NARRATOR: "I snap upwards out of my sheets and sit bolt upright in bed, as if an electric shock had just run through my entire body. The night air feels cold against the sweat on my bare skin, my breathing short and rugged nearly to the point of hyperventilation. Mind racing, I bring my hand to my head in an attempt to soothe my body's panicked state. It takes me a number of seconds to realize my hand is shaking violently, even as I press it against my face. More seconds pass in complete silence, my desperate attempts to subdue my body and mind slowly, thankfully, working. Gathering myself, I start taking measure of the state I'm in. It feels like I've run a marathon, every muscle feeling tensed and sweat practically pouring off me. I carefully direct my attention to the beating in my chest, measuring out the rhythm in my head. Sure enough, my unreliable heart is functioning properly, for once."
NARRATOR: "Just... what the hell was that? A heart attack? A bad nightmare? Medicine side-effects? I've heard about panic attacks, and this does seem to have the hallmarks of one... I can't even be bothered thinking about it right now. I feel utterly exhausted yet completely awake, after this experience. I look over to the other side of my bed, the pale white of the silent figure's face almost glowing in the nighttime darkness of the room. Just the sight of her is enough to calm me down significantly. Her graceful demeanor persists even while she's asleep, her perfectly measured breathing and gentle face making it impossible to tell whether she's awake or truly sleeping."
NARRATOR: "Giving in to temptation, I delicately run my fingertips over her hand. Her skin is soft to the touch, as it always has been, yet warm even in the cold night. It's at times like this, silently appreciating each other's presence, that I feel we're closest. My fingers stop at her wrist and I bring my hand back down to the bed beside me. I'm not entirely sure why, but as we became ever closer to each other, it felt as if something grew between us. I'm not entirely sure what it is, nor whether it existed before we'd fallen in love. Everything is moving so fast. I don't mind it at all, but it feels unlike Lilly to be pushing things this much."
NARRATOR: "Thankfully, there aren't any students milling around in the hallways at this hour of the morning, lest I be interrogated on why I'm carrying two plates of breakfast to my room while dressed in an obviously hastily-donned uniform. That isn't to say things like this never happen, of course. A single security guard patrolling between two sets of bedrooms situated right next to each other is a very small force, compared to adolescent hormones. Come to think of it, the fact that it's Monday morning probably helps. I'm not really sure why, but Mondays seem to bother me less than they do most others. It takes a little creative use of my hands and elbow, but eventually I manage to work the door to my dormitory room open. Stepping inside, I see Lilly just getting up from the bed and tiredly rubbing her eyes. She looks a mess, just like most other times I've seen her soon after she wakes. She really isn't a morning person."
HISAO: "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."
NARRATOR: "She groggily shakes her head. The morning light illuminating her makes for a very pleasant sight."
LILLY: "It's okay, I needed to get up anyway. What time is it?"
NARRATOR: "I put my plate down on my desk and turn the clock around to check the time."
HISAO: "Still early. Don't worry, there's plenty of time left before school."
NARRATOR: "She sits on the side of the bed and begins to sniff the air. As she does so, I quickly move her plate away and put it on the desk beside mine."
HISAO: "Yes, I got us some breakfast. Shower and clothes come first, though."
NARRATOR: "She stands still for a moment with her chin pointed slightly out. I gladly acquiesce and press my lips to hers, savoring the soft feeling before breaking off. With a small, sweet smile, apparently quite satisfied, she slowly makes her way to the showers. I stretch to try and wake myself up a little more, briefly looking at the steaming dishes on the desk. Rice, fish, miso soup and some vegetables; a standard breakfast for a somewhat unusual day. I grab the bottles from my desk and start taking my daily regimen of pills. Sometimes I wonder what these things are even good for, given all the troubles I've had since the initial accident. I can't even say that it doesn't hurt to take them, considering the side effects so far. Well, whatever. Doctor's orders are that I have to take them, and rationality suggests that I'd be well served to trust his judgment over mine. It doesn't take long for the noise of the shower to cease, a quick one apparently being fine for Lilly given the circumstances."
NARRATOR: "Emerging from the bathroom, she looks significantly more awake, having had the chance to collect herself. Without a word, I gently take her hand in mine and guide her to my desk. Considering I don't have a table in my room as she does, it'll have to do."
