Part 24: Piracy on the High SeasUpdate 21: Piracy on the High Seas
She frowns, as if deciding on the next course of action. Eventually that proves to be too tiresome, and she shrugs again.
RIN: "Well, let's go down. Gotta crown the victor. See if you can find a laurel branch."
HISAO: "That's not going to be easy."
RIN: "At least we tried."
Well, we didn't really try all that hard. Or at all. But hey, whatever.
Emi is surrounded by her teammates, all of them congratulating her on the run. Rin seems to be waiting for Emi to notice that she's arrived. Oh yeah, I guess she can't exactly wave Emi over. Then again, I'm not sure that Rin would do such a thing even if she had arms. It doesn't seem her style to draw attention to herself. Or to emote beyond shrugging. Either way, I'm not willing to wait, so I wave to Emi, who looks up and grins happily at me - er, us.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Standing Tall (Emis Theme)
EMI: "Hey, you showed up! Guess Rin owes me money, huh?"
RIN: "We would have brought you a crown of laurels, but Hisao didn't find one."
HISAO: "Hey, neither did you."
RIN: "It wasn't my job to look."
HISAO: "When did we assign jobs?"
RIN: "When I said See if you can find a laurel branch. Try to keep up."
I shrug. Guess Rin's rubbing off on me.
HISAO: "Seems it's my fault after all, Emi."
Emi laughs at Rin and me.
EMI: "It's okay, I'm sure you'll make it up to me somehow."
HISAO: "Uh, sure."
EMI: "Good! So, how'd I look?"
I stop myself from blurting out beautiful or amazing and settle for the substantially safer very impressive. Emi seems pleased with this assessment. I don't mention how much more impressive her performance is given her lack of legs. I figure she knows that already.
Besides, it seems like it would take away from her efforts, somehow.
EMI: "Great to hear! I was worried that I looked a little slow on the relay, but I guess I did fine, huh?"
HISAO: "Actually, I noticed"
The screen shakes
Rin kicks me and keeps me from finishing my sentence.
EMI: "What was that all about?"
RIN: "He noticed it. At the end."
EMI: "Hmm, that's no good. Guess the nurse will look at it for me later."
There's a carelessness in her voice, as if it isn't a big deal, but I suddenly notice a slight twitch on her face.
Like she's trying to hide the fact that she's in pain. It's then that I notice her breathing is a little shallow, too. I guess she really is hurt. She must notice my concern, because she skips up to me and gives me a friendly pat on the shoulder.
EMI: "Hey, you look a little worried! I'm fine, really! Just sore from all the running, is all. And come on, a little pain isn't going to stop me."
HISAO: "Oh no?"
Emi grins, and for a moment she looks like she did during her sprint, fierce and unconquerable.
Or to put it another way, really beautiful.
EMI: "Hasn't yet."
HISAO: "Well then. I guess I shouldn't worry, huh?"
EMI: "Damn right! I'm Emi Ibarazaki, fastest thing on no legs! I don't stop for anything!"
Emi giggles, and then seems to remember something.
EMI: "Oh, before I forget... Rin and I are going to do something next Sunday as a post-track meet celebration! You should come along! Normally we do it the day after, but since the track meet was on a Sunday, I've got homework and class and all that stuff to take care of. Plus our morning run, of course."
HISAO: "Right, of course. Oh, right. Your mom wanted to say she's proud of you. She'll call you later tonight."
EMI: "I thought I saw her in the stands! I'm glad she made it! Used to be my dad who showed up to my meets, but Mom's done a pretty good job of taking over."
Her sprite shakes.
She shivers slightly, and I realize that she's still all sweaty. A breeze has started to blow, too. I'm not cold at all, and I've got my jacket with me, so without a word I throw it around her shoulders. Emi jumps slightly and then grins at me.
EMI: "Hey, thanks! It's getting a little cold, I guess."
HISAO: "Yeah, looked like it."
Just as I begin to wonder whether or not giving Emi my jacket could be taken the wrong way, a boy in a track uniform approaches.
TEAMMATE: "Hey, Emi! You're going to miss the medal ceremony!"
EMI: "Oh yeah, thanks!"
She turns to Rin and myself.
EMI: "You don't have to stick around for this part. It takes forever. Besides, you should get cracking on your homework now if you don't want to be up late, Hisao. Morning run tomorrow! Don't forget!"
HISAO: "How could I?"
EMI: "Good point. I mean, it's spending time with me, after all."
