Part 75: InterfaceAs requested, Ill be including short guides on where we are in the route with each update title. If theres desire, I can go back and add this in for all past updates, though I do dread how much fine work thatll take.
Update 68: Interface (Act 2, Scenes 6-7)
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
I throw back my daily fistful of pills with a glass of water. After a solid eight hours of sleep, I don't really know what I was so afraid of last night.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Raindrops and Puddles
As I chew a particularly large tablet in half, I continue to rationalize my worries away. Shizune knew I was taking sign language classes all day yesterday, and didn't make a big deal out of it. She might be mute, but that doesn't mean she can't make her feelings known. No, in fact, it seems like she's all the more direct for it. She doesn't beat around the bush or hold back, she always makes herself clear unapologetically, so there can be no mistakes. So, if she wasn't mad then, it's unlikely she would be at all. And on top of that, I didn't do anything wrong, anyway.
But as that fear of mine recedes, the thought of spending a couple days with Shizune without Misha takes its place. I hadn't really thought about it yesterday, but the idea becomes more and more intimidating. It's true I can understand sign language pretty well, but... I would definitely hesitate to say I can understand it above a basic level, and if she were to speed up her signing, which she does quite a bit, I don't think I could keep up. Signing, too, is not my strong suit. Doing both at the same time like Misha can is still a distant dream.
MISHA: "Don't forget, you said you would help out with building stalls today~! Behind the school after classes are over, okay~?"
HISAO: "I know, I know."
MISHA: "Last time you helped out, Hicchan, we really appreciated it~! This time, it's even more important, so skipping out is unforgivable, okay?"
I want to ask why that is, but there isn't any opportunity to. Besides, Misha is behind in her classes, so it seems like a bad idea to distract her now that I know that. I can always ask her at lunch, which is what I end up doing.
MISHA: "Because, Hicchan, a festival that celebrates a town is exactly what it sounds like. It's to celebrate your home and its history. Tanabata is different, it's for wishes and lovers~! That definitely makes it more important, doesn't it? Yeah~, naturally, it would be~."
HISAO: "Is that really what it's for, though?"
MISHA: "Hicchan, you have no sense of fun..."
She puffs out her cheeks in displeasure before blowing the air out like a deflating balloon.
MISHA: "You have to appreciate things like that, even if it's just an excuse to eat interesting things and dress up in the end~! I'll be disappointed in you if you don't, okay?"
Before I can say anything, she turns to the side to inhale a croquette.
After classes, I meet Shizune behind the school, where it seems she already set everything up sometime yesterday.
She greets me with a short wave, and then with a flourish of the hammer already in her hand, extends her arm towards the stalls behind her, some of them already half completed, others still haphazard piles of board bundled together with string.
As time passes, I realize the pills can only do so much. I still get way more tired than should be normal. Luckily, Shizune's back is to me, so I can afford to take a lot of breaks without having to worry about her wondering why. When I stop and think about it, though, I start to feel pretty guilty for taking advantage of her inability to hear that my hammer's stopped banging. It's a terrible thing to be happy about. Her work ethic is admirable. It's obvious that it bores her, and even annoys her, but she doesn't slacken her pace. When she gets tired nailing a stall together with one arm, she switches to the other.
I feel like an idiot the second I say her name. I can't tell her what I think. There's a hammer in my hand as well, and in the end, I feel like I have to keep up with her. I can't slack off either, especially when it's just the two of us. There's no time to sign, no opportunity. Not even for a compliment for a job well done. Even something as casual as that would require me to put my hammer down, get her attention, and then sign it to her. A simple gesture turned into something so needlessly complex, like a single footstep taken on a road that's longer than first imagined. I've known her long enough to know this, and still forgot it.
The air is filled with the rhythmic knocking of nails being driven into wood. It's actually kind of nice after a while. To pass the monotony of the task at hand, I try to match my hammering to Shizune's, then alternate it to try and form a beat. Of course, she doesn't notice. It makes me wonder, does the lack of sound make this work seem more drawn out and boring to her? Is it strange, being unable to hear the results of her actions even as she feels the vibrations through her fingers? Or, having no concept of sound, does it bother her at all? Distracted, I don't notice Shizune sneaking up on me until her head pops into view.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Air Guitar
SHIZUNE: [Taking a break]?"
HISAO: [Yeah, I guess.]"
