Part 113: The SceneUpdate 102: The Scene (Act 4, Scenes 1-3)
Katawa Shoujo OST - School Days
I make it in time for class, though not in time for breakfast. The classroom is bathing in the gentle light of the sun. This means that it's going to be intolerably hot in the afternoon. For now, though, it's pleasant. I look at Misha and Shizune's animated discussion about whatever, Hanako staring out of the classroom window, Mutou stumbling into the classroom four minutes late and with no recollection of what he's supposed to be teaching today. I could never imagine dropping out of school just like that, even if it's only for a few weeks. On the other hand, Rin doesn't seem to have a problem with the idea, or going through with it. Then again, somehow I got caught along in her insane isolation, even if we ended up hurting each other. Or did we? Maybe only I got hurt.
It takes me until late in the afternoon to realize that today is Monday. The art club meets today. Not just that. Due to the exams, this will be the last art club meeting before summer vacation. Without Rin, it feels pretty pointless to go there, but I want to talk with the teacher.
The meeting itself isn't noteworthy, just as my skills with water colors are not worth mentioning. Nomiya tries to encourage and advise me without sounding too condescending, but he's not doing a very good job of it. If nothing else, joining the art club has taught me that I like art. It would be nice if I could actually try and make some art in the art club, though.
After the fruits of everyone's labor have been piled into a neat stack on the teacher's desk, he clears his throat to give a little speech.
NOMIYA: "That's it for this trimester, everyone!"
His voice is pretty loud and way too enthusiastic for it to be genuine.
NOMIYA: "The next meeting is after summer vacations, on the Monday of the first week of next term. I hope to see everyone there again! Have a nice vacation!"
Everyone wishes him a nice vacation back as they file out the door. I stay behind, waiting until the two of us are alone. It's almost dinnertime, so I don't have to wait long. Nomiya is looking through the paintings, some of which are actually pretty nice. Rin might outclass everyone else in the art club, but she isn't the only one with talent.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Fripperies
HISAO: "Excuse me, teacher..."
NOMIYA: "Hmm? What is it, Nakai?"
He raises his eyebrows questioningly, smiling widely.
HISAO: "It's about Rin..."
NOMIYA: "Oh? Is something wrong with Tezuka?"
HISAO: "No, but..."
I hesitate for a split second, not certain how to say what I want to say, giving Nomiya enough time to start blabbering by himself.
NOMIYA: "I saw her a few days ago when I was passing by at Sae's gallery. She said she'd get one or two more paintings done for the exhibition. I was quite pleased, she's a surprisingly hard worker. I'd always thought she was a bit lazy, doing what she wants instead of the assignments..."
He seems to notice my anxiety and realizes he is digressing, shutting up before finishing the thought.
NOMIYA: "Ah, but you had something to talk about. What is it?"
HISAO: "I don't know... she feels detached from everything, as if she can't think of anything but the exhibition."
NOMIYA: "Well, isn't that good? She is focused on her painting, as she should be."
HISAO: "Yeah, but this is different. It's like she's obsessed. I went to see her, and..."
NOMIYA: "Have you been bothering her?"
He cuts in before I finish saying what I meant to say, instantly looking quite irritated.
HISAO: "No... I don't... think so. I'm just concerned because she's stopped coming to school completely. She feels strange, too. Stranger than usual, at the very least."
NOMIYA: "Humbug! This is much more important for her than some lousy math class, or physics, or whatever. This is exactly why this school is so flexible, to give every student a chance to fulfill themselves. Tezuka is a painter, so she should paint, no? And have an exhibition. That's what artists do. She should be allowed to concentrate on that, not these other frivolous classes. She should be encouraged. If you think about it, it's really quite obvious."
His counterarguments are not very convincing, but I'm having a hard time trying to make any kind of rebuttal. My grudging silence is interpreted as assent, and Nomiya turns to shuffle the stack of turned-in assignments on his desk like a deck of cards.
NOMIYA: "I have to say, while we're talking about Tezuka's exhibition... I'm very excited to see how it turns out. She's still so young, yet has such wonderful skill, and style!"
He's talking to the air, to relax the mood that got a bit too negative.
