Part 86: Dewey DecimatedUpdate 77: Dewey Decimated (Act 3, Scenes 10-11)
Taking a seat, I decide to just try and finish up these posters to get my mind off of it. There are some that I don't remember making. From the wall-to-wall text and ultra-neat handwriting, I can tell Shizune must have done these. That means that the remainder must have been done by Misha. They are a lot more visual, with cute little stylized pictures of us on them. I don't know how I feel about being used as a mascot character, but I'm not really thrilled by it.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Afternoon
Some time passes; long enough for the sun to start setting. I hear Shizune putting down her pen and cracking her knuckles methodically, one at a time. It's so loud in the silence of the room that I look up, wondering if she is trying to get my attention.
Although it wasn't what she intended, when she notices me looking at her, Shizune begins to sign without skipping a beat.
SHIZUNE: [Let's take a break.]"
HISAO: [I'm surprised you would say that.]"
SHIZUNE: [It's okay. I'm almost done, anyway. And I'm hungry. Aren't you?]"
HISAO: [A little.]"
SHIZUNE: [I'm really hungry.]"
HISAO: [We could order something.]"
SHIZUNE: [I was thinking of you. I already have something to eat.]"
She produces a cinnamon bun from under her desk, raising it to head level slowly, like a magician levitating a rock.
SHIZUNE: [But! There is only one. Not enough for both of us.]"
Ah, how dramatic. I can tell what this means. A feeling of déjà vu briefly washes over me.
HISAO: [We could just split it.]"
SHIZUNE: [That's. No. Fun. So boring. Let's play shogi for it.]"
She already has the board out. That desk must have everything in it.
HISAO: [Not chess?]"
SHIZUNE: [Chess has boring promotions, this is better.]"
HISAO: [I don't know about that. Well, I'm actually pretty decent at shogi, so this is fine.]"
SHIZUNE: [Is that so? Okay, we can make it a little more interesting, then. Each move has to be completed in thirty seconds. You can add a rule, too.]"
HISAO: [No thanks, anything I could add would only hurt me more than it would help. A thirty-second time limit is already too tight for me. You're making me regret thinking it was all right to brag a little.]"
After Shizune wins the right to go first in a quick coin toss, she immediately starts playing with the aim of promoting all of her pieces as soon as possible. It seems like a very basic playstyle, and I can't help thinking it might be a trap of some sort. It's not, though. The draw of this game to Shizune appears to be the fact that she can upgrade her pieces, and steal mine. She's very good at it, but it makes her predictable. I end up doing a little better than I'd expected to. The 30-second time limit is pretty painful, though. The game ends in a draw. At this point, I think you're supposed to either go for a rematch or tally the pieces for points. Shizune doesn't want to go again in the interest of time, but winning on points clearly doesn't satisfy her.
She sits there, shifting a silver general from one edge to the other as she contemplates which of those two options she'll go for. It takes so long that I think she has forgotten about the bet. Eventually, she stops fiddling with the shogi piece and puts it down.
SHIZUNE: [Is Misha angry at me?]"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Stride
That really came out of nowhere. Shizune's frankness is disorienting, because with her, any kind of candor is a sign of total seriousness. There is no playful smile on her face, instead it's her usual stoic mask of concentration, ready to try and see if I'm about to tell her the truth. I'm upset that she thinks that I would tell her anything else, but I also know now that they have probably fought recently, out of my sight, and it makes me feel warm to know that they both care about each other so much.
HISAO: [No. I strongly doubt it. Did you know that she thinks you're angry at her?]"
Shizune nods slowly and uncomfortably.
HISAO: [She was more roundabout with the question than you. Kind of surprising, because I thought that you were the one who liked playing games.]"
SHIZUNE: [Not all the time.]"
HISAO: [Are you two having some kind of fight?]"
She is very quick to deny it, and not happy with the thought. I feel like I've stepped on a landmine.
SHIZUNE: [Sorry. Actually, yes. Just a tiny one. I know that she has no interest in the Student Council. She only joined because of me. I'm still grateful. I'm so happy she's my friend. But I don't understand what she is upset about this time.]"
HISAO: [Why don't you just ask her?]"
SHIZUNE: [She won't tell me. I'll figure it out by myself, instead. I was sure that I was very perceptive, even if I can't hear. That was dumb. I know better now. It is probably something that is my fault.]"