SHIZUNE: [Okay, let's do that. You can understand sign language. That makes it more convenient for both of us. Even though you hid it from me.]"
HISAO: [Why what?]"
SHIZUNE: [Why did you decide to take sign language?]"
Her eyes don't break off from mine even for a second, if she needs to read my response, her peripheral vision is good enough. Once she has something in her gaze, she doesn't look away.
It's strange how piercing her eyes can be, dark as a lake at night.
HISAO: [Because I wanted to. It seemed like it would come in handy. And it did, didn't it?]"
HISAO: "[Sorry, I didn't catch any of that. See? This kind of thing still comes up now and then. I wish Misha was here.]"
SHIZUNE: [She has work to make up for, doesn't she? That might be partly my fault. Misha doesn't need supplemental lessons. Her grades aren't the best, but she understands how the decisions she makes affect others. That puts her ahead of many people. Especially certain blondes.]"
She doesn't forget things easily.
SHIZUNE: [Your sign language is very good. You're learning oddly fast.]"
HISAO: [I've been taking classes for a while now. And it's kind of easy to pick up after awhile, through immersion, or osmosis, that kind of thing. It's not too bad. And if I'm really stuck, Misha's there, too.]"
SHIZUNE: "... ..."
I guess I spoke too soon. I didn't understand any of that. Time to backpedal.
HISAO: [Well, yeah, it's actually not that easy. It's actually hard as hell. Like trying to pick up broken glass. But I guess in some ways it's interesting, as well. Like an adventure. Well, no...]"
SHIZUNE: [Picking up broken glass is not an adventure.]"
HISAO: [Sure it is. It's just as challenging.]"
SHIZUNE: [If you use a dustpan and a broom it's not.]"
I feel frustrated and sad. When I look up, I notice she has a can of soda in her hand.
HISAO: "Where did you get that?"
I forget to sign it, but she understands anyway, following my eyes, and produces another one from behind her back. She tosses it in my direction, and I catch it with both hands.
SHIZUNE: [I brought an extra one for you.]"
She pauses to slide her fingernail under the tab of her can and pop it open before setting it aside for a moment.
SHIZUNE: [If you are going to try and help me so much, then I have to look out for you too. It's only natural. If you're going to learn sign language, that is something entirely different. I'm naturally going to be impressed. What separates the two is obligation. I'm very happy.]"
She downs her drink in one go, stretches her arms behind her back and jumps to her feet.
And like that, it's over. Shizune returns to her work with the same energy as before, the lingering traces of a smile on her face the only evidence that she had taken a break at all.
Over the next several seconds, the scenery gradually transitions from afternoon to nightfall. Its timed so itll wrap up by the middle of the next paragraph.
As I do the same, I think that Misha was right in saying everything would work out for the best. Everything so far seems to be going in that direction. Misha swings by as it starts to get darker, looking just as tired as I feel, and Shizune decides to stop for today. As we cover the day's work and go our separate ways, I look at how fluidly they talk to each other, and how easily they laugh together as they walk to their dorm. It makes me appreciate Misha's skill at sign language more. I wonder if I'll ever reach that level, or if I even will have the time to.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
The first thing I do this morning is trip once again over Kenji's package as I get out of bed, finding myself diving headfirst into the floor before I'm even fully awake. I want to smack this thing with the first blunt object I can find, like I'm going for a home run, but I don't even have the energy for that this early in the morning... and it would likely damage whatever's inside. And that would be mean.
I slide it into the hallway. It sails along the smooth floor with little difficulty and stops with a soft and almost inaudible bump on colliding with Kenji's door. Immediately, a dozen locks unbolt in succession like a mounting symphony.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Out of the Loop
KENJI: "Who is it?"
He says, as he blindly steps forward into the hallway anyway, somehow stepping over the box in a way that would be uncharacteristically, impressively graceful if it weren't for the fact I know it was wholly accidental.
HISAO: "It's me, I got your mail. You're standing over it."
KENJI: "I know. Thanks a lot, man."
HISAO: "...Yeah, whatever. So what's in it?"
He cringes, instantly turning very defensive and agitated.
KENJI: "It's nothing."
HISAO: "Come on, tell me, I'm curious. And you know, I almost broke my neck falling over it, and before that I had to carry the stupidly large box around with it blocking my vision, crossing roads with it in front of me... I think you can at least tell me what's inside in return."
KENJI: "It's secret stuff. I can't tell you, because then it wouldn't be very secret and shit. It's nothing important."
