NARRATOR: "As I walk through the hall that afternoon, I glance at my watch. It's almost half past four. I would normally have a club meeting to attend, but I don't feel like going to the art club at all so I start heading the opposite way. It feels like a poorly chosen decision. I just know that if I skip club once, I'm going to skip it again, and again. This is probably it for me and the art club. It's been bubbling beneath the surface for a while now, though. I guess I'll formally quit later. I keep watching the bland linoleum floor while I walk without a direction. This leads me - perhaps unconsciously? - to the school library."
NARRATOR: "It's almost empty, and completely quiet. A few studious first-years are sitting at the tables, joining efforts to get homework done before dinnertime. Yuuko is hard at work today, too. She's methodically going through a towering stack of books sitting on her desk, checking them one by one and then placing them onto a cart beside her. I greet her as I stop by."
YUUKO: "Good afternoon. I haven't seen you here for a while. Did you read all the books already?"
NARRATOR: "She seems to be in a good mood."
HISAO: "Haha, I don't think so. I joined the art club, so I've been passing the time there instead of working my way through your collection. I think I'm going to quit, though, so I guess you'll be seeing more of me again, from now on."
YUUKO: "You didn't like the club?"
HISAO: "Honestly? I don't know. I don't have much of a talent for art, but I didn't hate doing it, either. I guess it just feels a bit pointless. I can't really see any purpose in going."
YUUKO: "The art teacher scares me a little."
HISAO: "Really? He seems like a really nice guy. Maybe a bit over the top, sometimes."
NARRATOR: "Yuuko makes a face I can't read, but doesn't say anything further."
HISAO: "How are you doing?"
YUUKO: "Something good happened to me today. I didn't flunk my university course."
HISAO: "Well, that's great, isn't it?"
YUUKO: "Yes! Without the credit I might've been kicked out and then I'd have had a lot of explaining to do to my family. I'm really lucky. I think I'm going to buy pudding today to celebrate."
HISAO: "Being a university student sounds hard. I'm surprised you're working two jobs while still attending."
YUUKO: "My part-time work really makes it hard to keep up with my studies, and I get yelled at by my student counselor. And then if I stay up late studying, I get sleepy at work and my boss yells at me. But if I quit my jobs I'll starve. It's like I just can't win, ehehe. I wonder why it's like that."
NARRATOR: "I don't really know what to say. Yuuko isn't really complaining to get empathy out of a guy a lot younger than her. She's basically just talking about the facts of her everyday life. It makes me feel even more pity for her, somehow."
HISAO: "Wow, must be hard for you."
YUUKO: "I don't know. It's been like this for so long that I've forgotten what it's like to have a normal life. Or maybe this already is a normal life for my age. Is this normal? It is, right? It must be. Why is being normal so depressing?"
HISAO: "I couldn't say. Not like being abnormal's much different, though."
YUUKO: "Oh, I didn't mean it like that! Sorry, sorry, sorry! I just got carried away."
HISAO: "It's fine. It was a joke, sort of. Anyway, you seem to be doing just fine now."
YUUKO: "Yes, when I feel really down, I take a step back and make a cup of tea! And when I've drunk the tea, I give my mood a kick in the butt, like WHAM! and then I tell myself “now you are going to do this thing, Yuuko!” and then I go and get it done! That's why I'm working so hard now."
NARRATOR: "She clenches her fists dramatically at the high point of her spirited explanation. It's a bit unclear what she actually means, but it's nice that she is so motivated. Leaving Yuuko alone with her work, I head to the back of the library where the novels are. I briefly consider reading something nonfiction for a change, maybe a biography perhaps? But in the end, I decide against it. My fingers trace the spines along the rows upon rows of novels. They occasionally pull out the random book so I can read the back and maybe sample the first two or three pages. Nothing really catches my interest, so I end up picking up a book I'd already read back in March or so, at the hospital. I recall liking it."
NARRATOR: "I sit down on one of the bean bag chairs and quickly get sucked into the book, turning pages at a rapid pace. I'm probably not the fastest reader around, but pretty fast all the same. Reading quickly makes me feel oddly satisfied. Focusing on reading is something I'm pretty good at, too. I can cram-study pretty efficiently as well, as long as I stay motivated. It's the secret of my good grades, though I'm pretty diligent in class too. That's what Rin and I have in common. She can really focus on painting if she wants to. I wonder what she's doing now. Probably hard at work, painting. This distance that suddenly grew between us irritates me. I thought that we were getting closer, but now that feeling's been lost. I'm a bit worried about her, too. I can't make sense of my own thoughts."
NARRATOR: "I share Emi's sentiment of being worried about Rin. She's the type who might get so caught up in her own strange world, and get lost in there before she knows it. It's not that I feel like being some kind of white knight who could save Rin from herself. She doesn't need saving. But I just can't leave her alone, either."
NARRATOR: "Without Rin, I don't really have anyone else at school that I actually talk to. Not like we actually talk very much anyway, but at least we hang out. I really don't want to lose that."
NARRATOR: "If I want to keep what I have with Rin going, I have to get involved with making this exhibition happen, right at her side. I realize I've been sitting on the same page for a while now. I turn my gaze back to the book I'm reading. The jungle of glyphs has somehow turned into a near-incomprehensible cipher. I stare hard at it, expecting the text to start making sense to me. No pattern emerges, nothing that could take me any further than I am. Dazed, I close the book, put it back on the shelf, then sit back down, and think honestly and hard about what I really want."
Next Scene: The Edge of the World