Part 20: Morning Run
Tbh it appeared that clear won the vote so it was probably mod oversight
Yarp. There will be cuts, but they won't be overwhelming. What exactly that means has to wait until we get there.
Update 18: Morning Run
We start Act 2 with a brief animation.
Katawa Shoujo OST 2x400m Relay
Emi prepares her prosthetics, first putting her on liners
Then her sockets
and connecting them to her feet.
She gets in the ready position
And then shoots towards a distant figure on the track. Hisaos gamely trying his best
But Emi screams by him. No wonder shes on the track team, motherfucker can MOVE.
Hisao huffs and puffs trying to catch up, until he falls out of view and the camera pans back
To reveal him gasping on the ground.
He looks up.
Emis there, hand outstretched.
She pulls him up and supports him
Looks at him
They walk off together.
The lighting changes, from the greens and blues of summer to the golds and browns of autumn.
A hand swings fruitlessly at a hanging apple until it finally makes contact
To Emis delight.
Hisao, holding her up, grins too.
Begin Act 2.
Theres definitely stuff to criticize this in this animation: theres some questionable anatomy, Emis hair doesnt match with her sprite, sometimes the animation is jerky or awkward. But on the whole, its pleasant to watch and accurately and compellingly portrays the personalities. I wanted to draw attention to one part, though. Normally I listen to whatever music tracks show up in a scene while working screenshots into updates to keep me focused, but I couldnt do that here. The audio cues for each story beat were so obvious and vivid it kept throwing me off. The music and animation are VERY well integrated here. It holds the section together and makes it a worthy start to Act 2.
Except for the taint shot. But, you know, that IS what a starting position legitimately looks like.
(Silence, Alarm Clock Beeping)
My alarm's beeping shatters the early morning quiet, and I find myself wondering where to find the motivation to rise. Class is still quite far off, but I agreed to run with Emi in the mornings. Really, I'm not that interested in running as a hobby, or even as a possible life-lengthening exercise. However, I feel obligated to follow through on my promise to Emi yesterday, which is why I find myself throwing on some running shorts and a light tee-shirt.
The cool morning air caresses my face as the morning sunshine causes the dew on the grass to sparkle, nearly blinding me at first. As I make my way down to the track, an ugly thought strikes me. What if this is some sort of joke that Emi's playing on me? Would that surprise me, really? Hell, I'd probably do it to the new guy, too. At the very least, I'm sure Emi and Rin made a bet on whether or not I'd actually show up. I feel a sense of trepidation as the track comes into view.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Standing Tall (Emi's Theme)
EMI: "You're late!"
It would seem that Emi is already there. What a relief.
HISAO: "Not according to my watch. We both are early, in fact."
EMI: "Damn. You've got me there."
Emi is sitting on the bleachers, decked out in her running gear, waiting somewhat patiently for me.
HISAO: "I'm glad you're actually here. I was afraid that this was a joke or something."
EMI: "Nah, I'd never make someone get up early for nothing.
EMI: Plus, Rin owes me 500 yen now. She didn't think you'd actually show up."
I knew it! Nice to know Emi was on my side, at least.
Emi hops off of the bleachers and begins stretching out. She's remarkably lithe, almost like a dancer. I set out to stretch as well, but then realize that I don't exactly remember how to stretch properly. It's been ages since I stretched for anything, if you don't count my one stint at running last week. And even then, I don't think I actually stretched beforehand. The specter of my long hospital stay rises up again. I can't say I was all that active before the hospital stay, though, so maybe I'm just being morose. Emi giggles as she watches me stretch out.
EMI: "No no no Hisao, you've got to hold it for longer than that!"
HISAO: "I'm trying! It kinda hurts a little."
EMI: "Ha! That's because you're out of shape. You've got to get some flexibility in you, like this."
To demonstrate, Emi reaches down and puts her head through her legs. God bless you, Emi.
HISAO: "I see. Is that the sort of thing I should strive for?"