NOMIYA: "I take it that you will be attending?"
HISAO: "Yeah, I guess so."
NOMIYA: "Well, we'll meet there next."
I take that as my cue to leave. And I do, although I'm not happy about it. My message didn't get through, to say the least.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Katawa Shoujo OST - Nocturne
The day after that, all the missed opportunities and things I should have said come crashing down on me. There's nothing left to do afterwards but brood.
Second day. I begin to feel anxious. I start doubting my doubt and it feels stupid, especially since I still can't think about anything else than Rin.
Third day. Japanese exam, and world history exam. Great. The thing I hate most about her is that she can make me feel this awful even though I should be focusing on entirely different stuff right now.
Fourth day. Math exam. We have a math exam. It goes how it goes. I don't care.
Fifth day. Nomiya asks me again if I will attend the exhibition opening. I can't say no to him even though I seriously want to. I just don't want to discuss with him anything Rin-related so it's just better to take the path of least resistance.
On the sixth day, the day before the exhibition opening, I find Rin standing in the hallway in front of my room when I return to the dorms after dinner.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Caged Heart
HISAO: "What are you doing here?"
My tone is angrier than I intended. I'm a little disappointed that I was unable to restrain myself, but it can't be helped. Rin just stands there, like she just happened to coincidentally be standing around here where she has no business being. The way she reacts so coolly to everything annoys me now. This is not good. It's been six days, and the sight of her has me boiling. She hasn't even opened her mouth yet.
RIN: "Finished painting."
HISAO: "Shouldn't you be at the gallery? Preparing?"
RIN: "They said no."
I guess the gallery owner does that part then, getting the paintings framed, hung on the walls and whatnot.
HISAO: "So, why are you here?"
RIN: "Felt like it."
This same old stupid pattern emerges again; me asking her questions to which she replies with answers that don't answer anything, because it's the only other way we can converse. Apart from me listening to her blabbering about whatever, which isn't really a conversation. Is this a play? Are there some unseen roles that we have unknowingly set ourselves into, dictating the rules of engagement whenever we see each other, inevitably leading to us hurting each other? Her nonchalant answers accompanied by even more nonchalant shrugs leave me none the wiser. I guess I should be happy that the exhibition preparations are complete.
When I walk into my room, I hear her footsteps following me in. I didn't invite her in. I won't ask her to leave.
She claims my bed without asking permission, making me wish that I had taken the time to make it before I left in the morning, then stands up again as though she sat on hot coals. I half-lean against the single corner of my desktop that isn't cluttered with stuff, to rest my legs at least a little bit. Rin spends a few moments glancing curiously around my room. It makes me realize that she's never seen it before. For a moment, she actually looks like she's concentrating. Trying to get everything. This must be the eye for detail that makes her an artist. Since the room is small, she quickly runs out of things to look at, but nothing else transpires, allowing the uncomfortable silence to take over the atmosphere. The mood is chilly to say the least, and both of us are on guard, waiting for the other to make the first move. Of course, Rin could play this game forever. So it has to be me.
I give up because she'd never try to open conversation, and because it seems that she wants to say something, and I want to get it over with. Why else would she be here if she didn't want to talk? I don't know what to say myself. I want to be angry, but I can't bring myself to yell at her or anything. My voice catches her attention, and she tries to search for words as well, but it seems that she is not entirely certain as to why she's here either. And so, Rin simply takes a few steps to close the distance between us and rises on the tips of her toes to even out the height difference...
The next two lines are printed across the center of the image instead of the textbox below.
"It was a bad idea.
"Maybe you should forget about it, and I will too.
It's a reflex, and almost as an afterthought, the words no, yes and maybe simultaneously surface inside my mind. My hand is between her lips and mine, a wall that I raised to guard against... something. Her breath feels warm against my fingers. The scent of her skin lingers about, the mysterious indescribable sensation that captures me and draws my eyes deep into hers.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Breathlessly
The look in her eyes is surprised, quizzical as to why the impertinent hand prevented her advances. Her eyes are really big and glistening with moisture, and staring right into my own with a soft gaze that I'm having a hard time to match. Rin's half-open mouth makes her look even more confused, although the sensual way her lips are arching is signaling something completely different.
