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NARRATOR: "I hold true to my promise of honoring Rin's request, even if it's against my own will. I try to redirect my focus into my studies, but end up zoning out during classes and doing only the minimum amount of work required. Still, I start looking into my post-high school options a bit more seriously. I pore over university brochures and various career paths. I'm good at studying, so I want to go to a university. I'm pretty sure I could get into a pretty decent one too. The only problem is deciding which subject would be the best. Kenji ridicules me about subjecting myself to the control of feminist teachers when I tell him about trying to get into a university. I don't ask him about what he wants to do in the future. I wonder what Rin thinks of her own future. I bet she's not as lost as I am. And if she is, it's probably in some completely different way. I feel somewhat disappointed in finding out that I can't stop thinking about her. Her request makes me worry about her and think about her, more than I did when I could go and see her when I wanted. It bothers me that I can't."

NARRATOR: "As expected, I eventually crack. Late one afternoon, I get on the bus heading downtown. I try to avoid explaining to myself exactly why I'm doing this, and keep thinking about other things for the entire duration of the trip. After a five minute walk, I'm standing in front of the gallery. I walk past it to the door of the atelier. But at the last moment, I lose my courage and continue on all the way to the next corner, at which point I turn back. Will Rin hate me if I go and see her? I wonder what she's like when she's angry. I've never seen her angry. The worst thing would be if I actually ruined something by going to see her, like she seemed to imply would happen. But there's no way that can be true, can there? It's just one of her quirks. I walk back down the street, and end up passing the atelier door for the second time. Only this time, as I continue all the way to the gallery, its owner is standing just outside the door, watching me."

SAIONJI: "I thought that was you! What are you doing?"

NARRATOR: "I really don't want to explain the circumstances between Rin and I, so I get flustered and end up mumbling something unclear."

HISAO: "I, um..."

NARRATOR: "She takes stock of me and then sighs deeply, looking wryly amused somehow. I hope she didn't misunderstand."

SAIONJI: "Would you like to come in? Your teacher's visiting; we were discussing Rin's exhibition."

HISAO: "Ah, thanks for the invitation, but I really should—"

SAIONJI: "Don't be shy now, come on in."

NARRATOR: "I follow Sae inside, finding that our art teacher indeed is there. Nomiya is standing at the big desk, contemplating what looks like an invitation card."

SAIONJI: "Look what the cat dragged in."

NOMIYA: "Nakai! Hello there, my boy!"

NARRATOR: "He doesn't seem to be at all fazed by my appearance."

SAIONJI: "How do you like the invitations?"

NARRATOR: "I glance at them quickly. They're kind of fancy, with one of Rin's paintings printed on the front cover and shiny gold writing."

HISAO: "They look fine to me."

NOMIYA: "They're magnificent! I absolutely love the design! And the embossed gold lettering? Fabulous! Good printwork too; you have to tell me where you get these done."

HISAO: "What does Rin think?"

SAIONJI: "I haven't asked. She said she'd be fine with my decision, anyway."

NARRATOR: "Nomiya laughs boisterously, still turning the gold-lettered card in his hands."

NOMIYA: "That's my girl! She wants to focus on the essentials only. Good for her."

SAIONJI: "Her work is progressing well, too. It seems she's found new inspiration."

HISAO: "I think she's been sort of weird, lately. It's like she's wrestling with something - with herself, probably - and it makes her confused. She said she had a hard time painting, the last time I saw her."

SAIONJI: "It seems to be resolved now, however."

HISAO: "You know she practically lives up there now, right?"

NARRATOR: "Sae makes a simple gesture with her hand, as if sweeping my question aside."

SAIONJI: "Sure."

HISAO: "Don't you think that's weird?"

SAIONJI: "Maybe it is. Still, I think she understands how big an opportunity this is and is going for it, full-throttle."

HISAO: "Is it really that big?"

NARRATOR: "Nomiya sets the card down, and brushes some imaginary dust off his jacket."

NOMIYA: "Well, how should I put it... there are times in everyone's lives where something really big washes over you and changes you forever. This could be just that moment for Tezuka."

HISAO: "...I see. Yeah, I think I've had something like that happen to me."

NARRATOR: "I'm referring to the incident that brought me to Yamaku. Neither of the two adults comments on that, however."

NOMIYA: "It might well be that everyone has, or will. At any rate, surrendering oneself to art is a big decision. And a thorny path, too. Quite thorny indeed. Tezuka has almost everything one needs, but whether she has the will to pull through, that's a different question. I should know that best. I tried going down this path too, but turned away in the end."

NARRATOR: "I don't understand what he's trying to say."

HISAO: "Is that why you're being so supportive of Rin? Because you know it's hard?"

NARRATOR: "Sae answers me instead of the art teacher."

SAIONJI: "Maybe, partially. Does it bother you?"

HISAO: "Well, no. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, either; I just don't get it. Like the atelier? It's an amazing place, but it's not been used in who knows how long. And now that Rin came al—"

SAIONJI: "Seventeen years and four months."

NARRATOR: "I raise my eyes to meet Sae's. A calm, calculating stare, not unlike Rin's own, is fixed upon me. Nomiya's usual smile has suddenly died too. It feels like the air pressure in the gallery has suddenly dropped, along with the temperature."

SAIONJI: "That is how long it's been since someone worked there."

HISAO: "Oh."

SAIONJI: "I guess there's a story to everything."

NARRATOR: "Sae crosses her arms with a quiet sigh and leans against the table."

SAIONJI: "The atelier belonged to my husband. He was an artist, too. He lived up there - well, we both lived up there for some time after we got married."

NOMIYA: "We actually met through him, as a matter of fact."

