Part 26: Tracking AbsencesUpdate 23: Tracking Absences
Still, I feel like I should at least offer to run with her...
>Offer to run with Emi.
Well, lets think. We know Emi turns to running whenever her issues rear their heads; when her dad came up, she abruptly ended the conversation and went back to sprint a few laps. We also know that she tries to hide her pain when she can; we saw what happened at the track meet, and from what Rin said, it might be a pattern. I wouldnt put money on it, but Id say something about the conversation in the café really spooked her and now shes off to literally run away from her problems.
=>Offer to run with Emi.
The least we can do it is try and be there for her, right?
HISAO: "Hey, I'll run with you. I might as well, right?"
Emi shakes her head emphatically.
EMI: "No you won't, Hisao. Rest is critical for you, remember?
EMI: I won't allow you to push yourself too hard."
I guess she's better at giving advice than taking it.
HISAO: "Whatever you say, Emi."
I think it's probably best not to press the issue.
As we approach the girls' dormitory, it starts to rain again. Emi's expression sours slightly.
EMI: "Aw, man... Stupid rain."
HISAO: "Hey, it'll let up soon enough. You can go running then, right?"
Emi snorts, seemingly amused.
EMI: "Like I'm not going to run in the rain."
HISAO: "Well you shouldn't! You could catch a cold!"
Emi waves her hand airily.
EMI: "Ridiculous! I don't get colds. My immune system is far too strong for something like that."
I can't help but laugh.
HISAO: "Well, I'll see you tomorrow then, okay?"
EMI: "Yeah! Thanks for coming! Oh, and for carrying the picnic basket! I'll bring it for lunch tomorrow. We can have our picnic on the roof!"
HISAO: "Sounds good to me. See you then!"
Emi grabs the basket from me and shoots through the door. Rin gives me a sort of half-nod and ambles inside as well. Damn, it's wet out here. I need to get back to my room and into some dry clothes.
I'm soon in front of my door, but I am intercepted by the sudden appearance of Kenji, who appears to be carrying a stack of books.
KENJI: "Hey man, give me a hand, would you?"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Out of the Loop
The books are unceremoniously dumped into my arms as Kenji fumbles with his room key.
KENJI: "Thanks, you're a lifesaver. If you weren't around I'd have to keep my door unlocked, and that's just begging for trouble. The perfect opportunity to set up an ambush, or maybe just plant a bomb if they don't want to get their hands too dirty. Probably don't. Afraid they'll break a nail or something if they have to stab me. Women."
My mind thinks about digesting the verbal torrent that's just been unleashed, but elects to remain comfortably in the dark.
HISAO: "Uh... huh."
KENJI: "Anyway, where have you been, man? I could have used some help carrying these back from the library! I knocked on your door, but you weren't there."
HISAO: "Oh, sorry."
Not really. You appear to think I'm some kind of pack mule.
HISAO: "I was out with Emi and Rin."
Kenji staggers back in shock. It looks like I just shot his dog, if he had a dog.
KENJI: "The limbless ladies again? What'd you do this time?"
HISAO: "Well, we wound up at the Shanghai"
I'm prevented from continuing by a sudden exclamation of despair.
KENJI: "The Shanghai? Why the Shanghai? No no no no, man, you can't just go to the damn Shanghai! It's the most dangerous place in the city! A veritable stronghold of their best agents! I know! I've met them! They'll stop at nothing to lull you into a false sense of security, and then BAM!"
He hits his door for emphasis.
KENJI: "Wallet's gone. Bus pass? Gone. Identity? Fuckin' gone, man! Promise me you won't go there again!"
He seems so vehemently opposed to the idea of the Shanghai that I'm willing to lie a little in order to get to my room.
HISAO: "Sure, I won't go there again."
Or at least, I won't ever tell you I've gone there again. This seems to mollify my bespectacled companion.
KENJI: "Good, good. Sorry to come on so strong, but I know the danger there too well to let you just wander into the lion's den again. You got out of there alive once, but twice is pushing it."