LILLY: "Thank you, Hisao. What did you prepare for breakfast?"
HISAO: "Just rice and some vegetables. Something fast."
NARRATOR: "Her face lights up at the revelation."
LILLY: "That's quite a breakfast. This is normal for you?"
NARRATOR: "Now she's just being nice. I have little doubt, considering her past, that this isn't exactly a high class meal by her standards."
HISAO: "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Just because we're students, doesn't mean we can take it lightly."
NARRATOR: "That's my belief, anyway. From what others I've talked to have said, I might be in the minority. I take a seat on the side of my bed and begin eating together with Lilly, her chopsticks lightly tapping out the outlines of the vegetables just as I'd noticed her do during our date."
LILLY: "This is quite nice, Hisao. I had no idea you could cook this well."
NARRATOR: "This time she's much more genuine, I can tell that much. That said, cooking really isn't anything special at all; after a bit of practice it's pretty easy to make a simple dish."
HISAO: "Most of the credit goes to modern technology; still, after years of cooking for myself, I should hope so. I got bored of eating instant noodles and ordering pizza every time my parents were both working, so I taught myself how to make a few meals. I'm still trying to get the knack of it, though."
LILLY: "You'll make a good wife someday, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "I take a grain of rice and place it onto my thumb, before carefully taking aim and giving it a good flick. Lilly jumps a little as it hits her cheek, right on target. I can't help chuckling a little at her expense as she lowers her brow and tries her best to assume a harsh and serious expression."
LILLY: "Oh, that's right..."
HISAO: "What is it?"
LILLY: "Did you have any problem sleeping last night? You seemed restless."
NARRATOR: "So she was awake back then, or at least partly so. Whether it was my heart or a nightmare caused by the side effects of my medicine, the last thing I want is for her to be worrying about me even more. Even before my relationship with Lilly, I'd felt my body was a drag on everything I did. My body is my burden alone, so as long as I'm with her, I'll continue to act as normally as possible."
HISAO: "No, not particularly."
LILLY: "Is that so... that's good, then."
NARRATOR: "Luckily, she seems to take me at my word."
LILLY: "Come to think of it, there was something else I wanted to ask."
LILLY: "How should I put it... When you dream... do you see people and objects?"
HISAO: "Yes, of course I... oh."
NARRATOR: "I feel more than a little sheepish for that slip of the tongue, however earnest it may be. Lilly looks unperturbed, though."
LILLY: "But you don't taste, feel, nor smell things?"
NARRATOR: "I move to answer, but find myself stuck before thinking about it. The more I mull it over, the more I realize that her hypothesis is correct."
HISAO: "That's... true, I guess. I never looked at it that way. Are you saying that you do?"
LILLY: "For the most part I only hear in dreams, but yes, sometimes I touch and smell things as well. I'm just asking since Akira thought it very strange that I did when I brought it up with her. If you don't either, then maybe it's due to my blindness."
HISAO: "That would make sense. You rely on your other senses more than me, so maybe that affects your dreams as well."
NARRATOR: "The wonders of the human body, I guess. For the rest of the time before school, we quietly eat the hearty breakfast in front of us, exchanging a few small pieces of smalltalk as we do. A quick peek out of the door assures nobody's looking directly at the entrance for the boys' dormitories, so we walk out with the path clear."
HISAO: "Ah, the weather's good today."
NARRATOR: "I stretch as Lilly and I make our way outside, the bright morning's sun beaming down on us. By now a few students can be seen doing the same, making their way to the main school building either from the dorms or through the main gate."
LILLY: "It does feel nice and warm."
NARRATOR: "Our hands linked and her cane tapping the ground, we begin in earnest our trip to the school building and join the chatting throngs of students around us."
LILLY: "This would be the last day of exams, no?"
HISAO: "Yeah. How're you going in them?"
LILLY: "Fairly well, all things considered. You seem a bit stressed by them, though."
HISAO: "It's that obvious, huh? I don't think it's just the exams, though. A lot of stuff's been happening in a short amount of time, and I'm not doing that well on the humanities subjects."
LILLY: "You're doing well in science though, aren't you?"
HISAO: "Well, it would be hard not to do well in science for me. Come to think of it, didn't you say before that you weren't very good at science and maths?"
NARRATOR: "She suddenly looks very sheepish, my remark no doubt hitting home. Lilly's sense of pride really can be a double-edged sword."
