NARRATOR: "I'm jolted awake by a thunderous banging sound coming from my door. My first thought is, it could be Shizune. After all, only a deaf person or a jackass would knock that loudly at this hour."

HISAO: "Who is it?"

NARRATOR: "Of course, if it's Shizune, she wouldn't be able to hear that or answer it. There's no reply, so I'm kind of pleased. I haven't seen Shizune in a while. Opening the door, I find Kenji standing out in the hall, his eyes nervously darting from side to side."

HISAO: "Oh, it's you."

KENJI: "Yeah, it's me. What kind of reaction is that?"

HISAO: "Well, I'd be able to give you a more personalized response if you had answered when I asked who it was."

NARRATOR: "Kenji frowns and pushes up his glasses exactly like Shizune."

KENJI: "Why are you making that weird face?"

NARRATOR: "I wonder how he's able to see me making a face now, yet wasn't able to the millions of other times I've reacted to something weird he has said or done. I kind of want to pursue this, but am too tired to actually do it."

HISAO: "Shizune pushes her glasses up just like that. You know, the Student Council president. It's just a little weird."

KENJI: "What the hell? What do you mean there's this girl who does the same thing? You mean she touches her glasses? I do that, that's my thing. Who is this bitch? Why are bitches all up in my business, stealing what I do?"

NARRATOR: "His character flips from anger to fear in the blink of an eye."

KENJI: "Is she trying to replace me? Pod people? No, wait, that's an exact copy. Pod women? It's like my two greatest fears combined. It is!"

NARRATOR: "I can't believe he has a point..."

KENJI: "Hey, you going to go into town today?"

HISAO: "Uh, maybe later."

KENJI: "Okay. Awesome. I have some... stuff I want you to pick up for me at the post office. Some delicate and secret stuff."

NARRATOR: "He speaks in a whisper, as if talking about his mail in even a normal tone of voice will jeopardize it."

HISAO: "You can have your mail sent directly here, you know."

KENJI: "No you can't. You can have your mail sent to the school, and then the Student Council picks it up, and then they give it to you. That's not the same as the mail appearing in your hands. I don't trust the Student Council. Many dudes don't get their mail here, you know. They probably steal it all! They think that just because it's sent to them, they have a license to steal? I can just see them now, elbow deep in mail, fast grabbing all the free swag they can get a hold on. Sickening."

HISAO: "Where can I find this mailman who can conjure mail out of thin air and into your hands?"

KENJI: "I don't know, I bet the Student Council killed him to preserve their monopoly on all the students' shit."

HISAO: "It doesn't work that way. Is that what you wanted, though? Fine, I can pick up your mail for you, but eventually I'm going to collect on all these favors. You already owe me some money."

KENJI: "Thanks for reminding me. I'll pay you back after I get my package. Yeah, my bad, I can't really pay you until then. I'm still broke."

HISAO: "Then I'm basically doing it for money, like a job. Why do you need the package first? Is there money in the package?"

KENJI: "Nah."

NARRATOR: "I am seriously dumbfounded."

HISAO: "Why can't you get it?"

KENJI: "Because I am going to remodel my room today into a war room. As the days go by, I realize more and more how dangerous feminism is. It really is everywhere, even in places like Iran. You can't tell how far up it goes. When the war begins, if we haven't transcended the concept of nations to fight for our genders, it will be chaos. No one will know who will take what side, and a war against feminism wouldn't just mean World War III, but the end of all life on Earth as we know it. If we lose, all our supple Japanese women will be raped and enslaved by a bunch of sociopathic lesbian supremacists. Meanwhile, the handful of men that didn't die in the war will be castrated and forced to repair toilets and build massive monuments commemorating the feminist victory."

HISAO: "That's crazy. You're crazy. I think you're overthinking this."

KENJI: "As the days go by, I realize more and more that you are not ballin'."

HISAO: "We've only talked like four times."

KENJI: "Oh. Sorry."

