Part 37: Saving ThrowSpontaneously decided this had to go up today since I can't afford the distraction at work tomorrow.
Update 33: Saving Throw
Katawa Shoujo OST - Raindrops and Puddles
The sound of my alarm is an unwelcome intrusion on a sleep that's been a battle to obtain. I doubt I've been truly asleep for more than an hour or two. Too much on my mind. Did I make the right choice, leaving the house yesterday? Did I manage to get Emi to realize how unreasonable she's been? Am I ever going to manage to get her to stop being unreasonable? Emi's mom gave me a new perspective the other day, but I'm still not sure that it's the right perspective. She was hurt when I left yesterday, too. I know that part of any conversation is going to have to include an apology about that. Right thing to do or not, I hurt her.
I hurry down to the track, eager to talk to Emi. I think I know what to say. Apologize for leaving first, and go ahead from there.
Unless, of course, Emi doesn't show up. Which from the looks of things seems like it's the case. It's been about fifteen minutes since I got here, and there's no sign of her. She's never late, not unless she's sick, which is unlikely. She probably just doesn't want to see me right now.
To take my mind off what that implies, I begin my warm-up routine and take off around the track. It clears my mind wonderfully; for the half-hour I'm running, I don't think about anything but the run. However, once I've finished, and Emi still hasn't shown up...
I get a little worried.
With any luck, the nurse will know where she is; if nothing else, I can see what he thinks I should do next.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Ah Eh I Oh You
NURSE: "So, last night didn't go too well, I take it."
HISAO: "Huh? You already know?"
NURSE: "I have my ways, and it's not as if I'd miss the distinct absence of your running partner this morning, now would I?"
HISAO: "No, I suppose not."
NURSE: "So, what happened?"
HISAO: "Don't you know already?"
NURSE: "Maybe, but I could be bluffing. Perhaps I'd prefer to get your side of the story before I give any advice."
I quickly fill the nurse in on the events of last night, and he takes it all in without changing expression once. Nothing about the whole event seems to surprise him, although he does seem surprised when I say that I didn't follow Emi.
NURSE: "Chose to talk to her mom instead, huh? Smart move, though I guess it didn't work out too well for you in the end."
HISAO: "Well, I'm not sure. Emi seemed apologetic when I left, or at least she seemed that way until she put up her defenses again."
The nurse sighs and spreads his hands in a conciliatory gesture.
NURSE: "Frankly, I'm surprised she let them down at all. Emi's had a lot of practice on that score. You probably won't get anything else out of her."
HISAO: "I don't believe you."
NURSE: "Is that so? You think she'll tell you the whole tale?"
I'd swear I just saw the nurse's eyes glitter a little. His expression is the same, but he leans forward ever so slightly.
HISAO: "I think she'll open up if I ask her without being an idiot about it, yeah."
The nurse gives his enigmatic smile in response and shrugs widely. I think he's enjoying his role a little too much.
NURSE: "That's the real trick, isn't it? Are you sure you know the right way to approach the subject? I can guarantee that Emi's going to try her hardest to pretend last night didn't happen. It will be painfully awkward for the both of you, but it'll also be a lot safer than trying to ask her for the whole story again. It could go worse, this time. Are you ready for something like that?"
It sounds like a challenge, like he doesn't believe for a minute that I'd be so bold. I actually feel a little insulted by his lack of confidence in me.
HISAO: "Of course I'm ready for that! I love her!"
My outburst gets a raised eyebrow in response.
NURSE: "Well then. Good luck. Let me know how it all turns out."
Although he delivers his parting shot with the same smirk as usual, I actually think that the nurse wants me to succeed.
I resist the urge to charge directly to Emi's room to prove the nurse wrong. I've gone in half-cocked before, and the results were less than stellar. If I'm going to do this, I need to figure out exactly what I'm going to say, and how I'm going to say it. Something to think about in class.
