NARRATOR: "I knock on the door of the art room and open it. A girl who was possibly doing something important with the scroll of paper she's carrying turns to reckon me, and smiles in a sweet if a bit confused manner."
HISAO: "This is the art club, right?"
STUDENT: "Yep. You interested in joining?"
HISAO: "Yeah. In fact, I might already have done so, but we'll see."
NARRATOR: "I give her a weak smile, and her own widens a notch, making me feel less nervous."
STUDENT: "Great! Have a seat, then. We'll start when the teacher gets here."
NARRATOR: "Without even scouting the room for a good spot, I walk quickly to the back of the room and settle myself on a free seat, apart from everyone else. A few other members are lounging in their seats, waiting for the teacher. Rin sits alone in a window seat, looking outside. She's the only person here that I know, although a guy I've never really gotten along with from my own class is here, too. Nobody else comes to greet me - maybe introductions are left for later? - so I just settle for silent observation as well. One boy has sunglasses on; an odd sight indoors, were we not at Yamaku. I'll bet he's the blind student Rin was talking about."
NARRATOR: "The wait proves to be extremely short. Nomiya walks over to stand behind his desk in three long strides, then gives a smile and a flamboyant greeting."
NOMIYA: "Good afternoon, everyone! First things first: Hisao there is a new member, so everyone get along with him."
NARRATOR: "He winks at me unsettlingly. All eight members of the club, including myself, answer his greeting with considerably less enthusiasm. Still, people finally straighten up in their seats and begin to pay attention."
NOMIYA: "I think some of you still have projects to work on, so please continue with those if you like. As for the rest, I was thinking that today, we could do some rough studies. "How does that sound?"
NARRATOR: "Nobody answers except with some unintelligible murmurs, which Nomiya apparently interprets as unanimous approval."
NOMIYA: "All right, then! Everyone not working on other projects, choose a partner and draw a sketch of one another. You should be able to complete this today, but if not, we can continue it next time, or even do it again if you find it interesting. Remember to pay attention to lighting and shadow, and give it your best!"
NARRATOR: "Pairing up? I feel pretty awkward about it, hardly knowing anyone here. I wish someone would ask me to be their partner. People stand up and move their chairs closer together, but nobody comes to me. Pretty soon, everyone else has paired off. Friends team up with each other, but I'm left alone. Well, there is Rin. She's sitting in the furthest corner of the classroom, still staring out the window and seemingly uninterested in taking part in the exercise. Since she's the only other one without a partner, I walk to her seat. I can't see her face because her hair is covering most of it and she's looking away from me."
NARRATOR: "I call out to her. No response."
HISAO: "Hey, want to partner up? You're the only one I know here."
NARRATOR: "She seems to finally acknowledge my presence, head turning like a robot as she looks to see who is addressing her. ... Rin doesn't answer, and I don't want to repeat the question, either. I'm sure she heard it the first time. ... Why doesn't she say anything? It can't be such an awful fate to be paired up with me, can it? She doesn't look at my face, and instead stares directly at my chest and stomach. ..."
RIN: "Oh, okay. Why not?"
HISAO: "Okay. Good. Great. I'll get the stuff for us."
NARRATOR: "Looking at the equipment Nomiya has prepared for today's meeting confuses me. Instead of graphite or pencils, we are apparently supposed to do ink sketches. I've never done anything like that before. The teacher, however, seems confident in my abilities to adapt to this medium."
NOMIYA: "Simple! First you do the outlines in ink. You let them dry, and then you shade with the diluted ink. This is called India ink, it works like watercolors. If you're uncomfortable with it, use a pen instead of a brush for the outlines."
HISAO: "Got it."
NARRATOR: "I pick up paper, water cups, one pen for me, one brush for Rin and ink for both of us, then return to Rin. Grabbing a vacated chair from nearby, I seat myself directly opposite her."
RIN: "Do you want me to do it with my foot or my mouth?"
HISAO: "What did you say?"
NARRATOR: "She tilts her head, her brows forming questioning arches, as if she doesn't understand that I didn't understand the question."
RIN: "I don't mind drawing either way. You'll look better if I do it with my foot, though."
HISAO: "With your foot, then, if it's all the same to you."
NARRATOR: "Nodding in answer, Rin gets up from her seat and kicks off her sandals. In two fluid motions, she picks up the paper sheet and drops it on the floor, then snatches the brush between her toes before sitting on the floor in a weird half-crosslegged position. Although I've seen her do everything with her feet already, from eating to painting, this display of dexterity is so prodigious that I just stare at her, stunned. Rin contemplates her blank paper intently. The sharp tip of her brush hovers over the paper in anticipation. When she raises her head to see if I'm ready, I quickly turn my face away."
RIN: "I'll go first. Make a pose."
HISAO: "What kind of a pose?"
RIN: "It doesn't matter. That's the point. You have to make the sketch of the impression you get, not decide beforehand."
NARRATOR: "I end up just sitting in my chair, my hands hanging limply between my knees. I look at her, and she looks at me for a moment before beginning. Rin's stare is piercing, but impassive, as if she were trying to absorb a part of me into her own self. I feel like I'm physically shrinking under the pressure of her gaze. I get the feeling that for the first time since we met, Rin is actually looking at me, instead of in my general direction. She sketches with confident, bold sweeps of the delicate brush, not caring about the potentially destructive consequences of an accidentally misplaced stroke."
