MUTOU: "Good morning, everyone!"
NARRATOR: "Mutou looks like he has not slept at all. The stubble, his messier-than-normal hair, and the stained dress shirt create a less than favorable impression. I guess he had fun last night at the festival too."
MUTOU: "Excuse my being late, I ran into unexpected problems. I'm usually not one for festivals like this, but I hope you all had a good time. After all, these sorts of events are important for you all, since they give you a short reprieve from schoolwork."
NARRATOR: "The class replies with various degrees of enthusiasm, and Mutou proceeds to take roll and get started."
MUTOU: "Right, then. Today's subject is photon particle physics..."
NARRATOR: "Before long, I have descended into a comfortable coma-like state along with the rest of the class, letting Mutou's rambling speeches pass through one ear and exit the other without leaving a trace."
MUTOU: "Now, who could tell us the solution to this problem?"
NARRATOR: "He's written a rather easy equation on the blackboard. Desperately, he tries to get the class to participate."
MUTOU: "Nobody? Come on, guys. Nakai, how about you?"
NARRATOR: "Unfairly singled out and cornered, I give him an answer. It causes his shaggy features to twist into a genial smile that would scare little children senseless."
MUTOU: "Precisely! Good work, Nakai!"
NARRATOR: "I'm both disturbed and honored by the fact that he can remember my name only one week after I transferred here. From what I've seen, Mutou has serious trouble remembering the names of anybody else in the class, and most of them have been here since the first year. The room settles into a dreary mood, students and teacher alike trying to get back on track after the festival. I figure last week must've been frantic for everyone. Not a minute too soon, the lunch bells ring."
???: "MAKE WAY! IMPORTANT BUSINESS!"
NARRATOR: "I turn my head just in time to see other people scatter out of the way as someone charges from the far end of the corridor towards the stairwell. It's too late to realize that I'm standing in the middle of the corridor, directly in the way of the oncoming human projectile. I try to skip back towards the doorway. Unfortunately, the person running towards me dodges in the same direction. In the following fraction of a second several things come to mind in sequence, yet almost simultaneously."
NARRATOR: "First, I recognize that the girl who is on a collision course with me is Emi. Second, I realize that it feels somehow very natural to be tackled by Emi once again. I could feel almost comfortable if not for the reflexive panic and terror. Third, Emi seems to be carrying a foot-tall stack of papers while running in the hallway. She crashes into me, but at least the impact was a grazing one on my arm this
EMI: "Owiiie... Why does this always happen to me?"
HISAO: "Gee, I wonder. Could it possibly have anything to do with you running through the corridor like you were on fire?"
NARRATOR: "She whimpers regretfully, looking like a hurt puppy. The sight makes me regret my snappish comment the very instant it emerges from my lips."
EMI: "But... I was in a hurry."
HISAO: "I can tell."
HISAO: "Don't worry about it."
NARRATOR: "Emi wails weakly one last time and rubs her forehead as if to expel the ache while her gaze sweeps over the hallway floor. As she notices her neat stack of papers spread all over the floor in one big mess, she lets out a horrified yelp."
EMI: "Aah! The printouts! Oh no oh no, what am I going to do? Teacher will give me hell if they get dirty."
HISAO: "They're probably fine. Let's gather them back up; it won't be a problem."
NARRATOR: "We quickly round up the papers, and Emi tries to sort the scattered pile in her hands back into the orderly stack it was."
EMI: "Where are you going?"
HISAO: "Nowhere in particular, I guess. Didn't want to be left alone with Mutou in the classroom. I think he has a hangover."
EMI: "Have you eaten lunch?"
HISAO: "Not yet, but I'm not feeling very hungry anyway."
NARRATOR: "She looks at me incredulously, as if doubting my sanity for letting such a thing out of my mouth."
EMI: "You should go to the roof! I promised Rin I would eat lunch with her. I bet she'd like company."
NARRATOR: "Uh-oh. My lunches with Rin have been remarkably unsuccessful. I know where this conversation is going and it's hard to not get drawn along, so I have little choice but to play ball."
HISAO: "OK, I'll go pick up some bread or something first."
NARRATOR: "Emi smiles brightly before I say anything further."
EMI: "No no, I'll go and deliver these super-quick, and then go buy lunch for us. And Rin, too, of course. What kind of bread do you like?"
HISAO: "It's fine, you really don't need to..."
