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Chapter 1 - A Missing Piece

[Takumi’s dorm, 1:33am, Sunday]

*Takumi silently sits in the dark on his bed, scrolling through the Tiers app. The app, designed to rank top students at GCU, shows his latest art submission at rock bottom.*

*Slowly, he scrolls through all of the harsh criticism and backlash he is receiving for his lack of material.*

*Takumi falls backwards onto his bed, looks up at the ceiling, and closes his eyes.*

[Next day after class, Monday]

*Walking out of his last class for the day, he hears a couple of students speaking in the hall.*

Student One: *Looking at his phone.* That kid’s a waste of school money, look at his rank!

Student Two: Poor kid hasn’t produced anything worthwhile in forever...

Student One: Some prodigy he is...

Takumi: *In his head.* Just ignore them, they don’t understand the pressure. It’s impossible to be confident in my art when it feels like it’s always so empty.

Student One: Oh look, there he is.

Student Two: It’s sad man, I used to be a fan. He could really work magic with a brush.

*Joey and Danny catch up with Takumi from behind and walk with him on both sides.*

Joey: *While hanging his arm around Takumi.* What’s up Taku, critics a little too harsh huh?

Takumi: *Letting out a long sigh.* As always, it’s my fault anyway for putting up a piece like that.

*The trio stop a few steps down.*

Danny: *Turns and looks at Takumi.* Oh come on, give me back the old Taku! *Stretches his cheeks.*

Joey: I’m with Danny. Plus I thought that piece was great. *Shows Takumi a photo on his phone.*

Danny: That isn’t his, that’d be the first place winner.

*Takumi groans.*

*The group sits down at a table for a quick break.*

Takumi: *While a taking snack out* What do you guys think I’m missing? I’m running out of ideas, and my tier rank has never been this low. At this rate I’ll be on level with .... *motions with his eyes to a group of lowly guys following a blond, green eyed girl skipping around nonchalantly.*

Danny: Nah, you’re more like... *Points to trash cans.*

Takumi: Man if I’m trash then you’re... you’re-

Danny: Go on?

Takumi: Yeah, yeah you’re right.

Joey: Don’t think like that! No matter how much you suck I’ll still be your friend!

Danny: Maybe we should brainstorm.

Joey: I don’t know about that, but maybe we should come up with some ideas?

Danny: ...You know, I think you should do an art piece on us!

Joey: Nah, that’d be too generic, you should do one with me and the team!

Danny: Didn’t you just finish the season 3-7? *Checks his phone.* Anyway I got band practice so I’ll see you guys later.

Joey: Oh shit, I’m late for workouts! Catch ya later Taku! *Stuffs Takumi’s snack in his mouth and sprints away.*

Takumi: I need somewhere quiet to think.. Off to the studio I guess.

*Takumi leaves to the art studio*

[GCU’s Library]

*Michi, Kirumi, and Ella sit at a table next to a window overseeing part of the school campus.*

*As they study, Michi looks off into space.*

Kirumi: What’s up princess? Your loyal servants gone for the day?

Ella: Oh come on, they’re nice. The least I can do is let them trail me all day right?

Michi: *In her head.* It’s really been a whole year... Why does it feel like nothing has lived up to its expectations? I thought this would be the right place for me...

Kirumi: Can’t believe you’re the leader of a cult before I could be one.

Ella: *Glares and chuckles.* What can I say? People love beauty.

Michi: *In her head.* Was I right to stay in Vermillia?

Kirumi: People also love idiots apparently.

Ella: ........ *Slams opens book.* Alright, Michi, what’s the study guide lookin like?

Michi: *Snaps back to reality.* Yeah, I think it looks good!

Ella: *Glances over.* There’s literally nothing on your paper.

Kirumi: Stop trying to change the subject!

Ella: No, I’m actually trying to study for once!

Michi: Sorry, I can’t focus. Let’s take a break? I gotta use the wash.

*Michi leaves to the restroom while Ella and Kirumi look at each other with concern.*

Michi: *Looking at mirror while thinking to herself.* It’s not like I’m struggling with the courses, or filled with boredom. My paintings have only gotten better over time, but are they really speaking to people? Is this the right crowd?

*Let’s out a sigh and splashes water on her face, she splashes her face again and again.*

Ella: *Peering into restroom and then looking back at Kirumi.* She’s trying to drown herself again!

*Kirumi looks over nonchalantly.*

[Art Studio, Midday, Monday]

Zoey: Hey, what do you think of this? I feel like it’s almost there. Can you lend a hand?

Takumi: I like it, but maaaaybe *Takes brush and starts touching up.* you could do something like *Finishes up* this! *Steps back as Zoe gazes in awe.*

Zoey: Ahhh, Thanks Takumi! I can always count on you.

*Takumi cracks a faint smile.*

*Two students talk to each other on the other side of the studio.*

Danielle: I don’t care what people say, Takumi is an amazing artist.

Christian: Yeah, I guess. Ever since he’s gotten here he’s done nothing but help. I feel bad for him.

Danielle: *Yelling towards Takumi and Zoey.* Hey Zoey let’s go! It looks like it might rain again.

Christian: Aww man, wasn’t it just sunny?

Zoey: *Runs towards the window to look at the clouds.* They look pretty! *She grabs her bag and heads for the door.* Bye Takumi, see ya tomorrow!

Christian: See ya later!

*The three students leave as Takumi waves to them. He then walks to the balcony and looks up at the sky.*

*Takumi begins to recall memories with his former girlfriend, Hanako.*

*Few raindrops begin to fall. One hits his cheek.*

*Takumi remembers Hanako squirting his face with a water gun as they both chuckled under the warm rays of sunlight.*

Takumi: Promise me times like these will never end, okay?