With this, she waves quickly and dashes off to receive her medals, or whatever they pass off as a medal these days. Rin and I head away from the track, Rin remaining deep in whatever thoughts she has for most of the walk back to her dorm. As I see her off, she speaks up.
RIN: "You're probably not getting that coat back, I think."
HISAO: "I'm sure I'll get it back eventually."
RIN: "Interesting. Take it as it comes, huh? Very Emi-ish."
With this odd statement, she turns and heads into the building. Honestly, was it that big a deal? Emi was cold and, unless I'm mistaken, in pain. Giving her a solution to at least one of those problems seems like an obvious reaction. Though I guess there is a chance I could lose my jacket if Emi never remembers to return it. I guess Rin has a point. Still, I can't bring myself to muster much worry over the whole thing. After all, it's been getting warmer lately. I don't need a jacket. Odd. I think I used to be a little more responsible with my stuff. Emi-ish, huh? Maybe that's not really a bad thing.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
NURSE: "You haven't been forgetting to take your medicine, have you? I'm catching a little murmur. You should take it easy for a few days."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Ah Eh I Oh You
The nurse's words hurt me far more than the exhaustion of the morning run ever could. Take it easy for a few days? I knew I should have kept quiet. I keep my eyes on the floor, feeling like a complete idiot. Of course I hadn't been remembering to take my medicine. I've been rushing out of my room to get to the track before Emi. After the track meet a few days ago, I felt... inspired. So I've been running warm-up laps in the morning before Emi shows up. But then today while she and I were running, I felt a little pain in my chest. It was only slight, and it was only for a second, so I mentioned it to the nurse.
HISAO: "Honestly, it wasn't that bad. I mean I kept running and finished just fine, so really it couldn't have been that bad..."
Why do I feel like I'm making excuses to the nurse? Moreover, why do I feel a need to justify continuing to run despite the pain? Really, it comes down to my being unwilling to concern Emi, who seemed concerned anyway. I'm not sure how she was able to tell there was anything wrong, but she claims I stumbled a little. She's the one who insisted I tell the nurse, so now I feel bad for worrying her at all. The nurse is shaking his head ruefully while Emi paces outside the room.
NURSE: "Hisao, I know it's difficult for you get into a new routine, but if you don't want to find yourself in a lot of trouble you're going to have to try harder. You can't afford to forget your pills, and you can't push yourself too hard."
HISAO: "But if I don't push myself, how will I improve?"
I don't know where that came from. The nurse seems to have an idea.
NURSE: "Now where have I heard that before?"
He laughs and pats me on the shoulder.
NURSE: "Ha! She's rubbing off on you, I guess."
His expression changes again, and he's back in serious mode.
NURSE: "Look, I'm not saying you shouldn't push yourself. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be taking your medication, and it doesn't mean you shouldn't stop if your chest starts to bother you. I'd prefer not to have any fatalities while I'm on staff here. A bit of a lofty goal, to be sure, but I'm always up for a challenge."
I hate to admit it, but I think he's right. I've got to remember to take my medication.
HISAO: "You're right. I'm sorry to worry you."
NURSE: "Who's worried? You're a smart kid, right? I know you can be responsible, Hisao. A situation like yours, you've got to learn to be responsible fast."
HISAO: "I know, I know."
His expression suddenly becomes devious.
NURSE: "I suppose you've started to enjoy your runs with Emi then, eh?"
HISAO: "Yeah, they've really been helping me. I mean, until today I was feeling a lot more healthy. Plus it's really impressive to see Emi run. Did you see her at the track meet? She was incredible!"
The nurse nods, grinning all the while.
NURSE: "That she was, Hisao. I watched her first couple of races before I had some business to take care of, but she told me all about it. Kind of you to loan her your jacket, by the way."
HISAO: "Huh? Oh yeah, it wasn't that big of a deal."
I had honestly forgotten all about that. I still haven't gotten it back. The nurse gets a smile that makes me feel like he's just made a joke.
NURSE: "Not to you, but Emi certainly appreciated it. And I know she appreciates your running with her in the mornings."
This one catches me off guard a little. Sure, she mentioned that it's easier to keep to a schedule with an extra person, but I didn't think that I was doing her a favor at all.
HISAO: "I thought she was doing me the favor of helping me follow the doctor's orders."
NURSE: "She tries harder when you're around. If there's someone else running with her, she's going to push herself more. And she tries even harder when you're around because, well, it's you."
HISAO: "What the heck does that mean?"
NURSE: "Oh ho, you'd love to know, wouldn't you?"
