Part 136: A Faraway FutureI just could not wrangle this updates wordcount into two appropriately-sized chunks and preserve the effect I wanted, so this update will go up in two parts: Ill post the first part today, and well wrap this thing up tomorrow.
Update 123: A Faraway Future (Act 4, Scenes 8-9)
Katawa Shoujo OST - Moment of Decision
No way... Her evasiveness when asked about her future... that awkwardness that had steadily grown between us... that uncharacteristic outburst of anger...
All of them suddenly fit into place.
The same family that she reminisced about after Hanako's birthday party, the same family that left her and Akira to themselves after taking flight to greener pastures... Now I feel stupid for never cornering Lilly on what was bugging her. I'd never even considered if something had happened during her trip to her family's home at Inverness.
And now, a sense of unease grows in my chest. If her family has summoned her to join them in Scotland, all the way on the other side of the Earth...
HISAO: "Has she... accepted?"
AKIRA: "Lilly hasn't told me whether she plans to accept, and it seems she hasn't told you, either. That's why I called you down here to talk, Hisao."
HISAO: "Context, huh..."
I sit back, my feelings of worry and frustration no doubt written all over my face.
AKIRA: "Lilly's a strong person, Hisao, but she's not infallible. I guess it's my job to worry about her, being her older sister, but I think that you deserve to know."
HISAO: "I understand."
AKIRA: "You okay? You sound depressed."
HISAO: "No, I'm just... thinking."
AKIRA: "That's good. Thinking is good. Being rash won't get you anywhere."
She looks at her watch, barely moving her wrist.
AKIRA: "I've got to go. Will you be okay?"
HISAO: "I'll be fine, don't worry. I'll have to talk to Lilly about it and get everything sorted out."
She gives a smile, but it doesn't feel all that genuine or sincere. Really, both of us are dancing around the fact that Lilly's on the precipice of the biggest decision of her life and is trying to take the entire burden on herself. And part of that burden is the matter of our relationship.
By the time I look up, Akira's already walking off with her hand held up. For the first time in a long while, I finally have an answer to something. Perhaps not even that. But at least I now have the right question to ask. Will you leave, or stay?
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
(Silence, Rain Sounds)
HISAO: "Hurry, Lilly!"
LILLY: "I'm moving as fast as I can!"
I can barely make out Lilly's voice over the deafening pounding of the rain. Even though I dislike pulling her around, the situation calls for it. I turn forward, my free hand over my head in a futile attempt to keep at least my hair dry. My vision seems to be in grayscale. This really is rotten weather for summer, and the last kind of climate I'd want for a date. A pity. I'd even checked the weather forecast beforehand, one of the very few times I've ever done so, only for it to say that Sunday afternoon would be fine. Looking to Lilly, her shoulders are by now completely drenched, with her right hand holding tightly to mine and her left gripping her retracted cane. This horrid downpour came on just as we were between our destination and Yamaku, so we decided to try rushing the rest of the distance rather than doubling back. Entirely unused to running this fast, Lilly's using all her concentration just to avoid tripping over.
LILLY: "Hisao, do you know where we're going!?"
Even she's reduced to shouting to try and be heard over the combined noise of the wind and the rain.
HISAO: "The Sha"
The rest of my voice is completely drowned out by an even heavier burst of rain.
LILLY: "The what!?"
HISAO: "The Shanghai!"
LILLY: "How far is it!?"
HISAO: "It shouldn't be far now!"
It doesn't take long before I call out to her once again.
HISAO: "It looks like we're safe, it's just up ahead!"
I quickly pull up to a stop just in front of the familiar exterior, the lantern outside still giving off its reliable glow, and wait for Lilly to catch her breath before going in.
HISAO: "Ladies first."
The tiny bell inside rings out when I hold the door open for her, a smile and a polite nod being my reward before entering myself.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Raindrops and Puddles
As I step in behind her and wipe my feet, only a quick glance is necessary to notice the distinct lack of activity. The Shanghai doesn't seem to get much in the way of patronage, and today is no different. Only a couple of tables are occupied. Summoned by the bell's ringing, a most expected person comes to greet us.
