NARRATOR: "The next day, I walk up to my usual vending machine at lunch only to find that it's out of my favorite drink. Secreted so far away from most of the classrooms, between a storeroom and the library, it's like no one knew about it. I'd expected a vending machine so close to the library to be booming with customers, but then again, the library is empty most of the time, and anyone who goes there is only doing it to look for stuff to pad a paper with. No one stays there longer than they absolutely have to. For the past month, it's been working out in my favor, but the trade-off with a vending machine no one knows about is that it's never restocked. Settling for a can of orange soda, I decide on drinking it here instead of waiting until I get to the cafeteria, when the library door opens next to me."

YUUKO: "Ah... I've been looking for you!"

NARRATOR: "Yuuko seems to be acting a lot more assertive than usual today, although it isn't enough to keep her from going back to mumbling immediately afterwards."

YUUKO: "R-return your books, please. I mean... the library's books. The books you checked out are really overdue. Some of them are on waiting lists..."

HISAO: "Oops. I forgot. I keep checking out new ones, and forget the return the old ones."

YUUKO: "That happens to me all the time at the university library, it's so embarrassing."

HISAO: "Do they send someone to try and get you to bring them back?"

YUUKO: "No... The university library is bigger, they don't notice if I happen to borrow something longer than normal. It's convenient, because their policy on keeping the books too long is... really strict, stricter than here..."

NARRATOR: "I like how despite what she said, Yuuko has no problem with borrowing books for longer than she is supposed to anyway. It makes her being so on top of my own lateness a little hypocritical. It takes a thief, I guess. Catching on to the meaning of her words around the same time I do, Yuuko clams up and starts backpedaling furiously."

YUUKO: "...Um... ah... That's different... from this situation! It's totally different..."

NARRATOR: "Yuuko stares at her nails for a second as if she really wants to bite them, but is too self-conscious to do so."

YUUKO: "For instance, how long it's been... You checked out some of these books months ago, Hisao. Sorry... It's just that, other people want to read them, too. If you're a slow reader, that's okay, though..."

HISAO: "No, it's a total screw-up on my part. To be honest, I haven't even read some of them. I shouldn't keep taking out books when I have a backlog."

YUUKO: "That's not good..."

HISAO: "Yeah, it really isn't..."

NARRATOR: "Now I'm starting to copy her habit of trailing off quietly. Her awkwardness is very contagious, for some reason. That said, I'm surprised. Yuuko seems almost normal today, although every now and then, her waitress-y nervous tics keep popping back up. Come to think of it, she didn't act this way when I first met her. She was a little clumsy and neurotic, but it wasn't anywhere near this severe until Shizune, Misha, and I ran into her at the Shanghai. It could be that Yuuko has a complex about having kids from the school seeing her waitressing. I guess it was a little odd for her to pick the closest café to the school to work in, then. In that case, maybe the place having so few customers could be considered a lucky break."

HISAO: "Well, I get it. I'll return them right after school."

YUUKO: "As soon as possible, please. Um... wait, can I ask you for one more thing?"

HISAO: "Sure, what is it?"

YUUKO: "I... I have to go for a while, but I can't just leave the library empty... Sorry, but can I ask you to watch it while I'm gone? Just for a little bit, I'll be right back as soon as possible! You're in the Student Council, so I'm sure if you did it, it would be okay."

HISAO: "All right, I'll do it, don't worry ab—"

YUUKO: "Thank you!"

NARRATOR: "Yuuko quickly slides forward as if she's so grateful she is about to give me a hug, but she stops two centimeters into it, which ultimately just makes the gesture look extremely confusing. I'm also surprised that she can control her momentum so well, since she seems kind of clumsy. Before I can say as much as “You're welcome,” she is already dashing off with the urgency of someone late to an appointment. That could be the case, but I wouldn't feel safe assuming so. It's Yuuko, and she seems like the kind of person to treat everything that way."

NARRATOR: "Now that I'm in the library, I feel a bit silly. I don't really know what I'm supposed to do. Should I sit down like I normally would and read? It probably would do, but wouldn't meet Yuuko's high standards. Maybe I should sit at the librarian's desk, and give anyone who comes in a stern and analytical glare. I use Shizune's as a starting point, and practice it a couple times in the mirrored surface of a pen. I think it looks pretty good. Frustratingly, no one comes in, so I give up on the idea quickly, and decide to just go looking for Hanako instead. It's deserted. I think I see someone, but the second I blink, whoever it is is gone. As soon as I return to Yuuko's desk and crack open an interesting-looking book, a familiar person swings in front of me like a falling pendulum."

