NARRATOR: "The last day before summer vacations is waning slowly. Science is the final exam of the trimester and then we are free. The collective yearning for liberty is almost palpable in the classroom, even though the weather seems a tad cloudy. It might rain today, who knows. I've already finished the test because it was pretty easy, so I'm doodling lazily on the flip side of the paper, waiting for Mutou to call time. It also prevents Misha from trying to covertly look at my answers over my shoulder. She might fool the inattentive teacher, but I can tell that she is trying to look. I guess it's her best bet at passing the test. Doesn't make me feel any mercy though, so I just ignore her and look around me. It's quiet. The only sounds in the classroom are the quiet shuffling of papers and Mutou's constant coughing. It makes my awareness of the surroundings slowly drift to the backstage of consciousness, giving room to other things."
NARRATOR: "Vacation, huh? Some people will stay at the school even over the holidays, some will go back to their families. I don't know what to do. I should go buy a train ticket for my trip back home, but I can't bring myself to do it. I bet I'm going to get a call from home again. Mom's going to pester me about when I'm coming back, and I'm not going to know what to answer. This is really lousy. In the current state of things with Rin, it feels like I can't just bail out of here and pretend we are through. And now, she has other problems of her own. I thought that the exhibition opening would give her a breather, but I was sorely mistaken. The tangle just seems to thicken. A sharp knock on the door interrupts the quiet but frantic mood of the last 15 minutes of the exam."
MUTOU: "Come in."
NARRATOR: "The opening door reveals the art teacher, who steps in with his jacket swirling around him as though in a gust of wind. He glances at Mutou, who glances back at him. A frown spreads simultaneously on both of their faces as the men measure each other with their gazes."
NOMIYA: "Excuse me, could I borrow Mr. Nakai for a moment?"
MUTOU: "Excuse me, Mr. Nomiya, but we are in the middle of an exam here."
NARRATOR: "A chilly atmosphere suddenly spreads in the middle of the summer afternoon as the two men try to stare each other down."
NOMIYA: "This is urgent, and it seems that Nakai has already finished."
NARRATOR: "Both men turn to look at me, staring at me like a pair of basilisks trying to petrify a tasty snack. It's true that I've been idle for a good while now, so Nomiya is right, but..."
MUTOU: "Nakai, would you like to check your answers one more time?"
NARRATOR: "Mutou speaks with an odd intonation, weighting certain words as if trying to send a message. The pressure from their stares makes me rapidly shake my head, which is apparently interpreted as an answer of some sort."
MUTOU: "Very well. Nakai, go with Mr. Nomiya, if you please. Take your bag with you and bring your test paper to my desk. You have a nice vacation."
HISAO: "Umm. Er, you too, teacher."
NARRATOR: "The entire world... well, at least the classroom seems to hold its breath just for me, putting the exam on hold until I stand up, collect my stuff and walk to the door. I can feel the stares in the back of my neck. My classmates probably think I'm in for some detention or something, on the last day of the school before summer vacation. I don't know what the teacher wants from me, but I can guess it probably is not detention and also that it probably has something to do with Rin again. Nomiya doesn't take me anywhere, contenting himself with the hallway as it's completely abandoned."
NOMIYA: "Do you know where Tezuka is?"
NARRATOR: "So she is trying to avoid the teacher... par for the course, probably. I wonder if she realizes that she can't avoid dealing with this indefinitely."
HISAO: "I have no idea. You have probably asked from her homeroom next door."
NOMIYA: "Of course I have! I have searched every nook and cranny of this blasted school and the girls' dorm. You are the last one to see her since yesterday and you are her friend. Work with me here. Aren't you worried?"
NARRATOR: "I am, but I don't know what I could do. Rin did something incomprehensible yesterday, even for her. She seemed really confused."
HISAO: "Maybe she just wants some time to think then. I got the feeling that she had second thoughts about having that exhibition."
NARRATOR: "Or something. She really didn't explain what was wrong."
NOMIYA: "What second thoughts?"
HISAO: "I dunno. Just got that feeling."
NARRATOR: "I am being a little dishonest with the teacher, but this is not something I should be meddling with. He came to me... yes, why? Maybe he thinks I'm some kind of confidant of Rin's, but I don't think I can help with this matter. The teacher huffs and scratches his head in confusion."
NOMIYA: "What's up with that girl? This is so unlike her, she's always been so goal-driven."
NARRATOR: "“Goal-driven?” Those don't really strike me as words to describe Rin with. To me, she always felt obsessive at best."
HISAO: "Er, I don't mean to be rude, but wasn't it you who pushed Rin to that direction in the first place?"
NOMIYA: "Her goal is my goal. That is a mentor's job."
HISAO: "I guess so. I just don't know if painting can make her happy."
NOMIYA: "That's pretty preposterous of you to say, Nakai."
NARRATOR: "He suddenly sounds pretty irate. Did I say something stupid?"
NOMIYA: "You don't understand, do you? It is not a question of happiness. For every gain there is a sacrifice to be made. There is no free lunch, but could I... would I let that girl waste away her talent if she has a moment of doubt? Never! Painting is work just like any other. Tezuka might make it look like child's play to you, but she works hard every day to make her art. To become extraordinary, one has to make an extraordinary effort."
NARRATOR: "The more the teacher talks, the more I feel that Rin doesn't think like that, even though I have no idea how she thinks."
NOMIYA: "I can very well understand why she would sacrifice her summer vacation and make up for the lost classes and exams to get a chance at showing her art. This is the path she has taken, and to go all the way, that's not easy. I know she is young, and things are hard for her just like for all the kids here in this school, but that's no excuse."
NARRATOR: "He is finished."
NOMIYA: "Do you have anything like what art is to Tezuka?"
NARRATOR: "That's right. I have only vague ideas of my future, no goal to shoot for, no dream to blindly reach for. I joined the art club in search of something I could be interested in, to get inspired by. Did I find something like that? All I found in the end... was Rin."
HISAO: "No, I don't have a passion like that."
NOMIYA: "Then you can't understand."
NARRATOR: "His flat statement allows no counterargument."
HISAO: "But... she might not understand even herself."
NARRATOR: "Still, I carry on arguing, out of spite if for nothing else."
NOMIYA: "How could she not? She's been at it so hard for the past few weeks that she put off even coming to school, not to say anything about attending class. Don't be ridiculous."
NARRATOR: "I don't think I'm being ridiculous, but as I have no rebuttal, Nomiya seems to consider this one his win."
NOMIYA: "At any rate, the opening was quite successful despite Tezuka hardly showing up. Many people were interested in her work and one piece was even sold for a reasonable price."
HISAO: "Well, that's nice isn't it?"
NOMIYA: "Yes, it's fantastic news! I hoped that Tezuka would come to her senses when she heard about this, but..."
NARRATOR: "He sighs and takes off his glasses, cleaning them against his jacket before putting them on his nose again."
NOMIYA: "At any rate, I should be going. There is this mess to be settled with Sae and everyone. If you see Tezuka, please ask her to come see me. Otherwise, have a nice vacation."
NARRATOR: "After he has disappeared around the corner, I ponder where Rin could really be. It feels like she has not one, but at least half a dozen of these “secret places.” I balance between the desire to solve this tangle and to drop it for good. The disused classroom is just a few feet away. What to do? ... As I push open the door, only the shadows greet me from the inside."
HISAO: "Hey there."
Next Scene: Problems of Self-Referential Logic