Part 99: Hisaos Smile
I'm impressed by the amount of unique art we've gotten just in the first update of Act 2. Rin lying on the roof, a maybe-unique sky shot, and everybody in the art club. Pretty sure the other routes didn't have this much this early on.
Im pretty sure the Rin on the roof shots were also in Emis route in an equivalent scene. But aside from those, .
Update 89: Hisaos Smile (Act 2, Scenes 2-5)
As the allotted time to finish the studies quickly ticks away, I desperately try to improve my awful sketch, but it doesn't seem to get any better. I want to start again from scratch, but what would be the point? There's no time for that, either.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Daylight
NOMIYA: "Okay everyone, that's it for today! Please turn in the drawings on my desk, and I'll see you all next Monday!"
I glance at my portrait.
It doesn't exactly look like Rin. I guess you could say it portrays her, but that might be a bit generous. The nose and jaw look hideous, and the shading is terrible. Granted, it's my first attempt at drawing with ink, but it's still pretty bad.
RIN: "That's not bad."
She sneaked up behind me while I was lost in thought.
HISAO: "Damn it. I was hoping I could smuggle the portrait to the teacher without you seeing it."
HISAO: "I'm not really happy with it. I wish I could draw better."
RIN: "You just need some practice. Could you take my drawing to the teacher too?"
Curious myself about how the sketch turned out, I peek at the picture. From the way Rin was drawing, it looked like she was really into it.
It's excellent. Somehow the seemingly arbitrary strokes come together to form an image of my face, from the shape of my chin, to the messy hair, to the somewhat gloomy expression.
Her sketch blows my mind.
>"I wish I was as good as you."
Rins route, fittingly, is the most internally convoluted one in the game. In most routes, choices trip flags directly; here, they usually just influence exactly which options you can pick from later and that goes double for the first few. This time well be going with tempered positivity instead of pure .
>"I wish I was as good as you."
HISAO: "Wow, I wish I was that good. I kind of embarrass myself."
RIN: "Wouldn't you have to be me to be as good as me? I don't think you'd want to be me."
HISAO: "No, I guess not. Maybe just some sort of approximation then."
I take a closer look at her work. It's still glistening with slowly drying ink.
HISAO: "You know, I look kind of grim here."
RIN: "You do look kind of grim. I mean, I agree; but it's also true otherwise, too. Like this you, not the you I made."
HISAO: "I do?"
RIN: "I think so at least."
Her simple statement makes me suddenly feel incredibly self-conscious. I feel like I need a mirror right now, to confirm or debunk Rin. It's a nasty feeling. Maybe it's just her. I hope it's just her, and that I don't look like that sketch to everyone. It's a good sketch, but somehow I get a really oppressive feeling from it.
HISAO: "I see. Anyway, it looks really good. You really are amazing."
RIN: "Thanks. I'm glad I could draw you. You are an interesting person."
HISAO: "You're an interesting person too, but that didn't help me much."
My self-deprecation has no limits today, but Rin ignores it all. I knew that I could never compare, but to see the difference with my own eyes is quite humbling.
RIN: "See, I tried to make you look like you think a lot, since you did a lot of thinking. And yeah, I might have overdone the fed-up-with-life expression, but cynics are like that, right?"
I want to retort something snappy, but Nomiya gives me no time to think, ushering us to the door.
NOMIYA: "Hurry up, you two!"
While we've been chatting the rest of the club has taken their leave. I quickly pick up our drawings and take them to the teacher's desk before hurrying after Rin, who has already left the classroom.
She is not in the hallway, to my surprise. I wonder where she managed to run off to in just a few seconds. Would've been nice to talk more. Well, not that I had much to say, except maybe get back at her for calling me a cynic. It's surprisingly late. I already got used to school ending at the same time every day, so I can feel the extra hours in my head. And my gut. My growling stomach reminds me that I am absolutely ravenous. I'm so hungry that I'd dare to try anything the cafeteria staff has deemed edible.
Even when I see today's delicacy, fried mystery lumps, my steely resolve doesn't fade. I stuff the dinner down without tasting it at all, which is probably for the best. I don't have much homework to do, but what little I have won't get done by itself, so I stroll toward the dormitories. Preparing for the post-homework lull, I knock on Kenji's door. He responds from the other side, although I can't make out what he said. I try the door, but it's locked.