LILLY: "Well, aside from that... have you ever given thought to what you might do with that ability? It seems a pity to waste it."
HISAO: "A bit, mostly at Mutou's prompting. In any case, I'll probably end up doing science as a career in some form."
LILLY: "That's good to hear, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "As we enter the gardens, I suddenly receive an unsolicited pat on the back. The green-dressed culprit dances around to meet me, evidently not paying any heed to Lilly at my side."
KENJI: "Hey man, what's up? Haven't seen you in a while."
HISAO: "Hey. Just been busy lately with the exams and stuff."
KENJI: "Exams, ekshmams. A true Renaissance man needs no study to excel in such things."
NARRATOR: "Kenji does strike me as the kind of person that does well in school, even if he has a horrid attendance record and poor work ethic, so I've little reason to doubt his ability. To be honest, I'm a little envious of him; between studying for exams and my time with Lilly, I've had practically no time to myself. Maybe this is a bit like how Yuuko feels."
LILLY: "Good morning, Setou. It's good to hear you're doing well."
NARRATOR: "It feels slightly odd to see Lilly speaking so formally. She's come to address me more casually over the months, though I have seen her speak more formally to classmates from time to time as well. Some people never change, I guess. Not that I'd say her calm and polite manner is a bad thing; it was one of the reasons I liked being around her to begin with, after all. Kenji seems to take a moment to work out who it is beside me, and probably hasn't noticed us holding hands either. I wonder if those glasses of his actually do anything."
KENJI: "Oh, hey Lilly. Good luck on your exams, too. I'll see you after school then, man."
NARRATOR: "The slight edge to his voice makes me think those words are meant to be an imperative rather than a casual farewell. I guess I'll have to smooth things over later."
HISAO: "Sure. Seeya."
NARRATOR: "Kenji nods curtly. He moves to pass by us, but he's too busy glaring in Lilly's general direction to take notice of her cane. Before I can try to react and save the situation, Kenji trips and reflexively reaches out for a handhold. Unfortunately, said handhold turns out to be Lilly's arm."
(at the same time)
NARRATOR: "Both fall to the ground in a sprawling heap, with me left feeling rather helpless."
HISAO: "Ah, damn. Are you two okay?"
NARRATOR: "Kenji quickly rises back up, seemingly unfazed by the accident."
KENJI: "No problem, man, no problem. This is nothing, my body can take much worse abuse."
NARRATOR: "Lilly lies facedown on the grass. She doesn't look hurt by the incident; more startled than anything. I move closer to offer her my help."
HISAO: "Are you all right, Lilly?"
KENJI: "Hey, Satou?"
NARRATOR: "Kenji offers her a hand, tentatively touching hers to let her know what he's doing. He says some odious things sometimes, but I do think he may be a genuinely good person at heart. I imagine he feels pretty bad about this. To his surprise and mine, though, Lilly pounds on the ground with her fist without warning."
NARRATOR: "Kenji freezes, entirely caught by surprise at her outburst. I'm just as shocked; she never acted like this before, not even around Shizune."
NARRATOR: "Seemingly only now remembering that there are people around her, Lilly slowly climbs to her feet. Her face as she does so makes me retreat a little. I only catch a glimpse of her expression before she turns away, but it's not something I'll forget soon. She showed plenty of annoyance during her clashes with Shizune, but this flash of anger was something else. There's no way that this is just about this petty incident. She pauses for a moment before sighing and walking on ahead. I really don't know what to make of this."
HISAO: "I'll, uh... talk to you later, dude. See you."
KENJI: "Yeah, seeya."
NARRATOR: "Kenji scratches the back of his head trying to find something to say, then shrugs and walks away, giving us a wide berth. I quickly catch up to Lilly. She turns her head a little to acknowledge my presence, but nothing else. I should probably scold her for lashing out like that, but I also don't want to get into a shouting match with her. She's still very obviously annoyed. In the end, I keep my mouth shut and wait for her to cool off. After a quiet walk in, we eventually reach the top of the third floor stairs and the junction where we part every day. I turn to Lilly before she leaves. While I do like the comfortable and warm silences we usually share, this was anything but. I don't want to leave things like this."
HISAO: "You seem... quieter than usual recently. Is anything wrong?"