He laughs in the style of evil megalomaniacs.
NURSE: "No seriously, it's because you're her friend. If Rin ran with her, I'm sure she'd do the same. Well, probably. But that's not the point.
NURSE: The point is, you're helping her, even if you don't know you are. And she's grateful for that, even if she never says it."
HISAO: "What do you mean even if she never says it?"
NURSE: "Emi doesn't talk a lot, but she and I have known each other long enough that I can read her most of the time."
I'll admit it. I have no idea what he's talking about. Emi always seems pretty talkative to me.
HISAO: "I see."
The nurse suddenly realizes that he's been rambling and stops talking, looking a little embarrassed.
NURSE: "Anyway, you don't have to stop your morning exercise. Just walk the track instead of running for a few days. Let things calm down. And take your damned medicine!"
I laugh as I exit the office, bumping straight into Emi.
HISAO: "Whoops, sorry about that."
EMI: "Are you okay? What did the nurse say? Do you need to go to a hospital? Omigosh, it was my fault, wasn't it? I've been pushing you too hard, haven't I? I'm a horrible person!"
The words pour forth like a torrent. She's really agitated. I didn't expect her to be this concerned about me, to be honest. Gotta calm her down... but how the hell do I do that? I do the only thing I can think of.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Lullaby of Open Eyes
I give her a hug. Emi tenses up slightly, so I pat her head in what I hope is a reassuring manner."
HISAO: "Hey, settle down! I'm fine, okay? No worries."
I can feel Emi's body relax as I continue to assure her I'm fine. Her arms wrap around me, as if she's trying to confirm that I'm not about to fall over dead. I catch a whiff of her hair. It smells like sweat, or how adrenaline should smell. It's the scent of activity. And a hint of strawberries. From her shampoo, I suspect.
HISAO: "I just need to remember to take my medicine, that's all. Don't worry about it. It's not your fault."
EMI: "You're sure?"
Her voice is muffled, mostly because at the moment her face is pressed into my chest.
HISAO: "Yeah, I'm sure. I just need to take it a little easy for the next few days."
It suddenly occurs to me how close the two of us are. It also occurs to me how nice being this close feels. I can feel Emi's heartbeat calming down, and I have to resist the urge to rest my chin on the top of her head.
EMI: "Thank goodness. You really had me worried there, Hisao."
NURSE: "Emi, you going to come in here any time soon? ...Oh, I'm sorry. Was I interrupting?"
The two of us spring apart as if the other just caught on fire. Emi brushes her hair back nervously and laughs.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Standing Tall (Emis Theme)
EMI: "'Course not! I'll uh... see you later, okay? Oh, and Hisao?"
EMI: "Take your damn medicine!"
This last phrase is punctuated by a punch to the shoulder.
HISAO: "Yeah, yeah, I'll remember. See you later."
The nurse smiles again like he's in on some joke I don't know about and waves to me as I head for my room, feeling a burning in my cheeks.
I need a shower. A cold one, if the thoughts running through my head now are any indication. She was really soft. My pills are waiting for me when I make it to my room. I swallow them without a second thought. I don't know why I didn't think of waiting until after the runs to take them. For some reason I figured it was when I woke up or not at all. But no, they only need to be taken every twenty-four hours. The exact time of day doesn't factor into it. My thoughts drift back to the hug in the hallway. It's weird, you'd expect someone to smell foul after a run, but for some reason, Emi smelled... right. That tinge of sweat just seemed to fit her.
I really need that shower.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Strange that it feels so natural for me to go up to the roof these days. I never would have done such a thing at my old school. In those days I liked to eat alone... no, that's not quite true. Though I liked to sit alone, I also liked to watch people. I always figured that was the sort of person I was, but it appears I was wrong. Then again, I also thought I was the sort of person who had a normal heart, so there you have it. I don't know myself that well. Now I'm on the roof so that I can have lunch with a couple of people. And they are both girls, which is even stranger. Oddly enough, I feel closer to Emi and Rin than I felt to anyone at my old school. Somehow I get the feeling they'd at least visit me if I wound up in the hospital.
I focus on the view from the roof, banishing such thoughts from my head. There's a light breeze blowing, and the sun is shining high in the sky. The sky itself is a deep blue, with hardly a cloud in it. It's gotten pleasantly warm, and as I sit down to wait for my friends, I close my eyes and enjoy the feeling of the sun seeping into my skin. Voices intrude upon the edge of hearing.
EMI: "seems to have fallen asleep on us, Rin."
