NARRATOR: "I feel a lot better after a run, like no matter what else I do today, I've at least done that one thing. It wakes me up, too, and Emi herself said that running always clears her mind. Maybe it'll help clear mine. I hope so. The morning is cool and clear, if a bit humid. Summer's making itself known, it seems. Emi's already stretching out when I arrive, and greets me with a smile and a wave."
EMI: "Hey, Hisao!"
NARRATOR: "The sight of her so chipper is like a kick in the nuts. How can she be so happy after yesterday? I give a half wave and am surprised to receive a hug."
EMI: "Hey, about last night."
NARRATOR: "Here it comes."
EMI: "I wanted to say thanks. I actually managed to get some sleep for the first time in a while, and I think it's because of our talk. So, thanks."
NARRATOR: "How could she sleep better after our chat? She basically told me that she wouldn't get any closer to me. And that let her sleep well? Excuse me, but what the hell? Emi either doesn't notice my bafflement or chooses not to notice. No telling with her any more."
HISAO: "Oh, no problem. Glad it helped."
NARRATOR: "The venom that threatens to drip into my voice is controlled for now, but I think I'd better start running now, before I do anything stupid. Emi seems equally willing to get started, and before long we're darting around the track. I can tell she feels more relaxed. Her running has gone back to the more graceful movements I remember from when I first watched her. It's a stark contrast to the almost brutal way she's been hurling herself around the track these past few days. Our talk really does seem to have helped her. A pity it couldn't help me. I get into the rhythm of the running, thinking back to when I couldn't afford thinking about anything else but keeping my breathing steady and legs moving. Guess those days are gone. At least for the first couple of laps."
NARRATOR: "Annoyed at the lack of success I'm having with clearing my head, I increase the pace. Ah, there's the burning sensation in my legs. The breaths coming ragged in my chest, the pounding of my heart. Which I still need to be careful about. But it does seem to have gotten stronger; I can feel it pumping blood through my veins. The sound thrums in my ears, but instead of being panicked as I was that day in the snow, I'm instead filled with elation. Yes, it's working! My heart, that fatal flaw that landed me here, has improved. I'm able to keep going now, and maybe one day I'll be able to stop worrying as much. Right now, it doesn't matter that I have no idea what to do about Emi and I. All that matters is that my arms and legs continue to pump in concert with one another. Nothing else."
NARRATOR: "As I hit the final stretch, I remind myself that running really does help, though not as much as I'd hoped. I do feel better, and as I walk a few laps to cool down, I begin to remember last night in a slightly less emotional manner. Emi wants me to stay distant from her. I can't bring myself to do so. There's got to be a way around this, some kind of middle ground I can reach. Not sure what that middle ground is, though. Damn, I was almost feeling optimistic."
EMI: "Nice run, Hisao! You've really improved!"
NARRATOR: "Nice run. That's all I can hope for now, isn't it? Congratulations, Hisao. You're pathetic. I gotta change my attitude."
HISAO: "Well, you know. I am pretty awesome."
NARRATOR: "And yet I just keep saying things that I don't mean. Any second now I'll be as good at hiding my problems as Emi is.
EMI: "I like to think so."
NARRATOR: "Why does she do this to me? Say something like that with such real affection in her voice that it makes my heart leap? She doesn't mean it. She can't. I must be doing a worse job than I thought, because Emi peers closely at me."
EMI: "Hey, you feeling okay? Maybe we should get to the nurse, huh?"
HISAO: "Yeah, I'd hate to keel over on you."
NARRATOR: "Emi looks a little shocked at my bitter tone."
EMI: "Don't say things like that! You've already done it once before, you know."
NARRATOR: "Why does she act so affectionate? She doesn't really care, I thought she made that clear. But despite all of that I find myself apologizing, even though I shouldn't have to. Even though she's probably just putting on an act."
HISAO: "Sorry, heh. Come on, let's see the nurse."
NARRATOR: "I can't get myself to calm down the whole time. Every time it feels like I've gotten over what happened last night, Emi does something or says something that shows affection, and I'm back to the beginning. The image of her ending that conversation haunts me. It was like the final twist of the knife that left me feeling bereft of any hope that Emi and I could be more than what we are. And what are we at this point? Little more than friends who happen to fuck."
NARRATOR: "And really, it's not like I don't enjoy the time I spend with her. Said so the other day myself. I very nearly didn't even bring anything up with her, was just gonna hop on in there and let it ride, wasn't I? With this running through my head, I find myself in front of the nurse's office, still brooding as he checks out Emi. Emi comes bounding out of the door, gives me a kiss, and darts off to shower, I assume. Meanwhile, the nurse beckons me into his office to give me the ritual once-over."
NURSE: "Any problems today?"
HISAO: "Nah. I even pushed it a little harder today than I have in the past, and I seemed able to handle it."
NURSE: "That's uncharacteristically risky coming from you, Hisao. You've been hanging out with Emi too much. She's rubbed off on you, and not necessarily in a good way."
