NARRATOR: "Shizune and Misha release their grip on me and have a long, deep, and silent conversation."
MISHA: "Well, you have a point there. To be honest, we were only going to spend the rest of the budget on cakes. So, if you're not there, it works out better. More cake for us. Wahahaha~!"
NARRATOR: "Shizune about-faces and marches out the door, and Misha skips out after her."
HISAO: "Well, that was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. Last week those two were like bloodhounds. Or prison guards. Or maybe prison guards bred from bloodhounds..."
NARRATOR: "I can't believe I just thought that, let alone saying it out loud. I think I need to move away from Kenji."
HISAO: "...Never mind. Anyway, should we go to the library?"
NARRATOR: "Hanako follows me through the still-crowded halls to the library, using me as a shield. As soon as we are through the door, Hanako bolts for the counter, where Yuuko is stacking books. Before I can catch up, Hanako has whispered something to her."
YUUKO: "Um, you'd find that in non-fiction, but I don't know where, exactly. If you want I can look it up..."
HANAKO: "N-never mind."
HISAO: "Hey Yuuko, what's all this about?"
YUUKO: "Oh, Hisao... Hanako was just looking for a book on..."
HISAO: "A book on nothing? In the non-fiction section?"
HANAKO: "I... I was just..."
NARRATOR: "I shoot a glance at Yuuko. She looks like she's about to burst from the pressure of keeping Hanako's request secret."
HISAO: "Yuuko, what did..."
YUUKO: "Chess! She's looking for a chess book!"
NARRATOR: "I make a mental note to never entrust Yuuko with any important information."
YUUKO: "I'm sorry Hanako... it just slipped out..."
HISAO: "Well, it's not a secret any more. Come on, I'll give you a hand. I should really brush up on my skills, too."
HANAKO: "O... okay."
NARRATOR: "Yuuko disappears behind the counter in shame as Hanako and I wander into the depths of the non-fiction section. I know there is supposed to be a system for categorizing these books, but I don't see how anyone can decipher it without spending half of their life researching it. That's probably why all the librarians I know are neurotic. Towards the end of the aisle, between a book on card tricks and some book on kid's games, stands a single book bearing the title “Chess Tactics for Champions”."
NARRATOR: "Before I can reach for it, Hanako has the book in her hands, clutching it to her chest."
HISAO: "Well, I guess that's yours then. Mind if I borrow it when you're finished?"
HANAKO: "S-sure. I... I just haven't really played against anyone but L-Lilly before, so I thought..."
NARRATOR: "Damn. It's not like I was trying to beat Hanako deliberately or anything, but she seems to have taken it to heart. Then again, at least this means she wants to play me again. That's a plus, right?"
HISAO: "Ha, well it's not like I'm a master or anything; I just played a bit before..."
NARRATOR: "It occurs to me that I haven't told Hanako about my condition. I falter for a second, deciding to cover my tracks. That is a conversation for another day."
HISAO: "...before I came here."
HANAKO: "Are... are you all right?"
HISAO: "Yeah, I was just remembering something..."
NARRATOR: "When I think about it, I shouldn't be afraid to tell Hanako about my condition and my time in the hospital. Judging by her scars, she probably spent a fair amount of time in a hospital bed. But, for some reason, I can't bring it up. At least not today, and not on short notice. Eager to break off the conversation, I grab a random book from the shelf. It's some book on the world's fastest roller coasters... ...published in 1982. Well, not very up to date, but it should at least be interesting."
HISAO: "Well, we both got books now, should we go sit down?"
NARRATOR: "Hanako seems to accept my bluff, and we head to the reading nook in the back of the library. Neither of us says a word; we simply open our books and start reading. I try to read my book, but it would seem that in 1982 roller coasters weren't nearly as large as the ones built in the decades since. Most of the ones listed are made of wood. Something about that doesn't seem safe to me. If I'm going to ride on something potentially dangerous, I want it to be made out of steel, or some kind of space-age alloy that has big words like “Titanium” and “Ruthenium”. I quickly lose interest, and my eyes wander across the reading area to rest on Hanako."
NARRATOR: "Hanako seems absorbed in her book, flicking back and forth through the pages, as if confirming what she just read. I wonder if that's actually effective, or if she's just overloading herself. She unconsciously brushes her hair from her face, temporarily revealing her scar tissue. I'm still not sure about the protocol here. Is it right to ask her about her scars? Or her past? How long was she in the hospital? Does she still visit the doctor? These all seem like the questions that you'd ask someone who just transferred to your school, translated into the local language. But, to date, no one has directly asked me any of them. Well, except Rin, but I don't think I should use her as a guide to proper social behavior. For the time being, I'll just keep my mouth shut. If someone wants you to know something, then they'll tell you. Trying to force the issue might drive Hanako back into herself."
YUUKO: "Um... sorry to interrupt, but I have to close the library now."
NARRATOR: "I check my watch. Somehow, as I was lost in thought, nearly two hours have passed."
YUUKO: "Do you want to check out those books? I can do it on the way out..."
HISAO: "I'm done. I'll drop this one back on the way through. It wasn't as interesting as I first thought."
NARRATOR: "Hanako marks her place with a slip of paper and stands up. The girls head to the counter and I return my book to what I think is the right shelf. Yuuko scans Hanako's book with practiced precision, yet still manages to fumble it."
YUUKO: "Oh... there we go. Third time lucky. Since this is a non-fiction book, you can only have it for a week."
HANAKO: "T-that's okay."
NARRATOR: "Yuuko shuts down the library's computer and herds us out the door."
YUUKO: "Argh! I didn't think it was this late already...!"
HISAO: "But you're the one that told us you had to close..."
YUUKO: "Yes but, I know but, that was before I looked at the time! I'll see you later."
NARRATOR: "Yuuko bolts down the hall, her handbag trailing behind her like an awkward streamer."
HISAO: "I guess all librarians really are neurotic."
HISAO: "Ah, never mind. I was just thinking that I've never met a librarian that can organize their time, no matter how good they are with their books."
HANAKO: "Oh... I k-know what you mean..."
NARRATOR: "Hanako smiles in amusement. It wasn't meant to be a joke, but I must have reminded her of some other librarian... or something..."
HANAKO: "I... I have to get back."
HISAO: "Yeah, me too. I didn't realize it was this late. Thanks for letting me hang out with you."
HANAKO: "N-no problem."
HISAO: "I'm going to my dormitory room now anyway, so do you mind if I tag along?"
NARRATOR: "Hanako sets off ahead of me, and I need to jog a little to reach her side. We walk through the gardens, eventually arriving in front of the dorm buildings."
HISAO: "Man, you walk pretty fast. I used to play in a soccer club, and you manage to outpace me."
NARRATOR: "I kinda regret saying that. It has less to do with her pace than with the fact that my condition has significantly worsened my fitness. Hanako's reaction is odd. I expected an awkward attempt to downplay her walking speed, but she just blushes while looking at her feet and smiling. Silence hangs in the air between us. That happens often around Hanako, but feels slightly different than usual this time. After a few seconds, I try to break the silence."
HISAO: "Here you go. See you in class tomorrow?"
NARRATOR: "Hanako waves a short goodbye before pushing her way through the dorm's doors. I stand and look at them for a while, before making my way to my own dormitory room."
Next Scene: Rise and Shine