Part 133: Out and AboutUpdate 120: Out and About (Act 4, Scene 4)
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Katawa Shoujo OST - Red Velvet
I'm pretty sure this is about the last thing I had in mind when Lilly said she'd decide where to have our date. No man nor woman is dressed in anything but their finest, their formality only matched by that of their surroundings; rich red wallpaper adorns the walls as the city lights far below flicker and glow. Combined with the ambient hum of quiet speech and the high-pitched clattering of cutlery and wineglasses, the mood is very formal, yet relaxed enough for me not to feel too uptight despite this being our first real date.
Once we get seated, our waiter leaves to attend to others with a quick bow, after an appreciative nod from Lilly. Far from depending on my help, Lilly's managed to navigate herself around surprisingly easily so far, despite the unfamiliar environment. A light brush here and there, and she's generally quite deft at orienting herself as needed.
My eyes look to Lilly's. I can tell from her face that she's listening to her surroundings just as hard as I'm looking. Though truth be told, my eyes are lingering on her each time they sweep across the room. The red cheongsam she's wearing accentuates her figure very well and shows off her legs. Even her hair is done up, and the scent of perfume is just noticeable. While my black suit may be a rental, I managed to select an appropriate one. It feels surprisingly comfortable considering I've so rarely worn one, and fits the setting just as well as Lilly's attire.
HISAO: "I guess this is a new experience for both of us, then?"
She turns somewhat sheepish.
LILLY: "I've never come to a place such as this before, no."
HISAO: "One hell of a first date, that's for sure. It's going to be pretty hard for me to top this."
A small giggle. Even now, our nervousness is dissipating. Her hand skates along the center of the table until it touches the menu, which she takes in both hands and brings to her face.
LILLY: "Um, Hisao?"
As she lowers the beige, laminated sheet just below her eyes, I can see another sheepish look. I doubt asking the waiter for a menu in Braille would be productive.
HISAO: "I can read it out for you, no problem."
I take mine and give it a quick read, my small grin faltering.
HISAO: "Er, perhaps there is."
LILLY: "What's wrong?"
HISAO: "There are quite a few items on here... and I'm not completely sure how to pronounce a couple of them."
One fine cuisine after another is listed. Most may be in Japanese, but a few are in English and French. I guess it's to be expected, but I have no idea what's in some of these. Oh, this one I recognize. Wait, hang on...
HISAO: ...You can cook that?
A small giggle of amusement comes from behind the paper sheet.
HISAO: "Well, I could read them all out, but it'd take a few hours."
LILLY: "Is there anything with some kind of fish in it?"
HISAO: "Let's see..."
No. No. No. No. Aren't those poisonous? No. No. No. They eat that stuff? No. No. No. No... Ah, here we go.
HISAO: "A tuna salad seems to be a good bet. From the picture, it looks like it'd be pretty filling as well."
LILLY: "That seems to be a reasonably safe option."
HISAO: "Let's order two, then. I'm pretty sure a couple of these dishes are from poisonous animals. I've had enough deadly run-ins for now."
Lilly maintains a smile, but there's a distinct lack of laughter. Black humor mustn't be her cup of tea, though to be honest I don't find it exceedingly funny either.
LILLY: "There are certainly quite a few interesting smells wafting about. The same is true of the sights, I assume."
HISAO: "I've never been anywhere quite like this. A fancy Japanese teahouse on an occasion or two, but never anything this lavish nor European in styling."
Before another word can be said, a portly waiter in a distressingly tight vest appears at our table to take our orders.
HISAO: "Provençal Tuna Salade Niçoise, please. Two."
I hope I didn't mess up the pronunciation of that too badly. Even if I did, he doesn't show it.
LILLY: "And may I have a glass of Chardonnay, please. Hisao?"
HISAO: "Oh, uh, the same."
As the waiter nods and leaves, I suddenly realize what I said by absentmindedly mimicking Lilly's answer. I regret it pretty quickly.
LILLY: "Only a bit."
This girl has an odd propensity to getting hooked on things, I swear.
HISAO: "Surprising that they didn't ask for identification. Then again, I guess we both do look mature for our age."
LILLY: "I'll have to take your word for it. I'll add that this isn't what I'd call the type of place to ask such things, though."
HISAO: "Good point."
We both relax a little into our seats, trying to take our minds off the choking formality of the surroundings. As soon as we do, the same waiter reappears at our table with two empty glasses and a bottle, the contents of which are quickly and professionally poured into the former.
We both nod politely as he leaves, Lilly taking her glass and gently moving it from side to side. The liquid inside glistens as it moves around in the glass, and I have to admit it makes me a little less regretful for ordering the same. I guess it must take effort to judge how the liquid inside is acting based only on its center of balance. Maybe it's like her origami; taking every little chance to practice her dexterity.