After several seconds, the locks click open and he opens the door.
HISAO: "Hi. Hey, could I borrow a book? The library was already closed after I got away from my club meeting."
He is squinting even more than usual and his eyebrows are twitching nervously.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Out of the Loop
KENJI: "Club? That's dangerous, man. Indoctrination, groupthink, brainwashing, you name it. High school clubs sow the seeds of conspiracy. Do you know how many secret societies have grown from high school clubs? Watch your back and don't get too deep in. You might not come back."
HISAO: "Okay, Kenji. So, how about that book?"
KENJI: "Er, sure, but return them and don't spoil any of my books. No drinks, no food stains, no bodily fluids, capisce?"
HISAO: "Sure. Thanks."
Instead of letting me in, he retreats from the door, closing it again. After a few seconds he returns with a stack of three thick books and hands them over to me. Opening the topmost one, a familiar emblem stamped on the copyright page greets me.
HISAO: "Er, your books? These are from the school library."
KENJI: "They are now mine."
HISAO: "You stole these?"
KENJI: "What are you talking about, man? I've been liberating these from the oppressive feminist movement that controls the library."
HISAO: "Please say oppressive feminist movement doesn't mean that poor librarian girl, Yuuko. She couldn't even oppress a wet towel."
Kenji turns away, mumbling something I can't make out, and closes the door behind him.
Before going to my own room, I enter the bathroom. While washing my hands, my eyes catch my reflection from the mirror above the sink.
I try to look for the grimness Rin saw in me, but it's just the usual me inside the mirror that stares back. I attempt to tell myself that this is what I've always looked like, but I realize I don't remember what I looked like half a year ago.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
I wake up all sweaty, as if I had run a half-marathon in my sleep. Odd; I don't recall sleeping badly. It sends a little pang of worry through me; I wouldn't want to have my heart acting up without being able to notice it. Still, apart from this odd exhaustion right after waking up, I'm feeling just fine.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Stride
My mouth is like sandpaper and I have nothing to drink, so I have to go all the way to the bathroom to take my meds. On impulse, I decide to take a shower while I'm at it.
While I'm in the shower, I make up my mind that this counts as morning exercise, if I properly compensate with a nice half-hour walk after school. Obviously, I wouldn't want to risk possible complications by going running now. Besides, Emi will never know, and I think she's giving up on me, in any case. Walking could be nice, anyway, just to get to know the area. There's a big forest in the hills behind the school, or I could go down to the convenience store. While still dabbing the moisture off my skin, I set out to find my uniform. I quickly button up my shirt and pull on my pants before going outside.
Normally during this time of the year, I'd be eagerly awaiting summer vacation. Having only been at school for a little over a week, I don't really have that kind of feeling. I'm still savoring the school life and considering the sharp and awkward turn my life has taken. I haven't had the time to become preoccupied with getting free of it. Besides, once vacations hit, it'll be a nice surprise for me if I'm not expecting it. Especially with the end of term exams looming ahead. At least I don't have any catching up to do with my studies. My diligence has finally paid off. I push myself past the boys gathered in the doorway and flop into my seat."
From the corner of my eye I can see Shizune and Misha pause their unavoidably animated conversation and turn almost simultaneously in my direction. They clearly want something from me; I can tell from the way Shizune smiles. It's too obnoxiously bright to be sincere and too calculated to be spontaneous.
Katawa Shoujo OST - School Days
MISHA: "Good morning~!"
Her greeting is made of one hundred percent cheer and bursting energy.
I fail to put either of those into my response.
MISHA: "You don't look very energetic."
HISAO: "No wonder. I don't feel very energetic either. I think I didn't sleep well, but I'm not sure."
She slaps me in the back and grins.
MISHA: "Cheer up a bit! It's a great day~!"
I catch Shizune's eyes. She has a strange, focused expression on her face, but she furrows her brow a little at direct eye contact and looks away. For a moment, I think that Shizune caught a glimpse of my worries, somehow, and is pondering how to respond. But then she quickly straightens her glasses, and with them, her expression.