Sure enough, by the time lunch rolls around, I think I have a good enough idea of what to say. I can do this. The bell rings, and I grab my lunch and dash up the stairs, eager to be there first. I'll need to ask Rin to leave, and I'll need to
EMI: "Hi Hisao! Sorry I wasn't able to run with you this morning! I overslept!"
Somehow, both Emi and Rin have managed to get to the roof before me.
HISAO: "Oh, that's no problem. Last night was kind of... draining, I guess."
Emi's expression doesn't alter in the slightest.
EMI: "Yeah, sorry about that! But I've had such a weird morning since then!"
HISAO: "Oh uh, really?"
Emi proceeds to make small talk for the rest of the time. I can barely get a word in edgewise, and soon find myself interjecting with the sort of back and forth dialogue that seems to have defined our early relationship. I'm not gonna get anywhere on this problem during lunch, obviously. I can respect that; Emi obviously doesn't want to accidentally pull Rin into things, and that's fine. Not that I think Rin would notice, but I can at least respect that sort of rationale.
I try a different tactic.
HISAO: "Hey, Emi. What are you up to after class today? I was thinking we could go somewhere for dinner, or something."
Emi looks genuinely remorseful.
EMI: "Sorry, Hisao! I promised the track captain that I'd stick around after practice and help some of the other kids with their form! It'll have to be some other time."
HISAO: "Yeah, sure..."
I'm honestly not sure what to do now. Maybe diving into things the day after would be a bad idea anyway. She might still be angry about it and just not showing it. Besides, if she's got track team responsibilities that's fine, right?
I tell myself some variation on this theme the next day. Then the next. I wake up, run with Emi (during which she refuses to talk about anything but the run and what she was doing the night before), and then lunch, where we sit and make small talk until the bell rings. Her new responsibilities effectively keep me from seeing her outside of school. Maybe, just maybe, I'm letting it happen because it's safer this way, just like the nurse said.
Except while it may be safer, I'm feeling more and more wretched. Emi doesn't look good when I see her any more; dark circles lurk under her eyes, she seems more and more distracted, and I can't bring myself to just ask what's wrong, because the timing never seems right.
I'm absolutely miserable.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Another lunch comes. I trudge up the stairs to the rooftop like a condemned man. Rin is up there, but Emi is not. Immediately I worry that something's happened to her. Maybe the lack of sleep finally made her collapse, or something worse. She seemed pretty tired after our morning run. Maybe she fell asleep and didn't even make it to class.
HISAO: "Hey, Rin. Where's Emi?"
In response I get a rather penetrating look from Rin, and something approaching a frown appears on her face.
RIN: "Is that information really important?"
HISAO: "I think so. She's usually here with you, isn't she?"
RIN: "I don't know. I have no way of being sure."
HISAO: "I can confirm that she is, in fact, usually here with you when I come up."
RIN: "Well she isn't now. Does that worry you?"
HISAO: "Kind of."
That seems to end the conversation, and the point becomes moot anyway because Emi bounds through the door with her usual energy.
RIN: "Hisao is kind of worried about you, Emi. I don't think he can decide, or maybe I just don't believe him, but I think I'm going to go somewhere less awkward now."
I'm so surprised by Rin's being so suddenly forward about, well, anything at all that I merely watch her head through the door. Emi is similarly surprised, and colors slightly crimson as she stares openmouthed at me. It occurs to me that I should probably say something, if only to break the awkward silence that has suddenly descended.
HISAO: "It's because you weren't here yet. I was uh, worried about it."
HISAO: "You're usually here, so I was worried that something had happened to you."
EMI: "This isn't the first time that I've been late, you know. Did you get worried all the other times, too?"
HISAO: "Er, not really."
Emi seems slightly amused by this. I don't know why, but that kind of pisses me off.
EMI: "So why was this time an exception?"
Maybe it's the light, teasing tone of the question, but something in her response pushes me to be honest, though I can't help snapping at her when I say it.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Innocence
HISAO: "Because you've been worrying me since dinner at your house, that's why."