HISAO: "Yeah, well I need to get changed and uh, do homework. So... I'll see you later."
KENJI: "Huh? Oh, sure. Whatever."
I suddenly remember that I'm still holding his books.
HISAO: "You'd better take these."
I catch a glimpse of one of titles, something about cryptography. What a weirdo. Kenji grabs his precious cargo from me and disappears through his doorway.
(Muted Rain Sound Effect)
I open my own door and walk in, grateful to get out of my soaking wet clothes. The rain outside picks up, and I find myself hoping that Emi's not out running in this weather. She seemed so adamant about doing the run alone, I can't help but wonder if her leg's still bothering her. I try to remember whether or not I've seen her limping at all today, but I can't. Guess I was too caught up in enjoying the day, even if it did rain on us. And as I think back over the events of today, I keep finding myself focusing on my running partner. Her complete refusal to allow the rain to spoil her plans was incredibly cute. But there was something else there, too. Sort of an unflappable attitude when it comes to enjoying the day as it comes. I really like that quality. Maybe I need to do a little of that myself.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
The sound of my alarm brings me out of a dream involving pirates and some other stuff I can't really remember.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Stride
I'm a little bleary-eyed, and it feels like it takes me longer than usual to get dressed and down to the track. A glance at my watch reveals that I was right, and I am in fact running a little late. The thing is...
There's no Emi. That's odd. She should be here. She definitely should be here. I mean, I was late. I guess I wasn't the only one who had trouble getting up this morning. The thought crosses my mind that it never quite stopped raining yesterday. Did she go running anyway?
It seems likely. Emi's a lot of things, but cautious isn't one of them. She probably figured the rain wouldn't stop, and that's why she was so adamant about running alone. Still, I would have gladly run with her, even if it was in the rain. Heck, if anything I would have been able to convince her to come in once it got really bad. That would be why she didn't want me along, of course. Even so, I can't help wanting to know where she is.
...Well, nothing for it. I'd better stretch and run, and hope that Emi shows up with a grin and an excuse.
On my cool down lap, I am forced to admit that Emi isn't showing up. Furthermore, I have no idea where she is. Anxiety gnaws at me while at the same time I wonder just why I'm so worried over her. The run helped to take my mind off it for a little while, but now that I'm finished I'm back to worrying. It was weird not having her here. Downright unnerving. It suddenly dawns on me that I've been running to hang out with Emi as much as I've been running to stay healthy - probably more to be with Emi, now that I think of it. It's one of those things that are completely obvious yet somehow, I never realized it. She really is someone I enjoy being with. As revelations go, it's hardly world-shaking. All the same, I find myself feeling slightly shocked. When did this happen?
Well, no time to think about this - though I want to ponder this new development, I have a greater desire to find out what's happened to Emi. I'll ask the nurse when I stop in to see him.
NURSE: "Well, you seem to be in good shape, Hisao."
HISAO: "That's good to hear."
I replace my shirt and stand to leave, as usual. Except instead of leaving, I ask a question.
HISAO: "Hey, where's Emi? She didn't show up this morning. Is she okay?"
While I try valiantly to conceal the anxiety in my voice, the nurse's expression suggests that I've failed miserably.
NURSE: "You mean she didn't tell you? She's sick in bed."
HISAO: "What? Sick?"
The nurse shrugs.
NURSE: "Yeah, she came to my office early this morning with a fever. To be honest I'm surprised she made it here. She was burning up when she arrived. I believe she'd planned to let you know, but she asked me to tell you - oh shoot!"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Ah Eh I Oh You
The nurse gives me a sheepish smile that seems at least partially sincere.
NURSE: "I told her I'd stop by the track to let you know in case she forgot to. Sorry about that. But we don't need to tell Emi I forgot, right?"
I return the nurse's smile with a devious one of my own.
HISAO: "Oh, of course not. This is fine blackmail material. I'll save it for whenever I need a favor from you."
The nurse laughs.
