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NARRATOR: "It's weird how easily Emi and I can keep from seeing one another after class now. Actually, I'd venture to say that it's vaguely disturbing. As easily as we'd come together, we seem to have split apart without much trouble. Well, I guess that's not exactly true. We'd both been pretty bummed after that last night together. And we get to see each other every morning for our runs (and just our runs, I might add). Lunch, too. I especially enjoy lunchtime with her. We have plenty of time to talk about everything outside of school, whereas the morning runs have become increasingly businesslike. I think it's because Emi wants to make up for our foolery in the storage shed. But no matter how much we joke at lunch, I can't help feeling a little worried about her."

NARRATOR: "She seems distracted more often, and I've caught her fidgeting nervously more than once. Never figured her to be someone who cared that deeply about exams, but they certainly seem to be taking their toll. Even though they haven't even started. This is just the run up, the deep breath before the plunge. Tomorrow, the real trials begin. Or the real exams, anyway. As for me, I actually don't feel that worried about exams at all. I'm not sure why. I mean, they're pretty important; my scores here will determine my odds of getting into a good university. Hell, if I'm too cavalier now, it could spell doom for my academic career. But going into them, I feel confident that I'll come out the other side okay."

NARRATOR: "Mutou thinks I've got the science examination locked up, at any rate. Or as he says, “The last thing that should give you trouble is my exam, Hisao. It's way beneath your talents.” Then again, it is Mutou who's telling me this. His praise of me carries the veiled implication that anything less than perfect from me would be a disappointment, which has actually caused me to fret more than I should about the exam."

NARRATOR: "It's for that reason that I find myself in the library after class, poring over the textbook. Pretty simple things to look over; some formulas of velocity, a few bits about friction... A walk in the park compared to my dreaded English exam. Never was good with languages... As I flip through my notes one more time, my mind begins to wander. After these exams are over, things should get easier. Soon we'll be graduated. Then off to college, hopefully. I remember my abortive attempt to find out what Emi plans to do after high school. Hmm, she avoided the subject pretty deftly, as I recall. Heck, it seems that just about every time I push too hard, she dances around the subject. Or distracts me through... other means. Like a few days ago at lunch, when Rin wasn't around... Heh."

YUUKO: "I've done it!"

NARRATOR: "I'm startled from my reverie by Yuuko's triumphant shout."

HISAO: "Gah!"

NARRATOR: "Yuuko seems mortified at my sudden starting."

YUUKO: "Oh my god! I'm so sorry! I just got - and I really wasn't - and it's just that—"

NARRATOR: "As she stutters, I move to quickly calm her down before she gets too agitated."

HISAO: "Woah, hey."

NARRATOR: "My words seem ineffective. Yuuko continues to work herself into a complete frenzy."

YUUKO: "And it's a library and I shouldn't be—"

HISAO: "Easy there, just calm down."

YUUKO: "And really I'm setting a bad example, and now I'll get fired because I can't do anything right—"


NARRATOR: "Shouting seems to work, though I draw the ire of several other students studying in the library. Yuuko snaps to attention, like a soldier who's just heard the captain bark an order."

YUUKO: "Sorry! Sorry!"

HISAO: "Calm down, it's okay. You just startled me a little, and that's only because I was daydreaming instead of studying. So really, you got me back on task."

NARRATOR: "This is a complete lie. But it seems to work. Yuuko takes a deep breath and seems to calm down a little. Though she keeps shifting around with a nervous energy that seems awfully familiar."

HISAO: "So, what's got you so excited anyway?"

YUUKO: "The Yamaku Cat Burglar!"

NARRATOR: "To her credit, Yuuko manages to convey her intense excitement in a whisper."

YUUKO: "I think I know who it is! I got an anonymous tip as to their identity! So I did some spying, and I think the tipster was right!"

HISAO: "Oh really? And who was this er, burglar?"

NARRATOR: "Yuuko shuts her mouth, shaking her head decisively."

YUUKO: "Nope, I can't tell you that."

HISAO: "Why not?"

YUUKO: "It's between me and the burglar. I can't risk you warning him that I'm on to his game. He could tip his hand early and blow town. Then I'm left with no perp."

