MUTOU: "Nakai, could you answer this?"
NARRATOR: "That side of me's lost to the past now, though."
HISAO: "In that case... I think it would use the -ane suffix?"
MUTOU: "Correct. Moving on, the suffix for..."
NARRATOR: "As my attention towards Mutou slips once again, I spot Misha giving me an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and nod at her to settle her down. It's been a handful of days since Lilly left for Scotland, days which have passed relatively peacefully. Life largely continued as usual, in contrast to what I'd expected. While thoughts of her have danced around on the edge of my mind since she left, present events manage to subdue them. At least for the time being. So I find myself idly chatting with Hanako, as usual, when lunchtime finally rolls by."
HANAKO: "Are the later ones in the series good as well?"
HISAO: "Not really. You're probably best off just sticking to the original. His later books didn't live up to it, other than maybe “God Emperor.”"
HANAKO: "Thanks, I wasn't really sure if..."
NARRATOR: "As Hanako steps to the side, I see Shizune stride up in her typically businesslike manner, flanked by her ever-present bright-haired shadow. Try as I might, I can't read any hint of their intent from their faces. Shizune's poker face and Misha's seemingly boundless cheerfulness are a devilish combination."
HISAO: "'Morning Shizune, Misha."
HANAKO: "Um... hi."
NARRATOR: "I accentuate the greeting with a nod to Shizune in order to get the point across. She promptly and curtly returns the gesture to both of us. It's been a long while since I've really talked to either of them. For a while I thought they might be avoiding me, but I eventually came to the conclusion that Shizune really isn't the type to do so."
MISHA: "'Morning~! Shicchan says that Mutou wants to see you sometime."
NARRATOR: "Because of this statement, my face contorts as if I'd just eaten spoiled food, giving Misha no end of amusement."
MISHA: "Wahahaha~! Anyone'd think you were in trouble, Hicchan!"
MISHA: "You may not be aware of it, but you have the least to worry about out of anyone in the class."
NARRATOR: "What an unexpected vote of confidence. Even Hanako nods hesitantly to affirm the point."
HISAO: "Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. There was something I wanted to ask you, though."
MISHA: "And what might that be, Hicchan?"
NARRATOR: "I have a feeling this won't go over well, but here goes..."
HISAO: "Is there any reason why you and Lilly don't get along? It seems like even a little civility would help you both in your duties."
NARRATOR: "Shizune's cold stare after Misha happily signs the words stops me in my tracks. In hindsight, I really could have worded that better. Out of the corner of my eye, I'm sure I see Hanako move back. Just a little. Thankfully, Shizune notices this and lets her temper dissipate as she forcefully runs her hand through her hair to let off steam. Perfectly on cue, Misha begins interpreting the second Shizune's arms begin to move."
MISHA: "I would say that such matters aren't relevant to you, but since you seem to have befriended Lilly..."
NARRATOR: "She pauses to adjust her glasses, evidently attempting to articulate her point in the best possible manner."
MISHA: "While I assume the same of her, I cannot call my own views on the matter unbiased. Suffice to say, we were closer before than we are now."
NARRATOR: "Shizune makes a quick gesture to Misha to stop her from interpreting, then has a quick meeting with her before proceeding. The fact that the two can communicate so easily yet so secretly right in front of us is slightly disconcerting. Hanako seems to share my curiosity at the proceedings, looking on with thinly-masked interest. As they finish their opaque conversation, Misha looks slightly deflated. I guess her opinion on the matter wasn't followed."
MISHA: "Shicchan says you should ask Lilly about it, as she doesn't want to be the one that gets you involved."
NARRATOR: "Ah well. I'll just have to ask her after she gets back. At least I got some information out of Shizune; the two having been on close terms means that they weren't always at each other's throats, or at least not quite to this extent."
HISAO: "I understand. Thanks anyway."
NARRATOR: "With a nod and a farewell the two break away and walk out the door, no doubt headed straight for the student council room."
HISAO: "...Could have gone worse, I suppose."
NARRATOR: "Hanako lets out a long breath, relieved at the confrontation's resolution. I can't say I blame her."