MISHA: "Anyway, we were wondering if you're still interested in that student council position, because we're going to make an offer that you can't decline~"
HISAO: "Wait, what? I wasn't really interested in the first place. You're putting words in my mouth."
MISHA: "Not as such. But, wouldn't it be nice to hang out with us every day while also being useful to your school?"
HISAO: "Well, to tell you the truth, I... I kinda joined a club. So it'd actually be sort of hard for me to join the council too. Even if I wanted to. Which I don't, as I said."
MISHA: "Is that so? Which club is it, Hicchan~?"
HISAO: "The art club."
Shizune's eyes glint in a sinister way as she scowls at me. With the way she looks, I'll be expecting the art club to lose its funding before lunch break, or the art teacher to mysteriously disappear from the face of the Earth. Before she manages to comment, the teacher finally enters the classroom, getting Shizune and Misha off my back, and sending everyone rummaging in their bags for books and pens.
I did join the art club, but the first meeting didn't really boost my confidence. I'm not really sure what I'm doing it for. I wish I could draw like Rin, but I don't know what I would do if I could. To what end would I use such a skill? I don't really know.
Katawa Shoujo OST - School Days (Muffled)
Ignoring the teacher's sleep-inducing voice, I open my notebook to an empty page and press the needle-sharp graphite tip of the pencil onto it. What to draw? I can't really think of anything good to draw. As I hesitate and raise my hand, a meek black mark left on the previously blank paper seems aggravating. I can't even seem to get to the starting line, let alone get started. It's almost a physical feeling of being held back. Annoyingly, it reminds me of my failed attempt at jogging with Emi.
I look out of the window in desperation. Right then, a small bird takes flight from one of the cherry trees that grow everywhere on the school grounds. I can't really see it clearly, and it's not like I could tell one tiny bird from another. But I pick it as my subject anyway.
Conjuring up the image of a bird in my mind's eye, I turn my gaze back to the notebook and deliberately draw a thick line across the paper to get started. It seems to be mocking me, as I can't follow up right away. Still, it's a start. Getting started is good.
I slowly sketch the picture on the notebook page, the image in my brain becoming clearer as the drawing takes shape.
It's really nothing, just that nameless nothing bird on paper, but that's not important.
My hesitation fades into the background along with the teacher's voice as I continue my struggle. The feathers form a simple pattern in my mind, but on paper it's a mess of too many rough lines despite my best efforts.
I realize that I don't really know what a bird's wing should look like, even if I try to think about it. I even put the pencil down and close my eyes for a moment, trying to trace the shape of a wing in my mind.
Being this serious about it all of a sudden makes me a little frustrated.
Art class in middle school was the easy class in between exhausting subjects like math or Japanese. But there's this other side to art, the one that you see when you don't just fool around.
It's almost like a completely different thing.
I look up to see two girls staring back at me.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Katawa Shoujo OST - Generic Happy Music
Misha and Shizune have carried their chairs to my desk and are now standing by my sides, looking at my drawing.
HISAO: "How long have you two been there?"
MISHA: "I think you need more practice."
Shizune draws a few sharp signs in the air between herself and Misha.
MISHA: "Shicchan agrees."
Rin said the exact same thing yesterday, but why did it sound less condescending?
HISAO: "You shouldn't judge before I'm finished. Besides, don't you know it's bad luck to see an unfinished piece of work?"
Misha cracks in exuberant laughter.
MISHA: "What? Don't be silly~! There's no way that could be true."
Shizune's eyebrows furrow dangerously, and the movements of her hands become abrupt, like the slashing of a knife.
MISHA: "You should learn to take constructive criticism better."
HISAO: "I would if you'd actually offer some."
I know I'm getting too defensive and that Shizune is taking advantage of it, but I can't help it.
HISAO: "What are you two doing here, anyway?"
Misha wags her finger admonishingly at my nose.
MISHA: "Tsk, tsk, Hicchan. Were you not listening to the teacher at all?"
MISHA: "We have a group assignment, now."
I nod bleakly, and let them take the lead.
MISHA: "So, what do you think of the lesson for today?"