EMI: "Of course! Flexibility is important for any runner. You'll be able to go faster the more you stretch out."
That makes no sense to me, but Emi seems to believe it's true. With Emi's help, I manage to stretch myself out properly. I can't help but notice that when she thinks about how to explain things to me, her mouth scrunches up in concentration. It's adorable.
EMI: "Not bad, Hisao. Come on, we'd better start running. We'll start off with just a mile, okay? That's four laps around the track, got it?"
HISAO: "That sounds fine to me."
This shouldn't be too hard, right? A hazy memory of running a mile for gym class surfaces in my mind. Yeah, it wasn't that bad.
Katawa Shoujo OST Hokabi
Emi sets a pretty good pace, and I fall in behind her.
EMI: "Try to keep up, okay Hisao?"
We round the first curve without incident, though I can already feel my heart rate increasing slightly. By the second curve, I've started to breathe through my mouth. Emi doesn't even seem to be breaking a sweat. As if to punctuate her superiority, she turns around and starts running backwards.
EMI: "Are you doing okay, Hisao?"
HISAO: "Never... better."
EMI: "Oh really? Maybe I should speed up then, hmm?"
HISAO: "Oh... no, ...wouldn't want you... ...to... overex...ert yourself."
My heavy panting and wheezing makes the statement less convincing than I had hoped. Emi simply smiles and turns around again.
EMI: "You're the boss, Hisao. We'll stay at this pace."
I get the feeling that I'm being mocked. If I weren't in such terrible shape, I'd probably feel offended. By the third lap, my breath is coming in ragged gasps. I'm also awash in my own sweat. Gross. We round the curve to start our fourth lap, and Emi looks back at me with a grin.
EMI: "Here we go!"
She takes off at blinding speed while I stubbornly stick to my slower pace. By the time I get to the first turn, she's already rounding the second. As I struggle across the back stretch, Emi continues running and catches up to me.
EMI: "Come on, Hisao! You can do it!"
I'd answer her, but I'm too focused on getting air into my lungs and ignoring the burning in my leg muscles. Part of me wants to say something like Maybe you can, but I'm about to die here. But again, I doubt I can actually form words right now. Emi keeps pace with me as I round the second turn and cross the finish line.
Her sprint seems to have gotten her sweating. It's actually caused her shirt to turn slightly translucent. It seems she wears a black sports bra. I feel a vague stab of guilt for being the sort of guy who stares at a girl's chest, but my legs and chest are burning so badly I can't bring myself to care that much.
EMI: "Not bad for a first effort, Hisao."
HISAO: "Ki ...kind of you... to say... so."
Katawa Shoujo OST Fripperies
Emi seems to be, if not out of breath, at least breathing a little more heavily than she was before we started running. It must have been the sprint that did it.
EMI: "Hey, I've got to get a few sprints in. You should walk around the track to cool down. Then we can stretch out, and we'll be all done, okay?"
HISAO: "Sounds great."
My legs are on fire, and my breathing is still heavy, but surprisingly my heart seems to be taking the strain well. Another triumph of medical science, I suppose.
EMI: "You should put your hands behind your head. It makes it easier to catch your breath."
Surprisingly, she's right. I begin to stroll around the track, happy to feel my breath coming back to me.
She goes blurring across the screen exactly once. It took me 15 tries to get this shot
There's a blur as Emi sprints by me. Watching her run is absolutely fascinating. It's not just because she's on prosthetics, though that is interesting.
The really interesting thing is the way her face changes. I can only catch glimpses of it as she runs by, but her eyes seem to come alive with a sort of fierce joy. It's as if there's nothing else in the world but her and the track. By the time I've gotten to the final stretch, Emi seems to have finished her sprinting. She's breathing heavily now, but she's wearing a satisfied grin on her face. She waves to me cheerily as I near her.
EMI: "Feeling better, right?"
HISAO: "Actually, yeah."
EMI: "D'you want to take another lap around with me? I've got to cool down too, you know."