HANAKO: "I'll see you later, then?"
HISAO: "Yeah, I'll meet you in the tea room. Seeya."
NARRATOR: "With that, she waves and joins the trickle of students leaving the classroom."
MUTOU: "Nakai, could I speak with you for a moment?"
NARRATOR: "Delivered in his typical monotone manner. He apparently decided that I need a reminder to see him already. Eventually I finish packing up my things. By the time I reach his desk the classroom is close to empty."
HISAO: "Uh... yes, sir?"
NARRATOR: "He looks up, taking measure of my face before giving an awkward, rather obviously acted, chuckle."
MUTOU: "No need to feel guilty, you're not in any trouble. I just want to ask you something I've asked a few of the other students so far."
NARRATOR: "That's something at least. For a moment, I'd thought my maxim of keeping my head down and pen up had failed me."
HISAO: "So what did you want to talk about?"
MUTOU: "To start with, what do you think of your progress in this class, so far? Good? Bad?"
NARRATOR: "I detest that kind of question. For a fair amount of time I try to think of a response that is neither pathetically humble, nor cocky."
HISAO: "I'd say I'm doing okay. The work doesn't seem too hard, and I'm doing better on the tests than I thought I would."
MUTOU: "That's a good answer. A correct one, too."
NARRATOR: "I give a mental sigh of relief at his satisfaction. To say that I don't gain a little pride from his comment would be a blatant lie. In the maelstrom of thoughts clouding my mind after learning that I'd be transferring to Yamaku, my school grades seemed utterly unimportant. Being entirely clueless as to what skill level would be assumed of me, once I actually got here I was hugely relieved when I found out that I understood well enough the schoolwork we'd be doing."
MUTOU: "I know your circumstances might have thrown a wrench in the works, but have you given any thought to your future?"
HISAO: "My future?"
MUTOU: "What you'd like to do as a profession. Do you have any thoughts of where you'd like to be in ten or twenty years' time? I wouldn't be surprised if you covered this ground in your previous school, but I don't have any record of it if you have."
NARRATOR: "I suppose the last year of high school is the time when students would need to be thinking about such things. To be honest, I really haven't lent it much thought, compared to my immediate situation. Catching on to my thinking, Mutou speaks up."
MUTOU: "It's okay if you haven't decided on anything specific yet. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of your classmates were still undecided, after all. Maybe pursue one of your talents?"
NARRATOR: "He's rather obviously trying to squeeze an answer out of me, and something about his previous wording makes me suspicious. He didn't seem to be intent on asking everybody like this, so he must have some kind of selection criteria. At a guess, our marks in his class."
HISAO: "Well, something in science might be the path of least resistance."
NARRATOR: "His face brightens, no doubt pleased at the thought of a prized student following his subject as a career path."
MUTOU: "Good. Having a general idea is the first step. I would advise you to think on it, though."
HISAO: "I will. Things are kinda settling down, which will help."
MUTOU: "Good to hear. Oh, and I've noticed that Ikezawa's attendance and marks have improved since you came to be friends. I'd like to thank you for that."
HISAO: "I'm surprised you noticed we knew each other."
NARRATOR: "He gives a chuckle as awkward as his smile. This guy really has no idea how to properly act around others. Every facial movement seems like an act of careful but misdirected choreography."
MUTOU: "You could say that having a general idea of who knows whom is part of a teacher's job."
NARRATOR: "Catching himself before he goes off on a tangent, he loudly coughs into his hand."
MUTOU: "I'm sure you have things to do, though, so I'll stop there. Please do think about where you're headed from here, as you don't have long to go before you finish high school."
HISAO: "I will. Thanks."
NARRATOR: "The brief talk ended, I take my leave. He goes back to fussing with the teaching materials on his desk. This is one of the times I'm envious of Lilly, almost maddeningly so. To have one's future so clear and so assured, yet working towards it from such a young age... It's an idea so utterly irreconcilable with my own thoughts, mired in the present day just as they've always been."
Next Scene: Minor Discord