Well. Now it's out in the open. And Emi's eyes are wide, and she looks like she wants to bolt, but she doesn't.
EMI: "Ah. Still on that, I see."
HISAO: "What, you think I'm supposed to just forget about it? You threw me out of your house! We've been going on for almost a week pretending it never happened!"
EMI: "I didn't see you bringing it up either, you know."
HISAO: "I know, and I'm sorry that was the case. We have to address it, or we'll just keep up this whatever it is we've got right now. It's killing me to look at how you look right now, did you know that? Those circles under your eyes and that distracted look in them, and I can't help worrying that I've caused it somehow."
EMI: "You haven't. Trust me."
HISAO: "Well I haven't helped, either. I keep pushing you to tell me things you aren't ready to tell me; maybe I was wrong to try getting your mother to help me out, but I've been so worried about you that I didn't know what else to do."
EMI: "Well, you don't have to worry about me any more, okay? I think it's pretty clear we're not right for each other, so maybe we should just... stop."
Her face is twisted up as she says this, like she doesn't want to say it but forces herself to anyway.
HISAO: "You don't actually want that, do you? Heck, you can barely bring yourself to say it. Anyway it won't keep me from worrying about you. I care too much about you to just stop on command. You don't want to tell me what's wrong? That's fine, but I won't stop trying to help you, even if it's just standing by you."
EMI: "Stop saying that!"
She's shaking now, and as she looks at me I can see she's afraid and frustrated and a million different things all at once. I shake my head slowly and take a few steps toward her.
HISAO: "You know what your mom told me? She told me that you'd never ask for help, because you know that you're strong enough to get through anything on your own, but that's not the full story, is it?"
Her eyes go wide, and she takes a step back. I keep going, because I think I've finally figured it out. Something tells me I won't get another shot. I've put it off for far too long as it is.
HISAO: "There's no harm in having someone help you, unless you're worried about needing help in the first place. You're scared, aren't you? Because of..."
I trail off, because I don't know for certain what happened to Emi's father, and I don't want to jump to a conclusion.
HISAO: "Well, never mind why, but it's okay to be afraid. You've been running from it and from me for so long, even though you know eventually you have to turn around and face your fear, and I'm going to be there to help when you do. I won't stop, because I don't think you'd want me to. You can understand that sort of determination, can't you?"
I can see that I've gotten through to her, but she quickly falls back to anger to try and push me away again.
EMI: "Back on your white charger, Hisao? Gotta help the poor cripple face her emotional problems? What do you know about me, and about what I've already had to face? You think two months of learning to walk again was fun? But I did it, and after I did that I had to..."
For a moment it seems as if she's going to say something else, but she cuts herself off.
HISAO: "And after all that, you don't think you can get past your fear? Emi, I can't fathom what you've been through, but to come through it and still be the sort of girl that you are, well, it makes me think that you have even more strength than you think.
HISAO: "So I'm not going to help you because I think you need rescuing. I don't want to be a knight rescuing the damsel in distress, but even knights helped each other out, you know. I want to help you, even though I know you can do it on your own."
For a moment it looks like Emi's going to break down completely, but she doesn't. Tears run down her face, but she stares at me steadily.
EMI: "Why are you trying so hard to help me?"
HISAO: "I'd say that it's because I owe you one for helping me out when we first met, but that wouldn't be the truth. The truth is, I just want you to be happy, because I love you."
Had I ever said that before? We've been in a relationship, and it's been pretty obvious that I love her, but did I ever actually speak the words?
EMI: "What did you say?"
I say it again, savoring the feeling of being able to say it at all, being able to say it and mean it. Emi seems stunned.
HISAO: "I said I love you, Emi. I love you. Just you, and that makes me want to stand by you, no matter what you have to face."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Lullaby of Open Eyes
I'm wrapped in a fierce hug then, as Emi begins to sob against my chest.
EMI: "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry about everything but I'm so scared, Hisao, I'm so scared of losing you and I love you too but I can't lose you I just... I'm so sorry!"
