Absenteeism is the seventh page of Act 2 on Hanako's route
Mutou "…that is why some people can't roll their tongue, or why their second toe is longer than their big toe."
Mutou beams a half-moon smile at us, obviously proud of his explanation of recessive genes.
However, no matter how impressed he is at the science that defines who we are, the classroom seems to be reduced to a stupor.
Why is it that a bad explanation can make even the most interesting thing seem worthless?
I can see Mutou deflate as he realizes that nothing he's said in the past half hour has sunk in.
Whispered conversations start to break the silence, and like an avalanche, the noise level in the class starts to rise.
Defeated, Mutou identifies some questions from the text book and sets to clearing off the blackboard.
Almost as if expected, Hanako packs up her things and leaves as soon as people start talking and laughing among themselves.
The initial shock of seeing someone play so blatantly truant has started to fade, but it doesn't stop me from wondering.
Is she leaving because she doesn't want people to speak to her? Or is it just the thought of people around her shattering her peace?
Before I can think about the topic any further, the lunch bells ring. I wonder if she was simply taking the opportunity to leave early.
The usual clamor of students exchanging books for lunch reverberates around the room, and while Misha is distracted, I grab my lunch and head out the door.
Lilly already sits in the tea room, setting out her lunch alone.
Hisao "So, Hanako's not here then?"
Lilly "Oh, Hisao, how are you? I haven't met Hanako since this morning, I'm afraid."
That's right, Hanako and Lilly live next to each other.
Somehow I think their morning conversations are slightly more grounded than Kenji's ramblings.
Hisao "That's strange. She left class early, so I figured that she'd come here."
Lilly "So she's still leaving class early…"
Hisao "Huh? Yeah, I've seen her do it a few times."
Lilly drops her head a little, and her tone of voice is notably depressed. It's very reminiscent of someone who is used to hearing bad news.
Lilly "I was so sure that she'd stop doing that once you two became friends."
Lilly "Everyone has their own pace, I suppose."
Hisao "Well, I was wondering about just that today. Why exactly does she leave?"
Lilly "I'm not entirely sure myself. I personally think it's because she doesn't want to be put in a situation where she has to answer someone."
I have a flashback of my first meeting with her, when I thought she looked like a cornered animal. Maybe I wasn't far from the truth.
Hisao "But she seems fine with talking to you, and with me… a bit…"
Lilly "It's a little more complex than that. I imagine that the first thing most people ask her about is her scars, and what happened."
Lilly "She rarely talks about it with me, but I can tell that she doesn't like to remember whatever happened back then."
Lilly "Leaving class and running away from discussions is her preemptive strike, if you will."
Hisao "Huh… so then how does that explain her talking to me?"
Lilly "You said it yourself yesterday at breakfast; you tried to ignore her scars. Once she saw that you weren't going to ask her about that, she opened herself up to you."
Hisao "Hrm, I guess you're right. Maybe. I dunno. You know her better than I, so I'll take your word for it."
Lilly "I wouldn't worry about that. I'm sure you'll come to know her as well as I do soon enough."
Lilly "I welcome the prospect of her having a new friend, and the two of you have such similar interests…"
Hisao "Well, I hardly count reading as a team sport. It is good to have company, though."
Lilly "That's my point. Hanako is still an average person at heart. She also wants company at times like that."
Hisao "Huh, I see. I think. To be honest, both of you still confuse me a little."
Lilly "That's only natural, Hisao. We've only known each other for a little while; it's unreasonable to expect you to understand us, just as we can't understand you."
Lilly "But that is half the fun of becoming friends, right?"
Hisao "Yes, yes it is."
Lilly "Although… I suppose there is the matter of us being opposite genders. Men and women do seem to confuse each other quite often."
She says this with a light giggle, finding amusement at the odd little details of life.
Lilly "I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to start eating."
Hisao "No, go ahead, I think I'll eat something too. I've got some books I want to drop back at the library before classes start, so I'd better get a move on."
Lilly "You'll probably find Hanako there as well. If you do see her, can you tell her to stop by my room later tonight? I'd like to talk to her."
Hisao "You're not coming?"
Lilly "Unfortunately I have a class representatives' meeting later, so I'll be gone as soon as I've finished my lunch."
Hisao "Okay then, if I don't see her in the library then I'll tell her in class. I'm sure she'll be back after lunch."
We fall silent as we start to eat, and I take a second to reflect on our conversation.
I've always thought that Hanako's shyness was simply due to her being self-conscious of her scars.
But that is a pretty superficial way of looking at her.
Just when I thought I was able to see through the fog of Lilly and Hanako, I realize that I'm more lost than when I started.
Lilly quickly finishes her lunch, acutely aware of her meeting. I don't blame her.
Shizune is most likely going to be there, and I doubt she wants to give her the satisfaction of another argument.
Lilly "I must be off. Same time tomorrow?"
Hisao "Same time, same channel. I'd better head off too; I don't want to risk being late."
Lilly smiles gently, picks up her cane and walks out into the hall.