HISAO: "I guess I'm not surprised that you know about a place like this. Those who have money would, I suppose."
This reminds me of just how completely different our upbringings were. In Yamaku, it's easy to forget about social and economic disparity between students all wearing the same uniforms, living in the same dormitories.
LILLY: "Well, Akira was the one to tell me of it. She's come here before, apparently."
So that's what they were conspiring about on Friday.
HISAO: "And you chastise me for cheating?"
LILLY: "That's not cheating. It's simply making use of personal contacts."
HISAO: "If you say so. Still, I get the feeling that you're more familiar with this kind of restaurant than I am."
She pauses a moment, a wistful look on her face, before softly smiling. The compliment seems to brighten her mood.
LILLY: "You can thank my former school for that. If I were to appear any less, they'd be gravely disappointed."
She has mentioned her previous schooling before, but now I'm kind of curious. She seems to think a lot about her past, so I don't see any problem in asking.
HISAO: "What was that like?"
LILLY: "It was prestigious, all-girls and Catholic; these facts made my parents choose it for me. Many wealthy families sent their daughters there."
HISAO: "From how it sounds, life there must've been pretty strict."
LILLY: "I wouldn't say it was a bad experience... but you're quite right; it was very strict. Thankfully, I managed to adapt well enough and make a number of friends. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for my sister. She found the atmosphere and religious aspect suffocating, and ended up leaving for a job as soon as she was able to."
She gives a small, self-deprecating chuckle.
LILLY: "I shouldn't complain about it though. Not many even have the chance to go to such a school."
HISAO: "Do you... resent your parents for sending you there, then leaving?"
She gently shakes her head.
LILLY: "My family is highly patriarchal. My father, business always on his mind, was entirely lost as to what to do with me. In the end, he made the decision that my education was of higher priority than staying with the family. He simply did what he thought was best."
To say such things so easily. What an unbelievable girl. That said, I'm a little surprised she doesn't think her blindness played any part at all... though maybe I'm being too harsh on her family.
HISAO: "You're too kind-hearted, you know that?"
HISAO: "Most would hate their parents for something like that."
LILLY: "Well, some do..."
Oblivious to my raised eyebrow, she takes a sip from her glass. The wine slips down effortlessly, her fondness for it evidently helping her deal with the flavor of alcohol. I can't say the same goes for me.
LILLY: "What of yourself? What was your schooling like?"
HISAO: "Mine? Let's see... It was a fairly normal public school, I suppose, maybe a bit busier than the norm. I did quite well in class and played in the soccer club. Since I am an only child and my parents both worked a lot, I wasted most of my free time and money at the arcade with my three friends. No matter how much I played, though, I never did manage to beat Mai at any of those machines. Even Takumi and Shin lost to her whenever they tried. Then I'd be left trying to be the responsible adult when Shin and Mai fought. Again. Just the four of us, aimlessly enjoying our childhood. Those were some pretty silly times."
I catch myself as I realize that I'm starting to zone out, the days of my old school disappearing to the night sky and bright city lights outside the window. Lilly's face is an odd mixture of curiosity and sympathy. Given her strict schooling, I suppose something like this would seem an interesting contrast to the only life she's known.
LILLY: "It sounds like your previous school was a lot of fun."
HISAO: "I'm not really sure how much of it is nostalgia, but there are some nice memories. That's in the past though. I can't go back there now, but through my accident I found a new life I'd never have imagined leading. The peace and calm of Yamaku, a new direction for my future in science, the friendship of Shizune, Misha and Hanako, and most of all, you."
She gives a deep, genuine smile as she moves her hands towards me, her fingers just lightly searching out my face before softly caressing my cheek. Her hand reluctantly retreats after a second of warm silence, as we notice the waiter arriving with our meals. Lilly does a deft job of covering her condition, except for the fact that her nod to him is slightly misaligned due to his silence. She really seems to work hard at appearing as normal as possible in public. While I noticed it long ago, I still can't quite gauge whether it's a want to not be treated differently, a slight sense of vanity, or some mixture of both.
The dish served lives up to the salad name, and the portion's pleasantly large. With sliced eggs and tomato, it looks very enticing indeed. Lilly takes her knife in one hand and fork in the other, quickly getting to work on the dish as I do. It's later than when we usually have dinner, so we're both eager to dig in.
My cautious skewering of leaves and vaguely meat-like squares with my fork is matched by Lilly's silent and measured prodding and chewing. An occasional tap around the sides of a piece of the food to work out its edges is the only giveaway to her lack of sight. I'm done with my meal in little time, Lilly taking the last few bites as I sit observing her.