YUUKO: "Welcome to the Shanghai!"
Yuuko looks chipper today. Trying to predict her moods is pretty hard, but it's a nice change from the norm.
LILLY: "Hello, Yuuko."
YUUKO: "Good afternoon, you two."
She takes a deep bow, somewhat taken aback as she rights herself again and gets a better look at us.
YUUKO: "What happened to you? You both look..."
Her eyes drift towards the glass of the door behind us.
YUUKO: "Oh. Oh dear."
HISAO: "We're inside now, at least. I think that's the most important thing."
LILLY: "It's nice and cozy. You're lucky to be working inside today."
YUUKO: "It has been nice and quiet. I like days like this. Oh wait, um, sorry... is there anything you'd like?"
LILLY: "French vanilla tea, please."
HISAO: "I'll have the same."
YUUKO: "Right. Coming right up."
She quickly skitters off with a determined look on her face, trying very hard not to forget our orders. If nothing else, she is at least dedicated to her jobs. I lead Lilly to an empty seat before the two of us settle down.
As usual, there's a large difference between my exhausted flopping down into my seat and Lilly's delicate sliding into hers, her cane set beside her. For a while I just idly watch the rain falling outside. The occasional person runs down the street trying to stay as dry as possible, hands often tightly gripping a rain-soaked umbrella. Lilly sits just as quietly as I, her eyes closed as she intently listens to all that's happening. It's a comfortable, relaxing silence that exists between us; just the type that we'd so often shared together in the past months. For Lilly, at least.
I can't help replaying the words of her sister in my mind, at times contrasting them to both our time spent together since I entered Yamaku, and to the way we've been since we started dating. No matter how much I try, I can't work Lilly out. It's as if the harder I try to second-guess her emotions and her potential decision, the more difficult it becomes to reach a clear conclusion. It makes me doubt whether I'd ever really understood her.
In the end, I'm going to have to ask, even though I very much want to avoid doing so.
LILLY: "You seem quiet today, Hisao."
LILLY: "You seemed so enthusiastic about taking me out on a date, I'd assumed you had something specific you wanted to do."
HISAO: "No, not really. Just wanted to spend some time with you."
LILLY: "Is that so..."
HISAO: "Fine. There was one thing."
A little grin finds its way onto Lilly's face, her knowing full well that she's bested me. It makes what I want to say all the more awkward.
HISAO: "It was just... Akira and I were talking."
HISAO: "What's with that tone?"
LILLY: "You two do seem to get on well, don't you?"
HISAO: "Well, I do think she's a pretty cool person to talk with. It'd be nice if any of the teachers were anything like her."
For a moment I try to place her tone of voice, my mouth curling into a smirk as I realize it.
HISAO: "You're not jealous, are you?"
LILLY: "I'm not jealous!"
After her teasing me over such a thing on our first date, I don't feel too bad having a little laugh at her expense this time around. As we settle down though, it's only a minor distraction from the real point of why I brought Lilly here.
HISAO: "Don't worry, it was mostly just everyday stuff. That said, there was something Akira mentioned that I wanted to talk to you about. When you went to see your family in Inverness a while back, she said..."
LILLY: "Akira told you about my family's summons, hasn't she?"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Moment of Decision
Seconds tick by while I try to read Lilly's face, an odd mixture of feelings written on it. She seems annoyed, but also somewhat confused.
YUUKO: "Um... here..."
Yuuko tentatively slides our drinks onto the table, her presence oddly small. As she walks back to the counter after a quick, polite nod, I realize the air between me and Lilly is thick and our expressions are both somewhat pensive.
LILLY: "Even though she says I should lead my own life, she still interferes at the worst times..."
HISAO: "I don't think you should blame Akira here. She's just looking out for you, and it's not like I can't understand her concern over this."
Lilly's irritation gives way to an awkward, and largely unsuccessful, attempt to mask her feelings. She really doesn't deal well with being cornered on personal topics.