KENJI: "Yo, librarian, I've been looking for you for like, ten minutes. What?! It's you? Man, you must really get around, or the Student Council makes you get around. Those bitches! How could they? Slave drivers!"

NARRATOR: "He must be exaggerating, because it took me thirty seconds just to do a slow walk around the whole place. The thought is overridden by my surprise to see him."

HISAO: "Where did you come from? What are you doing here?"

KENJI: "What, can't a guy go to the library now? I can't even go to the library without some young buck like you giving me the third degree over it. I see some girl coming in here all the time, but no one ever asks her what she's doing here. Is it because she reads and I don't?"

NARRATOR: "He must be talking about Hanako. Although I suppose they both avoid people, I want to tell him that reading is what you usually do in a library. So if he's not reading, whatever he's doing is bound to make him look way more suspicious than her. In the end, though, I'm too surprised by him practically appearing out of thin air."

HISAO: "That— that doesn't tell me what you are doing here."

KENJI: "I'm here because of you."

NARRATOR: "His response makes me feel confused. Maybe I fell asleep and this is all just some weird dream, and this Kenji isn't real, but really my subconscious. Is he going to start giving me deep but vaguely-worded advice now?"

KENJI: "Because of you, I got chased out of my dorm by feminists. Now, I wander this library, like a soldier without a country, or a ghost. I should haunt you, for ruining things for me."

NARRATOR: "It's a shame, it would have been an interesting dream, but it seems like this is the real deal."

KENJI: "Yeah, you had to start working with women, and that brought them to my door. You remember that? You should, since you were there. After that day, I knew they were on to me. I should have trusted my instincts, but I was young and stupid."

HISAO: "That wasn't even a week ago."

KENJI: "Then, my dad called and said one of my letters hadn't been delivered. The post office couldn't have lost it, so it must have been intercepted. Information warfare! That's when I knew my secret hideout was compromised. Now I'm on the run, like a fugitive. It's code red."

HISAO: "Dorm rooms aren't secret, they put your name and number on a board right in the doorway."

KENJI: "I know, I saw that. They're diabolical. Why not just put up a big Wild West wanted poster, if they're gonna be like that?! “Wanted: Dead or Alive!” Probably alive, so they can clone me or turn me into a grasshopper."

NARRATOR: "Jumping without warning into the empty chair opposite me, Kenji takes out a cigarette and starts spinning it between his fingers. I've never seen him smoking before, so it must be for effect."

KENJI: "I can't even live where I want to any more. This is where it all begins. The tactical brilliance... I mean, once they're in your home, it's over, like termites. If the feminist plan for dominance STARTS there, where the fuck can we go? The only question is how they could take a page out of the termite playbook when women are naturally repelled by wood."

HISAO: "“You can never go home again.” Is that how the saying goes?"

KENJI: "Man, I don't know about never. I was just there. I don't know anywhere else I can shower and get new clothes. And eat, and use the bathroom. And watch TV. I have to keep watching the news, to keep informed."

NARRATOR: "For someone ousted from his dorm room and living on the run, he sure has no qualms about going back there several times a day for long periods of time. But by now he's slowly turned away from me and is talking to a revolving display of murder mysteries. There's really no point in interrupting him, I guess. I finish off my soda and throw the can into the basket near the door. It hits the rim, but goes in anyway. I silently pump my fist. Kenji quickly gets up and starts to head towards the door. I wasn't really paying attention; I hope I didn't fist pump at an inappropriate moment."

HISAO: "Where are you going?"

KENJI: "You kept sucking down that juice."

HISAO: "So? It wasn't even juice, it was soda. And it's gone now. And what do you mean, “sucking it down?” I had two sips."

KENJI: "Yeah, right, you had like fifty million sips."

HISAO: "That's not even possible."

KENJI: "Maybe for you; I go beyond the impossible all the time. Okay, whatever, now I'm thirsty too. I'm going to get my own juice, I'll be right back."

NARRATOR: "He does come almost right back, so quickly that I suspect he knows about my secret vending machine."

KENJI: "I got you one, too. Hope you like grape juice. We're even for the pizza, now."

HISAO: "Thanks."

NARRATOR: "I want to tell him that I lent him nearly ten times the cost of a can of grape juice, but that might make me seem petty. Unopposed, Kenji sits down and starts furiously drinking juice like a man with a vendetta against grapes."

KENJI: "You know, it's a lucky break for me that I managed to run into you here, man. I kinda need you to do me a favor."