Part of me would rather sit down, and not move, but something tells me that would be a bad idea. Besides, if I sit down, there may be no getting back up again.
HISAO: "Sure, why not?"
Emi's got her hands behind her head now as well, which makes her seem very relaxed. The positioning of her arms also pulls her shirt upwards ever-so-slightly so that I can see a small strip of her belly. I do my best to act the gentleman and not look, but the contrast of her skin against her red running shorts is rather arresting.
EMI: "So how do you feel, Hisao?"
HISAO: "Surprisingly good, actually. I'm sore and tired, but... surprisingly good."
As soon as I say it, I realize that it's true. Sure, part of me wants to lay down and die, but I feel like I've accomplished something. It's almost like a glow throughout my body that persists despite the soreness.
EMI: "Yeah, that's the runner's high."
HISAO: "Runner's high?"
EMI: "Yeah, it has something to do with... adrenaline?"
Emi thinks for a moment as we walk, trying to remember. Then she shrugs and grins at me.
EMI: "I don't actually remember. It's a good feeling though, isn't it?
EMI: Better than sex, right?
I open my mouth to respond shortly before processing what she's just said.
Emi watches my face for a few moments before bursting into laughter.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Generic Happy Music
EMI: "Sorry, sorry! I couldn't resist! You're just too easy!"
HISAO: "Why did I agree to run with you again?"
Emi just laughs harder. She takes a hold of my forearm and tilts it, allowing her to get a better view of my watch. Her face changes the moment she sees the time.
EMI: "Oh no! We'd better get a move on, Hisao! Class is in an hour, and I need to shower!"
HISAO: "I should probably do that as well..."
EMI: "I need to see the nurse, too... maybe he'll write me a note for being late!"
HISAO: "Why do you need to see the nurse?"
Emi points to her prosthetics, as if that would explain everything.
EMI: "It's important to check for irritation. You know, from sweat or friction, or anything. Normally I only go after practice, but if we're going to be doing these morning runs then I guess I'll see him twice a day."
Wait, so Emi has only started doing these runs since I showed up?
HISAO: "If it's more convenient for you to run with me at a later time..."
EMI: "Don't be silly! I've been meaning to start running in the morning for a while now. But if I didn't have a partner to run with, I'd be less likely to keep up a routine. It's always harder to blow off a commitment if you're going to let someone else down, you know? So you'll be my running partner for the mornings! We both need the exercise, so it all works out, don't you think?"
HISAO: "Yeah, perfect."
Did it have to be me, though? Well, I guess I can't complain too much. Emi's pretty fun to hang out with. And she's right. I do need the exercise. Doctor's orders, even. Emi waves a quick goodbye to me.
EMI: "Right, I'm off! Come have lunch with us, okay?"
EMI: "Lunch! You know, the meal? In the middle of the day? Come have it with us!"
EMI: "The rooftop. Rin likes it up there."
EMI: "Lunchtime, when else? That was a silly question."
HISAO: "Yeah, but I sort of felt the need to ask all three for completeness' sake."
Emi laughs and grins. I don't think I've ever seen a girl smile so much before.
EMI: "Not bad, Hisao. See ya!"
With that, she takes off like a shot for the school building. I guess she's going to see the nurse first. I hurry back to my room and hop in the shower, only to find that the water takes a while to heat up. The shock of the cold water nearly kills me. I manage to warm the water a bit and spend some quality time feeling my muscles loosen. My heart, surprisingly, feels the least bothered by the run. I suppose that's a good thing, even if it does make me feel like a bit of a wuss. I mean at least I'd have an excuse beyond I am out of shape if my heart were bothering me.
Guess I'll have to keep this running thing up, otherwise I'm sure Emi won't let me hear the end of it. It's only after I get out and dry myself off that I realize that I've only ten minutes left to put my clothes on and get to class. Crap.