LILLY: "I know, but... I just wanted some more time. I knew you'd have figured it out eventually, but..."
HISAO: "You were intentionally hiding this from me? For how long were you planning to do so?"
LILLY: "As I said, I simply wanted more time to think it through. I wanted to be sure of my decision before telling you."
HISAO: "What did you decide to do, in the end?"
I know what I want her to say, but an awful feeling refuses to leave my gut.
LILLY: "My family does dearly want me to return to them, and Akira will be going as well. I could still teach as a career, whether it be here or there."
HISAO: "So... you're going. How long have you known? I already know you were asked when you first went to Scotland, about a month ago."
LILLY: "Some... time."
My frustration very nearly boils over. The fact that she's done this affects me more than it should. For her to not only be leaving but to have been actively hiding her own plans from me, and after seeming for so long to be the one solid pillar of support and reliability I could depend on... It feels as if the foundation underneath me is suddenly shifting drastically, much faster than I can adapt to. Perhaps this isn't so much frustration as sheer unease.
LILLY: "I'm sorry, I just... I wanted to think this through completely. I wasn't trying to take advantage of you, please"
HISAO: "I know, Lilly. I know. This is just really sudden. I guess this means that once you go, we'll be breaking up?"
For one of the few times I've seen since I met her, she's genuinely lost for words. She doesn't look surprised, no doubt because the fact had dawned on her once she became sure of her decision, but rather, she appears genuinely unsure of how to deal with the situation now that it's in front of her.
LILLY: "W-we could try pursuing a long-distance relationship. They're getting more and more common these days, after all..."
Even as she says it, the tone of her voice gives away that she doesn't truly believe what she's saying. Lilly is far too old-fashioned to be able to cope with a relationship without any kind of physical presence, and even I am, to an extent. All we would ever be to each other would be a voice from the other side of the world. In the end, trying to rationalize everything is futile. Any attempts to try and connect what's happening with the future or past just seem to get more difficult the more I concentrate. Those quiet moments when we just walked side by side, the precious time we spent with Hanako and Akira, the casual chatter we had during lunchtimes, the times we made love, the confessions of our feelings to each other... All pointless. All just a fleeting moment in our young lives.
HISAO: "We're just two children pretending to be adults, aren't we?"
A long, long silence hangs in the air between us. The noise of the other patrons drinking and talking only makes the situation feel more strange and disconnected. Lilly's face remains low, her dejected expression clouding it.
LILLY: "I'm sorry, Hisao."
A simple apology, and no more. She's left entirely without any further response or comment. With a long sigh, I gather what's left of my thoughts and ask the final question I have for her.
HISAO: "When will you be going?"
LILLY: "I'll be leaving with Akira, so it'll be a little less than a week."
HISAO: "The beginning of summer holidays?"
LILLY: "Just a little afterward, yes."
Her tone is unusually slow and steady, her apologetic and depressed mood all the more written to her face as she tries to hide it in her voice. In the end, I can't even keep my promise of going to Tanabata with her before she leaves.
I look down, seeing my face reflected in the by now lukewarm cup of neglected tea sitting in front of me. I really thought I'd left this kind of expression behind. For a while I just stare down into the still surface, trying to sort through my emotions to get at what course of action I should take, whether it be right now or in the future. But, just as before, the effort is wasted.
I glance up to see Lilly gently sipping her cooled tea without complaint, her face drawn and shoulders slumped. She looks to be deep in thought too, a strangely cold atmosphere coming between us as we isolate ourselves to mull things over. Even as Lilly's cup slowly empties, mine remains untouched. It's a long time before I notice the rain dying down outside and the few other patrons of the Shanghai having left.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Breathlessly
The chill of the rapidly darkening evening permeates the dormitory hallways. While trudging down the corridor to my room, I see an unwelcome movement from up ahead.
Sure enough, the opening of the door opposite mine heralds the arrival of a bespectacled Kenji.
KENJI: "Hey man, what's... Woah dude, you look awful, I think. You okay?"
He really has a knack for making any situation better.
HISAO: "I... don't really want to go into it. It's late."
