Part 31: Invisible RockUpdate 27: Invisible Rock
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Katawa Shoujo OST - Nocturne
The morning is far too early for my taste. It doesn't help that I had trouble sleeping last night. There were simply too many things to think about. My mind refused to slow down. Instead I replayed the rooftop, the park, and everything else over and over in my mind. There's a small part of my mind that is still paranoid that this has all been some kind of joke. That I'll meet up with Emi at the track, and she'll act like nothing happened yesterday. Pushing these thoughts to the back of my mind, I throw on my running clothes and open the door.
Emi's waiting for me with her usual smile.
EMI: "You're late! Or at least, you're not early today. Are you tired or something?"
I find myself ruefully rubbing the back of my head.
HISAO: "Something like that, yeah. Lots to think about and all that."
Emi giggles at my mild understatement.
EMI: "Yeah, I didn't sleep that well either. I was actually glad you weren't early, 'cause I wasn't early either."
I wonder if the same thing kept us awake. The image of her weeping face passes through my mind.
HISAO: "What kept you up?"
Emi's expression falters, but she quickly notices my curiosity and forces a smile.
EMI: "Nothing important."
She's obviously not telling me something. The question is, should I press the issue? Something's clearly been bothering her for a while. I want to help her, but would it just come off as me being nosy? She's got to know I care about her, though.
HISAO: "Are you sure? If something's bothering you, I'm here to help you sort it out."
Emi laughs then, but it's not her usual laugh. There's an edge to it that seems almost bitter.
EMI: "Sort it out? I'm not sure it can be sorted out, Hisao."
An almost grim smile crosses her lips. It's like a smile of resignation.
EMI: "I don't think you could help me, anyway."
That hurts. I don't want to say that it hurts to her, but it does. Doesn't she realize I want to be there for her when things go wrong?
HISAO: "Well, I won't push you on the matter. But I'm here for you if you decide later that you'd like to talk about it. It might help."
I can see the debate raging behind Emi's eyes. It seems like she wants to tell me, but she's not sure whether or not she can.
HISAO: "Hey, forget about it for now, okay? We've got running to do."
The mention of running, something that she can handle, brings Emi back to her usual self.
EMI: "Right! Hurry up and stretch out, Hisao! We've got to get moving!"
She takes off like a shot, far quicker than I'm used to. Still, I try to keep pace with her, recklessly testing my limits. It gives me a feeling of freedom, like my heart is no longer important. I find myself wanting to laugh, filled with the feeling of moving beyond what I once called my boundaries. The nurse's warnings to not overdo things echo in my mind, and I disregard them. This feeling I have, this willingness to risk a heart attack for something so trivial as a morning run, feels out of character for me.
But is it? Or rather, should it be? I've got a weak heart, sure. It'll never be capable of the kind of speed and endurance Emi's capable of. Though I probably wouldn't be able to get that good even if I had a healthy heart.
As we round the final bend, I feel my legs screaming in protest, but for the first time, I ignore them. I accelerate to finish at a sprint, nearly catching up to Emi.
That was never going to happen, of course. Still, I feel surprisingly good. Oh sure, my legs feel like they're about to catch fire, and I'm having trouble staying upright.
But there's been a shift of some sort today. And it's all thanks to the girl grinning at the finish line, waiting for me.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Standing Tall (Emis Theme)
HISAO: "That felt a little faster than usual."
My comment is met with a grin and a shrug.
EMI: "Can't have you think I was going to go soft on you, now can I? But you managed to handle it just fine."
HISAO: "Well, I couldn't have done it without you."
Still feeling the high from the run and moved by a surge of gratitude, I seize Emi in a hug.
HISAO: "Thanks. Really, I'm not just saying that. I'm in your debt."
Emi seems flustered by my words, squirming uncomfortably.
EMI: "Don't be silly, Hisao. Someone had to haul you out here, didn't they? And it's not like you're not doing anything for me, right? I needed a running partner, remember?"
I shake my head, still pointedly not letting go of Emi, who stops squirming and merely looks up at me with a quickly deepening blush that almost seems out of character.
