LILLY: "Hisao? Are you here?"
NARRATOR: "Lilly's voice lilts on the breeze as if they were one and the same thing. I stop gazing into the sky to examine Lilly. With a peach off-the-shoulder sweater and tan ankle-length skirt, in addition to tan sandals, she's quite a nice sight."
HISAO: "Yeah, I'm over here, Lilly. Near the gate. Were you able to sneak away from Hanako?"
LILLY: "Yes. It's not uncommon for me to go out during weekends, so I don't think she noticed anything suspicious. That, and... she has someone she sees."
NARRATOR: "Lilly purses her lips, as if she maybe shouldn't have continued. I find it a little hard to believe."
HISAO: "Hanako's seeing someone? Really?"
LILLY: "No, it's just... she sees a therapist every so often on weekends."
HISAO: "Oh. Well. That does make a lot of sense."
NARRATOR: "Lilly rubs her arm uncomfortably, and after one look at her troubled expression, I quickly move to change the topic away from Hanako."
HISAO: "I was just wondering... you can get around the city on your own?"
NARRATOR: "Lilly sighs at my consternation surrounding the topic of her blindness. I'm my own worst enemy, sometimes."
LILLY: "I can, yes. It's easier when I'm out with a friend or my sister, though."
NARRATOR: "I wonder how Lilly gets along with her sister. Being an only child, it's hard to imagine what having a sibling would be like, so it makes me a little envious of her."
HISAO: "Right. Well then, the bus arrives in a few minutes, so we should probably get a move on."
LILLY: "Indeed; it's a long wait if we miss this one."
NARRATOR: "With that, we set off for the bus stop on the hill. It's only a small distance from the school gate, so it's very convenient."
HISAO: "It's a nice view from here. Coming from the city, I never really got to see scenery like this, let alone on a daily basis."
LILLY: "This area is nice for me as well. It's tranquil, and away from the noises and smells of the city."
NARRATOR: "Lilly's head perks up in a trademark gesture of hers, signifying that she's caught a sound."
LILLY: "Oh, here comes the bus..."
NARRATOR: "I look down the road to see the bus trundling up the hill. Her hearing's quite a useful tool. The bus only takes a short while to reach the bus stop, forcing its way up the road, and within a minute we are on our way to the city. Walking around the city, I feel a distinct nostalgia. The smells, the traffic, the tall buildings everywhere... It's a lot like my native city, save for the raised walkways. It feels a little weird; walking around a city as casually as I would in a park, but with cars rushing around underneath me. As I'm busily pondering the engineering marvel that is the raised walkway, I get a surprise."
NARRATOR: "It takes a moment for me to realize that Lilly has wrapped her arm around mine, extending her cane in front of her with her other hand. For a moment I'm startled, but I manage to keep enough of a lid on it for Lilly not to notice. While it's not the first time that Lilly's relied on me for guidance, she'd only held onto my sleeve's cuff before. It's logical that it would be easier for her to navigate a crowded and complex area such as the city while securely linked, but I'm far from being as used to this kind of contact as Lilly is. Finally realizing the growing silence between us as Lilly waits for me to get moving, I quickly kick my brain into gear."
HISAO: "You know, it was quite a surprise that Hanako likes to sing. Have you ever heard her do that before?"
LILLY: "I have indeed. We've been to karaoke sessions several times, along with my sister. I can't say I take to the activity much, but the other two like it."
NARRATOR: "Maybe Hanako doing karaoke is more fitting than I initially thought. Just her and those she knows, all alone in a little room. It would give her a rare chance to let her guard down, with nobody else there to judge her."
HISAO: "Maybe it would be nice to bring her into town for a karaoke birthday party, if she likes doing it."
LILLY: "Hmm. I'm not sure she would deal very well with the excitement."
NARRATOR: "I move to protest, but her face shows that she's mulling the proposal over some more. It takes quite some time for her to come to a conclusion."
LILLY: "Then again, the best thing we can do for Hanako at this point is to try to create some pleasant birthday memories. Continually treating her as if she's abnormal won't help."
HISAO: "I think you're right; if she has something to remember apart from loss, then maybe she'll come around."
NARRATOR: "If we bought her something nice that she could see every day then maybe she'd be able to take her mind off her past and remember that she has friends. And in any case, I think Hanako can handle something like this. In the time I've spent beside her, I've learned that she isn't quite as frightfully fragile as I first thought she was."
HISAO: "So, shall we be off? I'm not really sure about the layout of this area."
