NARRATOR: "Since talking to Lilly yesterday, I've wanted to try and move on from the listlessness I've felt ever since coming to Yamaku. But even if I try to concentrate on the book in front of me, Hanako's empty seat at the back of the classroom looms larger than life. Every time I start getting focused, my eyes flick over to her desk again and my mind starts spinning. Once more my eyes drift over to it, but this time my vision is blocked by a certain other classmate."
HISAO: "Oh, hey Miki."
MIKI: "Maybe you should just have lunch. I can hear your stomach growling from my desk."
NARRATOR: "I let my head drop in disappointment. She seems to take some amusement from my reaction, and hops up onto my desk. Her grin as she sits on it reminds me of the Cheshire Cat."
MIKI: "So, whatcha' workin' on?"
HISAO: "Some math. I have a decent handle on it, but I just wanted to revise."
MIKI: "Oh really? Lemme see that."
NARRATOR: "Before I can object, she grabs my mathematics book with her hand. She scans the page I was on, holding it open with the one hand she has, her left arm sitting uselessly on her lap. In my time here at Yamaku, I've noticed that the other students have a wide range of adjustment to their disabilities, on a purely practical level. Miki is one of those that seem to have some trouble. The stump of her left arm tends to be either hanging by her side, slipped into a pocket, or otherwise put out of the way. Sometimes she has a difficult time doing common tasks, which makes her visibly quite frustrated. I feel a little bad for thinking this way, but I'm thankful that Hanako and I don't have disabilities affecting our freedom of movement to that extent. Then again... if Miki's problem worsened, at least she wouldn't have a real possibility of dying."
NARRATOR: "My attention is refocused as she thumbs through a few pages, skimming their contents. With such casual interest in the subject matter, it's clear by now that she won't be any help."
HISAO: "I'm guessing you're not too interested in this stuff?"
MIKI: "Screw math. It's boring as hell."
NARRATOR: "She puts the book back in front of me with indifference. Her eyes move to the notebook beside it that I'd been working out practice equations on."
MIKI: "Wait, you're actually able to work that stuff out?"
MIKI: "Wow. I've never talked to a computer with legs before."
HISAO: "Thanks... I think. At least I'm doing better in this than history."
MIKI: "Think it's worth asking that librarian for help? I heard she's shooting for uni."
HISAO: "Ah, Yuuko? Maybe. I don't know what she wants to study, though. So what about you? Got anything you're thinking of doing after you graduate?"
MIKI: "Me? Nah, not really. Just enjoying it while it lasts."
NARRATOR: "She looks a little awkward when asked about her future, and absentmindedly rubs her left forearm. I kind of want to ask her about it, but I don't think I know her well enough to do so. The conversation peters out, and I lean back in my chair, giving up on the prospect of studying. Miki notices my tired expression and looks oddly serious."
MIKI: "Thinking about Hanako?"
HISAO: "It's that obvious?"
MIKI: "You've been glancing at her seat, and you've been pretty quiet. Not too hard to connect the dots."
HISAO: "I'm just worried about her."
MIKI: "Yeah, I can see why you would be. She can get... weird, sometimes."
NARRATOR: "She sounds put off, but I can't blame her. Hanako was a hard person to interact with before she warmed up to me, even with Lilly around to help. I haven't known her for that long either, so some of her habits would still be unknown to me. My face becomes troubled. If I hadn't developed feelings for her, this would be at least a little easier to deal with."
MIKI: "Ah, I mean, no offense. She isn't a bad person, I know that much."
HISAO: "I know, I didn't take it that way. It's just harder to deal with when, well, you know. You have feelings for someone."
MIKI: "Yeah, I can imagine that. It's hard to forget something like what happened to her during class, too."NARRATOR: "I wish she hadn't reminded me of that. She just confirmed that it was clearly noticed by others in the room as well."
MIKI: "Come on, don't get that down. She's done this before, you've just gotta wait it out."
NARRATOR: "She locks herself in her room and acts like an empty husk of a person for a sizable amount of time, ever since she entered Yamaku if not before then as well, and I'm not supposed to be concerned about that? Well, I might think that, but there's nothing that I can do. I can't force her to come out, and she does see a therapist, so it's not like she isn't getting any help for her issues. Maybe it's natural to think that way when you're so powerless to help someone. “That's just the way she is, and you just have to deal with it.”"
NARRATOR: "As I mull things over, I notice a movement out of the corner of my eye. I glance to see who it is, and end up doing a doubletake. Sure enough, it's Hanako. She walks through the door just as she would any normal school day, and begins to move towards her seat in her usual silent and humble manner. She looks at me for a moment before blushing and looking away in embarrassment, which makes me realize that I was staring at her. I feel sorry for that, but not doing it is hard after all that's happened. The girl sitting on my desk looks to me, grinning."
MIKI: "See? Your sweetheart's back already. What did I tell ya?"
HISAO: "You be quiet."
NARRATOR: "It might only be meant as a joke, but she hits close enough to make me quite uncomfortable. As we talk, someone calls Miki's name from the door. She jumps down from her vantage point on my desk before turning to me."
MIKI: "Gotta go, Hisao. Remember to eat sometime, will ya?"
HISAO: "Fine, I will. See you."
NARRATOR: "She gives a casual salute before jogging over to the door, where a male student in gym uniform is waiting for her. Probably someone from the track and field club. Seizing the opportunity, I get up and make my way to Hanako's desk."
HISAO: "Hi, Hanako. What's up?"
NARRATOR: "Maybe talking to her this soon after she came back to class was a bad move."
HISAO: "Want to go come with me and grab something from the cafeteria? I'm pretty hungry."
HANAKO: "But... I thought you were studying."
NARRATOR: "Studying can wait. Turning up for class after all this time must have taken some courage for Hanako, so the least I can do is stay with her. “That's just the way she is, and you just have to deal with it” is the way Miki, and probably the class as a whole, views Hanako. I can do more for her, though. I want to do more for her."
HISAO: "After being distracted by Miki, I don't think I'm going to get any work done. Come on, let's go."
NARRATOR: "She hesitates, but eventually gets up and joins me as we begin walking. These may be small steps for her, but the fact that she's finally out of her room of her own volition lifts a large weight off my shoulders."
Next Scene: Shanghai Studiousness