Part 124: Minor DiscordUpdate 113: Minor Discord (Act 3, Scenes 1-3)
Katawa Shoujo OST - School Days
I rest my chin on my hand as I absentmindedly look out the window, yet another of Mutou's lectures droning on and on as if it were endless. The summer sky is almost alluring in its bright cerulean splendor. Only the odd cloud breaks up the deep blue expanse. This feeling of longing is probably the outdoors side of me yearning to escape.
MUTOU: "Nakai, could you answer this?"
That side of me's lost to the past now, though.
HISAO: "In that case... I think it would use the -ane suffix?"
MUTOU: "Correct. Moving on, the suffix for..."
As my attention towards Mutou slips once again, I spot Misha giving me an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and nod at her to settle her down. It's been a handful of days since Lilly left for Scotland, days which have passed relatively peacefully. Life largely continued as usual, in contrast to what I'd expected. While thoughts of her have danced around on the edge of my mind since she left, present events manage to subdue them. At least for the time being. So I find myself idly chatting with Hanako, as usual, when lunchtime finally rolls by.
HANAKO: "Are the later ones in the series good as well?"
HISAO: "Not really. You're probably best off just sticking to the original. His later books didn't live up to it, other than maybe God Emperor."
HANAKO: "Thanks, I wasn't really sure if..."
As Hanako steps to the side, I see Shizune stride up in her typically businesslike manner, flanked by her ever-present bright-haired shadow. Try as I might, I can't read any hint of their intent from their faces. Shizune's poker face and Misha's seemingly boundless cheerfulness are a devilish combination.
HISAO: "'Morning Shizune, Misha."
HANAKO: "Um... hi."
I accentuate the greeting with a nod to Shizune in order to get the point across. She promptly and curtly returns the gesture to both of us. It's been a long while since I've really talked to either of them. For a while I thought they might be avoiding me, but I eventually came to the conclusion that Shizune really isn't the type to do so.
MISHA: "'Morning~! Shicchan says that Mutou wants to see you sometime."
Because of this statement, my face contorts as if I'd just eaten spoiled food, giving Misha no end of amusement.
MISHA: "Wahahaha~! Anyone'd think you were in trouble, Hicchan!"
MISHA: "You may not be aware of it, but you have the least to worry about out of anyone in the class."
What an unexpected vote of confidence. Even Hanako nods hesitantly to affirm the point.
HISAO: "Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. There was something I wanted to ask you, though."
MISHA: "And what might that be, Hicchan?"
I have a feeling this won't go over well, but here goes...
HISAO: "Is there any reason why you and Lilly don't get along? It seems like even a little civility would help you both in your duties."
Shizune's cold stare after Misha happily signs the words stops me in my tracks. In hindsight, I really could have worded that better. Out of the corner of my eye, I'm sure I see Hanako move back. Just a little. Thankfully, Shizune notices this and lets her temper dissipate as she forcefully runs her hand through her hair to let off steam. Perfectly on cue, Misha begins interpreting the second Shizune's arms begin to move.
MISHA: "I would say that such matters aren't relevant to you, but since you seem to have befriended Lilly..."
She pauses to adjust her glasses, evidently attempting to articulate her point in the best possible manner.
MISHA: "While I assume the same of her, I cannot call my own views on the matter unbiased. Suffice to say, we were closer before than we are now."
Shizune makes a quick gesture to Misha to stop her from interpreting, then has a quick meeting with her before proceeding. The fact that the two can communicate so easily yet so secretly right in front of us is slightly disconcerting. Hanako seems to share my curiosity at the proceedings, looking on with thinly-masked interest. As they finish their opaque conversation, Misha looks slightly deflated. I guess her opinion on the matter wasn't followed.
MISHA: "Shicchan says you should ask Lilly about it, as she doesn't want to be the one that gets you involved."
Ah well. I'll just have to ask her after she gets back. At least I got some information out of Shizune; the two having been on close terms means that they weren't always at each other's throats, or at least not quite to this extent.
HISAO: "I understand. Thanks anyway."
With a nod and a farewell the two break away and walk out the door, no doubt headed straight for the student council room.
HISAO: "...Could have gone worse, I suppose."
Hanako lets out a long breath, relieved at the confrontation's resolution. I can't say I blame her.
HANAKO: "I'll see you later, then?"
HISAO: "Yeah, I'll meet you in the tea room. Seeya."
With that, she waves and joins the trickle of students leaving the classroom.
MUTOU: "Nakai, could I speak with you for a moment?"