HISAO: "Well, if it's nothing important, you can tell me."
KENJI: "If it's nothing important, why do you have to know?"
HISAO: "Why is that wrong?"
KENJI: "Why do you have to know?"
HISAO: "Why can't I know?"
KENJI: "Why are you answering my questions with questions?"
HISAO: "Why won't you answer my first question?"
KENJI: "Why won't you answer my last question?!"
I realize our voices are getting higher with each reply. Down the hall, a door pops open and someone sticks his head out quizzically to see what is going on. We must look like such tools, but I bet I'm the only one out of the two of us with enough shame to realize it.
HISAO: "Fine, you can take it to your grave. I have to get ready for school anyway."
KENJI: "Damn, no. Why are you so hasty to leave? Stick around a little. You want some coffee? It's been a while. You know, I thought you were dead since you were so slow with the package delivery."
HISAO: "You're lucky I was willing to do package delivery in the first place, smartass!"
KENJI: "Whoa, calm down. Man, you are so confrontational. Is it because of the Student Council thing? I hear you hang out with them now."
HISAO: "You heard it from me. When I told you."
KENJI: "Really? Yeah, well, whatever, man. The point is they are terrible. You're the new guy, so of course you wouldn't know, but around here she's a very divisive figure. Before you came here, she tried to institute a badge policy. It's a long story, so maybe you should sit down."
I look around for a chair, but can't find one as we are in a goddamn hallway. I raise a finger and start thinking that maybe I should tell him that, but he's already started talking. Not wanting to waste the arm movement, I look at my watch instead.
KENJI: "It would have been a real reign of terror, if it had happened."
HISAO: "Wait, you're judging her based on something that didn't even happen?"
KENJI: "Yes. Anyway, her idea was like merit badges, but there would also be demerit badges."
HISAO: "What would those do?"
KENJI: "I don't know, it never happened. It seemed bad, though, so when I heard about it I didn't leave my room for a few weeks."
HISAO: "So you heard there would be massive change and hid in your room, trying to just ride the change out."
KENJI: "Nah, I decided to do something about it. I found the student council office after a while and marched right in with a list of demands and a bunch of people I grabbed in order to make myself look like I had supporters."
HISAO: "Wait, so not only did it not happen, but no one even cared?"
Kenji doesn't hear me, having gotten a good momentum going. Wrapped up in the energy of his own ranting, he starts to completely flip out and flail his arms, appearing to wildly throw gang signs.
KENJI: "I walked up to the desk and said to her, Hey you, fascist woman! What is this badge idea? How out of touch can you be, here in your ivory tower, smugly looking down upon us like we're just a bunch of idiots? Who do you think you are? Your level of elitism is terrible, you're probably one of those outrageous rich people who have chaffeurs drive them around slums so they can point and laugh... ...and only drink pricey coffee beans shat out by the last living dinosaur and brewed in a solid gold skull. And how could you? Go open up a history book; don't you know that the bourgeoisie are always overthrown in a bloody revolution for shit like this? Stupid! You're an idiot! Sure, the revolutionaries usually end up turning everything into an utter clusterfuck later on, but a maniac is the only kind of person who would create a policy like this... ...it's like something I would create to make people suffer, only real and you want to institutionalize it! Where will this desecration of our rights end? We are people! This is not justice! That's what I said. Then I added a cry of They can take our things, but they'll never take our freeeeeedoooooom! to appeal to the masses like in that movie about the life of William Wallace where they took his things but not his freedom, and then killed him.
KENJI: "...But she just ignored me and didn't even look up from writing in her little paper shit. Maybe I overwhelmed her with my logic, so badly that she just retreated into denial. Maybe she is just an asshole. Either way, she didn't reply, and the future refused to change. To top it off, on the way back I realized I had lost my student ID somewhere. This is the story of my life. A constant and seemingly futile struggle. Like trying to climb up a brick wall with sponges for hands."
HISAO: "Hey, you said nothing changed, but she didn't make everyone wear a bunch of stupid badges. So, it did change."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Out of the Loop
KENJI: "Yeah, that's true. Okay, maybe they're not so bad, then."
I guess that counts for something, if I can get Kenji to admit that maybe two women may not be so bad after all. I'll take it. Especially if it allows me to slip out of this conversation; I didn't realize how much time had gone by.