I hold her quietly, shushing her until she settles down. She steps back, a little more composed.
EMI: "Will you come with me tomorrow? Back to my house? There are some things I need to show you, if I'm going to do this."
HISAO: "Of course. Maybe this time we can leave together, instead of separately."
Emi grins, a sudden flash of brightness that seems more genuine than anything I've seen in the past week.
EMI: "Yeah, maybe."
The lunch bell rings, and I curse the universe's poor sense of timing.
HISAO: "Are you free tonight? We can talk more then, right?"
Emi shakes her head.
EMI: "Sorry Hisao, but I'm still helping the track team. Plus, I don't think it would be good if we talked this over tonight. I'm going to be too tired to think properly, and I want to be able to tell you everything without screwing it up. You can wait, right?"
Even now, there's a bit of fear in her voice. I smile and rest a hand on her shoulder.
HISAO: "Okay. I'll be waiting."
Emi gives me a quick kiss before she heads for the stairwell.
EMI: "Thanks, Hisao. See you tomorrow morning."
HISAO: "Wouldn't miss it."
I head down the stairs with the feel of her lips on mine, suddenly aware of how much I've missed that sensation. I'll have to remember to thank Rin for getting us to talk to one another. Although it's possible she won't even realize what she's done. Still, if not for her I doubt I'd have ever been able to confront Emi again. I guess I needed more help than I realized. Tomorrow, however, I'll need to stand alone through whatever Emi's trying to work herself up to doing. I'll be up to the task. I hope.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
The morning sun is bright through my open window, and the sound of my alarm quickly has me up and about. I slept surprisingly well last night, secure in the knowledge that at least I've got another chance with Emi. If I can just keep myself from doing anything stupid, maybe I'll find out what's been eating her recently. I have a few educated guesses, but nothing concrete. And certainly nothing that I'm going to say to her; I'd much prefer to have her tell me herself.
Although I can't help remembering the nurse's warning that I might not like what she has to say. Do I really need to know that badly? What if it's something awful that makes me repulsed by her? Can I really say that I'm prepared to handle whatever she has to say, regardless of what it is? Emi said she wanted to tell me without screwing it up. What the hell did she mean by that? What's there to screw up? I suppose there's not much use worrying about it, though. I'll find out today.
It occurs to me that I really, really need a run this morning, to clear my head if nothing else.
Emi is waiting for me as promised, looking a little haggard but otherwise bright and cheerful. Much more so than any previous day this week.
EMI: "Hisao! You're late!"
I wave my hand dismissively.
HISAO: "Nonsense! You're just early."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Standing Tall (Emis Theme)
Emi grins back, and it feels like we're finally back where we should be with one another. Except now Emi, not just me, wants to take another step forward. Although a part of me worries that she'll back out at the last second.
EMI: "Hurry up and stretch, Hisao! I don't want to miss the bus!"
HISAO: "The bus?"
EMI: "I said I wanted you to come back to my house, remember? And I promised mom we'd be there in time for lunch, so I wanted to hurry!"
HISAO: "Early start, huh?"
EMI: "It's more for my mom's benefit than anything else."
HISAO: "Ah, well that's okay."
I unsuccessfully try to guess what Emi has planned, shortly before realizing that it doesn't matter that much to me.
I quickly go through my warm up routine while Emi bounces impatiently from one foot to the other. She really does seem to want to get moving as soon as possible. The run is over so quickly I can barely believe that I haven't fallen over dead afterwards. Emi set a blistering pace and I, in my foolishness, kept up with her. Well, until the last few laps. I had to slow down just in case. But I don't mind, and Emi's waiting patiently for me when I finish. As patiently as she can wait, anyway.
EMI: "Finished? Good! Come on!"
Grabbing my arm, she practically rushes me down to the nurse's office.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Ah Eh I Oh You
NURSE: "You seem in a hurry, Emi. Trying to catch the early bus?"
EMI: "Yeah, I told mom I'd be back for lunch."