Shizune doesn't elaborate further on what it could have been. I'm sure that it is because she does not fully understand the situation herself. It's odd to think that Shizune, usually so sure of everything, could be scared by a little argument with a friend. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. They're a lot closer to each other than normal friends, and Shizune is pretty isolated from other people, in a way. The fact that she is deaf is no small part of it. But I get the feeling that she uses Misha as a buffer between other people of her own will, not just because it's been forced onto her. She can communicate well enough with her little pad. She just hates it. After such a long time of talking through another person, I guess you start to lose touch. It seems unavoidable. It isn't such a far-out idea to think that she isn't that great with people.
I return to working, kind of wanting to eat that cinnamon bun more as time drags on, but when I count the shogi pieces still left out on Shizune's table, I can tell at a glance she would win. I'm also too hungry to concentrate if we were to have a rematch. Motivated by my desire to wrap up and eat something, I put the finishing touches on the last of the posters.
HISAO: [Done. I think this many is enough. Too many can be a bad thing.]"
Katawa Shoujo OST - The Student Council (Shizunes Theme)
HISAO: [That's it? Just okay?]"
SHIZUNE: "...? [ I'll probably do some myself, after I'm done picking what voting format to go with.]"
HISAO: [Arrgghh. Too many posters is bad, too. Haven't you ever heard of oversaturation? I really think you're trying too hard.]"
Tenting her fingers, Shizune looks like she could almost admit it.
HISAO: [It's what Misha thinks, too.]"
I watch as her fingers continue uneasily twining around and pulling at each other in a miniature tug-of-war.
HISAO: [I don't mind, but I asked around in a couple classes today and interest is low. It's like you said. So...]"
SHIZUNE: [Does that make it wrong?]"
HISAO: [No. But... it does make it kind of pointless.]"
SHIZUNE: [It's not.]"
Yeah, but to who? I doubt even Shizune truly believes that.
SHIZUNE: [I'm not doing all this work just for my own ego.]"
HISAO: [That isn't what I mean.]"
The first chance to be alone with her in days, and I have already really cocked it up. Still, she doesn't actually look angry. It's more like she's frustrated that she can't express herself clearly enough. Since she's an expert in sign language, I wouldn't think that would be the case. I wonder what advantage being able to speak would offer her, and if she has ever thought about it.
SHIZUNE: [It's another project of mine. Just like the festivals. I'm going to do it, because it's my job. It's just that a student council election isn't as fun as a festival, so no one cares.]"
She briefly touches her fingertips together, as if to say but, maybe... There is some truth to it, but Shizune doesn't want to say anything that could be boiled down into something so glib.
SHIZUNE: [But I don't care. I want to get people riled up, but it isn't about me. I don't want to be involved at all.]"
HISAO: [What do you mean? You go to like, every single festival.]"
Shizune waves her hand in mock indignation.
SHIZUNE: [Well... I have to have fun, too. But you know, it's not the same thing.]"
Her spirits seem to have improved, if she can manage to crack a joke.
SHIZUNE: [I don't want anyone to make a point of me being involved. It's a hassle. I don't want that responsibility. Things are becoming too complicated now as-is. The more I try to hype up the elections, the more involved I have to be. No one wants to play their hand yet, and it doesn't feel like my time is over, even though it should.]"
Crossing her arms and leaning back, she grinds her teeth together in frustration.
SHIZUNE: [They're all so lazy; it's impossible to get them to do anything. Anywhere else, the elections would be an exciting event. It's illogical, why does everyone have to be so different? If only there was some way to punish them... ...Like chaining the school to their desks. Voting is mandatory. If you don't vote, you get whipped.]"
Terrifying. I wonder how hypocritical it would be if I were to stay in bed on election day. With the flu. And a cold. And strep throat. And a sprained ankle.
HISAO: [You should put yourself on one of these. Not as punishment. Don't misunderstand.]"
I hold up one of Misha's posters.
HISAO: [Like this. It's kind of a neat idea. Misha was on to something. It's a lot cuter than just text. I'd think you would like it. Having cute mascots would drum up some excitement.]"
SHIZUNE: [Maybe if it's just Misha.]
HISAO: [Why not me? Someone told me that this school has slightly more girls than boys... you have to cater to that demographic, too.]"
Shizune giggles, audibly this time. I'm surprised, and when she sees my face, so is she. Her face flushes pink, embarrassed to have let out a sound. Which is really confusing, to say the least.
HISAO: [Why don't you put yourself on it?]"
She just waves my question away.
SHIZUNE: [It's troublesome.]"