Delivered in his typical monotone manner. He apparently decided that I need a reminder to see him already. Eventually I finish packing up my things. By the time I reach his desk the classroom is close to empty.
HISAO: "Uh... yes, sir?"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Fripperies
He looks up, taking measure of my face before giving an awkward, rather obviously acted, chuckle.
MUTOU: "No need to feel guilty, you're not in any trouble. I just want to ask you something I've asked a few of the other students so far."
That's something at least. For a moment, I'd thought my maxim of keeping my head down and pen up had failed me.
HISAO: "So what did you want to talk about?"
MUTOU: "To start with, what do you think of your progress in this class, so far? Good? Bad?"
I detest that kind of question. For a fair amount of time I try to think of a response that is neither pathetically humble, nor cocky.
HISAO: "I'd say I'm doing okay. The work doesn't seem too hard, and I'm doing better on the tests than I thought I would."
MUTOU: "That's a good answer. A correct one, too."
I give a mental sigh of relief at his satisfaction. To say that I don't gain a little pride from his comment would be a blatant lie. In the maelstrom of thoughts clouding my mind after learning that I'd be transferring to Yamaku, my school grades seemed utterly unimportant. Being entirely clueless as to what skill level would be assumed of me, once I actually got here I was hugely relieved when I found out that I understood well enough the schoolwork we'd be doing.
MUTOU: "I know your circumstances might have thrown a wrench in the works, but have you given any thought to your future?"
HISAO: "My future?"
MUTOU: "What you'd like to do as a profession. Do you have any thoughts of where you'd like to be in ten or twenty years' time? I wouldn't be surprised if you covered this ground in your previous school, but I don't have any record of it if you have."
I suppose the last year of high school is the time when students would need to be thinking about such things. To be honest, I really haven't lent it much thought, compared to my immediate situation. Catching on to my thinking, Mutou speaks up.
MUTOU: "It's okay if you haven't decided on anything specific yet. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of your classmates were still undecided, after all. Maybe pursue one of your talents?"
He's rather obviously trying to squeeze an answer out of me, and something about his previous wording makes me suspicious. He didn't seem to be intent on asking everybody like this, so he must have some kind of selection criteria. At a guess, our marks in his class.
HISAO: "Well, something in science might be the path of least resistance."
His face brightens, no doubt pleased at the thought of a prized student following his subject as a career path.
MUTOU: "Good. Having a general idea is the first step. I would advise you to think on it, though."
HISAO: "I will. Things are kinda settling down, which will help."
MUTOU: "Good to hear. Oh, and I've noticed that Ikezawa's attendance and marks have improved since you came to be friends. I'd like to thank you for that."
HISAO: "I'm surprised you noticed we knew each other."
He gives a chuckle as awkward as his smile. This guy really has no idea how to properly act around others. Every facial movement seems like an act of careful but misdirected choreography.
MUTOU: "You could say that having a general idea of who knows whom is part of a teacher's job."
Catching himself before he goes off on a tangent, he loudly coughs into his hand.
MUTOU: "I'm sure you have things to do, though, so I'll stop there. Please do think about where you're headed from here, as you don't have long to go before you finish high school."
HISAO: "I will. Thanks."
The brief talk ended, I take my leave. He goes back to fussing with the teaching materials on his desk. This is one of the times I'm envious of Lilly, almost maddeningly so. To have one's future so clear and so assured, yet working towards it from such a young age... It's an idea so utterly irreconcilable with my own thoughts, mired in the present day just as they've always been.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Walking through the lobby to the cafeteria, I silently rue my daily routine having been completely thrown off. It had seemed like a normal day; I arrived in class before most, due to waking early and having become quite adept at chucking down my pills without choking as I get ready for the day. But as students trickled in, one never materialized.
(Silence, Crowd Sounds)
I step inside, my eyes scanning the expanse of the cafeteria in search of a suitable place to take a seat. It's a task made more difficult by the groups of students moving about and busily talking.
A hand pounds my back hard a couple of times, severely winding me. I couldn't care less about the culprit as I focus my thoughts on my chest in a near-automatic reaction.
(Silence, Heartbeats, Crowd Sounds Stop)
My hand instinctively tightens on my breast, and I start going through the steps I rehearse in my mind every other day. Breathe steadily... in... and out... With a measure of relief, I can slowly feel my chest becoming less tense.
(Silence, Heartbeats Stop, Crowd Sounds)
By the time I look back up, my face is covered in sweat from the experience.