HISAO: "Yeah, whatever, I'll get your package."

KENJI: "Awesome."

NARRATOR: "I close the door and jump right back into bed. The second my head hits the pillow, a painfully loud ringing assaults my ears, and I realize it's my clock. The alarm going off means that right now is the time I'm supposed to wake up in the first place. On weekdays, at least. I pick it up and throw it without looking up. It gets wedged between the bed and the wall, the noise not stopping. In fact, it seems to grow louder. By the time I'm able to pry it out of there I know I'm not going to be able to go back to sleep. The only thing I can think of doing now is going into town and just getting Kenji's stupid package, but it's too early for that."

NARRATOR: "After showering, I take my medication. I'm actually very hungry today since I went without dinner yesterday, and before that I had just a very light lunch. I eat the pills, chomping on them like a leg of lamb. They are unbelievably bitter and disgusting. Well, good medicine tastes bad, or something like that. I'm still hungry, and there's still a lot of time to kill, so I decide to go into town and find somewhere to have breakfast. I can't remember the last time I ate out. Besides, the weather is nice, so why not?"

NARRATOR: "The walk into town is longer than I remember, possibly because it's been a while, and probably because I rarely come here alone. There are barely any cars on the road because it's so early in the morning, making it unusually quiet. The first thing I do is start looking for a place to eat. Immediately I think of the Shanghai, but I want something more substantial than sandwiches or a cake. Since it's so early, though, I decide to get Kenji's package first. Picking it up at the post office doesn't take very long, but the moment I see it, I'm enraged about what a pain in the ass it will be to carry this thing all the way back to the school."

NARRATOR: "The box is huge, you need two hands to hold it. Insultingly, it's not even very heavy. I was thinking of wandering around for a little while, but with this thing in tow, that's going to be a real problem. I guess the Shanghai is my only option now. Everything else is closed, and the ones that aren't all have about the same menu. That fact also makes me want to throw some more business Yuuko's way. Before I can even open the door and enter, someone taps me on the shoulder from behind. I turn around and see Shizune there. Instinctively, I look for Misha, but she doesn't seem to be here."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Good morning."

NARRATOR: "Looks like those sign language classes are already starting to pay off. I'm tempted to sign it right back, but then she might think I know a lot more than I actually do. For now, I just give her a wave and open the door. She's probably here for her morning tea and didn't come here just to greet me. It turns out I'm right, as Shizune follows me inside the teahouse. It's a total ghost town in here. It's not exactly peak hours, but every other café I passed had at least a few customers. Actually, the Shanghai has been fairly empty every time I passed by. How does this place stay in business?"

YUUKO: "Hello! Thank you for choosing to patronize our establishment!"

NARRATOR: "Yuuko bows with the force of a falling axe and her head collides with the box in my hands, launching it towards the floor."

YUUKO: "Oh no, I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, sorry, please forgive me!"

HISAO: "It's okay, and you don't have to do that “Hello, thanks for choosing our shop!” thing since we know you."

YUUKO: "But it's part of my job. You're here early, what can I get you?"

HISAO: "I just want some coffee for now."

NARRATOR: "I wonder what Shizune wants. Without Misha, there's no real way to tell, or any way to even ask. I haven't learned about that yet. She's here, so I'm pretty sure that means she wants something too."

HISAO: "Er, I don't really know what Shizune wants. Does she have a usual? Wait, she might want something else, though. Perhaps you should bring us a menu just in case."

NARRATOR: "I look around for one, but can't find anything that looks remotely like a menu."

YUUKO: "Menus... I'll look for one right now."

HISAO: "Huh?"

YUUKO: "Um... there are menus. They're just... rare."

NARRATOR: "It's only a restaurant menu, not a collector's edition."

SHIZUNE: "..."

HISAO: "Weird."

YUUKO: "Is that what Shizune is saying?"

HISAO: "Nah, she can't hear you. It's just weird for a café to make you have to go out of your way to look for a menu."