NARRATOR: "After she's happy with the outlines, she stands up to pose for me, stretching her back and legs. This time, she doesn't look at me. Instead, Rin lets her gaze wander around the room. I'm relieved; it's easier to stare at someone when they aren't staring back at you. Even so, I find it hard to get the sketch going. I'm not especially artistically talented, so I'm scared my portrait will turn into something disfigured, especially when compared to my partner's skill. I don't want to embarrass myself too badly on the first try. Rin is not helping the process, either. She doesn't stand still for even ten seconds; tilting her head from side to side to judge her drawing, biting at her lower lip, looking unsatisfied, and constantly shuffling around like she was on hot coals. I finally manage to make some headway on my sketch, and with my outlines done, we both start inking in the shadow and light. Nomiya passes by, and remarks on the beginnings of our sketches."
NOMIYA: "Very good! Standing figure is easier for a beginner to get a grasp of."
HISAO: "But I didn't choose the pose..."
NARRATOR: "I look at him and then at Rin in confusion, but he's already moving onto the next pair, and Rin seems unresponsive. Just like when she was painting the mural, Rin has become so engrossed with her work that it seems she has shut me, the classroom and the entire world itself out from her own little sphere of existence. Every now and then, she leans backwards, seemingly to get some perspective. Sometimes she bends forward, leaning down until her nose almost touches the paper. This rocking back and forth looks silly. Suddenly, Rin proves she hasn't completely drifted off into a world of her own, and speaks."
RIN: "Are you having fun already?"
NARRATOR: "She doesn't raise her eyes from the drawing, which is a good thing. The breaking of the silence sends a jolt of surprise through me, as if I'd been electrocuted."
HISAO: "I... don't know, yet. It's hard to say."
NARRATOR: "I can't hear how she replies to my answer because it seems she is suddenly having a private, whispered conversation with her sketch. I don't understand how she can draw so well when she has the attention span of a butterfly. As it seems she lost her interest, I go back to work on my drawing as well. I try to add texture to Rin's hair, to somehow grasp the way the golden afternoon sun lights her bright red tousle aflame and transfer it to my paper in shades of black and gray. Somehow, this pen and the bottle of ink seem like such lousy, inadequate tools for the task. Minutes pass, but the sketch doesn't magically look any more like Rin than it did before. Her voice wakes me up from my despair."
RIN: "What about now?"
HISAO: "Excuse me?"
RIN: "Are you having fun already?"
HISAO: "Why do you keep asking that?"
RIN: "Because it's a club, right? Clubs are meant to be fun. You joined to have fun. Are you having fun?"
HISAO: "Is it important that I'm having fun?"
HISAO: "...Okay, I'm having fun."
NARRATOR: "I wonder if I said that just to please her, or if I really meant it. I can't really decide which it was. I don't hate this, though. I can honestly say that much. It's good enough for now. As the allotted time to finish the studies quickly ticks away, I desperately try to improve my awful sketch, but it doesn't seem to get any better. I want to start again from scratch, but what would be the point? There's no time for that, either."
NOMIYA: "Okay everyone, that's it for today! Please turn in the drawings on my desk, and I'll see you all next Monday!"
NARRATOR: "I glance at my portrait. It doesn't exactly look like Rin. I guess you could say it portrays her, but that might be a bit generous. The nose and jaw look hideous, and the shading is terrible. Granted, it's my first attempt at drawing with ink, but it's still pretty bad."
RIN: "That's not bad."
NARRATOR: "She sneaked up behind me while I was lost in thought."
HISAO: "Damn it. I was hoping I could smuggle the portrait to the teacher without you seeing it."
HISAO: "I'm not really happy with it. I wish I could draw better."
RIN: "You just need some practice. Could you take my drawing to the teacher too?"
NARRATOR: "Curious myself about how the sketch turned out, I peek at the picture. From the way Rin was drawing, it looked like she was really into it."
NARRATOR: "It's excellent. Somehow the seemingly arbitrary strokes come together to form an image of my face, from the shape of my chin, to the messy hair, to the somewhat gloomy expression. Her sketch blows my mind."
HISAO: "Wow, you're amazing."RIN: "It's not that amazing. But thanks."
HISAO: "Wow, I wish I was that good. I kind of embarrass myself."
RIN: "Wouldn't you have to be me to be as good as me? I don't think you'd want to be me."HISAO: "No, I guess not. Maybe just some sort of approximation then."
NARRATOR: "I take a closer look at her work. It's still glistening with slowly drying ink."
HISAO: "You know, I look kind of grim here."
RIN: "You do look kind of grim. I mean, I agree; but it's also true otherwise, too. Like this you, not the you I made."
HISAO: "I do?"
RIN: "I think so at least."
NARRATOR: "Her simple statement makes me suddenly feel incredibly self-conscious. I feel like I need a mirror right now, to confirm or debunk Rin. It's a nasty feeling. Maybe it's just her. I hope it's just her, and that I don't look like that sketch to everyone. It's a good sketch, but somehow I get a really oppressive feeling from it."
HISAO: "I see. Anyway, it looks really good. You really are amazing."
RIN: "Thanks. I'm glad I could draw you. You are an interesting person."
HISAO: "You're an interesting person too, but that didn't help me much."
NARRATOR: "My self-deprecation has no limits today, but Rin ignores it all. I knew that I could never compare, but to see the difference with my own eyes is quite humbling."
RIN: "See, I tried to make you look like you think a lot, since you did a lot of thinking. And yeah, I might have overdone the fed-up-with-life expression, but cynics are like that, right?"
NARRATOR: "I want to retort something snappy, but Nomiya gives me no time to think, ushering us to the door."
NOMIYA: "Hurry up, you two!"
NARRATOR: "While we've been chatting the rest of the club has taken their leave. I quickly pick up our drawings and take them to the teacher's desk before hurrying after Rin, who has already left the classroom."
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