I try to run through my usual morning routine as quickly as possible. I check my watch again as I leave the dorms and see that I'm already late. Fortunately, the rest of the day goes more smoothly, and after classes are over, I head to meet with Shizune again.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Daylight
Behind the school, I catch her leaning against a completed stand with parts of it still flecked with bits of paper and tape, remnants of signs from the last time it was used. Absentmindedly spinning a nail in her hand, she hasn't noticed me yet. The temptation to sneak up on her is unbearable. Years of watching foreign wildlife documentaries have prepared me for this. I'm downwind, conditions are favorable. However, the more I think about it, the more it seems like a bad idea. If get caught halfway I'll look like an idiot, and if she doesn't know it's me, I could end up with an injury. Either way, I'll also look a little insensitive. So, it would probably be best not to try anything funny... as disappointing as it is.
I walk in front of her, startling her a little."
HISAO: [Why so surprised? Did I catch you slacking off?]"
SHIZUNE: [No, I was taking a break.]"
HISAO: [You don't look like you even broke a sweat. That's some break there, president.]"
Shizune's eyes dart back and forth momentarily, and I think I've managed to fluster her. There's exasperation on her face, and a little tension as well, but she can't back down; that would be unthinkable for her. Her fingers dance across each other impatiently.
SHIZUNE: [You're acting competitive today. Are you trying to get my blood boiling? Do you want to make it a contest? We'll race to see who can construct the most stalls by sundown.]"
HISAO: [No, no! I'm teasing you. That's okay, it's not a real Student Council if you can't tease the Student Council president a little. You agree, don't you?]"
SHIZUNE: [That isn't in the student council charter, so it isn't true.]"
HISAO: [There is no charter!]"
At least, I don't think there is. The only thing they pledge loyalty to are a stack of takeout menus.
SHIZUNE: [Anyway, it's good that you're finally here, even if you could have been earlier. Pick up a hammer and we'll resume where we left off.]"
As we work assembling stalls again, I slowly realize that it's really much less work than I would have expected. In fact, according to Shizune, we should be done by the end of the day with a little luck. The last time I did something like this for them, it took her, Misha, and myself almost four days to do it. It can't be just my imagination.
HISAO: [You know, this doesn't seem like that much work.]"
SHIZUNE: [Because it isn't.]"
That answer leaves me wanting a little more. Knowing that it isn't the best, Shizune puts down her hammer to elaborate.
SHIZUNE: [It would be impossible for two people to do that much work in less than a week. The truth is that I don't dismantle half the stalls, I just store them someplace else. Actually, more like I hide them in plain sight."
She waggles a finger mischievously.
SHIZUNE: [But that's a secret, and it's not proper to reveal the tricks of the trade.]"
HISAO: [You're not a magician.]"
Winking, she takes out two plastic containers from her bag, then puts them down on a nearby board before raising her hands slightly as if to say ta-da!
SHIZUNE: [I made lunch today for both of us. You can have this one. The food shifted in my bag and now some of it is mixed together.]"
She hands me one of the containers. I open it. It looks delicious, if a little simple. She hands me a pair of chopsticks, as if she had just remembered to, and I eat what looks like some grilled beef.
HISAO: [It's very tasty. You don't like your food touching other food?]"
SHIZUNE: [I do not.]"
HISAO: [You're very picky.]"
SHIZUNE: [Sometimes I mix my food on my own, but not always, and not everything. I don't like it when it's done for me. What is important is the choice.]"
She points decisively to emphasize it, and then breaks her chopsticks apart to eat her own meal. As I continue to eat, I notice two things. The first is that almost everything I'm eating besides the rice is fried. Even the vegetables are fried. And there's so much meat. Does she eat this kind of stuff all the time? I wonder how she manages to stay so thin in spite of it. The second thing I notice is that I can't talk to her while eating. Talking with your mouth full is a little rude anyway, but with our hands holding our chopsticks and bowls, communication between us is impossible. Just like yesterday. Even though we're spending time together, even though I took the time to learn sign language, it feels like I'm talking to her less. Despite that, it also feels like I'm understanding her more.
I hear the sound of something tapping against one of the stands and look up to see Lilly standing off to my side, feeling her way around with her cane.
I narrowly catch myself before I can say didn't see you there.
LILLY: "Oh, Hisao, is that you? I thought that I smelled something delicious cooking, and wondered who it might be."
SHIZUNE: [What is she saying?]"