LILLY: "Very well. I might like to suggest having something to eat, first."
HISAO: "I haven't either, so that sounds like a good plan."
LILLY: "Make sure you choose a nice place, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "She gives a teasing smile, one that makes me smile reflexively in response even if she can't see that."
HISAO: "I'll make very sure I do, don't worry about that."
NARRATOR: "Once inside, I order two slices of pie and accompanying cups of tea and take them back to our table. I'd pegged this café as the type to appeal to Lilly; small and quiet, but well-kept and somewhat upscale. Going by the dainty smile she wears, I... don't really know if I chose right. It's very, very rare to not see her smiling, after all. Nevertheless, I take a seat near her at one of the corner tables and lay down our small meals. Lilly gingerly brings her head over the slice of pie placed in front of her, delicately taking in the aroma."
LILLY: "Lemon pie, is it? Thank you, Hisao."
HISAO: "No problem. The tea's just next to it, so be careful not to knock it over."
NARRATOR: "She nods appreciatively, but judging from the slightly weak smile she has, the warning wasn't really necessary. I suppose the sound must have tipped her off to its position. We both tuck into our food without further ado, both of us remaining largely silent as we do so. Lilly isn't the type to appreciate discussion while eating, and I can't say I like it either. Eventually we finish both our meals, and the last of our teacups follows in short order. Lilly's the first to break the silence."
LILLY: "That was very nice. I must say you've chosen quite well, Hisao."
HISAO: "This is the first time I've really had much of a look around the city, so all I could really do is choose somewhere that looked nice. Uh... damn. Sorry."
NARRATOR: "I feel really bad for inadvertently bringing up the subject of sight around Lilly, but she doesn't appear to mind much. Quite the opposite; she almost looks amused by my awkward attempt at an apology."
LILLY: "You are thoughtful, Hisao, but sometimes I fear that it gets the better of you. There is no need to change your speech on my account."
NARRATOR: "Lilly truly is pretty comfortable in dealing with her condition. I still hasten to change the subject, as I can't really say that I share her confidence in the matter."
HISAO: "Have you lived here for very long? It seems like you have this place pretty much sorted out."
NARRATOR: "She quickly waves her hand in front of her face to dismiss the notion."
LILLY: "It's nothing like that. I've attended Yamaku since the start of high school, but I didn't walk around the city very much because Akira, my sister, picked me up and dropped me off."
HISAO: "Oh, right. You mentioned not living in the dormitories until recently."
NARRATOR: "It's quite a surprise. I'd just assumed she'd been living here since entering Yamaku at the least, which would give her a few years here."
LILLY: "I've lived with my family for most of my life, then I was just together with my sister. With my family having moved to Inverness long before, and Akira working longer hours, I ended up having to move."
HISAO: "Inverness? Isn't that somewhere in Scotland?"
LILLY: "Oh, did I not tell you? My family currently lives in Scotland, the birthplace of my mother. My father's side is mainly Japanese, though."
NARRATOR: "Huh. The question of what gave Lilly her looks did cross my mind every now and again, but I'd never thought to ask. That answers that, then."
HISAO: "To be honest, I'd never have guessed. Considering you have no accent, I'm guessing you were born here?"
LILLY: "Full marks. I am thankful for my heritage though, as without it I'd likely have not been taught English so early in my life. And what of you, Hisao?"
HISAO: "What about me?"
NARRATOR: "She gives a moment's thought. She probably should have thought of what to ask me before switching the topic."
LILLY: "I'll go with... what are your plans for the future?"
HISAO: "To be honest, I haven't thought much about that recently. After my accident and subsequent months in hospital, enjoying my life here with you and Hanako has been enough for me."
NARRATOR: "In fact, I don't think I've thought at all about a “future” for some time now. It seems almost futile."
LILLY: "This is your last year of school. After this, you will have to fend for yourself one way or the other."
HISAO: "It's not like I don't know that, I just haven't put much thought into it since then..."
NARRATOR: "She opens her mouth to continue, but gives a small sigh instead. She seems to have realized that she really doesn't know enough about my situation to go too deeply into this."
LILLY: "Well, we all have our own pace. I just hope you'll take any chance you see."
HISAO: "...I understand. I'll think about it."
NARRATOR: "As we walk back out into the city, Lilly takes hold of my arm once again."
LILLY: "So, did you get any good ideas for a present?"
HISAO: "To be honest, no. I've never been very good at picking them."
LILLY: "As absurd as it sounds, perhaps we should just... look around?"