NURSE: "Well, I guess I deserve that. But you know, I've got tons of blackmail on you that you're not even aware of. So don't push your luck, okay?"
My expression earns another laugh from the nurse.
NURSE: "I'm just kidding, Hisao. But seriously - don't tell Emi I forgot, okay?"
HISAO: "Your secret is safe with me."
NURSE: "Oh good. Now go on, get out of here."
HISAO: "Wait, I've got one more question."
HISAO: "Is she going to be okay?"
NURSE: "Oh yeah, definitely. Her fever was high, but it was already starting to go down by the time she came by my office. I'll probably check up on her again at lunch to be sure, but I expect she'll be up and about by the evening no matter what I tell her."
HISAO: "Hmm, maybe I should visit her after class."
It takes me a second to realize I've spoken aloud. The nurse raises an eyebrow and gives me a searching glance for a moment.
NURSE: "Hmm... Well, it might not be a bad idea. You could let me know if she'd taken a turn for the worse, I guess. But no funny business, you got it? I know what meds you're on, after all.
I think that's a threat against my life, but I'm not sure. Either way, I assure the nurse that my intentions are chaste and exit the office. Interesting that the nurse sees me as some sort of potential suitor to Emi. Even more interesting is how pleased that makes me feel.
I need a shower.
The lunch bell rings, and I find myself disinclined to make my way up to the roof. After all, I'm betting Rin knows where Emi is, and if that's the case then I doubt she'd bother going up there. More to the point, I doubt we'd have any sort of scintillating conversation if she did. Chances are she'd prefer to be alone up there anyway, so I don't accidentally ruin her train of thought or something. Unfortunately, I don't really feel like heading to the cafeteria either. Guess I'll go to the library instead. I need a new book to read anyway, having finished my other one yesterday before bed. Maybe I can find more by the same author.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Fripperies
I love libraries. They smell like dust and paper and ink. All these stories and facts and opinions crowded together in one place makes the air come alive with potential. I'm not sure how to navigate Yamaku's library yet, having mostly stuck to books I brought with me, so I search for the librarian to ask for help. ... Hmm. I suppose she's not arou
YUUKO: "...can't believe it."
Yuuko, looking rather distracted, suddenly emerges from one of the aisles.
HISAO: "Er, excuse me."
YUUKO: "Oh, can I help you?"
HISAO: "Actually, I was looking for a book..."
YUUKO: "So am I! Advanced Cryptography. We just got it in, and now it's gone missing. I really, really wanted to read that one!"
YUUKO: "Yeah, my... er, that is... This guy I knew. Know. Um. Not sure how to describe it..."
HISAO: "Skip to the end."
YUUKO: "He got me interested in cryptography only now the book's gone, and I think it's been stolen!"
HISAO: "Sounds pretty terrible."
YUUKO: "Yeah, especially because now I have to search the whole library for it! Even though it's probably not even here!"
HISAO: "You seem... busy."
YUUKO: "A little."
She dashes off down another aisle, and I resign myself to finding my own damn book. Hmm, plenty of choices.
Oh come on, how did I get lost? These aren't even printed books! They're all in Braille. I guess that makes sense in a school like this, but honestly, it's a little annoying.
LILLY: "I'm sorry, is someone there?"
A lilting voice drifts out from behind one of the cubicles set up for research.
As I approach, I see that Lilly's been reading a book while I've been stomping about the aisles.
HISAO: "Oh no, I should be apologizing. I didn't mean to make so much noise."
LILLY: "My, is that you Hisao? I've not heard from you in quite some time. I was beginning to think you'd forgotten all about me."
HISAO: "Er, sorry."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Concord (Lilly's Theme)
Lilly laughs in that refined manner of hers and shakes her head.
LILLY: "I'm only teasing you, Hisao. From what I hear, you've been busy. Morning runs with Emi Ibarazaki and lunch on the rooftop, if I'm not mistaken."
HISAO: "Heh, yeah. Guess word gets around pretty quickly."
LILLY: "That and I can't coax poor Hanako on the roof any more. You three are always up there, claiming the spot for yourselves."