HISAO: "Not much of anything... I didn't listen to a word of it."
Misha slaps her forehead and shakes her head theatrically.
MISHA: "What are we going to do with you, Hicchan?"
Luckily, Shizune and Misha together are more effective than three or four normal people, so I can mostly slack on the assignment. I try my best to offer at least some assistance, but I end up being mostly useless.
The teacher keeps us in class five minutes past the lunch bells, but eventually lets us off the hook. I quickly stuff my books into my bag while Shizune and Misha carry their chairs back to their own seats. The failure of a bird-drawing ends up crumpled and stuffed in my pocket as I hurry outside.
After that morning class, and throughout the week, I keep bumping into Rin.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Daylight (Crowd Sounds)
This is somewhat natural, as our classrooms are adjacent. But rather than just cross paths in the hallway like people regularly do, we seem to pause at the sight of each other. We invariably end up talking a little bit, or just silently hanging out together. I think I'm getting used to being quiet in Rin's company, as it doesn't feel as awkward, any more. I am, by nature, somewhat introverted like her, so we fit together well.
I think it's actually an anomaly for someone in this school to be so quiet. Most people here seem to love socializing. It's something that I've noticed already, even though I haven't been here very long: people here talk a lot, and they talk all the time. It's a rare case when I see someone sitting alone, just spacing out or whatever. Obviously there are people like that here, too; that Hanako girl and myself, just to name two from my own class. But overall, they are a minority. At any rate, I wouldn't exactly call what Rin and I do socializing, either, but it's something, at least. These occurrences themselves don't bother me, but the fact that they happen at all does. I'd hesitate to say that we are drawn together by something, but we certainly act as if we were. However, this sense of a budding friendship is completely wrecked every time Rin opens her mouth.
RIN: "Can I listen to your heartbeat?"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Parity (Rins Theme)
She says this, or something else about as outrageous, and I have to fend off whatever nonsense her mind has cooked up during the preceding class of a subject that she is not interested in. It seems Rin has taken a shine to my heart condition as some kind of an extension of her interest in the odder disabilities that people here have, and the consequences of said afflictions. As I stand in front of her for a second too long, looking as flummoxed as I am, she concludes it is necessary to further clarify her request.
RIN: "I know I can, but I mean, will you let me?"
RIN: "Do I need a reason? I'm usually pretty bad with reasons."
HISAO: "Not per se, but if you want to do it, you probably do have a reason."
RIN: "That's kinda clever. You are smarter than you look."
HISAO: "Also, I'd rather you not. I think these things should be private."
RIN: "Private. I get it."
HISAO: "I can tell you something though, if it amuses you. I'm pretty sure it will. My heartbeat does sound very weird. Because of the... you know, condition. And I hear it. All the time."
RIN: "So you're paranoid."
It's not a question, it's a statement.
HISAO: "No, I'm not paranoid. The doctors said that abnormal attention to heartbeat is a common symptom of my... condition."
RIN: "So, for you, it's normal to be paranoid."
It's not a question either.
HISAO: "One could also say that me being like this in the first place isn't normal, either, but what the heck. Paranoia fits me fine."
RIN: "I don't think it's something that actually can fit anyone or anywhere. You know, I ate an orange today for breakfast."
HISAO: "How was it?"
I'm vaguely proud of myself, managing to keep up with Rin's sudden change of topic.
RIN: "Excellent. I don't remember when I last ate an orange. Because it's annoying to peel one. It's on the list of things I want to learn properly."
HISAO: "How come you ate one, then?"
RIN: "Emi had some, so she peeled one for me."
HISAO: "Good for you."
Rin stretches her back and yawns, and says nothing further. She throws me a glance from the corner of her eye while she watches people pass by, but I couldn't say why. I realize, though, that this is the first time I've talked naturally about my condition with anyone. In a way. A group of boys walk past us to Rin's classroom, but she doesn't pay them any mind. They pay none to her, either. My mind wanders off, spurred by the silence.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Stride (Crowd Sounds Stop)
Maybe I should've let her listen to my heart. It's not like it matters. Nothing really matters that much, at the end of the day. I start feeling depressed for no reason, again. It's like a tidal wave out of nowhere rolling over my consciousness, submerging me underwater. I feel a sigh coming out of my mouth, and I turn away from Rin, pretending to read a poster on the wall. It's an advertisement for the school festival, promoting an event almost a week past. The difference between me and Rin is that I'll be more likely than not dead before turning thirty, while she can't eat oranges without help. I can't decide which one of us is worse off.