RIN: "I need you."
The words come from her throat as a coarse whisper meant only for me, bypassing her tongue and teeth without giving them any chance to interrupt. They sober me in an instant, and I clumsily flinch back to get a little bit of distance between us, painfully scraping against my desk in the process. Maybe it's her choice of words, maybe the way she says it, but something in it puts me off. Something is wrong, something is terribly wrong again.
HISAO: "Need me for what?"
All the unpleasant feelings emerge again, and I feel my heartbeat suddenly increasing at least tenfold. Rin's eyes go out of focus and back again as her body relaxes from its tensed state, and she stands upright again.
RIN: "I don't think I was thinking about anything. Why do you draw patterns in that dust on your night table? There is a word for that kind of thing but I can't remember..."
Her remark almost throws me off track and I glance over her shoulder at the small table next to my bed, but I can't see anything from this distance. So she needs me for nothing specific? Just happened to come by because she thought I'd be glad to see her after she shut me out, no complaints accepted, for a week. Completely altruistic motives? Felt like it?
HISAO: "Bullshit. I can answer myself. To play mind games with whenever you want, to kiss whenever you want, to ignore whenever you want, to fulfill your whims whenever you want? Is that it? What you need me for?"
My voice is sounding very angry again, even to myself.
Rin too finally catches the mood and her curious expression changes instantly to something more uncharacteristic.
She leaves it at that, her eyes restlessly wandering around, searching the room as if the words she tries to find were written in the tapestries of my walls.
HISAO: "Then what?"
RIN: "I needed to paint."
Paint. Of course. That's what artists do. The words reverberate through my being, beating in my blood over the piercing whistle of my anger.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Cold Iron
HISAO: "Don't give me that, Rin! I'm not some damn muse of yours, free to play with for the sake of painting! I am not some medium for whatever you aspire to, I am me! So what if I don't know anything about my future? There's things I want, and things I care about! Even I can dream of things other than nightmares!"
I'm yelling, but I'm way past the point of caring about things like that. Rin looks down at her toes and wiggles them a little melancholically while she takes in my outburst without saying anything to defend herself. Only after I have finished does she try to respond somehow.
RIN: "I can't do anything else. Or I can do all sorts of things, but I... can't... do. It's the only thing I sort of do properly. Most of the time."
I understand completely. Art first, everything else second, or thousandth.
HISAO: "What about me? Am I nothing? When I was interested in art, did that make you feel like I was a little interesting, for a little while? Tell me. I really want to know. Did you ever think about my perspective, or is it just all you?"
The words rise like bile in my throat. She looks alarmed. And also completely uncomprehending, as if she just doesn't understand what I'm angry about. I can't believe she could be so stupid.
RIN: "I didn't want to?"
This time it's Rin who interrupts herself in midsentence.
RIN: "Don't you understand? I can't."
HISAO: "Can't what? You never explain! How am I supposed to understand anything if you never say anything? Why don't you ever talk? Say something!"
But she doesn't. Venting my anger at her feels satisfying. It feels wrong to take so much satisfaction in it, but I can't stop. Not wanting to face my anger head-on, Rin turns around to steadfastly look out of my window even though there is nothing to look at. The worst of my ire gone, I shut up as I can't be bothered to keep on yelling at the back of her head, so silence finally returns. I try to discern some hints of her reaction through my adrenaline-distorted vision. My feedback was not the best kind, but I hope Rin got the clue that she just can't ignore everything else whenever she feels like it. I'd hate it if she didn't. She never ever listens to anything, she's so unaffected by the world around her. Not this time, it seems. Her body is shaking like from holding back tears, but I already know that Rin is not crying. Her indifference made me so furious. Now that it's gone, I'm at a loss. I wonder... Did I go too far?
HISAO: "Look, I"
RIN: "Go away. Go away, Hisao."
Her voice is tiny and tired as she says this, but I hear the words clear as day. ... What is there to say any more?
HISAO: "This is my room."
