NARRATOR: "The happy hubbub of the crowd greets me as I push myself through the main door and step outside. The school grounds were transformed into festival grounds over yesterday and this morning. Colorful stands line at the main walkways from the main entrance to the school building. Some people are still carrying stuff to and fro, but behind most counters are relaxed students who look like they are good to go. Most of the other students have been up early to finish the preparations. A feeling of guilt passes through me, but it soon goes away. I'm just a lowly transfer student, after all. Some visitors are already strolling around the grounds. There are some young families with the perturbed parents trying to keep up with their overenthusiastic offspring... ...a few students of our own accompanied by their parents... ...and a lot of old and young people who are here for no reason I can imagine."
NARRATOR: "The carillon bursts into life and the principal's squeaky voice announces the opening of the festival over the PA system. Everyone applauds politely if a bit unenthusiastically. A school festival... we didn't really have festivals at my old high school. It feels kind of old-fashioned, especially considering the school I came from, but it's still somewhat exciting. A day off feels sweet after the first week of hard work, despite me lying on the hospital bed for four months prior to this. I recall even wishing that I could go to math lessons during my stint at the hospital. I can't remember the program for the festival, even though Mutou went through it during class just the other day. I step off the dorm steps, intending to take a tour around the grounds to see all the stuff the others have set up, but I only make it down to the bottom of the stairs."
NARRATOR: "A few people are studying Rin's mural on the wall, while the artist herself is lounging on the sidelines, leaning against the wall and looking extremely bored and mildly under the weather."
HISAO: "Good morning."
HISAO: "How's it going?"
RIN: "Nowhere. I'm stuck."
HISAO: "What do you mean stuck?"
RIN: "I mean I can't walk stuck. I think my legs are out of order because of yesterday."
HISAO: "Does it hurt?"
RIN: "It's hard to say. Maybe."
NARRATOR: "The strain of working on the mural was greater than she let me know. I thought it was just a bit of tired muscles or something. I mean to ask something further, but Rin swiftly moves on to another topic."
RIN: "Teacher's friends came by. Then they headed into town for lunch and asked me to go. It was a good thing my legs hurt so much."
HISAO: "But you're stuck sitting there? That's not good."
RIN: "I'll just wait till I can walk again. It should be either sooner or later, if you think about it for a while. Teacher was happy that I finished the mural."
HISAO: "He should be."
RIN: "But I wonder if it's finished after all."
RIN: "I thought yesterday that I had done everything, but now I'm not sure any more. I should paint more details. Maybe. Probably. It's very hard to decide."
NARRATOR: "Finished or not, the mural looks great in broad daylight. Various human body parts, repeated over and over in a wildly mutating, mostly disfigured variety are the main element. They are rough-looking, as if thoughtlessly placed and rudimentarily painted, but a great deal of thought and care has gone into each and every one of them."
HISAO: "Does this one have a frog growing out of his head?"
RIN: "It's a goldfish."
HISAO: "What's that?"
RIN: "It's nothing."
NARRATOR: "Anyway... The wall is so wide I have to turn my neck from side to side to see the entire painting. It's hard to consider it as a single piece. The elements don't seem to fit together, but I guess they do create some kind of a whole. Abstract as it is, I have no idea what it's supposed to be portraying, but it looks nice. That's enough for me. I settle myself next to Rin, leaning against the wall like she does. The happy noises of the festival are becoming louder as more and more folks enter the grounds. The dorms are far from the main attractions in the main building and the stands around the courtyard so most visitors have not found their way here yet. A somewhat bored expression settles on Rin's face, making her look detached from everything that's going around her. She is being awfully quiet. I wonder if she's in pain."
HISAO: "So what did the art people say about your mural?"
NARRATOR: "My question wakes Rin from her daydreaming. She lazily turns her face towards me."
RIN: "I'm not sure. I think they liked it? Maybe they did."
HISAO: "What about you? Are you happy with the mural? 'Cause I kind of participated, it'd be terrible if you were unhappy."
NARRATOR: "Rin tilts her head, biting her lower lip."
RIN: "I think it came out decently. It's not bad but it's not good either. It just... is. I guess I'm all right at being empty-minded."
