with people. Maybe it's just my own mind playing tricks on itself. Still, Rin feels like a puzzle in the form of a girl. I feel attracted to it, compelled to solve it, the overly rational part of my brain refusing to let me give up. I can't leave her alone. I never would have believed I could be this obsessive about something. Why do I hesitate so much and keep running in circles around her? I don't have to do that. I already decided what I want to say.
Saying her name with an intention like this makes my mouth dry, as if my subconscious is fighting against what I'm going to say next. I feel like I'm going to lock up any moment now. Rin looks up from her paint-covered toes and stops wriggling them, as there isn't anyone to observe them curiously now. The hard stare of her dark green eyes seems like a portent.
HISAO: "I like you."
The lack of any reaction is like a slap to the face.
HISAO: "So... ummm... I mean, I'd like to like you as more than a friend."
RIN: "What is more?"
The slow, hesitant words coming from between her strawberry-colored lips are not the ones I was waiting for. Neither of the two possible answers that I'd been expecting, actually. I feel myself blushing heavily, as is par for the course in this kind of situation. My heartbeat sounds like a percussion orchestra on drugs. Rin's faux-innocent inquiry feels like I'm being grilled over hot coals.
HISAO: "You know... like, romantically and..."
Rin turns around, giving me the cold shoulder as she returns to looking at her painting. She makes a move to pick up her brush which lies forgotten on the floor, but decides against it at the last moment.
RIN: "I can't talk about that kind of thing now. So... don't talk about that kind of thing. Please. We are friends, right? So you can do that."
The silence those words leave behind is deafening. I want to say something but my mouth refuses to move. There is no way I can retain my dignity. Rin finally picks up the brush without giving any explanation for her behavior. Maybe there was something in her voice that gave away some emotion, but I couldn't say what. Her shoulders slump melancholically as her foot works the canvas in front of her. She won't let me see her face and I know it.
Feeling the weight of my heart grow heavier, I stand up to leave, for I can't stay here any longer today. It's like I have opened Pandora's Box by stepping over some line that Rin didn't want me to cross, and she had to turn me down. I walk across the squeaky floor to the door leading to the stairwell. Rin's quiet voice stops me in my tracks as I'm about to open the door.
My hand, still on the brass doorknob, is waiting for me to turn it or to withdraw.
RIN: "Will you come tomorrow?"
HISAO: "... Yeah."