NARRATOR: "When did Yuuko start talking like a hard-boiled detective?"

HISAO: "I wouldn't warn them! Why would I care?"

YUUKO: "If you've got to ask that question, then you don't need to know."

HISAO: "That doesn't make any sense, but okay. Congratulations, I guess?"

YUUKO: "Thanks! Uh, what for?"

HISAO: "The uh, cat burglar thing?"

NARRATOR: "Yuuko nods and smiles appreciatively."

YUUKO: "So! Studying for exams?"

HISAO: "Well, that was the plan. I'm not having much luck, though."

YUUKO: "Really? Is it because you can't find a book? I'm really sorry! I've been meaning to clean the shelves up for weeks now, but I keep getting distracted! I'm so sorry!"

HISAO: "Woah, wait. It's not that. I've got my book right here."

NARRATOR: "To illustrate the point and hopefully calm Yuuko down, I show her the textbook in front of me."

HISAO: "My mind just keeps wandering, is all."

YUUKO: "Is it because of the noise in here? I'm trying to be more strict about the noise levels, but I can't bring myself to yell at people... I mean aren't their lives hard enough without me throwing my authority around?"

HISAO: "No, it's not the noise level either, I promise. I'm just..."

NARRATOR: "Hell, I don't know. Worried about Emi. Worried about us. Worried about what happens after we graduate."

HISAO: "Emi's been kind of weird, lately."

YUUKO: "What do you mean?"

HISAO: "Well, you know how we're dating now? I just don't know that we're actually, you know... A couple. Or at least I don't know that we're beyond friends."

NARRATOR: "Though friends normally don't do the sort of things we do. Physically we're a couple. Coupling, at least."

HISAO: "It's like every time I try to find out more about her, or about what she wants to do with her life, she dodges the question. Like the other day, I was talking to her at lunch about some schools I've been looking into. And I asked her, “Have you looked into any schools lately?” She shrugs in response, says no, and when I ask why not she says that she doesn't think that far ahead. I asked why she had that policy, and she..."

NARRATOR: "I suddenly realize what I'm about to start describing, and wisely decide to clam up."

YUUKO: "She what?"

HISAO: "Er, she changed the subject. Wouldn't talk about it."

YUUKO: "Maybe it's an uncomfortable subject for her? Or she just doesn't think it needs explaining."

HISAO: "Yeah, but it's not just that. Every time I try to find out what's been bothering her, she changes the subject too. It's like she likes being with me, but not getting close to me."

NARRATOR: "Now that I've said it out loud, I feel worse. Yuuko digests this bit of information."

YUUKO: "You know, it seems to me that you're more serious about this than she is."

NARRATOR: "I can almost feel my stomach twist into a knot. She's right. That's exactly what it seems like."

HISAO: "But is that really what's going on? I mean..."

YUUKO: "Sorry! I'm just talking nonsense! You shouldn't take my advice, you barely know me! I'm just the librarian, and I'm single so you can imagine I can't know what I'm talking about!"

HISAO: "No, I think... I think you have a point."

NARRATOR: "As much as it hurts to even consider it. Yuuko seems to try desperately to find a way to soften the blow somewhat."

YUUKO: "Er, look. I'm probably wrong, but if you want to be sure of how obviously wrong I am, maybe you should just talk to her? Get some time alone and just ask about it. And don't let her change the subject, either!"

HISAO: "Yeah, maybe I should do that."

NARRATOR: "Or maybe I should just enjoy what I have. We have fun hanging out, after all. And the runs are nice, and the other activities are nice, and talking to her is nice... Do I really need to get closer to her? What I've got right now is pretty good. But that's silly. I want to get closer to her. I want to be able to help her out with whatever is bothering her. But... maybe I should wait until after exams are over. Maybe she'll brighten up once the stress has passed. If she does, then I don't need to worry about it any more. But if she doesn't, well. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

NARRATOR: "I thank Yuuko for her advice and head back to my room. Maybe I'll be able to concentrate more on my studies in there."

Next Scene: Phantom Pain

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