HISAO: "Can I ask something else? What does the painting really portray? I thought about it yesterday, when you said that it doesn't portray anything. But that's a logical fallacy, isn't it? You can't make something out of nothing, not even art."
NARRATOR: "Rin frowns and turns her head back towards the clouds."
RIN: "I don't know. I am not really good at explaining things. It's just a mural; there is nothing special to it. I said it already."
NARRATOR: "She sounds annoyed at my inquiries."
RIN: "I didn't know what I'd paint, so I decided to paint just a mural. It's a mural that portrays a mural. No, wait. I just thought up a better way to say it: It portrays itself. So... its muralness is at the maximum, at least as far as I can do, so if you think it has some meaning, I think that's the same as this one has."
NARRATOR: "That makes no sense. Meaning... I feel the corners of my mouth turning upwards into a smile that's just a tiny bit bothered. I have never understood art in the deepest meaning of the word. I get the basics, how art is supposed to be only a means for exchanging ideas and thoughts. However, I never learned how I should interpret a piece of art, to somehow divine what the artist intends to say through it. I know it's not any special skill, but somehow, my brain never can connect art with anything else than what I see. All I see is a mural. I can admire the technical skill, after all even I know the difference between bad art and mediocre art; mediocre art and good art. But that's as far as I can go, so don't ask me about meanings, Rin. Her reply sure made me reluctant to ask her about it any further either."
HISAO: "So what are you doing when you get on your feet?"
HISAO: "Nothing? But there's the festival, don't you want to go have some fun?"
RIN: "I'm fine like this."
HISAO: "You don't like socializing much, do you?"
NARRATOR: "I think I'm arguing more for her than for myself at this point. It's not that I'm particularly thrilled about the festival, either; just a bit curious to see what it's like, and that's about it. Her answer is unsurprising."
RIN: "No, I don't." HISAO: "I guess... me neither, in the end."
RIN: "You should go if you want to."
HISAO: "I know, but I can keep you company. I'm not used to all this just yet, so it's okay to take it easy. I can leave though, if you want to be alone."
RIN: "I like it if you are here."
NARRATOR: "We circle around each other with words, but eventually end up somewhere. Her saying that makes me feel oddly happy, so I stay. Her presence is something I like too. The odd, warm aura of serenity that she seems to emanate makes it comfortable to be silent. I really like that. We watch people walk by, the two of us silent, everyone else chattering happily among themselves. Students are leading their families to the dorms to show their rooms. They pass us and the mural, maybe glance at it once or twice. I pay less attention to them, and more to my companion, trying to figure my way past her cryptic, unreadable wall of a face."
NARRATOR: "Rin's eyes flicker restlessly from one person to another as they walk by. Is she waiting for people to stop at the mural, maybe secretly hoping someone would comment on it? I don't think anyone would assume she was the artist. We're just sitting here like a pair of hobos, after all, and she doesn't even have hands. I wonder if it's even in Rin's style to fish for compliments. She seems so aloof. More people walk by, some of them pointing their fingers at the mural, exchanging words that I can't make out. Someone drops a snow cone on his shoe. Too bad for him."
HISAO: "Everyone seems to like it."
NARRATOR: "I suggest it tentatively, throwing a topic in the stale summer air separating us. Rin doesn't answer right away, but by now I am mostly used to her occasional slowness when she must talk. It's like she takes great care picking her words, which is really unbelievable when you consider the jumble that comes out of her mouth."
RIN: "I wanted to make it so that you can just look at it without thinking. Then I realized that it doesn't make any sense. So it became something like a mix of this and that. From far away, it looks like someone vomited a herd of butterflies on the wall. Which is exactly what that obnoxious president person didn't want. Is that word that?"
HISAO: "What word?"
RIN: "That. What is the word for more than one butterfly?"
RIN: "No, like a herd, or a school, or a heap."
HISAO: "Oh. I don't know. A flock maybe?"
RIN: "Maybe people like butterfly vomit."
NARRATOR: "Rin looks at the mural, looking surprisingly unhappy."