The blunt, hollow remark is a fitting conclusion for this unpleasant discussion that became an even more unpleasant and very one-sided yelling match. After a moment of collecting herself Rin just gives up, I can see it from the way she slumps her shoulders, and walks out. Even though she deliberately looks to the other direction, I can see how she's biting the corner of her lip so hard it might start bleeding if she won't stop. As she makes her exit, I realize that she left the door open when she came in and my yelling must've echoed around the dorm hallways.
I sigh. Now that she's gone, I am left alone with my guilt. As the thumping in my chest slowly subdues, anxiety replaces it. Somehow, I feel that none of this would've ever happened if not for me. No matter how infuriating, unbearable and outrageous Rin is, she is not the Rin I thought I knew. The Rin that I expected Rin to be.
Was it me who caused all this by talking Rin into taking her chances with the exhibition? Am I directly responsible for Rin becoming like she has been for the past weeks? I can't think of any other explanation for her weird behavior than the exhibition and all the things that came along with it. Maybe it was the only way that could have brought us closer, but all it did was separate us further away from each other, and now beyond the reach of either of us.
I bang my head hard against the wall. Twice, to make sure it hurts.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
(Silence, Street Sounds)
A headache is relentlessly thumping against the back of my head as I push open the door to the 22nd Corner. Apart from that, I'm perfectly calm. After venting on Rin all that anger that I had bottled inside, it felt like a great weight had been lifted from my heart. The tension that had grasped my mind for the past few weeks faded away without leaving even a shadow behind. In this nearly Zen-like state of enlightenment I realized that perhaps it was a bad idea to yell at her like that. I really meant it, but what good does blowing up like that do? Nothing. I am not like that. I don't normally yell at people. I don't know why I did yesterday. So I keep feeling really guilty about it and wanting to take my words back.
Rin is probably upset too. Even more than my own behavior, her reaction shocked me. I've always thought of her as unchanging, detached from her surroundings so that seeing my yelling get her so upset felt... out of place.
I wonder if she understands how I feel? In Rin's world everything seems to be so absolute and subjective... absolutely subjective, as if she was completely unable to see things from other points of view than her own. But ultimately, is anyone able to do it? Maybe objectivity and altruism are just illusions for people who like to think of themselves as compassionate. Just like art is an illusion for people who think reality is merely a veil for something greater. Even when you stop thinking that the world revolves around you or start thinking outside of the mythical box, you are just inside another, bigger box that you can't escape.
Maybe that, ultimately, makes her like the rest of us.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Ease (Crowd Sounds)
I step through the door to find a gallery full of illusioned people. Despite Sae's remarks during my earlier visits I always thought it was very spacious, but now when it's crowded like this it looks positively cramped.
I immediately notice Sae standing in the middle of a lively discussion, busily chattering with some old gentlemen. She's actually pretty tall and kind of cool-looking, so she stands out in the crowd. There are a few dozen wine glasses laid on the tables along the back wall, filled with burgundy liquid. A vast majority of the guests are sipping from their own glasses. The socialites and art connoisseurs are mingling happily, exchanging mild opinions about Rin's art which seems to be a secondary object of interest for most.
I feel distanced, excluded from the other people here. I can't claim even at a stretch to be a social chameleon, so this situation is quite unnerving. Since I don't blend into the crowd at all, I just fake that I do, trying to look as cool and smooth as I can. I wonder how Rin is handling all this. If it was me, I would be quite freaked out. Throwing the anxiety aside, I try to carefully navigate through the crowd, stealing peeks at the framed paintings now hanging on the walls.
Rin's exhibition takes about half of the gallery's wall space. Some paintings are less familiar than others, but I recognize most of them. Some I've seen being created at the club meetings after all, or remember from the time when Rin was choosing her portfolio. I note that a couple of the unfinished paintings are framed and on the wall as well. Maybe that's what they call coincidental art? Even Rin's failures, if you can call them that, became exhibits of her skill. Quite paradoxical.
She herself is nowhere to be seen, which is strange because even though it's crowded, the gallery is pretty small. It's fine, sort of. I don't know how to face her after yesterday. Maybe I shouldn't have even come. But I promised various people, Rin included, that I would, so...
Damn, it sounds like I do the things I do because some kind of instinctual properness compels me to, not because it would be sensible (or not).
