NARRATOR: "Like Emi, I have a club meeting of my own, so I head straight to the art clubroom at the end of the hallway. Only a few members are present today, so the mood's even more laid-back than usual. Rin is off working on her exhibition project, but I wonder if the rest are simply just playing hooky, defeated by the heat. I half-assedly sketch something with a piece of graphite, but do a poor job of it. My fingertips are turning pitch black from holding the graphite and smudging it on the paper, accidentally and on purpose. I've improved a little, but Rin's level is still far beyond my reach. Eventually Nomiya comes in and makes his way around the room, checking on what we're doing and giving comments on the works in progress. He stops behind me and bends closer to look at my poor sketch."
NOMIYA: "Tried to take a few pointers from Tezuka, have you?"
HISAO: "Uh, well, I've looked at how she draws but I haven't exactly asked for advice, no."
NOMIYA: "Let's see here."
NARRATOR: "He casually picks up the piece of graphite from my hand and lightly draws some faint, barely visible lines over my sketch, to illustrate places that need improvement. I already feel frustrated about not seeing the obvious flaws before, but with a couple of careless-seeming flicks of the wrist, Nomiya has made them plain as day. Straightening up, he throws a sideways glance at the seat where Rin usually sits."
NOMIYA: "Such a nostalgic feeling, almost like a bird flying from the nest. I'll miss Tezuka when she graduates. It begins from here, you know. Nearly makes my eyes a little misty."
HISAO: "Do you really think she has a chance to make her big break with the exhibition?"
NARRATOR: "Nomiya turns looks up from my sketch, adjusting his glasses. He rubs his chin, looking contemplative."
NOMIYA: "Why not? It's not like she's going to be an overnight smash hit or anything, but getting the word out there is very important. Connections are pure gold, maybe the most important thing to gain if she is to become an artist. Word of mouth is very powerful in these circles. She has some advantages, like her young age and technique. You know, the feet. People will be naturally curious about extraordinary things like that."
NARRATOR: "His words have an unpleasant ring to them."
HISAO: "Isn't that just exploiting her disability to make her more popular? It sounds fishy."
NOMIYA: "Ah, now, now. It's not like that at all. Think of it from another perspective, like an artist. Would you rather have Tezuka hide herself completely from public view, as if her condition were something shameful? Some people will call it exploitation if we promote that aspect, or discrimination if we hide it. All considered, we're just being honest about it. There's nothing wrong with that, right, my boy?"
HISAO: "I guess so."
NOMIYA: "Brilliant! It's true that disability always has all sorts of implications in society, often nasty ones, but brushing things under the carpet won't help at all. I'm sure Sae will handle her side of the issue with delicacy. I've known her since art school and she's most reliable."
HISAO: "Why is she going so far for Rin's sake? Because it's you who asked?"
NOMIYA: "Oh, she has her own reasons too. Trust this old man, she's more kind-hearted than she looks. Ah, but don't let her know I said that."
NARRATOR: "He gives me a big wink, and covers his mouth with his hand, as if to push the remark back in. I remember the curious way Miss Saionji looked at Rin almost the entire time during our visit to the gallery. It was like that woman was trying to imprint everything about her into her memory. Or maybe it was that Rin reminded her of something else."
NOMIYA: "Mostly Sae simply adores young people with a passion for art. Her gallery specializes in this very thing, bringing up-and-coming talent to the public. It's a perfect fit for someone like Tezuka."
HISAO: "I don't even know if she really wants to become a career artist, though. But I guess that'd be the logical next step."
NOMIYA: "I don't have the faintest idea. Like they say, a teacher can only show the door, it's the student who has to walk through it. An old, tired saying, but still quite true."
NARRATOR: "He leaves to chat with the pair of second-year girls working on some watercolors. Even though he said that clichéd thing, it feels to me like Nomiya is trying to prod Rin through a certain door in particular, but I can't blame him for that. I literally shoved Rin towards that door what with my speeches about wasting opportunities and whatnot. Nomiya feels like it's time for him to let Rin test her own wings. He has absolute confidence in this endeavor. I wonder why I can't shed the anxious feeling I have inside of me. It shouldn't have anything to do with me. Maybe I'm just bothered by exactly that: I really don't have any part in this. I would... I would like to be a part of Rin's life, and her a part of mine. Like friends should be. That's what she called us. I wonder what she really meant. I feel like I'm so far apart from her, even when I'm not. It's the same as with Rin and Emi. I can't understand her. What am I, for her?"
NARRATOR: "I want to be there for her if she needs support from a friend. It's the least I can do. How could I call someone my friend if I can't be there for her if she needs me?"
NARRATOR: "In the end, even though we made friends with each other, I don't really feel that we've gotten any closer. How could I call someone my friend if I can't understand her?"
NARRATOR: "Nomiya's boisterous laugh fills the quiet afternoon just as the club meeting ends. He pats one of the girls on the back encouragingly. I think about all the things that have led me to this point, all the things I've shared with Rin during the few weeks I've been at Yamaku so far. I understand so very little, in the end, but I'm sure of one thing. If I want to keep going what I have with Rin, I have to throw myself into whatever'll come out of this exhibition project, along with her. I turn my gaze back at the black mess of a sketch and the near-invisible guiding lines the teacher drew over it. No pattern emerges, nothing that could take me further than I am. I put the graphite down on the table and think hard and honestly about what I really want."
Next Scene: The Edge of the World