RIN: "The middle could be better. Usually I like in-betweens, but this was a pain in my butt. Not literally of course... then again I did get that too. I guess it was literally after all."
HISAO: "Don't be so critical of yourself."
NARRATOR: "She looks at me funnily, but shuts up. At about this point I start thinking if I should really leave and do something more constructive with my Sunday. This is the pinnacle of social failure. A whole free day, a festival right outside my doorstep, and what do I do? Sit here with Rin; two bystanders with nothing to do except to think what a pity it is to be just a bystander. Even realizing how pitiful it is, I don't do anything. I don't stand up and take off for a day of fun."
NARRATOR: "Rin is shuffling about restlessly, constantly swinging one leg over the other knee and then back again. She has a very irritated look on her face."
HISAO: "Is something wrong?"
RIN: "Yes. No. Yes."
NARRATOR: "She suddenly hops up on her feet. It's surprising, I thought she was still rendered immobile but apparently that's not the case."
RIN: "I have to go find Emi or someone, I need some help with something."
HISAO: "I can help you."
RIN: "No, it's okay. One of us has to stay here in case something happens."
HISAO: "Don't be ridiculous. Nothing even remotely interesting has happened since I came here except that one guy who dropped a snow cone on his foot. Let me help you, since I'm bored. So what is it?"
NARRATOR: "Rin's lips flatten tightly against each other into an almost perfectly horizontal line. She closes her eyes and draws in a deep breath. When she opens her eyelids the frighteningly stern look in her dark eyes takes me aback."
RIN: "Hisao, you might not want to hear this or maybe you do, I don't know, but it doesn't matter and even if it would you are not leaving me any choice. I'm having my period and I need some help regarding that. However, I don't feel that our relationship is yet on the level where I could allow you to pull my underwear down in the girls' toilet even if you offer to. That's why you should stay here while I go and look for Emi."
NARRATOR: "As blood rushes to my cheeks like the rising tide my brains try to desperately search for an answer, but the only thing I can think of is how that was the most coherent thing I have heard coming out of Rin's mouth during these four days I've known her."
NARRATOR: "Not wanting to meet Rin's eyes, I turn my face aside, pretending I'm looking at someone's parents. From the corner of my eye I see Rin turning on her heel and walking off without further ado. I feel like going to hide under some rock. I wonder how long Rin will be gone... or if she will return at all. She does return eventually, appearing seemingly out of nowhere and sitting back to where she was, next to my place."
RIN: "I'm back."
NARRATOR: "She says it flatly, like my blunder never happened. I'd prefer to forget the whole matter as well, so I keep quiet."
NARRATOR: "Time passes in standstill, the sun gleams from high above the main building. It hits me directly in the eyes, but I just squint instead of moving. In a bit it becomes painful to keep my eyes open just a little, and my temples start aching."
HISAO: "My head hurts. I think this day gave me a headache, can you believe it?"
RIN: "Are you hungry?"
HISAO: "How is that related to headache?"
RIN: "It's not. I ask because I am."
NARRATOR: "... Her oblivious seriousness melts my irritation with its ridiculousness, and I find the corners of my mouth turning slightly upwards again."
HISAO: "You know what? So am I. I'll go get some food for us. What do you want? My treat."
RIN: "Doesn't matter."
NARRATOR: "Returning with the food, I give one portion to Rin, taking the other for myself and we dig in without a word. Rin looks upwards, fork hanging out the corner of her mouth."
RIN: "What are clouds? I always thought they were thoughts of the sky or something like that. Because you can't touch them."
HISAO: "You thought like that when you were a kid?"
RIN: "No, last week. Maybe because sometimes my thoughts feel like clouds. Fluffy and white and slow."
RIN: "Like the sky was in my mind. Like my mind was the sky."
HISAO: "The sky of your mind?"
RIN: "Close your eyes and think of sky. You won't be able to think of anything else until you stop."
NARRATOR: "I try it. It works. Magic? Opening my eyes, I see Rin studying me with her eyes. It feels uncomfortable because she doesn't say anything. I turn away."