HISAO: "No, that's not true. You wanted a running partner, but you didn't need one. If I hadn't shown up the day after the festival, you would still run, right? But it doesn't work the other way around. I only managed to make it out a few times before the festival. And without you, I probably wouldn't have made it out at all after that.
Emi smiles at me and prods my chest with one finger.
EMI: "You are pretty lazy, Hisao."
HISAO: "Hey, I was giving you a compliment!"
EMI: "Well... you're welcome, I guess."
HISAO: "I'll pay you back somehow."
EMI: "Oh, uh, well... That's not necessary, you know. I mean I kinda like you, Hisao. And being able to run with you in the mornings isn't exactly a bad deal for me either, so..."
For someone who gets so much praise, she seems unused to gratitude. I can't think of anything else to say, so we fall silent. I become aware of Emi's breathing, of the dampness of her clothing, and of the scent of her. Coming off of anyone else, it would stink. Coming off of Emi, it fits her in a way nothing else could. Her skin is cool, slick with sweat, and a breeze causes goosebumps to rise."
Almost without thinking about it, I lean down and meet Emi's mouth which has already moved to meet my own. Her lips are soft, and she hums happily as we kiss, sending vibrations from her mouth to mine. There's a startling rightness to everything about this moment. We fit one another perfectly. The kiss ends, and I finally let my arms drop back to my sides. Emi is smiling warmly at me, and giggles again.
EMI: "Come on Hisao, we'd better go see the nurse."
Then it happens.
Her sprite bobs.
As she turns to begin walking, she gives out a tiny yelp and stumbles forward.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Caged Heart
I leap to steady her and notice with some concern that she's favoring the same leg as last night.
HISAO: "Your leg..."
Emi seems panicked and pushes away from me.
EMI: "It's fine!"
My expression must seem hurt, because she hastens to apologize.
EMI: "Sorry! Sorry! Didn't mean to push you like that! I was just..."
She stumbles for something to say.
EMI: "It's nothing, really."
HISAO: "Hey, don't worry about it."
She's so flustered, I decide to shrug the whole thing off. But there's a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach now that won't go away. I tried to step in and help her, and she pushed me away. Smiling, I shove those thoughts to the back of my mind and concentrate on Emi.
HISAO: "I just don't want you getting hurt, that's all."
EMI: "You don't have to worry about me, honest. I'm fine!"
Yes, you say that, but I don't believe you. Why won't you tell me what's wrong? It's like she gets offended by my trying to help. What am I supposed to make of that?
I'm still trying to sort out what happened on the track as we arrive in front of the nurse's office. Emi raises her hand to knock, hesitates and turns to me smiling guiltily.
EMI: "Hey, can you do me a favor?"
HISAO: "Of course."
EMI: "Can you tell the nurse that I'll see him later? I just remembered that I've got some... stuff to take care of before class. So I really need to get moving."
I peer at her closely, and she fidgets under my stare. Yeah, she's clearly just avoiding the nurse. That leg of hers...
Well, whatever. I said I'd help, and so I will. But I'll make damn sure she sees the nurse before the day's out.
HISAO: "Yeah, okay. I'll let him know."
Emi looks like I've just given her a pony on Christmas.
EMI: "Thank you so much! You're the best, Hisao!"
I am rewarded for my complicity in her lie by a kiss that makes it all worth it, or so I tell myself. As Emi heads out of the building, trying hard not to let her limp show, I knock on the door of the office.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Ah Eh I Oh You
NURSE: "Ah, Hisao. Come on in. I don't see Emi with you. She's not sick again, is she?"
From the tone of his voice, I don't think the nurse is expecting me to say Yes, she's ill.
HISAO: "Er, she said that she'd forgotten to do something, and so she had to skip out, but she'll see you later today."
The nurse heaves an exasperated sigh.
NURSE: "Honestly, that girl..."
NURSE: "She's been avoiding me. Yesterday she was in and out of here without even taking off her prosthetics. And now this."
Well, at least it's not just me Emi doesn't want worrying. That's a... comfort, I guess. Still, I feel like I should say something about her leg. I said I'd lie for her, but she really needs to see him.
HISAO: "Now that you mention it, she was limping pretty badly today. And last night as well."
The nurse's eyes narrow at the words last night.
NURSE: "And what exactly were you two doing last night?"