KENJI: "Hey... man, are you okay?"
HISAO: "GODDAMNIT! Don't do that, you idiot!"
He retreats back, an expression of unease written on his face. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have barked at him, considering he had no way to know. I give a sigh and right myself with some difficulty.
HISAO: "Sorry. I just have some... chest problems. Sharp knocks aren't good."
It seems strange to see him so upset. The fact that I can't do anything about it irritates me.
HISAO: "Let's get lunch."
KENJI: "Okay. It's good to have some company, for once."
We start off to the serving line. One good thing is that Kenji and I can make small talk nowadays, as opposed to my only interaction with him being anti-feminist lectures.
HISAO: "Seems like it'd be hard to find an empty table."
KENJI: "There's a few people I wouldn't mind sitting with. Nobody's like you, though."
I feel a shiver run through my spine.
HISAO: "Clarify that now."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Out of the Loop
KENJI: "They don't listen. Their minds are closed. It's the media, man, the Goddamn brainwashing mainstream feminist Fascist media."
He takes a breath, and I savor the second of silence.
KENJI: "Damn, they control everything. Everything but you and me."
I relax a little while we grab our food and drink.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Out of the Loop (Crowd Sounds)
KENJI: "So, what've you got for me?"
KENJI: "Come on, you've been hanging around Satou and that other chick for ages now. Rumors are all over my class, and probably some of the others too."
HISAO: "Eavesdropping isn't a good habit."
KENJI: "Let me guess, you never do it? Not even when you're bored? Really?"
HISAO: "Well... I... uh... Fine. Point taken."
Both of us stop to have soup ladled into a couple of small bowls and placed onto our trays. The concoction that lands into the bowl looks pretty questionable, but at least it smells reasonably good.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Out of the Loop (Crowd Sounds Stop)
As we take our seats at a miraculously free table, I try to think of something that would actually interest him at all. I hope I can come up with an acceptable topic.
HISAO: "I found an answer to that question you asked a couple of weeks back. Where Lilly's non-Japanese half comes from, that is."
KENJI: "Good man. It's Russia, right? Totally Russia."
He's visibly stopped in his tracks.
HISAO: "Yeah, that was my reaction too. She can speak English fluently and everything."
KENJI: "...Damn it! Do you realize what this means? How terrifying this news is to me?"
"I think he's hyperventilating. Passing out for a little while would probably make him more relaxed than he normally is.
>Ignore his insane ramblings.
Lets cut this off at the pass.
>Ignore his insane ramblings.
I dig into my food, hoping he'll take the hint from my silence.
KENJI: "I just lost 1000 yen, man! 1000 yen! Damn, this is the worst day ever."
No such luck.
Just kidding, he keeps talking no matter what you do.
KENJI: "One of the dudes in my class was bugging me about it. I gave him some of my wisdom, and he had the audacity to say my logic was wrong."
HISAO: "So what did he think?"
KENJI: "Eh, Germany or something. It doesn't matter. What matters is my 1000 yen. Damn, this day is ruined thanks to her. What a bitch."
He looks utterly devastated as he wolfs down several clumps of his soggy soy-soaked rice. It only takes a few mouthfuls before he pokes his chopsticks at me, stabbing the air repeatedly in revelation.
KENJI: "Why... mm... mm... would... mm..."
HISAO: "Didn't your mother ever tell you not to speak with your mouth full?"
He gives me a dirty look before choking down the rest of the food left in his mouth and taking a gulp of juice. It's rather unsightly. Remembering my own food sitting in front of me, I decide to get the task of eating the cafeteria food over and done with as fast as possible. The sooner I do so, the sooner the experience will be over.
KENJI: "So as I was saying, Why would anyone want to live in that place anyway? I mean, what is there to see? Grassy plains. That's it. Lots and lots of grassy plains. And men in kilts."
I'm not sure which is worse, this food or his world view. I can feel my face being dragged down by their combined weight. Not that he'd notice, or care.
HISAO: "It's not that bad. Why do you care about her so much anyway? She's just your class representative, after all."
He gives a malevolent chuckle. Were this anyone but Kenji, I'd feel uneasy at how he sounds.
KENJI: "I finally found the chink in the feminist legion's armor. It took a while, but I'm confident that this is going to be how we can bring down the whole system. I'm about to blow your mind. Are you ready?"
I tune out his rambling for a moment as I finish my rice and start on the unappetizing soup. One taste is enough to confirm that it's cold.