Hanako: Of course, I promise.

*Takumi remembers his GCU acceptance party, and then the next morning.*

Takumi: Hey, where were you? You didn’t answer your phone all night.

Hanako: I’m sorry, something just came up. I’ll make it up to you, let’s meet at Gala’s?

*Next evening at Gala’s, an ice cream shop in Atohato.*

Takumi: I’m glad you could make it, I could use some of your magic on this next piece!

Hanako: Takumi I’m sorry, I don’t have anything in mind today. My head is clouded.

Takumi: That’s fine! I can handle this one. Do you need any help?

Hanako: You’re too sweet, but i’m okay. It’s just college prep and my road ahead.

*Hanako continues to enjoy their time. Despite this, Takumi fears the worst and tries not to think about it.*

*Hanako becomes more and more busy, lost in her work. They meet less and less.*

*Takumi begins to find a reason to blame himself for everything happening and is holding on to their relationship by strands.*

*The balcony railing he’s leaning on shatters, and he falls into an abyss.*

*Right before he hits the bottom, he snaps back to reality. Takumi realizes he is constantly thinking back to times he was happy, no matter how much the result pained him; Hanako was his antidote as well as his poison.*

*Takumi snaps out of it and heads back inside.*

Takumi: The past has to be the past. I don’t care how long it’ll take, I can’t fail on this next piece.

*He tips off the cover of a canvas.*

*Days and nights pass, as Takumi frequents the studio day after day. Takumi finishes working on the painting days later.*

Takumi: *Breathing hard* I haven’t put this much heart into a painting since Summer... Will it be enough? No, it has to be!

*Takumi heads into the hallway and puts his painting on display.*

[Art Studio Hallway, 8:00P.M., Tuesday]

*Two professors walk down the hallway, stopping as they notice a new piece in the display case.*

Professor One: Hey, hey hey hey, who made this?

Professor Two: Seifude? *Reading it out slowly.*

Professor One: Ah, the scholarship student?

Professor Two: Seifude!? THE Takumi Seifude?! Now this is something else!

Professor One: Has the Showcase Committee seen this? We should notify the board immediately.

*The professors snap a photo of the painting and move it into the front lobby of the school with a glorious display piece.*

[Several Locations, 11:00P.M., Tuesday]

*Scene starts on website with photo on a web page, and comments are loading.*

*There’s no way this is his!*

*Outstanding work...*

*Who’d he rob for this one?*

*It’s about time! The prodigy is back.*

*Wayyyy overdue but happy for him!*

*Still no match for Michi, girl is on a whole nother level!*

*What in the world? This is beautiful!*

*Van Gogh is crying tears of joy.*

*Wow am I really crying in the club rn?*

*Guys, does anyone have notes for Psych 1057?*

*Shit wrong post.*

*That Seifude really is a strange character isn’t he?*

*There’s no way anyone can top this!*

*Go Taku! Get your tiers!*

*Came to criticize, left in tears...*

*This piece reminds me of the Sayuri.*

[Zoey’s dorm]

Zoey: *Walking into the room on her phone.* Oh my God, who in our school could’ve prod- TAKUMI!!!

[Christian’s dorm]

Christian: *Sitting in a chair with his laptop.* I knew he had it in him!

[Danielle’s dorm]

*Danielle lays on her bed smiling on her phone.*

[Cycling between Joey, Danny, and Takumi’s dorms]

*The trio hold a text conversation while in their respective dorm rooms.*

Joey: Hey! Hey!

*Danny looks at his phone puzzled.*

Joey: Congratulations on the painting! If that was a contest you’d definitely win first!

Danny: What are you talking about?

Takumi: Wait, you saw my painting? How? I haven’t even shown anyone yet.

*Joey sends a screenshot of the display case.*

Danny: That’s not his.

Danny: Oh my God that’s his...

Takumi: H-h-h-how?

Danny: I don’t know but it’s on the school’s front page, they’ve even hung it up in the Showcase Gallery.

Joey: You’re rising on the tier list!

Takumi: *Closes messaging app and goes on Tiers, periodically refreshing to see his rank rise.* Oh my-

*Door breaks open revealing Joey dragging Danny by the collar.*

Takumi: How did you guys get here so fast?

Joey: I Ran! *Holding Danny under one arm, who is bent over trying to breath.*

*The two walk in celebrating. Takumi smiles.*

Takumi: *In his head* I haven’t felt relief like this in forever.

*All three cheer.*

[Hallway before class, Morning, Wednesday]

*Michi walks to her class and meets Kirumi outside.*

Kirumi: Hey girl, looks like you’ve got some serious competition.

Michi: What are you talking about?

Kirumi: You haven’t been on Tiers recently, have you?

Michi: You know I’ve never cared about that bogus app.

Kirumi: Huh, you’re gonna love this.

*Kirumi shows Michi Takumi’s painting.*

*Michi freezes up, shocked at what she is looking at.*

Michi: *In her head.* This... this painting, why does it feel like it’s seizing me with such cold hands? I can feel the art, but it’s cloudy.

*Michi reads the artists name slowly.*

Michi: Taco-mei Sea-food? Why haven’t I heard of him?

Kirumi: Takumi Seifude, kid was a prodigy in high school. Got dumped, took a bad turn and hasn’t produced since then. Wonder what changed?

Michi: Whatever is in this painting, it’s what I’m missing.

Kirumi: What do you mean?

Michi: I... I don’t know.

Kirumi: Well, we can talk about it later. Let’s head in.

Michi: *In her head while walking into class.* I need to meet this guy, this could be it.

Kirumi: By the way, he’s in this class.

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