KENJI: "Okay. That's cool. If you ever want to talk about it, I'm, you know, here."
I look at him for a moment before surrendering my stern front and awkwardly scratching the back of my neck, embarrassed by my standoffish response to him.
HISAO: "Thanks, Kenji."
KENJI: "Hey, it's cool. That's what friends are for, right?"
HISAO: "Yeah, you're right. Um, seeya."
I open the door to my own dorm room and close it behind me as he quickly waves me off. The solid thud the door makes against the door frame sounds out a final call for the life I've led since coming to Yamaku. I just stand in my darkened room, fruitlessly attempting to work out what I should do from this point onwards. Just what should I do...?
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
As class ends, I simply rest my head on my hand and stare out of the window to pass the time.
Katawa Shoujo OST - School Days
It's been a few days since Lilly told me her plans. I haven't been to our ordinary lunchtime haunt since then, not that there would be much point. Hanako's been busy with the newspaper club she's newly joined, and has even begun talking in class with Naomi every now and then. Even Lilly, aside from the fact that a meeting between us would've been awkward in any case, has been run off her feet with class representative duties as the summer holidays approach. And now, they're just about here.
With the end of today's bell, the summer holidays will have begun. I suppose that all I'll end up doing will be visiting my parents for the duration and lazing about my old home, now that my previous plans are entirely askew. Meanwhile, Akira and Lilly will be en route to Scotland, to live out the rest of their lives there. No matter how hard I try to rationalize the idea that once the summer holidays begin, my life will return to the way it was, it simply refuses to happen. Everyone's moving on with their lives. Lilly's rejoining her family, Akira's moving up in her father's business, Hanako's gaining new friends and hobbies, and even Yuuko's moving ahead with her university aspirations. Even I'm moving forward, in the end. With the marks I've gotten so far in Yamaku, much less after such a rocky beginning, the path to get into teaching science as a career seems straightforward.
I suppose I should at least be happy about that much, but it doesn't really seem to help.
I quickly stop my ruminating and turn to face the bubbly voice beside me, putting on the most upbeat expression I can muster. As expected, Shizune stands flanking her. I have a sneaking suspicion they want something from me.
HISAO: "Hey Misha, Shizune. What's up?"
MISHA: "Well~... Shicchan and I were thinking~... Since we're just two poor little girls that need help with all the work we've been given just before the holidays begin~..."
HISAO: "Sure, I can help."
MISHA: "But Hicchan, we're really nee What?"
I think I broke Misha. Even Shizune raises an eyebrow at her accomplice's shuddering stop in her tracks.
MISHA: "So you'll help us, Hicchan?"
HISAO: "I just said I would, didn't I?"
It's hardly like I have anything better to do. Maybe helping them with their work will help take my mind off the situation. Misha seems genuinely ecstatic with my response, but Shizune's expression is clouded and difficult to read. I find myself quickly averting my eyes from her own, as it almost looks like a face of pity.
No doubt, it must just be my imagination.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Daylight
This is hardly the first time I've been in the student council room. Indeed, I've found myself down here often, either to help Lilly with class rep work, or to sort out one thing or another with the Student Council itself. Now, though, it's quite a different place.
Papers and folders are strewn across every table in the room, only a solitary little black laptop atop a single desk sticking out from the mess. It looks positively ancient, and I'd guess it has been valiantly serving its task in archiving information for years and years.
HISAO: "So, what needs doing? This looks like a lot to do."
Shizune's expression becomes determined as she signs. It's a worrying look.
MISHA: "Everything, Hicchan!"
My worry was well placed.
HISAO: "Everything... you say?"
MISHA: "What's left on the desks is what needs to be done. It all needs to be digitally recorded, which is what the laptop is for."
HISAO: "And I'm guessing that I'll be the one doing this?"
MISHA: "Shicchan says she saw you with the computers in the library a few days ago, and that you seemed really good with them~."
Good with computers? I can touch-type, I guess, but it still seems like an overestimation of my skills.
HISAO: "I was just typing up homework... Wait, Shizune was watching me do that?"