EMI: "Don't worry, it's all right. Consider it an apology. I'll be back before you know it!"
HISAO: "That's what I'm worried about. Don't get into another accident."
NARRATOR: "Emi starts walking down the hall, but since she's still talking to me, she isn't watching where she's going."
EMI: "I won't!"
NARRATOR: "Famous last words. She's already jogging down the stairs as she shouts that not-so-reassuring promise back to me. Sighing quietly, I start plodding along in her wake. But instead of taking the stairs down, I climb upwards. The stairwell up to the roof is unlit and just as creepy as it was before. The door squeaks weakly in protest as I push it open. Rin is there too, like Emi said, lying on her back at the other end of the pebble-covered rooftop for some reason. Predicting something unnecessarily strange again, I walk to her as slowly as possible."
NARRATOR: "She sounds very drowsy as she says that, stretching the end of the word with a slurred voice. Despite that, her eyes are wide open."
NARRATOR: "I look down at her, my shadow overlapping her face."
HISAO: "What are you doing?"
NARRATOR: "Rin raises an eyebrow."
RIN: "I thought you had a heart problem, not an eye problem."
NARRATOR: "She answers, challenging the rationale of my perfectly valid question without even tilting her head to look at me. Rin's smartass comments are infuriating. The worst thing is that I'm not sure if she's doing it on purpose or not."
HISAO: "All right, then. Let me rephrase: Why are you lying on your back on the rooftop?"
NARRATOR: "She gives a lazy shrug and sniffs dismissively."
RIN: "I'm trying to experience. People probably don't do this enough."
HISAO: "What exactly are you trying to experience here? I can't really tell, but there's probably a reason people don't do... whatever."
NARRATOR: "She's playing dodgeball with me again, answering my attempt at small talk with riddles I don't want to puzzle out. But I don't want to ignore her, either."
RIN: "Yeah, but the reason is that everyone is too busy with their lives to pay attention to the really important things."
HISAO: "Like watching the sky?"
NARRATOR: "She tears her gaze away from the sky and finally looks straight at me. The penetrating deepness of her eyes once she focuses them on something is startling."
RIN: "You know, if you were a girl I could see your panties."
HISAO: "If I was a girl, I wouldn't come this close to anyone who tried to sneak a peek at my panties. I have that much common sense."
RIN: "I wouldn't either, but sometimes it can't be avoided. Like now, for example. To tell you the truth, I don't even really want to peek at your panties though. Underpants are the soul of a girl. You shouldn't peek at someone else's soul. Even if you are not a girl."
HISAO: "As a guy, I guess I can understand that. To us, they're some sort of half-mythical object that we can't quite comprehend."
RIN: "Yeah, that's exactly how I think about them too. What a coincidence."
HISAO: "It really is. So did you have world history in the morning class?"
RIN: "I skipped class."
HISAO: "To do this?"
RIN: "Well, I'm not actually doing what it looks like I am doing, or at least I think that what I am doing doesn't look like what I look like, but from your perspective... probably... Yeah, I skipped class to do this."
HISAO: "I guess whatever your reason is, it's as good as any."
NARRATOR: "Giving in to the tired feeling in my legs, I sit down on the roof next to Rin. The pebbles are not the most comfortable bed in the world, but if she can stand it, then I should be able to as well."
RIN: "What are you waiting for?"
RIN: "Try it."
NARRATOR: "I bend my neck backwards too take a look where she is looking. The silvery blue sky, dotted by herds of cloud-sheep, fills my field of vision entirely. While it's pretty, the view is nothing special even though the weather is fair. I give a shrug, trying my best to imitate the nonchalant manner which Rin seems to have evolved to perfection, and lie down on my back. The stones poke at my back through my thin shirt whenever I shift my weight even a little, forcing me to keep as still as possible. I try to ignore the discomfort and myself, instead concentrating on the vastness over us. Far above, the summer clouds drift soundlessly across the dome of the sky. Neither of us has anything more to say, thus silence covers the rooftop. The subdued noises of students on their lunch break, cicadas in the trees and traffic buzzing past the school are humming pleasantly somewhere in the background."
HISAO: "Listen, I had a great time yesterday."
RIN: "Did you?"
HISAO: "Well, to be honest, no. But it was all right. It was probably the longest time I've ever sat in one place without doing anything, which is kinda impressive."
NARRATOR: "I try to make it sound as convincing as possible."
RIN: "Is that impressive?"