HISAO: "We were uh, on a date."
The nurse raises his eyebrows as if surprised.
NURSE: "Really? Interesting."
NURSE: "Oh, nothing."
His gaze turns thoughtful, and then he grins at me.
NURSE: "You don't think you could use some of that boyfriend charm to get her to come see me today, could you?"
HISAO: "Of course! I was planning on doing that anyway. I think she's really hurt and just pretending she isn't."
NURSE: "Hmm, yes. She does that.
NURSE: "Afraid I'll make her stop running."
HISAO: "Will you?"
NURSE: "I don't like to, but if it's bad enough that she's been limping, well... I guess I'll have to see what's wrong for myself before I make that call."
HISAO: "I see."
Emi, not allowed to run? Perish the thought. I don't know if she'd be able to function without running. No wonder she's reluctant to admit anything's wrong.
HISAO: "Well, I'll make sure she sees you."
NURSE: "Good. Oh, and before I forget..."
He grins at me again in what feels like a vaguely threatening manner.
NURSE: "Don't forget that I know what medications you're on. You be careful around Emi, got it?"
Wow. He looks serious, too.
HISAO: "Got it. Don't hurt Emi. Wouldn't dream of it."
NURSE: "Grand! I'd hate for you to be late."
NURSE: "Late, as in the late Hisao Nakai."
He frowns briefly, dissatisfied.
NURSE: "Sounded better in my head... Well, at any rate. Get out of here before you miss your first class! You've got things to do, I'm sure. Shoo!"
As I leave, I notice the nurse pulling out his phone and dialing a number.
NURSE: "Meiko, your daughter's being a pain in the ass again..."
I'd better head back to my room, or I really will be late.
Hey, wasn't he supposed to check my heart rate?
The lunch bell sounds, and I bring myself out of the stupor I slipped into during the morning's classes. My lack of sleep last night, coupled with the increased pace of this morning's run, has left me a little exhausted. Despite that, I find myself skipping stairs up to the roof. There's a thrill of excitement now, in addition to the pleasure one gets from eating lunch with one's friends. True, both Emi and Rin are still my friends, but Emi has become more than that now.
Rin is back in her usual spot on the roof, almost as if she'd never been absent.
HISAO: "Feeling better, I take it?"
A raised eyebrow is my reward for speaking.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Parity (Rins Theme)
RIN: "Better than what?"
HISAO: "Er, better than you felt yesterday."
Rin gives my question some serious thought.
RIN: "I'm not sure. I think I might have felt rather good for some of yesterday, but it's all fuzzy."
HISAO: "Too much cold medicine?"
RIN: "Well, I was asleep. And that usually is pretty good. But I can't remember what it feels like to be asleep, because I'm not conscious for it. It's a real problem. Then again, if I knew how good it felt I might not sleep any more. But this way I keep trying so I guess that's how I can keep from being overtired."
HISAO: "An eternal mystery to keep you sleeping at night?"
RIN: "Maybe mystery's the wrong word. Intangibility might be the proper way to describe it."
HISAO: "I see."
No, I don't see at all. I have no idea what she's talking about, but that's okay, since I rarely do.
RIN: "Do you remember what sleeping feels like? Like yesterday, do you remember what you felt like sleeping yesterday?"
HISAO: "Well, I actually didn't get a lot of sleep yesterday."
RIN: "Hmm. Maybe that's because you remember subconsciously."
HISAO: "Actually, I think I was worrying about Emi."
RIN: "Doesn't Emi worry enough about herself?"
I hadn't considered that, but it gives me pause.
HISAO: "True, but would she ask for help if she needed it?"
Rin frowns, and I raise an eyebrow. Will I get a proper answer?
RIN: "Probably not. Is there something she should be asking for help with?"
HISAO: "Her leg, for starters."
This seems to catch Rin's interest.
HISAO: "It's hurt, but she won't see the nurse about it."
Rin shakes her head in disapproval.
RIN: "You have to make her. Like she makes me go to class. For her own good. Otherwise she could lose her legs again, and that's just too weird. Losing things twice. Especially if you don't find them again to begin with. Unless prosthetics are the same as finding something. But that's a different kind of lost, isn't it?"