MISHA: "One must know their allies before they can know their enemies, of course~. Wow, that's pretty wise..."
For once, it's not very hard to work out who said what. Nonetheless, it doesn't seem worth fighting over. Sitting at a computer doing some typing hardly seems onerous, as far as tasks to help Shizune and Misha go.
MISHA: "Besides, it will help to take your mind off things~."
HISAO: "Take my mind off things? Take my mind off what things?"
Misha's face goes blank as she translates this for Shizune, though the latter's response is only to glance away towards the window after briefly signing.
Their two sprites rapidly flick back and forth, clearly signing something complicated.
Misha's face quickly returns to a smile as she translates back. She was confused, I guess, but Shizune is harder to pin down.
MISHA: "I was just thinking you may like to get your mind off the exams, of course~."
HISAO: "Either way, we may as well get into it sooner rather than later. I'll go along with you."
MISHA: "That's the spirit, Hicchan~!"
And that's the fifth spreadsheet compiled and saved. Time for the next month's... After a little bit of fussing around, we all managed to get a bit more organized. Shizune's been gathering up the loose sheets and, thankfully, sorting them into a neat pile next to me. Meanwhile, Misha's been handling the manual writing work, her girly pink pen leaving its unmistakable mark on paper after paper. Once I got myself into a rhythm, this really wasn't so bad. Shizune and Misha also seem to be in the swing of things, wordlessly communicating as they go about their business with fervor. I periodically glance at the sheet beside the laptop, apparently a list of student names and matching addresses, as I dutifully enter the data written on it. I don't pay a lot of attention to what I'm typing in until I reach about midway down the page. Hakamichi... class 3-3... Huh. Her family home is in Saitama.
My idle curiosity is ended abruptly as three light taps can be heard rapping on the door. Misha quickly skips over to check who it is, tapping Shizune's shoulder on the way past to let her companion know what's happening.
MISHA: "Ah, you're here~."
HISAO: "Hmm? Who is it?"
With a slight pause to enter Shizune's data into the file along with all the others, I look up to check who's at the door.
...Lilly? After giving a cursory nod to Misha in greeting, she perks her head up in her trademark manner.
LILLY: "Is that Hisao?"
She's pretty darned good at working out my voice from the smallest of phrases nowadays.
HISAO: "Yeah, it's me. Um... hey."
The atmosphere feels slightly awkward as she bows. Neither of us knows quite how intimate we should be around each other, given she's leaving in just a matter of hours. This is a fact that, thankfully, neither the oblivious Misha nor the hardworking Shizune pick up on.
HISAO: "So... you've got work to do as well?"
LILLY: "Unfortunately. I arrived as soon as I could, but my class held me up with a surprise farewell party, and I had to get changed."
I glance down at the laptop's clock. It's pretty much the end of lunchtime, so I'm guessing Lilly managed to wrangle the last period off as well.
LILLY: "I take it Shizune is here as well?"
Katawa Shoujo OST - The Student Council (Shizunes Theme)
MISHA: "Of course!"
MISHA: "And I've been here during all of lunchtime as well!"
That last comment was really not needed. Shizune's baiting Lilly into another argument, I can feel it.
LILLY: "I'm sorry I can't be as hardworking as you, Shizune. I'll endeavor to hire more lackeys to do my work in future, I assure you."
And Lilly just took the bait, escalating things further.
MISHA: "But aren't you the one always outsourcing work to your classmates~?"
LILLY: "The difference is that they choose to help, unlike your tyrannical grip on your own class."
MISHA: "Tyranny works~! Even if we did things differently, we still got the same results, right~?"
LILLY: "This is school, not a police state. You will have to remind me when you were appointed class monarch, I'm afraid."
MISHA: "You have to seize power, it's not as good if it's just handed to you~! But I guess you wouldn't really understand that, right~?"
MISHA: "You'll also have to remind me when monarchs were elected into their positions~."
Lilly positively bristles at this. Shizune's two-hit combo forces her onto defense.
LILLY: "Yet for all your vaunted power, you cannot get one person to help you without forcing him."