She chides me gently, though it's pretty clear she's just teasing me again. Still, I feel an odd need to apologize.
HISAO: "Sorry, we could eat lunch somewhere else if it's a real problem"
LILLY: "Oh no, I wouldn't worry about it. Hanako and I have other things to do at lunch, too. Such as read in the library, as you can see."
HISAO: "Oh, Hanako's here too? I didn't see her."
Lilly smiles, a bit enigmatically.
LILLY: "Oh, she's around somewhere. But I'm surprised, Hisao. You're in here, instead of up there. What brings you to the library?"
HISAO: "Well, Emi's ill, so there's no lunch on the rooftop to keep me occupied..."
Lilly raises an eyebrow at my statement before giving another chuckle."
LILLY: "My, poor Rin must feel left out."
HISAO: "It's not like that!"
LILLY: "Ah, but I'm sure it isn't.
LILLY: "Emi tends to be the life of whatever group she's in. It's a shame to hear she's fallen ill. Will she be okay?"
Somehow I get the feeling that Lilly's just inquiring out of politeness, but I respond anyway.
HISAO: "The nurse thinks so. I'm going to swing by and see how she's doing after school myself."
Another raised eyebrow.
LILLY: "My, what a noble gentleman you are, Hisao."
HISAO: "It's nothing, really. Just checking up on my friend, after all."
LILLY: "Ah, so it's just friends, is it? How disappointing."
I blush, glad that Lilly can't see it. But somehow she knows that I've been flustered by her comment anyway, and laughs.
LILLY: "I'm sorry, Hisao. I'm teasing you again. Please do tell Emi that I hope she feels better, won't you?"
A glance at my watch reveals that I'm very nearly out of time to find my book.
HISAO: "Of course. Hey, I've got to find a book before lunch is over, so I'd better get moving. See you later."
That was probably not the best phrase to use. Lilly, however, takes my gaffe in stride.
LILLY: "Until we meet again, Hisao."
I never do find the book I was looking for, but I walk out with something else instead. My stomach growls slightly, letting me know that I should have had something for lunch. Oh well. I'll grab something before I visit Emi later.
Katawa Shoujo OST - School Days
It seems as if time has decided to slow down for the express purpose of annoying the hell out of me. Class feels like it drags on for ages. I suspect that my being consumed with worry probably has something to do with it. Blessedly the bell rings and I dash out of class, drawing a few raised eyebrows, I'm sure. I have spent the majority of the day fretting as unobtrusively as I could. Even though the nurse thinks that Emi is perfectly okay, I want to see for myself.
It doesn't take long to get to the girls' dormitory and make my way to Emi's room.
Standing outside her door, I suddenly pause. What if she's resting? I'd hate to wake her up, especially if she's still feeling ill. Then again, if she sleeps all day then it could throw off her sleeping schedule. But rest is important if you're ill, isn't it? I can't decide what to do, so I settle for standing outside the door looking like an idiot. Then I hear Emi's voice from behind the door.
EMI: "Thanks for your concern, but I really am okay."
Is she talking to me?
EMI: "I'll see you at practice tomorrow!"
Guess not. Still, clearly she's not asleep, so I can knock without worry. So why this clenched feeling in my gut? I wasn't nervous about dropping by the other day, so why today? Granted, I still haven't really had time to figure out this newfound interest in Emi's well-being. I don't have a lot of experience in the matter, of course, but certainly this seems to go beyond feelings of mere friendship.
But could I take that step? Could I even bring myself to risk what I have right now? I mean it's enough to be friends with her, isn't it?"
Either way, shouldn't I just open the door and see how she's doing? That's why I came here... right?
What if she's not dressed yet? The image that flashes through my mind causes my heart to skip a beat, literally. I should probably not ever think those thoughts again. Not if I want to avoid a heart attack.
I suddenly realize I'm still standing in the hallway looking like an idiot. Emi still seems to be in the middle of a conversation, but I knock anyway. Hopefully she won't mind the interruption.