HISAO: "I think so."
RIN: "Hmm. I wonder..."
EMI: "Wonder what?"
Emi seems to have snuck up on Rin and I, though Rin doesn't seem especially surprised. Which is itself unsurprising, I suppose. Rin manages to sit herself upright quite expertly, throwing her upper body forward and using her momentum to right herself.
HISAO: "Your leg. How's it feel?"
That earns me a frown and a bit of a glare.
EMI: "It's okay, I think. Not worth worrying about."
HISAO: "Tell that to the nurse. He's quite insistent that you visit him, you know."
Emi pouts like I've just told her she's been grounded.
EMI: "He worries too much. It's not a big deal, just a little soreness."
I try to resist rolling my eyes in exasperation.
HISAO: "If it's nothing, then you should have no problem seeing him, right?"
Emi narrows her eyes suspiciously.
EMI: "Did he put you up to this?"
HISAO: "Well, maybe. A little. But that's not the point. I would have reminded you to see him anyway. It would be terrible to see you really hurt and not doing anything about it. That would make it worse, and I don't really want to see you hurt, you know? Call me crazy, but I kinda would prefer to see you happy and healthy."
With each statement, Emi's frown fades a little more, until eventually she's grinning, albeit a little shyly.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Daylight
EMI: "Well, if you're going to put it that way, then I guess I'll have to see him. Otherwise you'll keep worrying, and then I'll never hear the end of it, right?"
HISAO: "That's right. I'll keep bugging you about it, and that might put a damper on our dates. How's the food, Hisao? Talk to the nurse, Emi. How was your day, Hisao? Talk to the nurse, Emi. Hisao, I think I'm ready to go all the w Talk to the nurse, Emi. See? It doesn't work that well."
Emi giggles at my high-pitched rendition of her own voice and gives me an affectionate shove.
EMI: "My voice isn't that high, jerk."
RIN: "I thought it was pretty accurate."
Emi and I stare at Rin for a while before I burst into laughter. Emi crosses her arms and huffs, mock-offended.
EMI: "You're both jerks."
HISAO: "Such vile calumnies from you, young woman. I'm stunned that you would call me, of all people, a jerk. Honestly, I just... I don't know what to think."
Emi sticks her tongue out at me.
EMI: "You ass. So Rin, how's the art club these days?"
Rin, seemingly as surprised by this sudden change of topic as I am, takes a minute to think before answering.
RIN: "I believe it is okay. Although Nomiya keeps telling me to work harder. But I don't think he understands my methods."
EMI: "He always struck me as slightly creepy."
Rin ponders this statement for a while.
RIN: "I've never really noticed. But I don't pay much attention to him most days, so maybe that's why."
HISAO: "How often do you meet?"
EMI: "Thinking of joining, Hisao?"
HISAO: "What? Nah, I've already decided to join a club."
EMI: "Really? Which one?"
HISAO: "Well, it's not really much of a club, to be honest..."
EMI: "Oh, you joined the tea club?"
HISAO: "No, I uh... joined the science club... I think."
Emi looks highly confused.
EMI: "We have a science club?"
HISAO: "Er, not really. It's just me."
EMI: "Hisao, that's not a club. That's sitting in your room reading books."
HISAO: "No, I mean it's just me and Mutou. I'm just the only student so far."
EMI: "Mutou? Really?"
A thought strikes her.
EMI: "Oh, is that what you were talking about yesterday? Your meeting with Mutou?"
HISAO: "Yeah, that was our first meeting, I guess."
HISAO: "Hey, I can't help being clever."
EMI: "You know, I could have used your help years ago. You should've had your heart attack earlier in life, Hisao."
I laugh, and then realize this is probably one of the very rare times I've laughed about my heart attack.
The ringing of the bell ends our conversation.
HISAO: "Hmm, guess we'd better go."
EMI: "Yeah, I guess so. Come on Rin, you too."
Rin has apparently begun to doze off, so Emi gives her a sharp bump.
RIN: "I almost had it."
EMI: "Sorry, but you need to go to class."
RIN: "I disagree, but maybe if I nap in class I'll get it this time. Changing location is sometimes helpful for that kind of thing."
Neither Emi or I bother asking what it is.