MISHA: "But Hisao volunteered~! He's such a hard worker, he's doing this instead of meaningless socialization, right~?"
LILLY: "Is that so. Hisao?"
Ah, this is bad. I've really ended up between a rock and a hard place. As much as it may pain me to do this, the truth has at least a chance of stopping this argument here and now.
HISAO: "It's okay, Lilly, they didn't harass me to come or anything."
Lilly gives me a disapproving grimace, silently radiating her strong feelings of displeasure in my general direction. She can be quite scary when she wants to be, though thankfully that isn't often.
MISHA: "Hicchan, you make that sound like it's a regular occurrence~..."
HISAO: "It isn't? In the end, it doesn't matter so long as everything's getting done at a good pace. Let's just get this work over with so we can go home."
Shizune snorts derisively and gets back to marking off the sheet in front of her, while Lilly sighs and finds her way along the room with her hand following the filing cabinets lined along the wall. This would mark the only time I've managed to successfully defuse one of these situations, but the grudging ceasefire built around mutual fear and respect makes this feel more like the Cold War than any real peace. I can't take all the credit though; Lilly's leaving has surely affected Shizune to some extent, to make her give up so easily.
Moments before getting back to my work, I notice Lilly reaching up to grab something from above a filing cabinet. I almost offer to help, but her height gives her ample ability to take it down safely. Once she sets the strangely shaped device on the desk beside me, I realize just what it is... sort of... as she takes the old green covering off and sits down.
At first glance it seems to be an old metallic blue typewriter, but it doesn't take me long to realize it's far from ordinary. It has far fewer keys than expected, and those it has show no lettering printed on them. Only the shadows cast by the tiny Braille dots on them give a hint to the thing's purpose.
HISAO: "Blind typewriter?"
LILLY: "Oh, this? Well, you're not far off. It's normally called a Perkins Brailler, but it's basically a typewriter for the blind, yes. It presses Braille into the page rather than text, which is why it has fewer keys."
HISAO: "Huh... that's really neat."
She gives a lighthearted grin at my curiosity over it. I have to admit that it appeals to my sense of novelty. Without further ado, we each get back to our allotted tasks. The loud clunking of the mechanics in Lilly's Brailler and the tapping of the laptop's old and weary keyboard quickly fill the room.
It's a nice atmosphere, really. Everyone knows what they have to do, and Lilly and I get to sit beside each other and exchange the odd word as we work away. Nostalgic. That's what it feels like. It's pleasant, but just slightly stained with the knowledge that our time together is nearing its end.
LILLY: "Excuse me, Misha?"
To properly address her, Misha bounces over from the filing cabinet she's peering into, in spite of Lilly's lack of sight. For a moment I think it strange, but then realize it's exactly what I do.
MISHA: "What's up?"
LILLY: "Could you ask Shizune where the attendance records for class 3-2 are? I think they've been moved."
MISHA: "Okie dokie!"
And with that, she flitters off to Shizune, who's working at a table behind us. Lilly's familiarity with the council room, and the efficiency with which she works, remind me that she, Misha and Shizune used to all work together in the Student Council. Maybe this is a fitting end for her stay in Yamaku; working away just like she used to, surrounded by those she loves and, at least, liked. I look up, getting taken off-guard by Shizune sorting through a drawer, rather than Misha. Sure enough, she plucks out a manila folder, entirely blank save for the just barely visible bumps on its front, and holds it in front of Lilly. Lilly's hand flits over it to check what it is, her fingers feeling out the dots of braille and confirming it's what she asked for.
LILLY: "Thank you, Misha."
No reply. No reply, that is, save for an odd grin... no... smile... on Shizune's face.
A couple of seconds pass before Lilly clicks that it isn't Misha behind her, but Shizune. Her momentary look of surprise is replaced by a slightly bashful smile. For a few moments, the room is all but still and silent. Eventually, though, Shizune strides back to her workstation and Lilly begins typing once again. It only lasted a handful of seconds in all, but it feels like years of communication were made up for in that one silent exchange.