HISAO: "Hurry, Lilly!"
LILLY: "I'm moving as fast as I can!"
NARRATOR: "I can barely make out Lilly's voice over the deafening pounding of the rain. Even though I dislike pulling her around, the situation calls for it. I turn forward, my free hand over my head in a futile attempt to keep at least my hair dry. My vision seems to be in grayscale. This really is rotten weather for summer, and the last kind of climate I'd want for a date. A pity. I'd even checked the weather forecast beforehand, one of the very few times I've ever done so, only for it to say that Sunday afternoon would be fine. Looking to Lilly, her shoulders are by now completely drenched, with her right hand holding tightly to mine and her left gripping her retracted cane. This horrid downpour came on just as we were between our destination and Yamaku, so we decided to try rushing the rest of the distance rather than doubling back. Entirely unused to running this fast, Lilly's using all her concentration just to avoid tripping over."
LILLY: "Hisao, do you know where we're going!?"
NARRATOR: "Even she's reduced to shouting to try and be heard over the combined noise of the wind and the rain."
HISAO: "The Sha—"
NARRATOR: "The rest of my voice is completely drowned out by an even heavier burst of rain."
LILLY: "The what!?"
HISAO: "The Shanghai!"
LILLY: "How far is it!?"
HISAO: "It shouldn't be far now!"
NARRATOR: "It doesn't take long before I call out to her once again."
HISAO: "It looks like we're safe, it's just up ahead!"
NARRATOR: "I quickly pull up to a stop just in front of the familiar exterior, the lantern outside still giving off its reliable glow, and wait for Lilly to catch her breath before going in."
HISAO: "Ladies first."
NARRATOR: "The tiny bell inside rings out when I hold the door open for her, a smile and a polite nod being my reward before entering myself. As I step in behind her and wipe my feet, only a quick glance is necessary to notice the distinct lack of activity. The Shanghai doesn't seem to get much in the way of patronage, and today is no different. Only a couple of tables are occupied. Summoned by the bell's ringing, a most expected person comes to greet us."
YUUKO: "Welcome to the Shanghai!"
NARRATOR: "Yuuko looks chipper today. Trying to predict her moods is pretty hard, but it's a nice change from the norm."
LILLY: "Hello, Yuuko."
YUUKO: "Good afternoon, you two."
NARRATOR: "She takes a deep bow, somewhat taken aback as she rights herself again and gets a better look at us."
YUUKO: "What happened to you? You both look..."
NARRATOR: "Her eyes drift towards the glass of the door behind us."
YUUKO: "Oh. Oh dear."
HISAO: "We're inside now, at least. I think that's the most important thing."
LILLY: "It's nice and cozy. You're lucky to be working inside today."
YUUKO: "It has been nice and quiet. I like days like this. Oh wait, um, sorry... is there anything you'd like?"
LILLY: "French vanilla tea, please."
HISAO: "I'll have the same."
YUUKO: "Right. Coming right up."
NARRATOR: "She quickly skitters off with a determined look on her face, trying very hard not to forget our orders. If nothing else, she is at least dedicated to her jobs. I lead Lilly to an empty seat before the two of us settle down. As usual, there's a large difference between my exhausted flopping down into my seat and Lilly's delicate sliding into hers, her cane set beside her. For a while I just idly watch the rain falling outside. The occasional person runs down the street trying to stay as dry as possible, hands often tightly gripping a rain-soaked umbrella. Lilly sits just as quietly as I, her eyes closed as she intently listens to all that's happening. It's a comfortable, relaxing silence that exists between us; just the type that we'd so often shared together in the past months. For Lilly, at least."
NARRATOR: "I can't help replaying the words of her sister in my mind, at times contrasting them to both our time spent together since I entered Yamaku, and to the way we've been since we started dating. No matter how much I try, I can't work Lilly out. It's as if the harder I try to second-guess her emotions and her potential decision, the more difficult it becomes to reach a clear conclusion. It makes me doubt whether I'd ever really understood her. In the end, I'm going to have to ask, even though I very much want to avoid doing so."
LILLY: "You seem quiet today, Hisao."
LILLY: "You seemed so enthusiastic about taking me out on a date, I'd assumed you had something specific you wanted to do."
HISAO: "No, not really. Just wanted to spend some time with you."
LILLY: "Is that so..."
HISAO: "Fine. There was one thing."
NARRATOR: "A little grin finds its way onto Lilly's face, her knowing full well that she's bested me. It makes what I want to say all the more awkward."
HISAO: "It was just... Akira and I were talking."
HISAO: "What's with that tone?"
LILLY: "You two do seem to get on well, don't you?"
HISAO: "Well, I do think she's a pretty cool person to talk with. It'd be nice if any of the teachers were anything like her."
NARRATOR: "For a moment I try to place her tone of voice, my mouth curling into a smirk as I realize it."
HISAO: "You're not jealous, are you?"
LILLY: "I'm not jealous!"
NARRATOR: "After her teasing me over such a thing on our first date, I don't feel too bad having a little laugh at her expense this time around. As we settle down though, it's only a minor distraction from the real point of why I brought Lilly here."
HISAO: "Don't worry, it was mostly just everyday stuff. That said, there was something Akira mentioned that I wanted to talk to you about. When you went to see your family in Inverness a while back, she said..."
LILLY: "Akira told you about my family's summons, hasn't she?"
NARRATOR: "Seconds tick by while I try to read Lilly's face, an odd mixture of feelings written on it. She seems annoyed, but also somewhat confused."
YUUKO: "Um... here..."