The hands on the clock finally set me free from the tedium of yet another fun-filled class. Getting up from my seat proves to be more of a problem than I anticipated. My legs are killing me from the morning's run. Maybe doing these with Emi isn't such a hot idea after all. Still, the run's given me a hell of an appetite. I'm halfway down the hallway to the cafeteria when I remember that I've got my lunch with me. My parents saw fit to provide me with some prepackaged stuff when I moved in, and a good thing too. The hallway is packed with students headed for the cafeteria. Going back is like swimming upstream - but I've got an appointment to keep on the rooftop.
It takes me a moment to find the staircase leading up to the rooftop, but I'm willing to bet that Emi and Rin aren't up there by now anyway. In fact, I think I saw Emi among the bodies in the hallway headed for the cafeteria. I step out of the door to the roof and take a deep breath. The fresh air blowing against my face and body almost makes my legs hurt less.
RIN: "Maybe if I'm upside down..."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Parity (Rin's Theme)
Part of me wants to be surprised that Rin's already up here.
HISAO: "What's that going to accomplish?"
RIN: "Things in the clouds."
HISAO: "Couldn't you just... look at them right-side up?"
Rin rolls her eyes in something approaching exasperation.
RIN: "Then I wouldn't get a new perspective."
HISAO: "Is upside down really a new perspective?"
Ah ha! That caught her off guard. Rin looks pensive.
RIN: "You may have a point. Maybe sideways."
Her sprite slides down out of the frame.
As Rin lays down on the bench to look at the sky, I give up. Fortunately Emi chooses that moment to burst through the door carrying two bags. She nearly takes the door off the hinges.
EMI: "Sorry it took me so long! There were a ton of people in line."
She drops the first bag in front of Rin and takes a seat on the bench next to her.
HISAO: "You buy Rin's lunch for her?"
EMI: "Sometimes, yeah. I'd have Rin buy my lunch for me in return, but I'm not sure how she'd carry it."
RIN: "Plus I'd never buy her lunch."
If Rin's offended by Emi's comment, she doesn't show it. Emi sniffs.
EMI: "How ungrateful of you."
I'm not sure whether the two are joking with one another or if I'm witnessing the beginnings of a cat fight. The two girls stare at one another for a few tense moments before breaking into smiles.
RIN: "Hey Emi, do you think being upside down is a new perspective on things?"
Didn't I already have this conversation? Emi looks thoughtful, apparently giving the question some thought. After a deep and profound pause, she speaks.
EMI: "I have no idea."
Well, at least she's as lost as I am.
EMI: "Hey Hisao, you're coming to the track meet, right?"
The question comes out of the blue and catches me off guard.
HISAO: "Um... I don't know yet?"
EMI: "Honestly, Hisao, after I went through all the trouble of letting you run with me in the morning, you won't even show up at my track meet?"
Wasn't she the one that asked me to run with her? Actually, she didn't even give me a choice in the matter.
HISAO: "Wait, no, I didn't say that..."
Katawa Shoujo OST Ease
She beams at me as if I'd just agreed to give her a million dollars.
EMI: "So you will come after all! That's great!"
I didn't say that either!
RIN: "I'll be going too, so I'll make sure he comes, Emi."
EMI: "Good idea, Rin! Maybe we can get some food or something after the meet's over?"
I feel like I've just been conned, but not by these two. More like by some outside force, pushing me irrevocably toward my destiny. ...Or maybe I shouldn't read books that feature conspiracy theories so heavily. Otherwise I might wind up sounding like Kenji. Still, I suppose that I've got to show up now. I don't think that I could stand against both of them being disappointed. I'd never hear the end of it.
HISAO: "When is it again?"
EMI: "Next week, silly! I just told you a few days ago."
HISAO: "No you didn't."
EMI: "I forgot? Well, you won't forget to come though, will you?"
HISAO: "Of course I won't! I'll even make a note on a calendar or something!"
Rin nods sagely.
RIN: "That's probably a good idea, you know. Unless time changes its course."
EMI: "It can do that?"
Rin gives a noncommittal shrug.
