NARRATOR: "After about ten minutes of restlessly shuffling in her seat and trying to read, Hanako closes her book and leaves too. As should I, since the assignment is all but finished and there is nothing else to do in the classroom. Not that I have anything to do anywhere else either. The school is a beehive of activity but nobody pays me any heed. I saunter past classrooms filled with students frantically doing this and that, buzzing around like little worker bees. You wouldn't guess the school day is over."

NARRATOR: "It's a bit quieter outside, but not by much. People zip by, left and right, hurrying as quick as they can; busy and energetic. I feel the opposite. The midday sun seems to be draining all the spirit out of my body, making it feel limp all over. Warm, soft air flows inside my shirt, feeling like a cushion. I yawn lazily, thinking about what I'd do. I'll drop off my books at the dorms first, and then... something I haven't decided yet. Maybe Kenji is in his room. On the way to dorms, I spot Emi coming my way, running despite not having those weird running prosthetics on. I wave at her and she skids to a stop."

EMI: "Yo, Hisao!"

NARRATOR: "Spatters of white and green paint adorn her nose and chin respectively, but her smile is wide, as it seems it always is. She leans closer to me, amplifying the feeling she is examining me."

EMI: "Whatchadoin'?"

HISAO: "Nothing, really. I don't have anything to do for the festival and everyone else seems to be doing something important."

EMI: "That's perfect! Then you can help me and Rin!"

HISAO: "With the festival preparations? Eeeh, I'm not sure if I would be of much help."

EMI: "That's fine! I'm not much help either!"

NARRATOR: "Emi grabs my wrist and starts dragging me back inside the school quite forcefully. Even her walking speed is more like jogging, making me stumble over myself simply trying to keep up. The stairs slow Emi down a little bit. Maybe it's hard to climb with her legs, or maybe she's finally run out of breath. We go all the way back to the third floor and to the seniors' hallway, ending up where I left five minutes ago. I could just as well have stayed here waiting for Emi, had I known."

HISAO: "So are you... is Rin working on that mural, still?"

EMI: "That's right! She needs all kinds of paints and brushes and stuff, so I went to get them from the art classroom."

HISAO: "And you need me to help with that."

EMI: "Well... Rin told me you had already helped her so I thought you wouldn't mind."

HISAO: "I see."

NARRATOR: "So thanks to Emi's flaky logic, here I am again, collecting stuff from the art classroom for other people. The room is empty apart from ourselves and the lonely specks of dust floating in the air. Emi skips straight away to the back wall, digging out a tiny, crumpled piece of paper from her pocket. While she tries to make sense of the scrawled handwriting, I take a closer look at the materials lying around here."

NARRATOR: "Dozens of paint cans and bottles are arranged on the shelves in a most unorganized fashion. Some look like they have been left there for several decades; relics of previous art club generations. Next to the heavy stacks of neatly piled drawing paper are boxes full of different-sized brushes and unsorted crayons. The smells of paint, turpentine and fresh paper float in the stale air, mixing in my nostrils to form that unmistakable scent of art. Emi studies her notes, comparing them to markings on the various paint cans, and passes them to me as she finds the correct matches. She stretches her neck to look on the topmost shelf, but it's not quite enough. Her eye level stays below the shelf no matter what she does."

NARRATOR: "Emi gives up and just looks up to the shelf longingly, like a child at a toy store, huffing in annoyance. After a moment of building anger, she starts jumping up and down, apparently trying to speed-read the labels during the fraction of a second she can see them, and catch what she can. It's no surprise that she fails miserably, and almost manages to bring the entire shelf crashing down. Now I see why me lending a hand here would be useful."

HISAO: "Come on, let me do that. You can't jump high enough, and I don't want you to hurt yourself trying. Also, I'm like twice your height."

EMI: "You are not!"

NARRATOR: "She turns around, flaring scorn, flushed cheeks and all."

HISAO: "Just kidding, just kidding. Anyway, I'll look up there, okay?"

NARRATOR: "She glares at me one more time, but can't come up with a retort. With a grudging “hmph,” turns her back to me. So I begin scrounging around the top shelf for paint while below, Emi crouches to scavenge what she can from the cupboards. I shake my head a little, after double-checking to ensure she can't see me do so. Emi having a complex about her height was a surprise; I wouldn't have joked about it otherwise. She seems easygoing, but I guess everyone has their weak spots."

NARRATOR: "Only after we have almost all the items collected and spread out on a desk like a treasure hunter's spoils do I realize that it wasn't necessarily the height jab that got her riled up. She might not like to be told that she can't do something. Like jump. But Emi herself seems to have forgotten all about it already. Quick to anger, quick to forgive... she is that type of a person? At least she doesn't seem to have taken anything to heart, as she chatters away happily while we pick up the rest of the items and then make our way back to Rin. I chivalrously carry the bulk of the materials as we make our way towards the dormitories."