NARRATOR: "Yuuko tentatively slides our drinks onto the table, her presence oddly small. As she walks back to the counter after a quick, polite nod, I realize the air between me and Lilly is thick and our expressions are both somewhat pensive."
LILLY: "Even though she says I should lead my own life, she still interferes at the worst times..."
HISAO: "I don't think you should blame Akira here. She's just looking out for you, and it's not like I can't understand her concern over this."
NARRATOR: "Lilly's irritation gives way to an awkward, and largely unsuccessful, attempt to mask her feelings. She really doesn't deal well with being cornered on personal topics."
LILLY: "I know, but... I just wanted some more time. I knew you'd have figured it out eventually, but..."
HISAO: "You were intentionally hiding this from me? For how long were you planning to do so?"
LILLY: "As I said, I simply wanted more time to think it through. I wanted to be sure of my decision before telling you."
HISAO: "What did you decide to do, in the end?"
NARRATOR: "I know what I want her to say, but an awful feeling refuses to leave my gut."
LILLY: "My family does dearly want me to return to them, and Akira will be going as well. I could still teach as a career, whether it be here or there."
HISAO: "So... you're going. How long have you known? I already know you were asked when you first went to Scotland, about a month ago."
LILLY: "Some... time."
NARRATOR: "My frustration very nearly boils over. The fact that she's done this affects me more than it should. For her to not only be leaving but to have been actively hiding her own plans from me, and after seeming for so long to be the one solid pillar of support and reliability I could depend on... It feels as if the foundation underneath me is suddenly shifting drastically, much faster than I can adapt to. Perhaps this isn't so much frustration as sheer unease."
LILLY: "I'm sorry, I just... I wanted to think this through completely. I wasn't trying to take advantage of you, please—"
HISAO: "I know, Lilly. I know. This is just really sudden. I guess this means that once you go, we'll be breaking up?"
NARRATOR: "For one of the few times I've seen since I met her, she's genuinely lost for words. She doesn't look surprised, no doubt because the fact had dawned on her once she became sure of her decision, but rather, she appears genuinely unsure of how to deal with the situation now that it's in front of her."
LILLY: "W-we could try pursuing a long-distance relationship. They're getting more and more common these days, after all..."
NARRATOR: "Even as she says it, the tone of her voice gives away that she doesn't truly believe what she's saying. Lilly is far too old-fashioned to be able to cope with a relationship without any kind of physical presence, and even I am, to an extent. All we would ever be to each other would be a voice from the other side of the world. In the end, trying to rationalize everything is futile. Any attempts to try and connect what's happening with the future or past just seem to get more difficult the more I concentrate. Those quiet moments when we just walked side by side, the precious time we spent with Hanako and Akira, the casual chatter we had during lunchtimes, the times we made love, the confessions of our feelings to each other... All pointless. All just a fleeting moment in our young lives."
HISAO: "We're just two children pretending to be adults, aren't we?"
NARRATOR: "A long, long silence hangs in the air between us. The noise of the other patrons drinking and talking only makes the situation feel more strange and disconnected. Lilly's face remains low, her dejected expression clouding it."
LILLY: "I'm sorry, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "A simple apology, and no more. She's left entirely without any further response or comment. With a long sigh, I gather what's left of my thoughts and ask the final question I have for her."
HISAO: "When will you be going?"
LILLY: "I'll be leaving with Akira, so it'll be a little less than a week."
HISAO: "The beginning of summer holidays?"
LILLY: "Just a little afterward, yes."
NARRATOR: "Her tone is unusually slow and steady, her apologetic and depressed mood all the more written to her face as she tries to hide it in her voice. In the end, I can't even keep my promise of going to Tanabata with her before she leaves."
NARRATOR: "I look down, seeing my face reflected in the by now lukewarm cup of neglected tea sitting in front of me. I really thought I'd left this kind of expression behind. For a while I just stare down into the still surface, trying to sort through my emotions to get at what course of action I should take, whether it be right now or in the future. But, just as before, the effort is wasted."
NARRATOR: "I glance up to see Lilly gently sipping her cooled tea without complaint, her face drawn and shoulders slumped. She looks to be deep in thought too, a strangely cold atmosphere coming between us as we isolate ourselves to mull things over. Even as Lilly's cup slowly empties, mine remains untouched. It's a long time before I notice the rain dying down outside and the few other patrons of the Shanghai having left. The chill of the rapidly darkening evening permeates the dormitory hallways. While trudging down the corridor to my room, I see an unwelcome movement from up ahead."
NARRATOR: "Sure enough, the opening of the door opposite mine heralds the arrival of a bespectacled Kenji."
KENJI: "Hey man, what's... Woah dude, you look awful, I think. You okay?"
NARRATOR: "He really has a knack for making any situation better."
HISAO: "I... don't really want to go into it. It's late."
KENJI: "Okay. That's cool. If you ever want to talk about it, I'm, you know, here."
NARRATOR: "I look at him for a moment before surrendering my stern front and awkwardly scratching the back of my neck, embarrassed by my standoffish response to him."
HISAO: "Thanks, Kenji."
KENJI: "Hey, it's cool. That's what friends are for, right?"
HISAO: "Yeah, you're right. Um, seeya."
NARRATOR: "I open the door to my own dorm room and close it behind me as he quickly waves me off. The solid thud the door makes against the door frame sounds out a final call for the life I've led since coming to Yamaku. I just stand in my darkened room, fruitlessly attempting to work out what I should do from this point onwards. Just what should I do...?"
Next Scene: Farewell