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NARRATOR: "Things have returned to normal. Well, I transferred in at a pretty unusual time, and I can hardly say that I had a normal first few weeks here. I guess it's more like things have calmed down, and reached normality. I've been here longer than I thought. It's hard not to think about all the stuff I must have missed in this school before my arrival, or the things that might have happened in my old school since I've been gone. I wonder where these feelings come from, since I didn't leave much behind."

NARRATOR: "I have a lot more here that I like. If that wasn't the case, then I wouldn't even bother with something like Student Council, or Shizune and Misha. I would be hard pressed to care about anything, if this school was how I imagined it would be. So even this feeling of a daily routine makes me glad, in a way. I dread the amount of work that's going to hit me in Student Council after school, enough to want to consider stepping out on my duties, just this once. Yet it's nice to feel like there is something I can do. Shizune drops a stack of attendance sheets next to me."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Thanks again for helping out."

MISHA: "Thanks again, Hicchan~!"

NARRATOR: "Sure is a lot of work, though. I had to skip out on sign language class again, but now I'm at a level where I can understand most of Shizune and Misha's conversations with each other, so I'm not too bothered by it. Shizune still doesn't know that, though. I'm determined to keep things that way until I'm very sure of my skills. Perhaps it's a little childish of me."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Tanabata is in less than five days, but they're only going to start building the stalls tomorrow."

MISHA: "Hicchan, we might have to help out with building stalls again starting tomorrow."

HISAO: "Why? What was the point of taking them apart then? That took days, didn't it?"

MISHA: "Yup! That's right~! Even though Hicchan wasn't there for it~."

HISAO: "I would have helped out if you asked."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It wouldn't have made sense to bore you with cleanup duty after you enjoyed the festival so much."

MISHA: "It wouldn't have made sense to bore you with making you clean up right after the festival, it would have ruined the fun."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Besides..."

MISHA: "Ahahaha~! Hicchan is lazy anyway, you would have tried to run away again~! Shicchan doesn't like playing foxhound."

HISAO: "That stings."

NARRATOR: "Shizune covers her mouth with her hand and starts shaking. It takes me a second to realize she's laughing, mostly because she's doing so completely soundlessly. It's a little strange to see, but more or less the same good-spirited kind as Misha's, without being eardrum-piercing."

MISHA: "Hm~, that's a good question, though, Hicchan."

HISAO: "Huh?"

MISHA: "Stalls~!"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's a storage issue. The school doesn't have anywhere to store so many stalls, since each one is pretty large. They won't pay for outside storage either, so this is what they decided on. It's inefficient, but cheaper."

MISHA: "Because~! the school doesn't have anywhere to store that many stalls, Hicchan."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Ah, yeah yeah~, right, they do, but they don't want to pay~! Sorry, Shicchan~..."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's because of the previous generation. The leadership decided that outside storage costs had risen too much, and the Student Council before us was too weak-willed to tell them that it's stupid to have to build and disassemble sixty stalls twice every year."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Okay~!!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Hicchan, let's eat something~! It feels like we've been working all day~..."

HISAO:"We have. Now that I think about it, I am hungry. I would have had lunch, but it was really crowded today for some reason, so I decided it wasn't worth the trouble."

MISHA: "Ahahaha~! It was like that today because they had some especially interesting things for sale on the side."

HISAO: "Like what? No, don't tell me. I guess it doesn't matter, since I won't be able to eat them anyway."

NARRATOR: "Shizune looks oddly pleased with herself. I wonder what the context of that could be."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "I prepared ahead of time for this."

NARRATOR: "Beaming with self-satisfaction, she produces a wide assortment of food from her bag. I can immediately see that ninety percent of it or more was taken from the lunch room. There's a lot, as well. Isn't there a limit on how much a person can buy? That means these gains are definitely ill-gotten."

HISAO: "The veal cutlet bread is always sold out in the first minute of lunch. I'm impressed you managed to obtain one. Thank you."