NARRATOR: "Hearing Lilly utter those words throws me for a moment."
HISAO: "Er... right. How do we do that?"
LILLY: "That's just the reaction I was expecting. It's simple; you can go window shopping, and just tell me what is around. If something interesting comes up, then we might get an idea."
HISAO: "Right... I'm still not so sure of this, but I'll take your word for it."
LILLY: "I think we'll manage. Hanako, my sister, and I manage to do it well enough."
NARRATOR: "With Lilly's simplistic and rather optimistic statement, we set off into the shopping district of the city and I start describing everything I see to Lilly. It's hard to think of Hanako going window shopping. She doesn't feel like the type to place much stock in fashion, nor have I noticed her reading magazines or the like. In fact, all I think I've really seen her do as a hobby is read books."
HISAO: "There's a housewares shop just ahead. Looks like it's mostly crockery though."
LILLY: "I can't think that she'd have much of a need for that, and what type of message would that send to her?"
HISAO: "Um... “cook more food?” That's not such a bad idea, maybe..."
LILLY: "Sometimes it's best to leave these things alone, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "Once again, I get the feeling that Hanako's exploits in the kitchen aren't always successful. Lilly must have had to help her with that sometimes."
HISAO: "Let's see, next along is a bookshop... that seems like a good one, she's always reading."
LILLY: "Yes, but there are a few problems with books. I'm not quite sure what she has and hasn't read."
HISAO: "What about a gift card then?"
LILLY: "There's nothing as impersonal as giving someone a gift card. It's like saying “I don't know enough about you to work out what you'd like.”"
HISAO: "I always thought of it as making sure they got what they wanted."
LILLY: "Giving people gifts is supposed to show them the level of affection you have for them. If you can't decide on a simple gift for them, then how much could you think of them?"
HISAO: "Right, right, no gift cards."
NARRATOR: "Lilly seems overly passionate about this, but I can see her point. If you're going to get something for someone, then you should put at least some thought into it."
NARRATOR: "If I want to get something for Hanako that reminds her of us every day, then what good is a gift card?"
HISAO: "In that case, what did you get Hanako last year?"
LILLY: "A porcelain doll. I thought that if she had someone to talk to, it might help her ease her pain. A doll isn't ever going to criticize her, after all."
HISAO: "So should I be looking for a doll shop?"
LILLY: "If you could be so kind to keep a lookout for one, I would be grateful."
HISAO: "Sounds good to me, though I wish you'd mentioned it earlier."
LILLY: "But if I did that, then you wouldn’t have started thinking for yourself, would you?"
NARRATOR: "Once again Lilly has a point. My brain is currently analyzing every store we pass for gift options. If Lilly had mentioned a doll shop to begin with I wouldn't have thought of anything else. We wander through the city's streets, but seem unable to find anything that resembles a doll shop, or anything that I could consider a fitting present. The simple act of searching is starting to clear my head. The events of last week are starting to fade away, and I'm looking forward to giving Hanako her gift... ...if I can find one, that is."
HISAO: "This is hopeless. I thought we'd be able to find something in the city for sure. And I'm sure we've walked down this street at least once before."
LILLY: "That almost sounds like you're giving up, Hisao."
HISAO: "I'm not, but it's a lot harder than I thought."
LILLY: "Try not to be so restricted in your thinking. Maybe we should actually go into some shops and have a look around?"
HISAO: "That might work. I've never really been any good at window shopping."
NARRATOR: "Lilly and I circle around the city's streets once more, this time popping into stores that catch our attention. In the end, though, nothing comes up as especially appropriate. Hanako's tastes are often quite hard to pin down at the best of times, thanks to her intensely private nature, and those tastes we do know are hard to accommodate."
LILLY: "May we take a break for a minute? I'm a bit exhausted."
NARRATOR: "I agree and leave Lilly to rest against a railing while I go to get a couple of drinks from a nearby vending machine. After walking up to the vending machine and grabbing myself some lemonade, I find myself at a bit of a loss. Not really knowing Lilly's tastes, I decide to take a guess and grab something that seems a little girly, but not too weird; strawberry-flavored milk."
NARRATOR: "I walk up to her and place the carton into her outstretched hands, making sure she has a grip on it before letting go. She feels out its contours before opening it and taking a very tentative sip, her approving smile afterwards telling me I made the right choice. We both rest and have a quiet drink for a few minutes. A familiar soft ringing begins to sound from Lilly's side. She quickly apologizes as her hand goes into her pocket, pulling out her mobile phone."