HISAO: [What do you mean, troublesome? Everyone knows that you're in the Student Council.]"
My stomach growls, making me realize that I'm hungrier than I'd thought. Shizune uses the moment to deflect my question by changing the subject.
SHIZUNE: [Is something wrong?]"
HISAO: [No. My stomach growled.]"
SHIZUNE: [I see.]"
She looks at the forgotten pastry on her desk then frowns, finding it inadequate for two people.
SHIZUNE: [Let's go to the Shanghai, if you are that hungry. It might be a little busy this late, but Yuuko is working there today. We will definitely get a table.]"
There is something worryingly underhanded in that smile.
HISAO: [I'll pass. I've already been there twice this week, back to back.]"
Shizune pouts, leaning back against her desk and scrunching up her posture in protest.
SHIZUNE: [I'm disappointed you said no.]"
HISAO: [Well, I can't agree with you on everything.]"
SHIZUNE: [You don't give your opinion often enough, anyway. It would be easiest for me if it was like that, but not very interesting, right? There are some decisions you should disagree with me on, then. You have a duty to.]"
HISAO: [How am I supposed to know which is which?]"
SHIZUNE: [It's easy.]"
HISAO: [No, it's not. Sometimes it's hard for me to tell whether you're joking or serious.]"
Although, since she communicates entirely in sign language, that would seem pretty obvious. I wouldn't say that that's all there is to it, though.
I remember when I had my heart attack, Iwanako wouldn't stop talking, at first. Eventually, I wished that she would just shut up. Or I would have, if I hadn't been happy to have any kind of company at all. Gradually, I stopped being so grateful. When we talked, I felt like it was nothing more than ritualized exchanges of politeness. Iwanako tried extremely hard to obfuscate how she felt, which was that I was hopeless. In the end, her outer behavior matched her inner feelings. For that reason, I was able to accept it when one day she stopped showing up. I was no longer surprised by the time it happened. Even though she considered herself a master at hiding her feelings, I was not surprised.
I've heard that games like shogi and chess can tell you a lot about a person. I wish I knew what Shizune thought they said about me. It could be that I'm a little more like Iwanako than I'd like to think, if I can only tie with Shizune by retreating.
I suggest that we should order out.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
The next day, I walk up to my usual vending machine at lunch only to find that it's out of my favorite drink. Secreted so far away from most of the classrooms, between a storeroom and the library, it's like no one knew about it. I'd expected a vending machine so close to the library to be booming with customers, but then again, the library is empty most of the time, and anyone who goes there is only doing it to look for stuff to pad a paper with. No one stays there longer than they absolutely have to. For the past month, it's been working out in my favor, but the trade-off with a vending machine no one knows about is that it's never restocked. Settling for a can of orange soda, I decide on drinking it here instead of waiting until I get to the cafeteria, when the library door opens next to me.
YUUKO: "Ah... I've been looking for you!"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Fripperies
Yuuko seems to be acting a lot more assertive than usual today, although it isn't enough to keep her from going back to mumbling immediately afterwards.
YUUKO: "R-return your books, please. I mean... the library's books. The books you checked out are really overdue. Some of them are on waiting lists..."
HISAO: "Oops. I forgot. I keep checking out new ones, and forget the return the old ones."
YUUKO: "That happens to me all the time at the university library, it's so embarrassing."
HISAO: "Do they send someone to try and get you to bring them back?"
YUUKO: "No... The university library is bigger, they don't notice if I happen to borrow something longer than normal. It's convenient, because their policy on keeping the books too long is... really strict, stricter than here..."
I like how despite what she said, Yuuko has no problem with borrowing books for longer than she is supposed to anyway. It makes her being so on top of my own lateness a little hypocritical. It takes a thief, I guess. Catching on to the meaning of her words around the same time I do, Yuuko clams up and starts backpedaling furiously.
YUUKO: "...Um... ah... That's different... from this situation! It's totally different..."
Yuuko stares at her nails for a second as if she really wants to bite them, but is too self-conscious to do so.
YUUKO: "For instance, how long it's been... You checked out some of these books months ago, Hisao. Sorry... It's just that, other people want to read them, too. If you're a slow reader, that's okay, though..."
HISAO: "No, it's a total screw-up on my part. To be honest, I haven't even read some of them. I shouldn't keep taking out books when I have a backlog."
YUUKO: "That's not good..."
HISAO: "Yeah, it really isn't..."