YUUKO: "Weird...? Yes... you're right. It's so illogical. There are so many things... Like, why is it called the Shanghai? This is a Western style teahouse... but, the name is Chinese... and the architecture is old-fashioned, but my uniform is so modern and sophisticated..."

NARRATOR: "She looks like she's about to pass out. If she does she'll probably fall forward and make a mess of everything."

YUUKO: "I can't work here any more."

NARRATOR: "What a bad place for her circular train of logic to end up."

HISAO: "No, come on. That kind of stuff is what sets this place apart; there are a lot of cafés around here, you know. I think it's charming, really. Please don't quit. Business is good here, isn't it?"

YUUKO: "Not really..."

HISAO: "See, I think this is a good job for you. It suits you, you shouldn't quit."

NARRATOR: "I've never had to defuse this kind of crisis before. Eventually, I manage to calm her down, and convince her that I'm sure Shizune just wants what she usually orders here. Yuuko walks away to get our drinks, and by then, Shizune has already picked a table. There are no other customers, and Yuuko isn't the most talkative person, so it's very quiet. It doesn't really bother me, but I wish that there was some way we could communicate. There are so few moments when we're alone. Shizune and Misha are almost always together, to the point where sometimes it seems like they are one. Now, it's just me and her, and I'm unable to understand her or have her understand me. It's terrible."

HISAO: "You don't have your little notepad today? I know it's the weekend and all, but it's not like you to be unprepared. Well, that's fine. I don't really like using it anyway. Still, it would come in handy now."

SHIZUNE: "... ... ..."

NARRATOR: "Shizune starts signing in short bursts punctuated by her stopping to take a sip of tea. It's strange how she doesn't make the slightest attempt to change how she normally acts. I'm talking to her for the most part because I'm not used to long silences. I briefly wonder if it's the same for her, in a way; however, it seems unlikely. I think it's more that she is the type who doesn't change how she acts for anyone."

HISAO: "Hey, it seems like Misha joined the Student Council because of you. That makes two of us, you know. I'm only there because you forced me into it. Well, not really forced, I guess. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have joined."

NARRATOR: "That sounds slightly romantic, and I find myself blushing a little. I feel like such an idiot."

HISAO: "Although, I still don't know why you joined. It should have been the first thing I asked, in retrospect, but I'm really curious. I'll have to remember to ask Misha sometime."

SHIZUNE: "..."

HISAO: "It's nice to talk to you, even if you can't understand me. I wonder if it's the same for you. That would be really... great."

SHIZUNE: "..."

HISAO: "I don't think sign language will ever be as natural for me as Misha makes it look, but it's got to be a step up from using pen and paper, right?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

NARRATOR: "We've both been finished with our drinks for a while, and Shizune's eyes fall upon the box sitting in its own chair by my side."

SHIZUNE: "..."

HISAO: "I'm just picking it up for someone, it's not mine."

NARRATOR: "Shizune pulls it closer to her, intending to open it, and my heart almost leaps out of my throat. I quickly try to pull it back by wrapping my leg around the leg of the chair."

HISAO: "What the hell, don't open it. You can't just open other people's mail, that's not legal."

SHIZUNE: "..."

HISAO: "No!"

SHIZUNE: "...!"

NARRATOR: "Once she gets going, there is almost no stopping her. Eyes filled with excitement, she looks ready to fight me over this stupid package and I realize just how fast this could turn into a game of tug-of-war. I am almost out of my seat now and waving my arms like an air traffic controller, before she finally settles down. Shizune pouts, not pleased with having her curiosity checked, and gets up to leave. It's about time to, I guess. We've been here a while. I protectively pick up the box before standing up myself. Suddenly, she tents her fingers excitedly and pulls out a marker from her pocket, and starts writing on Kenji's box."

HISAO: "Hey, what are you doing? I said this isn't mine! Hey!"

NARRATOR: "I can't even see her with it blocking my vision."

HISAO: "Fine, at least let me put it down first."