HISAO: "I think it is. I'm usually too restless to do anything like that."
RIN: "I think I had a good time too."
NARRATOR: "A cloud passes above us, casting its shadow on the school. A chill surges through me from the sudden change of sunlight to shade. I realize that summer is not in its full bloom quite yet. The only measure of time passing is the slow pace of the clouds moving towards the town. Stray beams of golden sunlight leak through the gaps, blinding me for a moment whenever they hit me directly in the eyes. The blue of the sky looks so unreachable. This reminds me of the time I spent in the hospital, where I was bored out of my mind on a daily basis. Somehow, it didn't matter after a while. I learned to appreciate other things besides watching TV and gossiping with people I didn't even like. A comprehensive sensation of calmness spreads from my sight to my other senses, finally hitting my brain. An airplane zooms by, leaving two thin contrails in its wake like a pair of chalk lines drawn from one end of the sky to the other. I wonder where it is heading to. The low din of its engines carries all the way down to my ears, although it's barely audible over the racket from the quad."
RIN: "It's nice."
HISAO: "It's nice, but I don't understand why this is more important than going to class."
RIN: "Isn't it good to do something you like? Every once in a while?"
HISAO: "Of course, but—"
EMI: "What are you doing?"
NARRATOR: "Emi has snuck up on us without either noticing and is only a step away from me, holding several packages wrapped in plastic film in her arms. She leans forwards and peeks over me, overshadowing my face almost exactly the same way I overshadowed Rin before. I wonder how weird this looks, the two of us lying on our backs on the rooftop."
HISAO: "That's what I asked, too."
RIN: "I would be more concerned about what you are doing. If I were you, I wouldn't come that close to people who could see your panties."
NARRATOR: "Emi's voice is scandalized, but she quickly takes a step backward, pressing her hands against the front of her skirt so abruptly that the parcels of bread she was carrying fall. I quickly avert my eyes, and glance angrily at Rin. She pretends not to see me."
EMI: "Hisao isn't like that, right?"
NARRATOR: "Emi scowls at Rin and crouches down to pick up the packages. She wipes the dust off them, and skips lithely around me to Rin's other side where she sets herself down."
EMI: "Anyway, here's your bread. Sorry it took a while."
HISAO: "That's all right. Thanks for treating me."
NARRATOR: "I pull myself up into a sitting position and gratefully accept the bread Emi is offering. All three of us ravenously dig into the simple meal. The bread is surprisingly decent and readily fills my stomach. I follow from the corner of my eye the skill with which Rin handles her bread between her feet."
EMI: "I haven't seen you on the track in a few days."
HISAO: "Oh. Right, I... figured it was too heavy a routine for me to start with."
EMI: "So you've been doing something else?"
HISAO: "I've been considering my options."
NARRATOR: "She frowns but doesn't pursue the issue further, for which I'm thankful. Emi seems pretty headstrong and I wouldn't really want to get pestered by her about this on a daily basis. I have enough burdens to bear with Shizune and Misha already. We barely finish the lunch before the bells ring, calling us back to our classrooms."
NARRATOR: "Misha waves at me as soon as I enter, and starts talking before I even make my way across the classroom."
MISHA: "How was your festival? Did you have fun?"
HISAO: "Umm... still somewhat undecided on that. I'd say “probably.” Why?"
MISHA: "Wahaha~, just asking, just asking!"
NARRATOR: "Her eyes glint in a way that tell me she's not just asking. I can't even start to guess her motives, though. As the well-timed entrance of the English teacher prevents us from talking further, Misha falls back to plan B."
"I was there all day with Shicchan! We had a lot of fun!"
"Weren't you supposed to be doing work?"
"Don't worry! Everything went really well."
NARRATOR: "I don't reply to that, and she leaves me alone after Shizune demands her attention. My own attention, on the other hand, is directed out the windows. Now that I look at it from here, through the window and the foliage just outside, the sky seems smaller. I catch only small glimpses of blue; everything else is a clutter of noise right in the middle of my field of vision. What “experience” did Rin want out of staring at the sky? Surely she's done it before. Everyone has. It's no use trying to guess her mind, but if I don't do that, then I have no excuse for not concentrating on the teacher's words. I look at the scribbles appearing on the blackboard, trying to figure out their meaning with little success. English really is not my favorite subject. We have a strong mutual dislike for each other."
Next Scene: Studies in Greyscale