I try to grasp the passing of time, but it seems hard. I'm still used to the rhythm of the hospital, where trivialities such as the day of the week or time of day didn't really matter. Everything was the same, no matter what. Rediscovering the significance of time is an oddly disorienting experience, and I find myself enjoying the fact that I can categorize events in this fashion.
The relevancy of a ticking clock is surprisingly delightful, and I decide to start wearing an analog wristwatch, something I didn't use to do before. When I finally ask Rin on Thursday about something that's been bothering me for the entire week, it's already lunch time.
The time is somewhere between 11:06 and 11:07, as my watch doesn't have a hand to show seconds. It's the old-fashioned kind with a black leather strap and titanium casing. It doesn't look flashy, but a wristwatch doesn't need to.
HISAO: "Hey. Remember that sketch you made of me? How you said I looked grim and gloomy or something? I'd like to know what you meant by that."
She gives me a weird look and tilts her head a few degrees to the left, but doesn't say anything for a while.
(Sudden Silence, Crowd Sounds Stop)
RIN: "Well, you see... We've known each other for two weeks and I haven't seen you smile even once."
Her striking observation gives me pause. Have I stopped smiling? I have to take what she says as truth. She has no reason to lie. Something about the way she puts it annoys me. I frown at Rin, then try to correct my expression to look less depressed. I haven't been in the cheeriest of moods during the past few months or so, this is true. Does it show so much that someone like Rin can tell, after so little contact with me? Should I try to smile more at Rin? Maybe she could appreciate it, having such a neutral face herself almost all the time. Have I really stopped smiling?
HISAO: "I see. Should I smile more?"
RIN: "I don't mind either way. Be as you are; you can't help being Hisao anyway."
HISAO: "But it bothers you?"
RIN: "I just noticed it, that's all."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Standing Tall (Emis Theme)
Emi skips along the hallway, jumps to a sharp stop when she reaches us, and lightly pats Rin's shoulder.
EMI: "Ready for lunch?"
RIN: "Depends on what lunch is today. Remember that stew from March? Never again, that."
EMI: "Let's go anyway. I'm starving!"
As they are about to depart, Emi turns from her friend to me, seemingly as an afterthought, and smiles charmingly.
EMI: "By the way, Hisao..."
Her tone is way too sweet and soft to be sincere. I can sense the trap about to be sprung upon me by this miniature health-devil. I know what she's about to say even before she continues, because I've been trying to avoid her all week.
EMI: "I still haven't seen you at the track this entire week."
HISAO: "Maybe I've been there when you haven't."
EMI: "That's impossible. I'm there all the time."
HISAO: "But you sleep and go to class."
EMI: "I do those at the same time as you do."
HISAO: "Yeah, I know, I know. I just... haven't been able to pick myself up. Don't rat me out to the nurse, okay? Running just isn't my thing, and I haven't come up with a good alternative."
EMI: "Why don't you come to the track meet this weekend? Maybe you'll get inspired."
HISAO: "Track meet?"
EMI: "Yeah! People from a few other schools come here for some friendly track and field action. It's on Sunday afternoon."
I can't think of any reason not to go.
HISAO: "Sure. I'll come and cheer for you. I guess you'll be running?"
EMI: "Of course! You'll get to see me beat them all! But bye now! If I don't get something to eat, I'll die."
HISAO: "See you later.
(Silence, Crowd Sounds Continue)
HISAO: "Bye Rin. I promise I'll smile next time."
I call after her, as a bit of an afterthought. Afterward, I feel embarrassed about it, and wonder why I said anything at all.
(Crowd Sounds Stop)
That night, when I'm doubly certain that Kenji won't be barging in the bathroom, I look in the mirror and smile at my reflection.
The me in the mirror smiling at the me in the bathroom looks awfully fake.