NARRATOR: "I have to to read whatever she's writing, anyway."

I'll help you carry it.

NARRATOR: "It doesn't seem like she's finished, though, and Shizune draws a fierce line afterward to signify that there's a catch."

I'll help you carry it.


But, it's a game! The first one to stumble loses, and the loser has to carry it the rest of the way by themselves.

HISAO: "That's stupid, there's a fifty percent chance I'll end up carrying it myself anyway."

NARRATOR: "Actually, I feel pretty stupid myself right now. I just forgot she can't hear me. I stop talking and shake my head."

SHIZUNE: "... ...! ...!"

NARRATOR: "I can't understand her at all, but she's coming across very forcefully. It's clear that she thinks this is a great idea. Well, if she drops the box or something, she'll have to carry it. That would make things a lot easier for me, obviously. The odds are 50-50, then... they're probably higher than they would be for any other plan of hers. All right, I'll take it. Thinking about it, I'm not sure how we should do this. Then Shizune grabs hold of one end of the box and lifts it up, and I take the side that she isn't holding. Is this even right? It's very uncomfortable to walk like this."

NARRATOR: "We leave the café, and I find myself hoping that the streets are still devoid of people. Yuuko seemed confused as to what we were doing, and I imagine it'll only get worse as more people see us. Shizune doesn't seem bothered at all while walking with her arm at this unnatural angle; she just grins confidently and periodically makes some kind of weird gesture. There are people staring at us as time passes, and the usual morning crowd begins to fill the streets. I feel silly, but I'm sure that if I give up, Shizune will take it as a sign of surrender. I can't allow that, because I think I'm doing well so far."

NARRATOR: "Initially, I just write Shizune's little hand signals off as her preemptively gloating, but I catch on quickly that she's actually signaling where she wants to go. It dawns on me that this isn't a competition. It's not much of a challenge, first of all, and second, it's really more of an exercise in teamwork. It's just that Shizune has made a punishment for failing instead of a reward for doing well. Our fingers touch under the box, and Shizune moves her hand away, almost dropping her side of the box in the process."

NARRATOR: "Well, that's game over for her. She doesn't look very happy. Does she think I did it on purpose to make her lose? If she does, she isn't making a big deal out of it. All's fair in love and war. I feel like I should take it from her and carry it myself, but she pushes me away when I try. She glares at me as if to tell me off, but she can't. With that box in her hands, she is basically gagged. A sad expression flickers across her face for a second, maybe on realizing that and having to acknowledge that there are some limitations she has to deal with after all."

NARRATOR: "However, she is still as prideful as ever, even when it's to her detriment. She wouldn't accept letting me allow her to skip out on the consequences of her bet. Anything is fair during the game, but the results have to be honored to the letter, huh? Shizune is an interesting type of person. The march back to the dorms is uneventful. Shizune passes the trip by shifting the box around occasionally like a giant Rubik's cube. It looks like another game she has invented to amuse herself. It can't be good for whatever's inside, but I don't care enough to stop her. Maybe this is how she deals with things, by making everything into a game; it's hard to say for sure, though. It seems futile to try to psychoanalyze Shizune. In the short time we've known each other, I've been surprised on a fair number of occasions."

NARRATOR: "I notice Shizune shivering. The wind is picking up, and the school is pretty high up. It makes sense that she would be cold. If I gave her my jacket, though, would she reject it? I take off my jacket and drape it across her shoulders before she has a chance to protest. Her shoulders are slim and delicate, so much so that I want to let my hands linger on them. Shizune flinches when my fingers brush against her, understandably surprised."

HISAO: "Sorry."

SHIZUNE: "... ..."

NARRATOR: "Her fingers dance lightly over the surface of the box, and I think of taking it from her, but I doubt she would let me. Shizune makes a quick gesture with her hands as best she can, pausing a bit afterward as if wanting to say more. I'm sure that what she means is “thank you.” I'm glad that I was able to catch it."

Next Scene: Advanced Game Theory