Chapter 14:

With an Artist's Eye

We Are ☆ Star Club!

I held the sketchbook in my hands like it was a wild animal. I certainly was no artist, but that hadn't kept our art teacher from giving us an assignment. Plein Air drawing. It sounded wrong, and honestly, if I could skip it, I would. Thankfully, I didn't have to do it alone. Arisu had been carrying her supplies in her swinging arms, whistling a tune I didn't know. She certainly wasn't looking for a drawing spot.Bookmark here

"Ah... where should we go?" Maria wondered next to me.Bookmark here

Of course, she was enamored with the idea of drawing outside. Too bad she had just broken up with a potential date, otherwise I was sure he would have joined us. But this way, none of us were focused on the task at hand. Our only hope was Erica, our savior in this drawing time. When she heard us complaining about the assignment, she immediately wanted to come with us, showing us her favorite drawing spot. Pudding, of course, tagged along - or rather, got dragged along by Erica and her enthusiasm. We were supposed to meet them at the edge of the forest.Bookmark here

"Arisu! Hold your sketchbook in your hands, or put it in your backpack," Maria whispered.Bookmark here

I hadn't noticed that Arisu had stopped carrying her supplies in her arms, using her hair instead. It had become such a normal sight for me that I didn't even think about it, but Maria was right. While our friend could hide her appearance well enough among other humans, even they would get suspicious if they saw stuff floating around her.Bookmark here

"Ah. Sorry."Bookmark here

With a sigh, she started holding her things again. Soon enough, her smile appeared on her face again. It's amazing how happy she always is. Better than my worrying, that's for sure, I thought.Bookmark here

"Here you are!"Bookmark here

Erica was waving at us enthusiastically, her eyes bright with a big smile. She even ran towards us, and I saw her heavy backpack, probably full of art supplies. I smiled, and her enthusiasm rubbed off on me. It's great to see her like this. Art really is her passion, huh?Bookmark here

"I have the perfect place in mind," she said, tugging Pudding along.Bookmark here

"Oh, wonderful! What is it? Wait, let me guess - maybe a hidden stream, or a little park bench in a bed of roses, or..."Bookmark here

Erica laughed at Maria's big dreams.Bookmark here

"You'll see."Bookmark here

With that, she dragged the rest of us along, too, and we followed her deeper and deeper into the forest. It looked magical. Golden sunlight danced through the leaves, and while Erica was clearly admiring it, she didn't stop so we could draw here. Whatever that spot she had in mind was really must be perfect. And to be honest, I wasn't in a hurry to sit down and get through this horrible assignment.Bookmark here

"We're almost there."Bookmark here

With that, our rule-loving Erica went off the path, slipping through the trees. We somehow managed to keep up with her, wandering through the trees. Here, the forest was darker, cooler, older. When I took a breath, my lungs filled with forest air, deep and green. Still, a few sunrays managed to slip through the foliage, and showed the glittering life of the forest.Bookmark here

"Here."Bookmark here

Finally, she slowed down, taking in the sight before her. It was a small clearing close to a stream, its clear waters mumbling over smooth stones and dark branches. The air was even cooler and fresher here, like I was breathing in the water itself. I could hear birds singing, even though none of them were visible to me.Bookmark here

"Ah, it's so beautiful. I can't believe it."Bookmark here

Maria sat down on a big rock, her dress cushioned by moss. While Pudding and Erica got close to the water, Arisu stayed behind, closer to the trees, watching the water carefully.Bookmark here

"Don't you want to come closer?"Bookmark here

"No, I'm good. That's... a lot of water."Bookmark here

Arisu shook her head, staying right where she was. I shrugged.Bookmark here

"Okay. Just let us know if you need anything, yes?"Bookmark here

"Sure!"Bookmark here

She smiled, but her eyes were still watching the stream closely. It seemed like she didn't like the water, for whatever reason. I looked at her for a bit longer, as she took out her sketchbook and sat down on the roots of a tree, before turning towards the others. They had already started drawing wherever they sat down. Erica was scribbling furiously, watching the stream as her pencil trailed over the paper. Slowly, I walked over to her. Maybe I could learn one or two things from her.Bookmark here

"Can I see?" I asked.Bookmark here

She blinked, and then looked up to me. Apparently, I had broken her concentration. Was she angry at me for this? No, there was nothing like that in her eyes. Only a small smile.Bookmark here

"Sure."Bookmark here

She turned her sketchbook around, and in her eyes glittered thinly veiled pride.Bookmark here

"I... it's cool. Wow."Bookmark here

I didn't know what to say, or how to say it. The lines indicated that it was supposed to be the stream, but something was off, like the perspective was wonky. Not worse than my own attempts at drawing, though.Bookmark here

"Thanks," she said, before quickly turning it around again. "I've still got much to learn."Bookmark here

She knew that something was up, I was sure. But I didn't want to say outright that her art sucked. That wasn't me.Bookmark here

"You really like art a lot, huh? I can tell by the way you draw," I said instead.Bookmark here

"I do. But... is that enough?"Bookmark here

Her gaze was fixed on the paper. She was scribbling more, and while she seemed frustrated, I found it very impressive that she still continued. I don't think I could have done it. She didn't look at me any more, so lost in her art, that I decided to leave her alone. I felt clumsy, but what could I do? I should focus on my art, anyways.Bookmark here

I went over to Arisu, sitting down next to her.Bookmark here

"What are you drawing?"Bookmark here

"The forest."Bookmark here

She smiled, before showing me her sketchbook.Bookmark here

"It's much better than the water."Bookmark here

I could see the trees, and even the sunlight filtering through them, making bizarre shapes out of the shadows. It almost seemed like the trees had eyes, or arms. I looked around.Bookmark here

"You know we are supposed to draw the landscape as accurately as possible, right? No fantasy creatures."Bookmark here

"Yup."Bookmark here

Arisu nodded, adding another eye to a tree.Bookmark here

"So, uh, what are those things?"Bookmark here

Now, she looked at me, to the trees, and at me again.Bookmark here

"Oh, you can't see them?"Bookmark here

"What do you mean?"I let out a nervous laugh.Bookmark here

She looked at the trees again, then shook her head.Bookmark here

"Oh, nothing. Don't worry about it. That was a joke."Bookmark here

"Uh...huh."Bookmark here

I nodded, looking at the trees. Even if it was a joke... the longer I watched the forest, the more alive it seemed to be. I shuddered, before turning to my own sketchbook. I should start, finally. I've been procrastinating for too long. I took out the pencil, trying to sketch the trees (yes, they are supposed to be wonky) as well as light and shadow (yes, the light is bright enough to make these shadows). Still, it looked bad. Urgh. I had to resist the temptation to crumple it up and throw it away.Bookmark here

Instead, I started the next drawing, turning towards the stream this time. Maybe, it would turn out better.Bookmark here

The evening came sooner than any of us realized, and with it came the exhaustion. My sketchbook looked messy now, with some of the drawings better than others. Still, none of them were good, but I hoped they would get me to pass the assignment. I sighed. The others got ready to leave, and sure as clockwork, Arisu turned towards me, a big grin on her face.Bookmark here

"So, what about icecream?"Bookmark here

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