It's hard to move my hands in parallel to saying something completely different to Lilly. This has to be why Misha just signs everything all the time. A bit sillier, but it seems like it would simplify things a lot.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Fripperies
Shizune tents her fingers delightedly at my translation, as if from hearing a joke.
SHIZUNE: [All of this food was cooked hours ago, but for someone as slow as yourself, who can't even turn in a piece of paper without being a week late, I guess your perception of time would have to be a little different!]"
HISAO: "That's... not very nice."
A frown crosses Lilly's face in response to a reply to something she didn't hear.
HISAO: "Ah, sorry. I'm just having a late lunch here. The Student Council president cooked everything."
LILLY: "Is the Student Council president here right now?"
HISAO: "She's right here."
LILLY: "I apologize, I didn't notice. Normally her level of presence is much higher. I was not aware that the Student Council serves lunch outdoors, why wasn't I invited? I think that it is good to have enough free time to be able to do things like this, however."
SHIZUNE: [What is she saying?]"
SHIZUNE: [If I were to invite you anywhere, you would just show up late.]"
But Shizune's words are outside of Lilly's perception, a fact that is by the second increasingly maddening to her.
SHIZUNE: [Translate for me completely, please.]"
What polite phrasing. It's a shame she's essentially asking me to let her fully release the dogs of war. Still, I can't just do nothing. The feeling of being unable to even respond and be understood is so isolating. She would never forgive me. I'll just try to soften her words a little.
HISAO: "Well, actually, this was all cooked a while ago."
LILLY: "Really? That's nice."
SHIZUNE: [Turn over here, it's very disrespectful to not look at the person you're speaking to. That isn't the way a prim and proper lady should conduct herself.]"
HISAO: "Half of what I'm saying is really what Shizune is saying. She doesn't like it when people don't look in her direction when she's trying to make a point. She's, uh, to the right of my voice."
Although in this case I can understand why Lilly wouldn't. This is a very awkward situation and it's daunting being the sole conduit for dialogue between the two of them. Truthfully, I had forgotten what happened the last time they butted heads like this. It's clear Shizune remembers, and Lilly is being pretty hostile herself, in her own way.
LILLY: "I'm sorry, such formalities slipped my mind completely. I forgot that the Student Council president is the type of person who would demand such respect and adherence to the rules at all times. I suppose student government requires you to keep a tight ship. Then again, she certainly has time for her own fun as well, so that must not be completely true."
SHIZUNE: [Student Council is not a dictatorship, nor a zero-sum game!]"
Shizune points at Lilly with her finger out like the barrel of a gun and snaps her fingers explosively, causing her to flinch and become visibly upset.
Every time Shizune snaps (including now) the game plays a finger snap sound effect deliberately mixed to be louder than everything else.
LILLY: "Is that so? Then that makes it more impressive that you have been a part of it for so long, playing it as though it were one. I admire the fact that you are so tenacious. To manage it all, you must be so responsible as well."
SHIZUNE: [Not as much as I would like to be. You can't complain about yourself, though, can you? You're very responsible; actions like requesting a deadline to be extended and then running all the way through to the next deadline? That's the very model of responsibility!]"
HISAO: "Shizune is happy to hear that. But, apparently you're pretty responsible yourself, she says."
LILLY: "Does she really?"
HISAO: "More or less..."
Lilly doesn't seem very happy.
HISAO: "We're not holding a cookout, we're just taking a little lunch break. We're actually out here building stalls for the festival."
SHIZUNE: [You wouldn't know, since you never go outside. Did you run out of tea?]"
HISAO: "Are you going into town? Shopping?"
LILLY: "No. As I said before, I was just passing by, in case you did not hear. I would hate to interrupt the Student Council president. You're not doing anything now, but you must both be very busy. In any case, Hisao, I'm sure that the Student Council president will be able to find or make work for the both of you if she needs to.
SHIZUNE: [I'll devour you!]"
HISAO: "Yeah, very busy."
Devour is a hard word. I'm pleased that I can read it. This isn't time to celebrate, thought, not over that. Instead, it looks like they might stop squabbling. I would drink to that.
LILLY: "Have a nice day, Hisao. Goodbye, Student Council president."
HISAO: "Thanks, you too."
SHIZUNE: [Stay classy.]"
As soon as Lilly leaves, Shizune dives into the remains of her lunch as quickly as possible, as if each bite she shovels away is a means to forgetting any of this ever happened.