Now I'm starting to copy her habit of trailing off quietly. Her awkwardness is very contagious, for some reason. That said, I'm surprised. Yuuko seems almost normal today, although every now and then, her waitress-y nervous tics keep popping back up. Come to think of it, she didn't act this way when I first met her. She was a little clumsy and neurotic, but it wasn't anywhere near this severe until Shizune, Misha, and I ran into her at the Shanghai. It could be that Yuuko has a complex about having kids from the school seeing her waitressing. I guess it was a little odd for her to pick the closest café to the school to work in, then. In that case, maybe the place having so few customers could be considered a lucky break.
HISAO: "Well, I get it. I'll return them right after school."
YUUKO: "As soon as possible, please. Um... wait, can I ask you for one more thing?"
HISAO: "Sure, what is it?"
YUUKO: "I... I have to go for a while, but I can't just leave the library empty... Sorry, but can I ask you to watch it while I'm gone? Just for a little bit, I'll be right back as soon as possible! You're in the Student Council, so I'm sure if you did it, it would be okay."
HISAO: "All right, I'll do it, don't worry ab"
YUUKO: "Thank you!"
Yuuko quickly slides forward as if she's so grateful she is about to give me a hug, but she stops two centimeters into it, which ultimately just makes the gesture look extremely confusing. I'm also surprised that she can control her momentum so well, since she seems kind of clumsy.
Before I can say as much as You're welcome, she is already dashing off with the urgency of someone late to an appointment. That could be the case, but I wouldn't feel safe assuming so. It's Yuuko, and she seems like the kind of person to treat everything that way.
Now that I'm in the library, I feel a bit silly. I don't really know what I'm supposed to do. Should I sit down like I normally would and read? It probably would do, but wouldn't meet Yuuko's high standards. Maybe I should sit at the librarian's desk, and give anyone who comes in a stern and analytical glare. I use Shizune's as a starting point, and practice it a couple times in the mirrored surface of a pen. I think it looks pretty good. Frustratingly, no one comes in, so I give up on the idea quickly, and decide to just go looking for Hanako instead. It's deserted. I think I see someone, but the second I blink, whoever it is is gone. As soon as I return to Yuuko's desk and crack open an interesting-looking book, a familiar person swings in front of me like a falling pendulum.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Out of the Loop
KENJI: "Yo, librarian, I've been looking for you for like, ten minutes. What?! It's you? Man, you must really get around, or the Student Council makes you get around. Those bitches! How could they? Slave drivers!"
He must be exaggerating, because it took me thirty seconds just to do a slow walk around the whole place. The thought is overridden by my surprise to see him.
HISAO: "Where did you come from? What are you doing here?"
KENJI: "What, can't a guy go to the library now? I can't even go to the library without some young buck like you giving me the third degree over it. I see some girl coming in here all the time, but no one ever asks her what she's doing here. Is it because she reads and I don't?"
He must be talking about Hanako. Although I suppose they both avoid people, I want to tell him that reading is what you usually do in a library. So if he's not reading, whatever he's doing is bound to make him look way more suspicious than her. In the end, though, I'm too surprised by him practically appearing out of thin air.
HISAO: "That that doesn't tell me what you are doing here."
KENJI: "I'm here because of you."
His response makes me feel confused. Maybe I fell asleep and this is all just some weird dream, and this Kenji isn't real, but really my subconscious. Is he going to start giving me deep but vaguely-worded advice now?
KENJI: "Because of you, I got chased out of my dorm by feminists. Now, I wander this library, like a soldier without a country, or a ghost. I should haunt you, for ruining things for me."
It's a shame, it would have been an interesting dream, but it seems like this is the real deal.
KENJI: "Yeah, you had to start working with women, and that brought them to my door. You remember that? You should, since you were there. After that day, I knew they were on to me. I should have trusted my instincts, but I was young and stupid."
HISAO: "That wasn't even a week ago."
KENJI: "Then, my dad called and said one of my letters hadn't been delivered. The post office couldn't have lost it, so it must have been intercepted. Information warfare! That's when I knew my secret hideout was compromised. Now I'm on the run, like a fugitive. It's code red."
HISAO: "Dorm rooms aren't secret, they put your name and number on a board right in the doorway."
KENJI: "I know, I saw that. They're diabolical. Why not just put up a big Wild West wanted poster, if they're gonna be like that?! Wanted: Dead or Alive! Probably alive, so they can clone me or turn me into a grasshopper."
Jumping without warning into the empty chair opposite me, Kenji takes out a cigarette and starts spinning it between his fingers. I've never seen him smoking before, so it must be for effect.