LILLY: "Do you mind if I take this?"
HISAO: "It's fine, don't worry."
NARRATOR: "She nods to me in thanks before turning away and flipping the phone open, bringing it to the side of her face as she picks up the call. Going by the tone of Lilly's voice, the person on the other end is no doubt some friend or another. I tune out of their conversation pretty quickly, as the snippets that Lilly says make it sound like little more than gossip. Without much else to do, I find myself watching Lilly. She really is a pretty girl, which would hardly hurt her popularity in school. It's interesting just how much Hanako and Lilly contrast with each other, in both personality and appearance. For a few minutes I just lean back and drink, watching her. Before long, Lilly says her goodbyes to the person she's talking to and hangs up, placing her phone back in her pocket and leaning back against the railing as before."
LILLY: "Sorry, just a friend from class."
NARRATOR: "I take one final swig from my can before throwing it into the bin. Lilly gives me her carton to throw away soon after, finishing it off relatively quickly."
HISAO: "You seem to have a lot of friends."
NARRATOR: "Lilly waits for me to continue, her interest piqued."
HISAO: "I was just thinking that you and Hanako contrast really heavily. It's hard to imagine Hanako doing a lot of the things you do, or knowing the people you know."
LILLY: "You seem to think about Hanako quite a bit."
HISAO: "I don't know. It's just... she's mysterious, I guess. I kinda want to know more about her, which isn't that easy."
LILLY: "It almost sounds like you're doubting your relationship to her."
HISAO: "I don't think it's that. I just want to do more for her, being her friend and all. I don't even really know how she sees me."
NARRATOR: "This statement seems to interest Lilly quite a bit. I wonder if Hanako's said anything about me to Lilly during their conversations. I'm about to ask what's on her mind as she picks herself up from the railing."
LILLY: "Shall we be off, then?"
NARRATOR: "Her voice and expression show that she's playing games with me. Lilly knows damn well that she's leaving me hanging. With a sigh, I pick myself up off the railing as well and have a brief look around. We have stuff to do, so I'll just try and get back to her about this later. Tucked in between a newsstand and a convenience store is a small shop. The sign above the door reads “Othello's Antiques” in decorative English script. It would be easy to miss if we were walking along the street, but since we're stationary and I'm purposefully looking around, it's just noticeable."
HISAO: "Say, Lilly... that doll you got Hanako; was it new?"
LILLY: "Well, yes, but I'm not quite sure I know what you mean."
HISAO: "I think I've found our shop. It's across the road."
LILLY: "Oh? What is it? Some kind of toy shop?"
HISAO: "It's an antique shop. I think it's probably going to be our best bet."
LILLY: "Really? I didn't know we even had one of those near here."
HISAO: "Neither did I, I missed it the first time we went by here. It's pretty well hidden."
LILLY: "Well then, it can't hurt to check."
NARRATOR: "Inspired by this new find, we quickly dust ourselves off and head towards the store, Lilly's hand finding its way to my elbow for guidance. The store has a strange, musky scent to it. The layout is more like a garage than a store; things are strewn around the floor without any immediate semblance of order."
NARRATOR: "The shopkeeper gives us an almost bored look though his particularly small eyes. His face looks weary and tired, and his dress style is distinctly anachronistic. He gives us a polite nod of welcome before going back to his book. Lilly holds tightly onto my arm, and I find myself having to split my efforts between making sure we don't miss a potential gift for Hanako and making sure Lilly doesn't inadvertently bump into anything. The task is quite difficult given the haphazard way the store is laid out, and the many things poking out of the shelves they're on or sitting on pieces of furniture, but eventually we safely arrive at an old desk covered in dolls and teddy bears."
HISAO: "I think this is the right place. There's pretty much every kind of doll you could imagine here."
LILLY: "That should make the choice much simpler. Could you please pick one for me, Hisao?"
NARRATOR: "I had a feeling that it would come to this. I picture Hanako in my mind, and try to imagine which of the dolls before me would suit her the best. My eyes wander across the collection; each one is as exquisite as the one before it. The sheer number of styles is boggling, but eventually one catches my eye."
HISAO: "Here, what about this one?"
NARRATOR: "I pick up a small porcelain doll that looks to be at least somewhat affordable. Dressed in a Victorian era green dress with a little brown hat sitting atop its blonde hair, it looks a little like Lilly. I gently pass it to her, who delicately feels her way around the object while wearing a look of slight concentration."
LILLY: "It certainly feels beautiful. Do you think it would suit Hanako, in your opinion?"