RIN: "It hasn't yet, but you never know..."
This time it's Emi who gives a shrug.
EMI: "I suppose it can't be helped if it happens."
RIN: "Not unless you're a time traveler or something."
HISAO: "You don't actually think that could happen, do you?"
EMI: "I don't think we do... do we?"
Rin shrugs again. That seems to be her default response to everything.
RIN: "I suppose not. But I reserve the right to change my opinion at a moment's notice."
For Rin, this statement makes a disturbing amount of sense. The fact that I realize this now frightens me a bit. I wonder if Emi gets this feeling all the time. If she does she's not showing it, though. Emi merely nods.
EMI: "As expected."
RIN: "What's that supposed to mean?"
This time, it's Emi who shrugs. It's like she's using Rin's own weapons against her.
EMI: "Your response is the sort of thing I'd expect from you, that's all."
RIN: "Am I really that predictable?"
Emi's smile seems to border on gloating.
EMI: "Nah, it's just that your unpredictability is pretty predictable."
RIN: "Well that's all right then."
I don't get the chance to see whether Rin's being serious or not, as the bell rings. I didn't notice the lunch period slipping by at all. Hanging out with these two was far too interesting. Emi jumps up, a look of panic on her face.
EMI: "Oh no! I needed to stop by my room to pick up my notebook for the next class!"
RIN: "Don't you wish you had a time machine now?"
Rin seems rather smug as she delivers this line; like she'd just won an argument. Emi ignores Rin's comment.
EMI: "Sorry Hisao, but could you make sure our garbage gets thrown away? I usually clean up myself, but I've got to run!"
HISAO: "Sure, no problem."
Emi darts away with an urgency I'm starting to expect from her. I don't bother asking Rin why she couldn't help. She already seems to be preoccupied with something else entirely as she wanders off. She's probably used to Emi taking care of cleanup, and for some reason I doubt Emi's ever raised the issue with her. Cleaning up from lunch doesn't take long, so I have plenty of time to toss our garbage and get to class.
Misha greets me with a wave and a devious grin as I walk through the door.
MISHA: "Didn't see you in the cafeteria, Hicchan."
HISAO: "Yeah, I decided it was too crowded there."
Misha's grin gets even wider.
MISHA: "Oh really? Are you sure you weren't participating in an illicit rendezvous?"
HISAO: "W... what? What are you talking about?"
MISHA: "You were on the roof, right? With both Rin and Emi, no less! You Casanova, you!"
HISAO: "We... we just had lunch, that's all!"
Misha bursts into laughter, drawing the attention of several of my classmates.
MISHA: "Wahahaha! You're so adorable when you blush like that, Hicchan!"
She gives me a conspiratorial wink.
MISHA: "Don't worry, your secret's safe with me."
HISAO: "There's no secret!"
Misha seems disappointed and then brightens up again.
MISHA: "Time will tell~!"
I don't know what the hell she's talking about, but blessedly our teacher comes in, and the class starts.
Another day of class has finally dragged itself to a close. Unexpectedly, I managed to stay awake for the whole day. I'm pretty sure that counts as a miracle. My legs seem unwilling to stand up for a moment. I guess the run took a lot out of me. I head down the hallway and make my way to my room. I sit down and half-heartedly chip away at my homework for a while, feeling like a vulture picking at a particularly unsavory carcass. It knows this is what it eats, but it's not sure that it shouldn't be ordering takeout instead. I don't think I can take this, but it's important to get my work done.
HISAO: "Now let's see... what was I supposed to be looking over again?"
I know it's a losing battle, but I fight it anyway. Halfway through my math homework, I put my pencil down. This isn't working. I need a distraction. Unfortunately, my options for distractions are rather slim. I'm not in the mood to read, right now. Kenji is, unusually, out of his room at the moment. If I go to the student council room, I'll just end up doing work for those two. And heaven only knows where everyone else is, except for...
Well, I suppose that's an option. I grab my shoes and head for the track. Emi's probably down there.