RIN: "Maybe he's faking, to lull us into a false sense of security."
EMI: "Why would he do that?"
RIN: "No idea."
EMI: "Still, you make a good point. We should kick him or something to make sure he's really asleep."
HISAO: "Huh? What?"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Ease
Emi looms over me like only a short girl can, peering at me intently.
EMI: "Oh, you're awake. I guess we don't have to kick you then."
RIN: "Was it part of your master plan?"
HISAO: "What are you talking about?"
Emi shrugs, her twin tails bouncing with the motion.
EMI: "I'm not sure either. You must be pretty tired to fall asleep out here. Although it's pretty comfortable, I suppose."
She plops down next to me and begins to eat. Rin sits opposite from the two of us, a move which only makes me more aware of the girl sitting next to me. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear Rin did it on purpose. I concentrate on my food, trying to tune out the majority of the conversation that Rin and Emi are having. Despite my best efforts, however, I still find myself glancing over at Emi whenever she speaks. I notice how she purses her lips when she's thinking about something, squinting slightly as if that would improve her thinking ability.
Her sprite slides left to right.
Rin says something that makes Emi laugh, and I notice, perhaps for the first time, how she laughs with her whole body, rocking back and forth, head thrown back, almost like she's about to fall over. I probably look like a creep. It's about this time that I realize Emi's looking at me. Her voice raised slightly, so she's probably just asked me a question."
HISAO: "Huh? Sorry, I kinda zoned out for a moment there."
Emi rolls her eyes, while a slight quirk of the eyebrow is the only sign that Rin's even paying attention.
EMI: "I said, did you get a career survey in your class too? You know, one of those What do you want to do after high school? things?"
HISAO: "I don't... think so. Maybe we'll get one tomorrow."
EMI: "What are you going to put down?"
That's a really good question. I guess I always figured I'd go to college after high school, but I've no idea what I'd do once I got there. And with the heart attack and all, I'd really been concentrating on each day as it came rather than making long-term plans. I suppose I can safely start planning ahead, again. I've always liked having at least a vague plan for my future, so it'll be nice to come up with one again. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that right now I've got absolutely...
HISAO: "...No clue. I always kind of assumed I'd figure it out in college. That or just become a salaryman. That's pretty popular."
But do I really want to? That's a tough question. I guess I don't really want to do anything.
EMI: "You don't sound very excited about that one, do you?"
She laughs as she says this, and I'm caught up in her laugh again. It's so... girlish. High and giggly, like a... well, pardon the cliché - like a babbling brook. It bubbles out of her, starting in her belly and working its way up her throat. I can't help but laugh myself - it's infectious.
HISAO: "Yeah, I guess I'm pretty unhappy with the salaryman idea. But to be honest, I haven't given much thought to the future recently. I suppose that, these days, I've been more concerned with living one day at a time."
Emi considers this for a moment and grins.
EMI: "That's a pretty good idea, Hisao! I just wrote down, Pirate."
I'm momentarily stunned, then I start laughing. I stop myself and manage to gasp out a question.
HISAO: "You're... you're not actually serious, are you?"
Emi looks mock offended.
EMI: "Well I've got the legs for it already, so I just kind of figured..."
Even Rin seems amused by this.
EMI: "Just you wait, I'll be the terror of the high seas! I'll show you all! I've even been working on my pirate voice!"
She suddenly springs up and begins swaggering up and down the rooftop shouting orders.
EMI: "Yarr, me hearties, give 'em a broadside with the long guns! We'll wear their guts for garters!"
RIN: "Do you even know what that means?"
Rin's unexpected interruption stops Emi in her tracks.
EMI: "Not really. But it's all in the delivery!"
The ringing of the bell prevents her from demonstrating her point further. Emi dashes off immediately, leaving Rin and myself alone on the roof.
Rin stares at me intently for a few moments.
HISAO: "Is there... something wrong?"
Rin considers this question closely for a moment. After a lengthy pause, she shakes her head.
HISAO: "Oh, um... why the staring, then?"
Rin shakes her head again.
RIN: "Nope, I don't get it."
HISAO: "Get what?"
RIN: "The staring thing. You two seem to, but I don't."
Great. She saw me staring. Now she probably thinks I'm a pervert or something. Actually, probably not. This is Rin we're talking about, after all. Still, I feel the need to defend myself.
HISAO: "I wasn't staring, I was just tired."
Rin actually snorts at this, but she doesn't say anything.
HISAO: "No, really! I was just... distracted, is all."
Eager to end this conversation, I head back down to class.