SAIONJI: "That's right. Anyway... We were young and foolish. Or at least, I was... we were studying art at the same school; art history for me, painting for him. And as he just said, this was about the time I met your teacher. Anyway, I fell madly in love with this person, or maybe with his art. He was... brilliant. His genius just shone so brightly whenever he put a brush to canvas."

NARRATOR: "Her voice takes on an almost reverent sort of tone as she reminisces about her husband. I look at her hands and notice that she's not wearing a wedding band. And on top of that, she keeps speaking in the past tense."

SAIONJI: "He really was the kind of artist who would make history books, one with a direct line to God. That's what I thought anyway. Silly, isn't it?"

NOMIYA: "I think we all knew that he was something else, back then. Even the teachers."

SAIONJI: "That genius... well, I'd say it consumed him. Everything, absolutely everything was second to art, be it social life, getting a job, or even me. It just wasn't as important. It seems that artists can't look at their work as just a job, you know? It's something more... fundamental to them. "It was hard to live with a person like that. Hard to be married to a person like that."

NARRATOR: "She takes a pause, and looks to see if I understood. I guess the point of this story hasn't emerged yet. That, or I've missed it."

HISAO: "So, how did you cope with it?"

NARRATOR: "My question, probably the exact one she was waiting for, draws a dry chuckle out of her."

SAIONJI: "However I could. Sometimes it was hard. Sometimes I fooled myself into believing he would change. I pursued my own things too, so it was easy just to let him be. It's not like you can stop an artist from painting if he wants to paint. Plus, being with an artist is fascinating. I can't say that I hated it. Art schools are full of all sorts of posers and pretentious schmucks, but true artists are lovely people in general. I think that's why your teacher has taken such a shine to our little kitten. She really has the makings of an artist, and a good one at that. She wants to paint. She must paint."

NOMIYA: "Quite so. She's the best student I've ever had."

SAIONJI: "It's just about her finding her own way, now. Maybe that's why I wanted to give her this chance. If she goes to an art school, it'll be good for her. Artistic expression is about finding one's own place to be, your own limits, and then working with that. To expand them, to break them, whatever works best, but you have to know the limits of what you can do. Anyway, long story short, my husband was a person without these kinds of limits, an unique individual. But a human being can't endure a thing like that. He... he died young. After he was gone, I couldn't stand the atelier any more, and tried to forget it. That kind of thing happens. You could say that his flame was bright but brief."

NARRATOR: "Her story comes to an abrupt end, but it doesn't seem like she's going to go any further. Nomiya toys with the invitation cards lying on the table, as if doing something just for the sake of doing it."

HISAO: "But what if... what if Rin is like your husband, too? What if she's a person who has unlimited potential?"

NARRATOR: "Sae's hand twitches and I see once more that sad look welling up in her eyes. It's the look she gets when she watches Rin. The look by which she remembers her husband."

SAIONJI: "I doubt it."

HISAO: "Why did you stop, exactly? You've mentioned that before."

NOMIYA: "Oh, that's a long story."

NARRATOR: "Nomiya throws a sideways glance at the gallery owner, who has drawn her mouth into a thin straight line."

NOMIYA: "I've had a life-changing experience like that, even though I didn't realize it until later. Did I tell you that Sae and I have known each other for a long time? We studied at the same school, it's been... goodness, how long it has really been?"

SAIONJI: "Please don't count the years, Shinichi."

NOMIYA: "Hahaha, maybe you're right. At any rate, when we were in school we had this... err, friend, I should say. We were in the same program and I think he met Sae at some party. I got to know Sae through him, in fact. He was a spectacular artist, much like Tezuka; great talent despite the young age. He easily left the rest of us in his dust. We were good friends, he and I, but there were things that created friction in the friendship. It felt like I was watching him from afar."

SAIONJI: "You weren't the only one."

NARRATOR: "Nomiya coughs, looking embarrassed."

NOMIYA: "At any rate, he, um, ended up taking his own life. Such a tragedy. In retrospect, that was what made me choose a career as a teacher in the end. I never was that brilliant, nor that passionate. I desperately wanted to be a career artist, but I wasn't suited for that."

SAIONJI: "You were good enough."

NOMIYA: "Hahaha! Perhaps I would've been. But this is what I ended up with. I just didn't have that drive after he was gone. I'm fond of kids and enjoy all forms of art, so it felt rather natural to take this path in life. But I think all that history with that friend of ours was the key thing, as sad as it was. A turning point, as they say."

NARRATOR: "Sae stands up and digs in the pocket of her jacket for a cigarette and a lighter. Her hands are shaking."

SAIONJI: "I'm going out for a smoke."

NARRATOR: "Wordlessly, Nomiya and I both decide to follow her after a moment. It's already dark outside. Sae is standing with her back to us, taking sharp, occasional drags on her cigarette. Its weak amber glow illuminates her face, framing her sharp jawline."

NOMIYA: "Maybe it's best to call it a night. I can give you a lift back to school if you want, Nakai."

SAIONJI: "You're not going anywhere, Shinichi. I need a drink. We're going to that place at the corner."

NARRATOR: "The teacher looks at the old lady, and then shrugs at me apologetically."

HISAO: "It's no problem. I'll just catch the bus back. I'm headed upstairs to see if Rin will come back to school with me, anyway. I think she's been staying overnight here too often, lately."

NARRATOR: "Sae locks the front door of the gallery and links arms with the old art teacher. I feel strange, looking at them. I wonder what it feels like to have friends who've been with you for decades, for most of your life. I can't imagine it. The two of them start making their way down the street towards the bar on the corner, so I quickly head upstairs to the atelier door, ready to get to what I originally came here for."

Next Scene: Delirium

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