I sneak closer to Sae to wait for a lull in the conversation so I can chat her up too. Even though her voice is almost completely buried under the general background noise, I hear bits and pieces of her talking about Rin.
SAIONJI: "Yes, she is a high schooler at a local school... even though she's graduating next year I'm sure various art schools would be interested in... ...I thought it'd be interesting to have an exhibition of someone who is still in early stages of development..."
It's so strange, it's like Rin is some kind of mini-celebrity even though this is nothing but a small exhibition opening at a small art gallery of a small town.
SAIONJI: "In fact, there is a friend of mine from..."
???: "It's Hisao!"
My eavesdropping is interrupted by a familiar voice and a familiar slap to the back. I don't need to guess the source of either, even without turning around.
HISAO: "Hi Emi."
EMI: "Hi! Are you like, a representative of the art club or something? I don't see anyone else from the school here..."
HISAO: "Umm... I don't know, really. I guess I am if that's the case. What about you?"
EMI: "What about me?"
EMI: "You didn't think I'm interested in art? Is that it, Hisao?"
HISAO: "No, that's not what I... well, maybe a little, if you put it that way. I mean, even though you hang out with Rin I've never heard you talk about art with her so..."
Emi huffs and looks around her, looking discontented.
EMI: "It's true, I don't get it at all, but she came to my track meet so I thought it's only fair to return the favor."
She leans closer, trying to look confidential but only managing to look conspiring.
EMI: "Do you get art?"
HISAO: "No. No, I don't. At all."
My emphasizing headshake draws a giggle and a cheery headshake of her own out of Emi.
EMI: "Me neither! Hey, let's go talk with Rin! I bet you haven't yet, because I haven't either. Come on!"
Before she has a chance to forcefully drag me to Rin, Nomiya appears behind her with Rin in his tow. She's not dressed for the occasion, instead opting for the usual school uniform and unkempt hair. Maybe her natural look is what suits her the best.
EMI: "Hello, teacher! Hi, Rin!"
Unfazed, Emi greets the teacher cheerfully, causing him to turn around and look down confusedly.
NOMIYA: "Who are you?"
EMI: "I'm Emi, from school, class 3-4. Don't you remember?"
She looks positively shocked at the prospect that there could be a person who doesn't know her.
NOMIYA: "Oh, sorry. You are in the same class as Tezuka is, right?"
NOMIYA: "You'll have to pardon me, I have trouble remembering students who don't take art."
EMI: "Don't mind, don't mind! Hi Rin!"
EMI: "Congratulations for your super cool art thing! I'm sure you'll be a big hit!"
She throws her arms into the air for boisterous emphasis, almost hitting me in the face.
EMI: "And look, Hisao came too!"
Rin doesn't look at me, nor does she greet me.
HISAO: "Congratulations, Rin."
She keeps averting her gaze, pointedly looking at her sandals. Oblivious to the tension between us and ignorant of what happened yesterday, Emi keeps on blabbering about this and that to an unresponsive Rin. I guess she's used to not getting much out of her at times.
(Silence, Crowd Sounds Continue)
Before long, Nomiya and Sae turn to Rin, introducing her. Expecting it, I catch the second of confusion when the guests see her arms. Sae is luckily on the ball and briefly explains about our school. Doubtful faces quickly change to curious.
MAN: "Would you mind telling us something about your art? I thought the development is quite easily noticeable, what do you yourself think of the differences between the older and more current works? It's quite rare for someone so young to dabble into abstraction."
WOMAN: "It would've been interesting to see how you work!"
MAN: "Oh, definitely! I assume you use your feet? Must've been a great trouble to learn it, you should be proud."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Caged Heart
RIN: "I... ummm..."
MAN: "Will you be pursuing a career as an artist after school?"
She is bombarded with so many questions she can't even hope to answer all of them. Maybe that's for the best, Rin tends to talk nonsense more than occasionally.
MAN: "So where do you get your ideas?"
RIN: "That's the fourth, I mean fifth worst..."
Rin keeps stumbling with her words, looking more and more vexed by the expectant inquiries.
Everyone is waiting for her to say something, but she looks like a cat got her tongue. Each question piling up just adds to her distress. I fail to hear the question that is the proverbial one too many.
It's like a motor stalling.