LILLY: "Finished, Hisao?"
HISAO: "Yeah. It was pretty nice."
That much is very true. I never thought a simple salad could be so tasty and filling, but then again, I suppose that's why it costs so much to eat here. Content with my appraisal, and evidently agreeing, Lilly gives a small nod.
HISAO: "You know, given that you're part foreign, exotic-looking and quite pretty, I'm surprised that nobody's ever confessed to you before."
LILLY: "You're assuming nobody did."
The simple statement takes me off guard. I shouldn't be surprised, given that I was complimenting her just moments before.
LILLY: "I've received several confessions, both in this school and my previous one. Adolescence is a funny time."
She's kinda talking as if she's above it herself...
HISAO: "Huh. How easily you say such a thing."
Lilly looks surprised for a moment, before a playful smirk covers her face.
LILLY: "Is that... jealousy?"
HISAO: "What? No. It isn't."
LILLY: "You're a bad liar, Hisao. You should take that into account. Then again, I do appreciate how sincere you are. Even if you don't intend to be, sometimes. I think your honesty will always serve you well when dealing with others."
I clear my throat in mock disapproval of this whole business and try to steer the conversation elsewhere.
HISAO: "To tell the truth, though, I do prefer solitude to being surrounded by others. I don't think I could maintain a social circle like you do."
She contemplates this for a moment.
LILLY: "I don't think that's true either. I've seen how gentle and caring you are around Hanako, and you get on marvelously well with others, even those whom you hardly know. I think you're quite adept at social situations. But on that note, what of your confessions, Hisao? I'm sure someone like you must have had at least one admirer."
As I open my mouth to speak, I can feel my face turn slightly dour. At times like this, I secretly appreciate the fact that she can't see my expressions.
HISAO: "Just... one. Her name was Iwanako. It was when she confessed to me that I had my heart attack. There in the woods, during winter."
Lilly finds herself speechless, not expecting for the topic to move into such an area. My condition has always been something of a concern for her, something that I strive to minimize despite my body's best efforts to the contrary.
HISAO: "Afterwards, she visited me for a while when I was in the hospital. For weeks she came in and talked. It was usually just smalltalk or classroom gossip, but that was enough. But eventually... she just stopped coming. She was there every day. Then every other day. Then once a week. Then finally, one day, she just stopped visiting entirely."
LILLY: "Did you ever... see her again?"
Wrapped in my own little world, I shake my head before remembering the futility of the gesture.
>Mention the letter.
>Drop the subject.
What did Lilly just say she liked about us? Over and over again through this route, weve seen how honesty and straightforwardness lead to better results than hiding things for the perceived benefits of others. Going over our past like this may be painful, but coming to terms with it is healthy. And sparing our girlfriend this knowledge isnt going to help anybody.
=>Mention the letter.
The memory of that single letter Iwanako sent me comes back to my mind.
HISAO: "I never saw her again, but after I was sent to Yamaku... she wrote me one letter."
Lilly's face shows an expression I know well. I've piqued her interest. I'd be slightly offended that it's simply a matter of curiosity for her, but she's never been very good at masking her reactions.
HISAO: "In hindsight, it really didn't say much. What was going on in my old class, how she was faring, and, almost as an afterthought, that it was probably best for the both of us that we don't see each other again. After reading it, I ended up reassessing a lot of things I thought I'd managed to work out. For the most part, that letter reminded me that the world around me was still moving, and just how much I'd become isolated from it. And... I guess it also reminded me of what I'd lost.
She gives the information some thought before her face lights up in realization. No doubt she's worked out that it was this letter which had contributed to my angst during that lunch on the rooftop. It's a rare sight to see Lilly quite so lost for words, her entire persona is a little deflated from her earlier rapt interest. As charismatic as she is, in the end that isn't any replacement for life nor relationship experience.
LILLY: "Perhaps... it is better she sent it than not."
HISAO: "How's that?"
LILLY: "It can be difficult to work out how best to communicate with those you haven't met in a long time. All the more so, considering your separate situations. Instead of doing what was easiest, she built up the courage to talk to you one last time; not only for her sake but, from how it sounds, for yours as well."
HISAO: "Maybe. I don't hate her for it, not that I really ever did, but... I don't know."
Probably a more noncomittal answer than I should give, but it isn't without cause. I've never looked at the situation from Iwanako's perspective like that before. Seconds pass in silence before Lilly speaks again.
LILLY: "Moving to Yamaku must have been hard for you, having your friends and even your girlfriend taken from you for no fault of your own."
HISAO: "The worst of it passed while I was in the hospital. When all that surrounds you is four white walls and a small television, your mind takes on a life of its own. It's like my old school, I guess. I just try not to dwell on what's happened and keep thinking ahead. All that reminiscing does is get me down, and it's largely thanks to you that it feels like things are finally getting back on track."