HISAO: "Ready as I'll ever be."
KENJI: "I confirmed that Lilly is in the Mafia."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Out of the Loop
KENJI: "I confirmed that Lilly is in the Mafia."
KENJI: "All right, stay with me for a second here, and I'll describe the scene."
I wish I could do otherwise.
KENJI: "Lilly's there, walking down the street after school."
HISAO: "You're not stalking her, are you?"
KENJI: "No! Damn man, I do have some sense of self-preservation."
But not dignity, or morals, or social standards...
KENJI: "Anyway, as I was saying. This car pulls up next to her, and guess who steps out? A man in a pinstripe suit. Waves her in, then the two leave just like that. I tell you man, she's under protection. Under. Protection."
A man in a... oh. I can see where this is going now. It takes effort not to sigh in exasperation.
HISAO: "Let me guess; this man was about average height, had a slightly slender build, had blonde hair, looked foreign, and smiled a lot?"
He looks positively stunned. I take advantage of the moment of quiet to quickly gulp a mouthful of cold soup.
KENJI: "It seems you're more observant than I thought. Yes, I have chosen well."
He giggles a little, and nods to himself so dramatically that it looks comical. I can't tell whether that's intentional or not, and that fact makes me frown.
KENJI: "This has important ramifications, you know. If she really is connected to people like them, and we're smart about what we do with this information, we could turn this into our greatest weapon against the Student Council."
Once he starts rambling into conspiracy territory, my juice suddenly becomes of much more importance. Only half-listening to his pontifications, my mind drifts to the matter of Lilly and her antipathy for Shizune. The past between them is steadily becoming more coherent, but I'm not even sure if I should be learning of her past this way. Indeed, even if I do work out what went on, it really doesn't seem like my business to go and interfere.
...Damn, not having Lilly around is making my thoughts wander. I'm noticeably more bored and sullen without her company, and the same goes for Hanako. All we do during lunch any more is eat and play chess. Come to think of it, I need to go check on Hanako after school, too. Considering her much improved attendance, I'm guessing she's come down with something.
MUTOU: "Oh, Nakai?"
I stop as I'm about to leave the classroom, turning on the ball of my heel to meet Mutou. He's holding out to me a couple of the worksheets we'd worked on during the day with his long, lanky arm.
MUTOU: "Would you mind giving these to Ikezawa? I'd normally ask one of the girls to do it, but I assume you'll be checking on her."
For a moment I briefly consider the possibility of that being more than an innocent prediction. I quickly discard the idea though, as it's hard to think of him acting in such a Machiavellian way. It's not in his nature.
HISAO: "Sure, no problem."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Nocturne
Walking up the hallway of the girl's dormitory, several ideas of why Hanako's been absent float around my head. The most obvious of them is just a simple cold. That said, she may not even be sick at all. It's been almost a week since Lilly left, and despite her at least appearing to be normal, I've suspected she's somewhat more insecure about it than she's letting on. Eventually I come to Hanako's dormitory room, its simple brown door separating us. Her room's position next to Lilly's is extremely convenient, and probably a large contributor to their meeting in the first place. Grimacing slightly at the prospect of her being sick, I rap my knuckles on the door.
...Silence. I listen intently for any sound of shuffling coming from inside, but I can't hear a thing. I knock on the door again, slightly harder. till no answer. How strange. A door opens behind me. A freckled and somewhat scrawny underclassman I don't recognize comes out and is briefly taken off guard by my presence.
GIRL: "Uh... hi."
>Ask about Hanako.
>Keep it to myself.
Were here for a reason.
>Ask about Hanako.
Actually, this may be a rather fortuitous meeting.
HISAO: "Hey. Excuse me, do you know if Hanako's come out of her room today or not? She doesn't seem to be answering."
GIRL: "Ikezawa is Ikezawa. Her not answering the door is totally normal. That tall foreign girl's the only person she'll ever talk to, after all."
She gives a shrug before walking off down the hallway, having much more important matters to attend to than Hanako or I. Her dismissive attitude annoys me. Hanako must have a reputation as a hermit; a reputation that doesn't seem outright undeserved, at least in the time before we'd met
Scratching my head, I make one last attempt at getting Hanako to answer as I knock on the door one final time.
HISAO: "Hanako, it's just me. Mutou said to give you some stuff."
For a while, the attempt seems just as unsuccessful as the last. Just before I slip the sheets under her door, though, I can hear the handle rattling.