NURSE: "Well, I'll take care of you first, then."
EMI: "But Hisao's gotta come with me too!"
The nurse raises a single eyebrow at this statement and peers at the two of us searchingly.
NURSE: "Really? Today, huh?"
Emi's response is a nod, followed by a surprisingly shy grin.
NURSE: "Well then, we'll make this quick."
Emi enters the nurse's office, and I patiently wait outside for her to be finished, wondering just why the nurse seemed to be surprised by Emi's declaration. I feel like I'm missing out on some joke or the significance of today. Beyond the fact that it is clearly significant in some way, of course. True to his word, the nurse has Emi out of his office surprisingly quickly, and I take her place after promising to meet up at the front gate. The nurse takes my pulse and listens for a bit.
NURSE: "Your heartbeat's faster than usual. Been pushing yourself again, have you?"
HISAO: "Well, Emi seemed in a rush to get through the run, so..."
NURSE: "Hm, I'm not surprised. Today is rather important to her, you know."
HISAO: "I suspected that could be the case, but I have no idea why that's the case."
NURSE: "She hasn't told you? Interesting."
HISAO: "So you're not going to tell me either, then."
NURSE: "No, I'm not. I suspect that Emi has her own plan for explaining today to you, and I don't want to mess with that. You'll find out soon enough, so what's the rush? Now as for your heart, I would take it easy the rest of the day. No spontaneous races or anything like that, got it?"
HISAO: "Got it. She won't have her running legs on anyway, right?"
NURSE: "No, but if you think something like that is going to stop her..."
HISAO: "Good point."
NURSE: "I don't think it'll be much of an issue today of all days, but still."
If he's trying to reassure me, he's doing a terrible job. I'm quickly becoming more and more worried about what today could be for, like suddenly finding out Emi's in a cult or something. At the same time, if today is such a big deal and Emi wants me to be with her for it, then maybe she really does want to grow closer to me. Maybe this will be the answer to all the riddles, to the sleepless nights and the sudden mood swings.
Either way, I barely remember to thank the nurse before taking off as quickly as I dare for my room, to get a shower and throw on some decent-looking clothes. If today is as important as it seems to be, I should dress appropriately.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Raindrops and Puddles
Emi, of course, proves me wrong as soon as I reach the front gate, wearing her usual shirt and shorts. So at least I know it's not a terribly formal affair, whatever it is.
EMI: "You're early, Hisao."
HISAO: "Not as early as you. Eager, are we?"
Emi cheekily pokes out her tongue. The bus stop isn't very crowded at this hour, which seems to please Emi, and we end up relaxing a little as we wait. We sit in silence for a while, but I can tell that Emi's trying to work herself up to say something. I don't have anything to say myself, so I sit waiting for her to talk. It doesn't take too long.
EMI: "So uh, I'm sure you're curious as to why the nurse thought it was so weird for me to be bringing you along today..."
HISAO: "I was a bit, yes, but if you're not ready to tell me"
Emi stops my sentence by placing a finger on my lips.
EMI: "Don't tempt me, Hisao. I want to tell you this, but I'm just uncertain as to how to go about it. I don't want to keep delaying or deferring, I just want to be able to say it."
HISAO: "So say it."
EMI: "You know that it's not going to be that easy for me, Hisao."
HISAO: "So treat it like running. Warm up to it with something small and easy, and go from there. But don't do it too fast, okay? I'm a patient man, I can wait for you to get to it."
Emi seems to consider my words, weighing them against what is probably a desire to get it over with. I will admit, as much as I keep telling Emi to take her time, I wouldn't mind her getting it over with either. But somehow I know that Emi probably needs more time than the bus ride will provide to get it all out, whatever it is.
EMI: "Yeah, maybe you're right. The bus stop probably isn't the best place for this anyway. But just to make sure that I don't go back on my word, I'll at least say this:"
She takes a deep breath, lets it out, and after a moment says in a low voice,
EMI: "We're going to see my dad today."