NARRATOR: "I reach for it quickly, but Shizune immediately makes a grab for it as well. Her hand goes slack for a second when it touches mine, but she immediately pushes forth with redoubled effort, that blazing, competitive spirit flashing dangerously in her eyes. Her fingers pry at mine, searching for an opening. I don't budge an inch, prepared to fight for this bread with my life. I might never have another chance to eat this. am fully aware that if we continue like this, we could crush the bread, greatly reducing its edibility."

HISAO: "Misha... Tell her that unless she lets go, the bread is going to be crushed."

MISHA: "Hmmmmm? Why can't you do it yourself?"

NARRATOR: "I'm startled she can so nonchalantly let slip that I could communicate with Shizune just fine if I wanted to. I almost consider the possibility it was intentional, but I'm sure she was just distracted trying to tear the wrapper off a juice box straw."

HISAO: "Isn't it obvious? I can't let go of the bread."

MISHA: "I can't tell Shicchan that, then."

NARRATOR: "She puts her palms up to the sky and shrugs, a wide grin on her face."

HISAO: "Why not?"

MISHA: "Because~! You have a stake in this, so I can't trust you~! If Shicchan wants to reply, she has to let go of the bread, and then you win. Who knows, who knows, maybe that's what you want, Hicchan? It wouldn't be fair, so I'm going to be neutral! Like Switzerland~!"

HISAO: "Switzerland?"

MISHA: "Do you know about Switzerland?"

HISAO: "Of course I do... it's neutral, they're neutral."

NARRATOR: "Shizune stares at me cockily, the tip of her tongue sticking out slightly from between her teeth as she continues to tug firmly at the veal cutlet bread between us. Suddenly, she lets go and holds her hands up, palms facing outwards. The universal gesture of peace."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "This seems like a poor way to settle this, doesn't it? And we might crush the bread."

NARRATOR: "She glares, and her passive expression quickly plummets into a disapproving grimace."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Hicchan! Drop the bread! We are negotiating now!"

NARRATOR: "I drop the bread reluctantly. Misha's hand darts in from the side, her fingers drumming across the table as it makes its way over."

MISHA: "Ah~! Haha~! Don't mind me, I don't even really like veal. I'll just take this sandwich right here~! And something to drink, too..."

NARRATOR: "Picking them up cautiously, she immediately retreats. She has the right idea. I could just pick something else, there are lots of delicious things here. The chicken katsudon bread is also a popular seller, ranking high in taste and demand. But I've already eaten one before."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "You're so immature, Hisao. This wouldn't be a problem if you would pick something else. The chicken katsudon bread is delicious."

MISHA: "You're so immature, Hicchan. Why don't you pick the chicken katsudon bread instead? It's delicious~!"

HISAO: "But I have already eaten that."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Hicchan~! Why are you so obsessed with eating the veal cutlet bread, spe—ci—fi—cal—ly?"

HISAO: "It's hard to get normally. Rare things are more delicious."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "You are acting like a child."

MISHA: "You're acting like a kid, Hicchan."

HISAO: "Why don't you eat the chicken bread?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "That's not important."

NARRATOR: "Turning bright red, she smiles cunningly and continues."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "There is no reasoning with you. So it looks like there is only one way to settle this: we are going to play for it."

MISHA: "That doesn't matter: we'll play for it instead~!"

NARRATOR: "Somehow, I expected this. It's the logical conclusion. Shizune has been studying for a long time, pretty much continuously up until now. With our finals over, I guess that surplus energy has to go somewhere."

HISAO: "Play what?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "The oldest game known to man, upon which the fate of nations has been known to rest: Rock, Paper, Scissors."

MISHA: "We'll play Rock, Paper, Scissors. Really? That sounds so serious, Shicchan..."

NARRATOR: "There is no humor in her expression, she is dead set on this."

HISAO: "Okay, okay."

NARRATOR: "She draws her hand back, and I mirror her."

HISAO: "Go!"

NARRATOR: "We both put out rock. A draw. I had thought I had the perfect plan. Rock is unbeatable. Shizune frowns, deeply upset by this unexpected turn of events. Not as planned?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Again!"