EMI: "Rin is really stressed about getting her painting done. It's her own fault though; she should've started earlier." HISAO: "Is she going to make it?"

EMI: "No idea. It looks good to me, but with Rin, you never know what's going on. I found her this morning lying in front of the dorm in fetal position. She hadn't slept all night. I can't believe that the night nurses hadn't found her. And now she's painting again like crazy."

HISAO: "Yeah, I've... noticed that she comes off as kinda... unhinged. So to speak."

NARRATOR: "Emi giggles at that, as well as at my likely too-obvious awkwardness."

EMI: "I don't mind it. She's just a little weird sometimes."

NARRATOR: "On that I can agree with her. Unlike me, Emi seems to be cool with Rin's... whatever it is that feels so off about her. Still, they don't feel close like Misha and Shizune do. With them working as a single entity sometimes, it's hard to say where one ends and the other begins. Even though they're so different, just like Emi and Rin are. And Rin is the most different of them all, different from anyone else I've met."

HISAO: "Yeah, I guess she's a very... unique person."

NARRATOR: "I return to that word again, as if it encompasses Rin's personality by itself, but really it's just a substitute for a lengthy description of her oddities. Emi giggles as I grasp about for a properly descriptive word."

EMI: "She's just weird. You know, earlier, she just spent half an hour sitting on her box. And stared at her toes."

NARRATOR: "She giggles again in a way that makes me think she doesn't know what's funny about it, it just is."

EMI: "All that time."

NARRATOR: "The working area is a mess, but the mural itself has taken over even more of the wall since I last saw it. The disfigured human figures have been mostly colored in tones of red, pink, and orange; weird, imaginary... things populating the spaces between. It looks... nice. I can't think of any word that would describe the work concisely and comprehensively so I settle myself on a nondescript “nice.” But honestly, it seems that the area around the wall becomes untidier at the same rate as the mural progresses. The ground is littered with dozens of paint cans, various art supplies and empty soda bottles."

NARRATOR: "Rin herself is in the center of this chaos, standing there looking very cozy as if she was a natural part of the scene. Her pant legs have been rolled up to her knees, exposing her thin legs which sport a drying spectrum of war paintings, similar to those on Emi's face. Emi sprints to Rin ahead of me and gleefully jumps in front of her."

EMI: "I'm back!"

RIN: "That was fast. Did you run in the corridors again?"

EMI: "Hisao helped me."

NARRATOR: "Emi points victoriously at me. Rin turns around following Emi's finger with her eyes, looking at my general direction. She nods absentmindedly at me. She looks like she hasn't slept since last night: a vacant, glazed stare that's focused slightly off me, and movements like in a slow-motion movie."

RIN: "Hello, Hisao. Thank you for the help."

HISAO: "Don't mention it."

RIN: "I just did."

HISAO: "Never mind. Looks like you've made progress. Looking good, as far as I can tell."

RIN: "But now you get more bad luck."

HISAO: "I know, but I'm willing to take the risk."

RIN: "That's a very nice thing to say. For me, of course. Not for you. This is why artists are always unlucky. They have to constantly look at their unfinished paintings. So artists can't find romance, their favorite TV shows are canceled, or they die young because of an unspecified disease. It's a deep and mysterious law of the universe. Unless they are blind."

NARRATOR: "She considers this for a while, looking like she's going to fall asleep."

RIN: "There is a boy. At the art club, you see. Blind boy. So he doesn't. See."

HISAO: "You already told me."

NARRATOR: "I glance sideways at Emi and she glances back in a way that tells she has heard this one before too. Neither of us says anything to Rin, though, so she continues her monotone soliloquy like an unfunny stand-up comedian."

RIN: "He should become an artist. No bad luck, guaranteed. Don't you think that would be a good idea?"

HISAO: "That only blind people should become artists? No, not as such."


RIN: "You might have a point."

NARRATOR: "Abandoning this train of thought, she turns again to consider her work and starts humming a tune that I think I recognize, but can't remember the name of. Emi arranges the supplies we brought and moves a few paint cans around, trying to bring some organization to the scene."

RIN: "Emi, I need the Prussian blue paint."

EMI: "Which one's Prussian blue..."

NARRATOR: "She is staring helplessly at seven or eight cans, each with a different tone of blue."

RIN: "It's the one with Prussian blue paint in it."

EMI: "Geez, Rin! You're not helping at all!"

NARRATOR: "I look around as well, even though I don't know what Prussian blue looks like, either. I wonder what blue has to do with Prussia. ...Or what Prussia even is. The name sounds vaguely familiar, but I can't place it. While none of the blues looks more Prussian than the others, the small print on the labels is legible enough to determine that none say anything about the contents being Prussian."

HISAO: "There is no Prussian blue here."

Next Scene: Proper Exercise

Next Scene: Creative Pain