HISAO: "I think it would; it could look good in her room."
LILLY: "In that case, I'll trust your judgment. Will you be getting her something as well, or shall this be a shared gift?"
HISAO: "Hmm, I'm not sure. I think I should get her something myself, but I don't think getting her another doll is such a great idea. Maybe..."
NARRATOR: "I let my voice trail off as I look around the shop. Resting on a writing table not far from us is a decorative box that catches my eye."
HISAO: "Wait here, I think I've found something..."
LILLY: "My my, that was fast."
NARRATOR: "I gingerly walk through a collection of crystal glassware and pick up the box. The wooden sides are covered in carvings depicting ancient battles around a castle. The top, however, looks far too familiar. Alternating squares of white- and black-varnished wood are arranged on the lid."
SHOPKEEPER: "That's a really nice item. It's a chess set from overseas."
NARRATOR: "The store owner's sudden appearance startles me a little; I didn't see him approaching at all. I suppose he's trying to help us because we don't really look like we know what we're looking for. ...Or on the other hand, maybe he wants to keep an eye on us because he suspects we might shoplift instead."
HISAO: "I'm... looking for a present for a friend."
SHOPKEEPER: "I see. In that case, this chess set would make a fine choice."
NARRATOR: "Realization floods into my mind. This is a pretty good-looking set, but this is an antique shop. They're not well known for their bargain prices."
HISAO: "How old is this?"
SHOPKEEPER: "This is a reproduction. My best estimate is that it's about five years old."
HISAO: "I see. How much?"
NARRATOR: "He thinks a little before telling me, which is slightly disconcerting."
SHOPKEEPER: "I'll let you take this now for 7000 yen."
NARRATOR: "I balk a little; I wasn't expecting to spend that much, but this does seem perfect. Then again, maybe that's a testament to how well he worked out how much he could make me pay."
HISAO: "Couldn't make it 5000?"
SHOPKEEPER: "5500, no lower."
HISAO: "I'm sold. Oh, we'd also like to get that doll..."
NARRATOR: "The store owner looks over my shoulder, focusing on Lilly and the doll in her hands. His eyes narrow, and he visibly takes a moment to switch mental gears."
NARRATOR: "In the process, his smile drops slightly."
NARRATOR: "I guess that means that not everything in his store is a reproduction."
SHOPKEEPER: "Are you quite sure that you want that doll, miss?"
LILLY: "I trust my friend's judgment."
SHOPKEEPER: "I see... oh, no offense..."
LILLY: "None taken. If you could please wrap it for me, it would be appreciated."
SHOPKEEPER: "Yes, of course, but it is 20,000 yen..."
NARRATOR: "Lilly reaches into her purse and presents four crisp-looking 5,000 yen notes."
LILLY: "Here you are, 20,000 yen."
NARRATOR: "The storekeep dutifully takes them and the doll, and proceeds to the counter. I take Lilly's arm to guide her there."
HISAO: "Are you sure about this?"
LILLY: "It's okay; I... have the funds I need. As I said, I trust your judgment."
NARRATOR: "I feel a little guilty on two fronts; firstly because Lilly has just spent a lot of money on my recommendation, and secondly because I have a feeling the value of my gift isn't high enough. Nevertheless, Lilly does seem to get somewhat awkward whenever the mention of money comes about... I hand the shopkeeper my present and the money for it in turn. He puts the cash into the register before busying himself with wrapping the doll and repeating the process on the chessboard. Eventually, he finishes the giftwrapping and hands us both our presents."
SHOPKEEPER: "Please be careful on your way back, and do come again."
LILLY: "Indeed, thank you very much."
NARRATOR: "The store owner bows deeply to us as we leave."
LILLY: "Well, it did take us all day, but we found something in the end."
HISAO: "That we did."
NARRATOR: "Now that the presents are wrapped, I'm feeling a little impatient to give them to Hanako. It's a common reaction to buying gifts; wanting to see the reaction of the receiver as they discover what it is. And part of me wants to return to Hanako, just to confirm her condition with my own eyes."
HISAO: "So should we head back?"
LILLY: "Let's. We've done a lot of walking today, so I shan't mind taking a rest back at the dormitories."
NARRATOR: "Lilly's right. Now that the need to find a shop is over, my legs are feeling quite tired."
HISAO: "Well then, back to the school for us. I'm looking forward to resting for a bit, too."
NARRATOR: "Lilly holds out her arm, and I link mine with hers. Together, we make our way back to the bus stop."
Next Scene: Falling