NARRATOR: "Two papers."

HISAO: "Damn."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Again!!"

NARRATOR: "We both throw out two rocks again, but a third hand is among us representing scissors."

MISHA: "This looks like fun, can I play? Hahahaha~!"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "... ... ..."

MISHA: "It's a duel, Shicchan?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Eh~, dueling conduct? Hm~... You're right, you're right~! I really don't know..."

SHIZUNE: "..."

NARRATOR: "The faster she signs, the harder it is to follow. In fact, it looks like even Misha is having trouble keeping up."

HISAO: "What's she talking about?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "One more time!"

NARRATOR: "We tie again. Every time, Shizune demands a rematch, eventually skipping that step altogether and throwing rock, paper, or scissors out with increasingly reckless abandon. Even playing completely randomly, we continue to tie. This is a mathematical longshot. Misha hovers above us, watching it all and laughing each time we draw. After sixteen rounds, Shizune pushes her chair away from the table and stands up."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Enough of this, Hicchan~! I see what I have been doing wrong, this will all be over in the next round, so brace yourself, okay~? Okay~! I have studied your thought processes and~ I see how you play. I'm anticipating your next move and will combat it expertly."

NARRATOR: "This is all news to me, as I can't remember what we are doing this over. Shizune grins confidently, a look of fearless daring on her face. Her cool eyes flash with pure competitive spirit as she draws her hand back, goading me wordlessly to do the same. Her form is amazing, like a professional bowler or something, just to throw a hand motion."

NARRATOR: "Two papers."

NARRATOR: "Shizune's body immediately goes slack, and she rubs her temples with a look of exasperation on her face as she lets out a sigh so long it sounds like a tire deflating. I realize I've gotten a lot hungrier in the time we've been doing this."

HISAO: "We can just split it."

NARRATOR: "I break the bread in half and offer one half of it to Shizune. She takes it."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Thank you."

NARRATOR: "She looks at the bread in her hand, studying it."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "But this feels hollow, somehow."

NARRATOR: "Regardless of how she feels, she still eats it. All of a sudden, I see Misha observing the scene out of the corner of my eye."

MISHA: "Hicchan~... That was very romantic, I think."

HISAO: "Oh, come on."

MISHA: "Wahahahahaha~!"

NARRATOR: "She laughs and takes a bite of her second sandwich. We eat in silence for a while, Shizune and I managing to avoid any other contests. And then, we go back to work. As I finish up the day's usual filing, I think to myself that this might be Shizune's way of trying to start this week on a high note. After all, tomorrow is when the real work will begin, and with her hands literally full building stalls, she won't be able to “talk” very much. It will likely be pretty dull and tiring, like it was the first time around. I'm appreciative of her effort, in that case. It's nice to have days like this, as a way of enjoying yourself before the days ahead. I think that was her idea as well."

NARRATOR: "...I also remember that I still have to get rid of Kenji's package. The damn thing is bulky, and somehow I've never been able to track him down since I picked it up. After Student Council is adjourned for the day, I walk towards the vending machines to look for something to drink, parting from Shizune and Misha. It's a short trip, but after even just a few seconds I start to get the feeling I'm not alone. A pair of hands cover my eyes."

MISHA: "Guess who~!"

HISAO: "Shizune?"

MISHA: "Wahahaha~! It's me, Hicchan~!"

HISAO: "Yeah, I know."

MISHA: "Then why did you say it was Shicchan~? It's okay to be wrong sometimes, Hicchan~! You're too proud. Anyway~, after Student Council, you don't usually have any plans, right~? So, you're just going to go straight to your dorm?"

HISAO: "Where else would I go?"

MISHA: "Okay, that's great~! That's great, Hicchan~! I wanted to talk to you today, so this works out perfectly!"