As the door opens halfway, I do my best to look Hanako over as quickly as possible. It's a task made somewhat more difficult by her oversized gown hiding so much of her body. She doesn't look sick, or at least not immediately so. To be honest, I'd have preferred that to her expression right now.
HISAO: "Hi, Hanako. Mutou wanted me to give you these since you weren't in class today."
I hold out the loose sheets, which she tentatively takes in her hands. The way she moves is weird, devoid of thought, as if she's some kind of mechanical automaton rather than a living being.
HISAO: "Are you... okay? If you're feeling sick or anything, I could get the nurse."
It feels almost pitiful to put on such a routine get well soon act. I can't think of anything else I could possibly do for her, though. She seems to collect herself a little at the notion... but only a little.
HANAKO: "I'm fine."
An awkward silence follows, eventually ended by her nodding solemnly in farewell and closing the door. The entire experience feels surreal. More than a little put off, I wander back to my room and hope that she'll be better by tomorrow, despite not knowing exactly what's wrong with her.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Once again, I find myself in front of Hanako's door after another of her unexplained absences from class.
Nothing. Considering this is the second day in a row she's been like this, I'm starting to worry about her. Summoning my willpower, I decide to try one last way to get her to respond.
HISAO: "Hanako, if you don't say anything I'll go get the nurse for you."
HANAKO: "...Go away."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Painful History
Wh... what? It's hard to tell whether her tone's one of depression, anger, or both. What in the world can I actually do to help her, if she doesn't even want help? The message is clear enough. I can't just leave her like this, though; just sitting in her room for days on end. Rubbing my temples in thought, I withdraw to my own room to think about how to proceed. Rationality is what's needed here, as an overreaction may just make matters worse.
I dig around drawer after drawer of my desk, looking for where I put that damned piece of paper. Before she left, Lilly told me the number to call her on while in Scotland and I wrote it down. Now that I need it though, the damned thing is Ah. Here. I probably should have just entered it directly into my cell phone, come to think of it. Without further ado, I enter the numbers and anxiously press the call button. The fact the phone rings at all shows that I got the prefix for a call to Scotland right at least. I've never made an international call before, so that's some comfort.
Eventually the phone picks up, a feminine voice I don't recognize on the other end. It's probably Lilly's mother.
???: ">Good morning. This is Karla Satou. May I help you?<"
English? Suddenly finding myself unprepared, I realize I can't understand a word she says, either due to my limited vocabulary or her heavy accent. I should have anticipated this, since according to Lilly, her mother is a native Scot. I soldier on in the hope that she must know some Japanese, considering it's her daughter's native language.
HISAO: "Um, it's Hisao Nakai... speaking..."
An enthusiastic sound of realization can be heard as she recognizes the language. My feeling of relief is immense.
MRS. SATOU: "Ah, you must be one of Lilly's friends from school, correct?"
Even so, her accent means I have to concentrate to work out what she's saying.
HISAO: "Yes, that's right. Pleased to speak to you, Mrs. Satou."
MRS. SATOU: "It's so nice of her to find someone so polite! Lilly dear, it's for you!"
Her mother seems nice, if a little overenthusiastic given the mundane situation. There's a small silence as Lilly takes her time getting to the phone. In the distance, I can just make out her mother scolding her playfully for just getting up.
LILLY: "Hello, Lilly speaking."
HISAO: "You sound awful."
She makes a sound somewhere between a dying animal and a yawn. The one thing I did remember to check before calling was the time zone. It'd be pretty late in the morning over there, so she really has no excuse.
HISAO: "Not feeling well?"
LILLY: "Just tired. What time is it there?"
HISAO: "Late afternoon. School finished for the day not long ago. You're really not a morning person, are you?"
LILLY: "I don't need you making fun of it as well..."
It takes me a measure of restraint not to laugh at her pained groan. Poor girl.
HISAO: "How're you doing over there then, bar the mornings?"
LILLY: "It's been enjoyable. After not meeting them for so long, just having a meal together with my parents is nice. Though the pool and the sheer size of the house might have something to do with that as well."
Even if they're not in Japan, from the way it sounds her family must be pretty wealthy to live so luxuriously.
LILLY: "Are things all right with you and Hanako?"
Damn, I was hoping that wouldn't be brought up quite so quickly. I take a moment to try and sort out exactly how to describe the situation without causing her undue worry, but she picks up on that without a word being said.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Breathlessly
LILLY: "Hanako's not well, is she?"
HISAO: "How did you know?"
LILLY: "Because today is her birthday.