HISAO: "Clouds are water. Evaporated water. You know they say that almost all of the water in the world will at some point of its existence be a part of a cloud. Every drop of tears and blood and sweat that comes out of you, it'll be a cloud. All the water inside your body too, it goes up there some time after you die. It might take a while though."
RIN: "Your explanation is better than any of mine."
HISAO: "Because it's true."
RIN: "That must be it."
NARRATOR: "I carry on eating the food before it gets cold. The wall offers a bit of blessed shade as the sun revolves around the dome of the sky. But the afternoon is already slowly making way for the evening so our lunch becomes more of a dinner. Or whatever the word is for an irregular meal like this. Despite what I decide to call it, it certainly hits the spot. I haven't eaten a bit since forever."
NARRATOR: "My appetite filled, I let out a satisfied sigh. Rin hasn't eaten all of hers but seems to be done with her food as well. I lean back, taking in the atmosphere. The crowd has thinned already, but the activities are still going. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. And why not? It's warm, the kind of perfect summer day when it's hot but not too hot for comfort. The sun will set soon. Time really has flown by."
HISAO: "We've been sitting here for six hours."
RIN: "Yes we have. Do you want to do something else now?"
HISAO: "No, not really."
RIN: "Me neither."
NARRATOR: "She adjusts her position and leans against the wall, and I follow her lead, relaxing my own body. For minutes on end, we sit there without saying a word. I'm trying to feel Rin's mood from her demeanor, the tension of her muscles, the tiny expressions fleeting on her face. It's no use. She's unreadable as always. The crowd swells to and fro, people happily chattering with each other. Very few people pay real attention to the mural, and even less to us. I fiddle with a few odd pebbles absentmindedly. The act of doing something just for the sake of doing something, the pinnacle of idleness. Inch by inch, the sun creeps lower and lower towards the treeline, changing the color of the sky close to the horizon from golden yellow to orange and red as the moment of sunset draws near. I feel like my stomach is filled with lead after eating so heavily, but the brick wall feels surprisingly comfortable against my back. I try to fight against the drowsy feeling that is overwhelming me, to no avail."
NARRATOR: "I wake up with a start. A low boom reverberates through the school grounds. Afterimages of bright sparks flash through my vision like stars. Something rises towards the skies from the direction of the sports field. A tail of fire trails behind it until a burst of red and yellow flame lights the sky high above the school with another loud boom."
NARRATOR: "Fireworks. The sudden flash of light against the canvas of the night sky awakens me to realize that it's actually dark already. How long did I sleep? I feel groggy and can't feel my right arm. As I attempt to flex it, I realize why. Rin is leaning heavily against my shoulder, almost falling on my lap. She is fast asleep, not even fazed by the fireworks. Her mouth is slightly open and her eyes are peacefully closed. A sleeping child-like face of the innocent. I shake Rin gently with my free arm, trying to wake her up or failing that, move her so that my other arm is liberated from its pinch. Rin's face twitches and her eyelids shut tighter, as if to resist against waking up."
NARRATOR: "She gradually opens her eyes but keeps them half-closed, letting the light from the fireworks sneak just past her eyelashes so that her green irises mirror the bright flashes of the explosions, then looks up at me and frowns."
RIN: "Just a while longer, okay?"
NARRATOR: "Rin's voice is drowsy and slow, leaving her almost unintelligibly muttered words hanging lazily in the air. It seems she is not entirely aware of the situation. Rin's head drops back on my shoulder as she leans against me with all her weight. She snuggles against my side, trying to make herself comfortable but making me feel very uncomfortable at the same time. I become intensely, almost painfully aware of Rin's warm body and the deep, peaceful movement of her chest against my arm, her breathing soon returning to the even rhythm. I can't help admiring her gift for sleeping, or the ease of mind of hers to use someone she has known for less than a week as a pillow."
NARRATOR: "The rockets rise up to the sky one at a time, breaking into flowers of red, green and gold, accompanied by the oohs and aahs of the audience. I try to push Rin's disconcerting proximity out of my mind, for what can I do about it? I just hope her short while really is that. One by one, the glittery bursts are born and die in a blink of an eye, coloring the dark night sky into a constantly changing abstract painting. I listen to the low booms of the explosions and Rin's quiet breathing, trying to clear my own head of the post-awakening disorientation. Thankfully, just a while longer really proves to be just a while, as Rin stirs from her slumber and wakes up again before the fireworks are over."