KENJI: "I can't even live where I want to any more. This is where it all begins. The tactical brilliance... I mean, once they're in your home, it's over, like termites. If the feminist plan for dominance STARTS there, where the fuck can we go? The only question is how they could take a page out of the termite playbook when women are naturally repelled by wood."
HISAO: "You can never go home again. Is that how the saying goes?"
KENJI: "Man, I don't know about never. I was just there. I don't know anywhere else I can shower and get new clothes. And eat, and use the bathroom. And watch TV. I have to keep watching the news, to keep informed."
For someone ousted from his dorm room and living on the run, he sure has no qualms about going back there several times a day for long periods of time. But by now he's slowly turned away from me and is talking to a revolving display of murder mysteries. There's really no point in interrupting him, I guess. I finish off my soda and throw the can into the basket near the door. It hits the rim, but goes in anyway. I silently pump my fist. Kenji quickly gets up and starts to head towards the door. I wasn't really paying attention; I hope I didn't fist pump at an inappropriate moment.
HISAO: "Where are you going?"
KENJI: "You kept sucking down that juice."
HISAO: "So? It wasn't even juice, it was soda. And it's gone now. And what do you mean, sucking it down? I had two sips."
KENJI: "Yeah, right, you had like fifty million sips."
HISAO: "That's not even possible."
KENJI: "Maybe for you; I go beyond the impossible all the time. Okay, whatever, now I'm thirsty too. I'm going to get my own juice, I'll be right back."
His sprite fades out and in.
He does come almost right back, so quickly that I suspect he knows about my secret vending machine.
KENJI: "I got you one, too. Hope you like grape juice. We're even for the pizza, now."
I want to tell him that I lent him nearly ten times the cost of a can of grape juice, but that might make me seem petty. Unopposed, Kenji sits down and starts furiously drinking juice like a man with a vendetta against grapes.
KENJI: "You know, it's a lucky break for me that I managed to run into you here, man. I kinda need you to do me a favor."
Although it's cynical, I wonder if him getting me juice was so he could ask me for this favor. If so, it's very transparent, and poorly timed. I doubt Kenji would think about something so deeply, though. Just asking for things straight out is more his style.
KENJI: "I need you to recommend me some books."
HISAO: "But I thought you didn't read."
KENJI: "How did you know?"
HISAO: "You told me. You said you think people discriminate against you because you don't read."
KENJI: "Well, they do. And I do read, I read audio books, because that's the way of the future. I have to read a book a month for Literary Studies, though, and I found out that the school doesn't really accept such classics as Advanced Cryptography. If I don't read a bunch of books, they're gonna fail me. I can't fail Literary Studies... that would make me illiterate. That would mean my mom was right. My mom can't be right. I'll just have to study literacy as much as possible."
HISAO: "What about doing some extra credit?"
KENJI: "No thanks. It's bad enough I'm gonna have to carry around these stupid things now."
He picks up a dictionary, flips through it, and places it on the murder mystery rack behind him.
KENJI: "I can't believe this is actually the medium that our ancestors used to look at porn."
I spit my drink all over the book I'm still holding, damaging it beyond any hope of repair. I quickly check the back and see its suggested retail price is 7900 yen. I think I might have a heart attack.
KENJI: "Wow, destroyed. Shouldn't have done that, though, they take vandalism super seriously here. You're gonna get caned."
He chortles, amused, before taking an extremely long, loud sip from his can of juice.
HISAO: "It's not vandalism, I didn't do it on purpose. You made me do it, with your words. And what do you mean caned? I don't want to be caned."
KENJI: "Wait, chill out, I didn't mean they actually cane you, they just make you pay for it, and really, really yell at you. It's like they were going to bite my ass off. Still not that big a deal."
HISAO: "I don't care if it's figurative, I don't want to get caned, or get my ass bitten off, or any kind of punishment, you... you dumbass. What am I going to do? I'm the only person in here. That she knows of, anyway. I can't even throw the book in the trash. It will be found. Then she'll know."
KENJI: "Damn, dude, stop being so weird."
HISAO: "How is it weird to not want to be fined?"
KENJI: "Man, stop flipping out, man."
HISAO: "I'm not flipping out, I'm trying to save money."
KENJI: "So cheap."
I'm about to strangle him when I hear Misha's wahaha coming up the hallway. Apparently, Kenji hears it too, and uses the opportunity to quickly vanish behind the autobiography section. Like the wind.