NARRATOR: "At the mention of Emi's name, I can't help but frown unhappily in spite of my efforts at control."
NURSE: "Well, now. This is new, don't you think? Last I checked, your usual response to Emi's name was a grin, not a frown. What exactly happened between you two? Because Emi doesn't seem to be in on it, whatever it is. She looked more relaxed than I've seen her in weeks, which is unusual for this time of the year."
HISAO: "What do you mean by that?"
NURSE: "By what?"
HISAO: "“For this time of year.” I keep trying to find out what's been bothering her, but she clams up as soon as I broach the subject. Then last night, she said—"
NURSE: "Let me guess. She won't tell you, because she says she can't trust you? And now you're crushed, because you thought that the two of you were so much more than she seems to think, right?"
HISAO: "Er, more or less. How the heck did you know?"
NURSE: "Hisao, I'm the nurse. It's my job to know these things. Plus, I've known Emi for long enough to know that she'd try to do something like this; it's just like her."
NARRATOR: "He says this in the sort of half-affectionate, half-frustrated tone that would seem more appropriate if he had a cigarette dangling from his lips. As it is, he seems willing to make do with a pen."
NURSE: "Look, you mind if I give you some advice?"
NARRATOR: "What was it Mutou said yesterday? If you can't observe the thing, then observe what's around it? Worth a shot. The nurse knows Emi better than I do, I'll wager."
HISAO: "Sure, I'm open to suggestions. Honestly, I'm kind of lost. I've got no idea how to deal with this."
NURSE: "I never would have guessed."
NARRATOR: "He grins while he says this. I think he's kidding."
NURSE: "Look, here's the deal: Emi is... stubborn. You should know that by now, and if you don't then you're pretty unobservant, but I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here."
HISAO: "I'm so grateful."
NURSE: "Anyway, if she's decided that she doesn't want to talk about what happened, then she's not going to talk about what's happened. Has she said anything about what's been bothering her? Even a hint?"
HISAO: "Well, she did say she'd been having nightmares about the accident..."
NURSE: "Really? You're making progress, then. That's good. Well, I guess I can fill you in on this without violating my strict non-interference policy when it comes to Emi making stupid decisions. The anniversary of her accident is coming up soon. She gets depressed around this time, because it was a pretty traumatic event, considering what she lost.
HISAO: "That's the other thing. She acted like she lost more than just her legs. What happened?"
NURSE: "Whoa! Nope, not going there. You'll have to ask someone else about that, because that's a whole can of worms I'm not about to open. If Emi wants you to know, she'll tell you in her own time. You've just got to be patient, that's all."
HISAO: "Why are you even helping me with all this?"NURSE: "Because you're good for her. She trusts you, even if you don't think she does. And you've got the best chance out of anyone at this school right now to help her through this time of year. She won't accept my help, but she might accept yours if you don't screw it up. So don't screw it up, got it?"
NARRATOR: "Advice? About what? I don't think there's anything I can actually do about this."
HISAO: "Not really. I don't think there's anything you can say that'll help."
NURSE: "You never know, Hisao."
HISAO: "No, I think I've got a pretty good idea. Emi's just being stubborn about some things, and it's bothering me, but I'll get over it. Don't worry about us."
NARRATOR: "The nurse doesn't seem to believe me, but shrugs."NURSE: "Have it your way, kiddo."
NARRATOR: "I open my mouth to respond but a knocking sound at the door interrupts me."
EMI: "Hey, you guys still in there?"
NURSE: "Just a moment, Emi. Give us a second to get our pants back on."
NARRATOR: "The door bursts open and Emi glares knives at the nurse."
NURSE: "Didn't mean to get your hopes up."
HISAO: "Hey, can we... leave me out of this? Anyway, what's up, Emi? Forget something?"
NARRATOR: "I try to take a more cheerful tone with her. No need to upset her. Two can play the “everything's fine” game."
EMI: "Actually, I forgot to ask you something."
HISAO: "Oh? What's that?"
EMI: "Do you wanna come with me on a trip to my house? My mom's making dinner, and I thought you might want to join us."
NURSE: "Well, of course I accept."
NARRATOR: "Emi punches the nurse in the arm playfully."
EMI: "Not you, idiot. You were over last week. I was talking to Hisao."
NURSE: "Oh? How interesting! Meeting the parent!"
HISAO: "I'd love to go, Emi. Thanks."
NARRATOR: "The nurse raises an eyebrow, but says nothing."
EMI: "Great! I'll be in my room, swing by after you shower and change into something clean and we'll grab the bus!"
HISAO: "Sounds good. I'll see you in a bit!"
NARRATOR: "This time it's me who leans in for a quick kiss before darting off to my room. What an interesting development. Maybe we're getting closer after all. Maybe Emi's finally ready to open up a little. Or maybe she's just being polite, and a free meal seems like a good way to apologize for last night. Great. Now I can't decide whether to be excited, nervous, or depressed. I settle for a combination of all three and hop in the shower."
Next Scene: Guess Who's Coming... Never Mind