LILLY: "That's... pleasing to hear, Hisao."
She lowers her face slightly, her expression pensive. I guess I went too far and embarrassed her.
HISAO: "I suppose you went through something a bit like what I did when you entered Yamaku anyway, right? I imagine the vast majority of our school's students did, after all. You said yourself that you made friends in your old school. I can't imagine many followed you."
Lilly's deep smile drops, her expression unexpectedly darkening. Even her hands retreat to her lap. After a long while, she speaks.
LILLY: "Hisao... can you promise not to tell anyone else what I'm about to"
HISAO: "I promise."
She looks slightly taken aback by my serious tone, but then relents and smiles weakly before continuing.
LILLY: "When I moved to Yamaku, I did regret losing the friends I'd had at my other school. But there was one person whom I most regretted not seeing again. He was the reason I took up English as a future career."
He? Considering she came from an all-girls school, that can't have been a schoolmate then...
LILLY: "I rejected the confessions I'd received until then for him. Every time I improved my English skills, his praise was my most treasured reward. It's funny, isn't it? Someone like me, able to boast about the people who have set eyes on me, liking someone so utterly unattainable as my tutor. It truly is the most ridiculous thing..."
HISAO: "Did you...?"
She quickly shakes her head from side to side.
LILLY: "I couldn't. Even then, I knew it was impossible."
A silence reigns over both of us. This does seem to explain her ardent focus on her future in teaching English, but I can't help thinking of her confession to me. She lost him without ever letting her feelings be known... did she somehow fear that would happen again, but with me? I don't really know what to make of it. I've heard of such relationships before; taboos born of such things as puberty and youth. The fact that she had the good judgment not to act on it, though, is heartening.
LILLY: "I know this must sound strange, but please... don't think of me..."
HISAO: "Why would I think any less of you for that? To be honest, I think he must have been a very nice person if you liked him so much. Not only that, but you stopped yourself before going too far."
For a moment, she looks somewhat lost. Most unexpectedly though, it isn't a second before she starts to laugh. The sound takes me off guard. It's not a giggle, nor a restrained chuckle, but honest and genuine laughter. I find myself smiling, and not just at her display of relief and happiness, but for her to trust me enough to let me see this most private of secrets.
Before I realize it, I feel her palm touching my face. Her touch is gentle as ever, with her thumb slowly stroking my cheek.
LILLY: "You're kind, Hisao. I really do love you."
Seeing her face like this, with her palm gently caressing my face... I think tonight has been a wonderful night.
HISAO: "I guess we've both had pretty weird pasts, eh?"
LILLY: "I think by most standards, our present is rather odd as well."
I smile and hang my head. This woman can easily run rings around me, of that I'm quite sure. I look back around the room with its continuing quiet hum of patrons.
HISAO: "This place probably fits into the odd category, too."
LILLY: "It is a tad... overbearing."
HISAO: "That's one word for it, yes."
I catch the eye of a scurrying waiter, a short, scrawny guy no older than twenty. He kind of reminds me of Kenji, though unlike him the waiter isn't dressed for winter during midsummer. After a curt bow and an offer to remove our plates, Lilly asks for the bill politely and softly. With expert coordination, he maneuvers around the tables, our plates in hand, to retrieve our bill. In no time he reappears through the doors, smartly handing our bill to Lilly. ...who promptly hands it to me, causing him to raise an eyebrow. As I read the small computer-printed leaflet, the cost is considerably more than I expected.
HISAO: "Oh... uh..."
I quickly stammer out the amount, to which Lilly merely nods and reaches for her purse. Giving her card to the waiter, he disappears once again.
HISAO: "That was... a disproportionately large amount of money."
The statement seems to make Lilly slightly uncomfortable.
LILLY: "My family leaves me more than enough for my education. The same goes for my sister, though she dislikes being reminded of that fact. That said, I too dislike throwing money about.
LILLY: "But this one time I think I can make an exception. Just for you."
HISAO: "Not only did you choose our date, but you paid for both of us as well..."
I take the bridge of my nose in my fingers.
HISAO: "I can't believe how high you have set the bar for our next date."
She gives a small giggle.
LILLY: "I'll be looking forward to it, Hisao."
The waiter reappears beside us, as if by magic, and hands Lilly's card back to her. Evidently picking up on her lack of sight, he places the card in her hand with an extra, perhaps unneeded, amount of firmness to make sure of her grip. Leaving, he exercises a measure of diplomacy by keeping a neutral face despite my own expression. Clapping my hands together, I stand up from my seat in order to bring an end to our night out.
HISAO: "Shall we be off then, m'lady?"