NARRATOR: "She shakes her head almost automatically, as if to dispel any notion that I need to worry about her."
LILLY: "It's just the exams taking their toll. I'll be fine."
NARRATOR: "I don't think that's the reason. I very nearly say so, but decide against it. There's no point trying to draw it out of her if she doesn't want to tell me, especially when she's in a foul mood like this."
HISAO: "If you're sure. I'll see you later, then."
NARRATOR: "As I turn down the hall to go to my classroom, Lilly's soft voice rings out from behind me."
LILLY: "Hisao, um..."
LILLY: "... I'm sorry."
NARRATOR: "With that, Lilly makes off down the hallway to her own classroom, her hand skating along the metal railings. I stand still and watch her until she turns into her classroom and out of sight, before going to my own class with a fair measure of reluctance. As usual, I'm early. Mutou is fiddling with folders and papers on his desk as he prepares for the day while a handful of students mill about, chatting away. While my feelings about Lilly haven't dissipated, far from it, her mention of my exam performance did remind me that I have my own life's journey to attend to. After thinking about it, I have realized that I do genuinely want to pursue science in some form as a career, rather than it simply being the path of least resistance. Until now though, I didn't have much of an idea of where in the field I wanted to go. Just “science” is a pretty broad category of jobs. Something Lilly mentioned earlier focused my thoughts. Something I'd only idly pondered about before, I'd not seriously considered following this specific path. I walk up to Mutou's desk, his attention too focused on preparing for the day's lessons to notice my approach. It's the same every day."
HISAO: "Good morning."
NARRATOR: "He looks up with an expression of mild surprise that's quickly replaced by his typical awkward smile."
MUTOU: "Good morning, Nakai. Can I help you?"
HISAO: "Do you mind if I ask you something?"
NARRATOR: "He looks down at his messy pile of books on the desk, before putting down the papers in his hand and standing up with some difficulty to properly address me."
MUTOU: "That's what I'm here for, after all. Ask away."
HISAO: "I was just wondering... what would you say is the motivation behind teaching?"
NARRATOR: "He thinks on this question for a few moments before responding, evidently far from having a prepared answer."
MUTOU: "If you talk to ten different teachers, I think you'll get ten different answers to that question. While I can only speak for myself, I'd say that I teach because... hmm..."
NARRATOR: "He sinks into thought again, carefully assessing the way he wishes to present his idea."
MUTOU: "Think of it this way; when you were a child, you probably played with sticks and pebbles in moving water such as the gutter or puddles, right?"
HISAO: "Yeah. I think a lot of people do that when they're young."
MUTOU: "Well, it's not just when they're young for some, though it does take on another form. My point is, though, that when one is doing that, they're curious about how the water will flow or be changed. Everyone, even at that young age, possesses an intense wonderment about how the world around them works, even in its smallest forms. I still feel that sense of wonderment about the universe. Even just reading about new discoveries or classic experiments gives me a renewed sense of awe at how marvelous everything is, from the farthest stars to the smallest puddle. I just hope that I can give others even a small piece of that wonderment I feel. If I can do that, even if it's just for one person, I think that I can be happy as a teacher."
NARRATOR: "He scratches his head as he mentally reviews what he's said. I feel like I understand him better now. Even if he's awkward around others, he does have a genuine want to be around them and offer them a piece of his self that he values. What Lilly told me yesterday rings in my ears. “I think you get on well with others,” huh. She always did say I was unusually curious..."
MUTOU: "Sorry if that was a little meandering. Does it answer your question?"
HISAO: "It does, thank you. I also had another question, actually."
MUTOU: "Oh? What might that be?"
HISAO: "Um... do you have any college brochures or guides? It's about time I started getting some applications in."
NARRATOR: "He nods and bends down to look inside his desk. As he does so, I notice that he is wearing a remarkably genuine smile. I don't think I've ever really seen him act this natural around others. Perhaps this isn't Mutou, the teacher, but rather Mutou, the person."
MUTOU: "Here. If you need any more, feel free to ask."
NARRATOR: "He hands me about half a dozen brochures and booklets of various colors and sizes, which I take eagerly. Yes, it will be this information which I'll use to forge my own future. I think now, after all this time and all these trials, I can finally start to see the big picture of my life ahead of me. My body may be like this, but my mind is still very much able."
HISAO: "Thank you."
Next Scene: Blackout