NARRATOR: "Two high school students, alone after classes in a quiet, empty building. As the sun dyes the sky a romantic amber color, the cute girl says that she wants to talk. What a secretive and appealing situation, my imagination is buzzing. It's likely not going to be anywhere near as exciting as I am making it out to be, but it's fun to play it up that way. The popping sound of my canned coffee opening destroys any chance of maintaining such a cheesy mood, sounding louder than I'd have ever thought imaginable, amplified by the context of the situation. I sigh in disappointment and relief."

HISAO: "So, what is it?"

MISHA: "Hm? Oh! Actually~... I'm a little behind in some of my classes, and if I don't catch up, it could be a problem~! I can't put it off any longer. My teachers say that I have to really start taking things seriously, so I should listen, especially~ because this is the third time. Sorry~! I'm sorry, Hicchan."

HISAO: "Why are you apologizing?"

MISHA: "I won't be able to help you or Shicchan with Student Council for a few days~. It'll only be for two or three days, really! I'll definitely try and come back as soon as possible! But~..."

NARRATOR: "I can't say I'm happy about this. It's supposed to be getting really busy this week too, isn't it? That's some unfortunate timing. For a second I want to ask if maybe Shizune could pull some strings to get her out of it."

NARRATOR: "But Misha looks so genuinely apologetic about it. It would be pretty dickish of me to say something like that. Besides, if she says it's something that can't be put off any longer, I'm inclined to believe her, considering how surprisingly serious she can be with student council duties."

HISAO: "Yeah, I see. It's okay. You managed with just Shizune and yourself last year, didn't you? So I'm sure I'll be able to as well. Don't worry about it."

MISHA: "Really? Thank you, Hicchan~! Really~! Yay yay~! I didn't know Hicchan would take it so well~! I thought you would be worried, with how there's going to be so~ much work, with Tanabata coming up and everything~!"

NARRATOR: "Damn, she knows me oddly well."

MISHA: "...But~! Hicchan is so composed~! I'm glad~..."

HISAO: "Haha, yeah. You're sort of right, I was thinking about it, but it's not that big a deal. I'm not going to freak out over that. It's going to be a little annoying passing that pad back and forth to talk to Shizune, though."

MISHA: "Hicchan, just tell Shicchan that you can use sign language too! I don't understand why you won't."

HISAO: "Not yet. I can understand most things already, but I want to be really sure. Heh, actually, I wouldn't mind. The secrecy is killing me too, and it would be nice to be able to talk to her in a real conversation. Don't worry, I'm going to have to tell her eventually. I want to. Actually, I'm trying to think of a good opportunity for it."

MISHA: "That won't be a problem, Hicchan~!"

HISAO: "Why not?"

MISHA: "Well~, because I... kind of... told Shicchan that you could understand her. She was worried about the same thing, that you wouldn't be able to understand each other~! So~! I was worried, but it worked out fine in the end after all~! Hahaha?"

NARRATOR: "I lose it."

HISAO: "AAAAAAAAAAHHH!! Do you know how stupid I look now? I sat there for like half the damn day acting like I couldn't read sign language, and are you seriously telling me that she knew the whole time I could? She was probably thinking, “this guy is a complete jackass, pretending he can't understand me.” I just made a total ass of myself. How could you let me do this?!"

NARRATOR: "Misha frowns, seeming lost for words on realizing that I'm taking this differently than she might have expected. She doesn't speak again until after seeing that I've calmed down."

MISHA: "...But, Hicchan, I think this is definitely for the best~!"

NARRATOR: "She says without batting an eye, having waited patiently through my panic to say it. The cheerful delivery of her words makes it seem like she sliced out the time between when she dropped the bomb on me and now. It's pretty funny, in a way."

HISAO: "You have such a one track mind, you know that?"

MISHA: "Yes~!"

NARRATOR: "The damage is done. If Misha can believe that things will work out with such unflinching surety, then maybe it's worth giving it a chance. And if things don't work out, I'll run as fast as I possibly can... To try and make it up to me anyway just in case, she offers to buy me another drink from the vending machine. It's a very small token of apology, but I suppose it's the thought that counts, and her thoughts are sincere. Plus it's a free drink, so I accept."

Next Scene: Interface

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