RIN: "I fell asleep."
NARRATOR: "She finally opens her eyes completely and blinks a few times."
HISAO: "You fell asleep on top of me. Twice."
RIN: "You didn't like it?"
HISAO: "Err..., well..."
NARRATOR: "Despite the inconclusive stammering, Rin sits upright, drawing herself away from me."
HISAO: "Well, you are heavy."
NARRATOR: "It's a lie, she weighs next to nothing, but I have to get a jab back at her, even if it's under the belt. My mock protest fails to draw any reaction as Rin's attention draws upwards, to the flashes of the fireworks. She seems hypnotized by the colorful play of the explosions. A slight tingling sensation goes up and down in my arm as blood starts to circulate again. It's unpleasant but it helps me to get rid of this dizzy feeling. More and more rockets rise up to the sky, the bright colors of their explosions reflecting from the clouds. Both of us stare at the fireworks fixedly through the canopy of the trees, enthralled by the show. We would get a vastly better view of the sky if we moved even a couple of yards, but neither of us bothers to even suggest it."
RIN: "I really do like fireworks, even though looking at them makes me feel kinda sad, I think. It's like they want you to look at them so bad so they are loud and bright, but when someone looks, they are already gone. It's like they were not even real."
HISAO: "They are real, I can tell you that. All of this is... real, you know? If you think about it, nothing really lasts for long. Even something like my life or yours is just a blink of an eye in the history of everything, like one of those rockets. Poof, and we're gone. But we're here, aren't we?"
NARRATOR: "Yeah, this is reality. Rin, sitting next to me, the loud bangs of the fireworks, the vast, unlimited sky. These things are definitely real, even though they won't stay here forever. I feel warm inside, and I wonder if it's because Rin is so close to me or just the feeling of being alive."
RIN: "I don't really know what I should say next."
HISAO: "It's all right... maybe I'm just talking to myself. But you know, fireworks are pretty... but in the end isn't it somehow silly to spend so much money on a fraction of a second worth of pretty sparkles?"
NARRATOR: "Rin rips her gaze off the still ongoing spectacle and leans backwards, looking at me with a repulsed face."
RIN: "Wow, I never expected you to be such a cynic."
HISAO: "Cynic is a pretty harsh word. Rather than that, I think of myself as a realist."
RIN: "Isn't a realist just the word for what a cynic calls himself?"
NARRATOR: "The final rocket goes out with a bang of silver and blue, leaving the grounds eerily silent for a moment until the crowd starts moving towards the main gate like a cattle herd. Wisps of gray smoke drift towards the dorms from the sports field. The pungent, sulfurous smell of gunpowder it carries along feels like it sticks to my hair and clothes."
HISAO: "Was that it?"
RIN: "I think so."
NARRATOR: "I stand up and stretch my sore back. Sleeping against a brick wall wasn't such a good idea after all. Rin stands up as well and turns to face me, with an expectant gaze on her tired features. Although she seems to have trouble focusing her eyes, she is looking straight at me, something I feel has not occurred too often in the past week."
NARRATOR: "I suddenly realize we have been almost on a date here, as if by accident. Even if we did nothing. But it wasn't... so why blood is rushing to my cheeks and my speech stammering? I don't know what I should say, especially since it seems Rin is waiting for me to say something, but luckily she solves my problem for me."
RIN: "Good night, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "She gives me one more lingering look, measuring me from tip to toe, turns around on her heel and skips off, disappearing into the crowd. ..."
HISAO: "Okay... Good night."
NARRATOR: "I'm left standing there, giving my response to the cooling night air. Sigh. The festival turned out to be nothing like I expected. I ended up spending all day in one spot with Rin, even though neither of us agreed on nor suggested that we do anything. I just didn't have anything better to do and evidently, neither did she. Rin's warmth lingers for a while longer in my body before disappearing into the falling night."
END OF ACT 1