NARRATOR: "Although it's cynical, I wonder if him getting me juice was so he could ask me for this favor. If so, it's very transparent, and poorly timed. I doubt Kenji would think about something so deeply, though. Just asking for things straight out is more his style."

KENJI: "I need you to recommend me some books."

HISAO: "But I thought you didn't read."

KENJI: "How did you know?"

HISAO: "You told me. You said you think people discriminate against you because you don't read."

KENJI: "Well, they do. And I do read, I read audio books, because that's the way of the future. I have to read a book a month for Literary Studies, though, and I found out that the school doesn't really accept such classics as “Advanced Cryptography.” If I don't read a bunch of books, they're gonna fail me. I can't fail Literary Studies... that would make me illiterate. That would mean my mom was right. My mom can't be right. I'll just have to study literacy as much as possible."

HISAO: "What about doing some extra credit?"

KENJI: "No thanks. It's bad enough I'm gonna have to carry around these stupid things now."

NARRATOR: "He picks up a dictionary, flips through it, and places it on the murder mystery rack behind him."

KENJI: "I can't believe this is actually the medium that our ancestors used to look at porn."

NARRATOR: "I spit my drink all over the book I'm still holding, damaging it beyond any hope of repair. I quickly check the back and see its suggested retail price is 7900 yen. I think I might have a heart attack."

KENJI: "Wow, destroyed. Shouldn't have done that, though, they take vandalism super seriously here. You're gonna get caned."

NARRATOR: "He chortles, amused, before taking an extremely long, loud sip from his can of juice."

HISAO: "It's not vandalism, I didn't do it on purpose. You made me do it, with your words. And what do you mean caned? I don't want to be caned."

KENJI: "Wait, chill out, I didn't mean they actually cane you, they just make you pay for it, and really, really yell at you. It's like they were going to bite my ass off. Still not that big a deal."

HISAO: "I don't care if it's figurative, I don't want to get caned, or get my ass bitten off, or any kind of punishment, you... you dumbass. What am I going to do? I'm the only person in here. That she knows of, anyway. I can't even throw the book in the trash. It will be found. Then she'll know."

KENJI: "Damn, dude, stop being so weird."

HISAO: "How is it weird to not want to be fined?"

KENJI: "Man, stop flipping out, man."

HISAO: "I'm not flipping out, I'm trying to save money."

KENJI: "So cheap."

NARRATOR: "I'm about to strangle him when I hear Misha's “wahaha” coming up the hallway. Apparently, Kenji hears it too, and uses the opportunity to quickly vanish behind the autobiography section. Like the wind."

MISHA: "Hi, Hicchan~!"

NARRATOR: "Misha shouts exuberantly, dragging an embarrassed Yuuko behind her."

MISHA: "Hicchan~! Were you talking to yourself?"

NARRATOR: "On one hand, saying yes could make me look kind of crazy. On the other hand, if I blow Kenji's cover, he might go off and make me look crazy by association."

HISAO: "Yes."

MISHA: "Ahaha~! That's okay~! Don't be embarrassed, Hicchan; I do it too, sometimes, when I'm alone! La~ la~ la~."

YUUKO: "Um... nothing happened while I was gone?"

HISAO: "Absolutely nothing."

YUUKO: "It smells like... grapes."

HISAO: "I'm wearing grape-scented cologne."

NARRATOR: "I lie brazenly and obviously. From her reaction, I'm going to assume that she knows I'm lying, or thinks I have an abysmal sense for colognes. Since the can of grape juice I drank from is still right there, it's likely to be the former. Fortunately, she doesn't ask any follow-up questions."

HISAO: "What are you two doing together?"

MISHA: "We had lunch together~! Strictly business, a business lunch~!"

NARRATOR: "I try to picture Misha in a suit, having a business lunch with anyone. Somehow, I just can't see it."

HISAO: "What kind of business?"

YUUKO: "You don't know?"

MISHA: "Ahaha~! It's nothing~, nothing~. It's normal for one part of the Student Council to not know what the other is doing~!"

HISAO: "Hey, don't “nothing, nothing” something like that. That isn't normal at all. In fact, it's bad. We're only three people."

NARRATOR: "Yuuko laughs nervously. She must be terrified."

YUUKO: "Misha says that you want to put posters in the library... for the elections. Um... even though they are really far away, I guess it's okay. I didn't know that I could even decide those kinds of things..."

MISHA: "You can~! Isn't that great~? Ahaha~! Aren't you happy? Yay~ yay~!"

NARRATOR: "Misha grabs Yuuko's hands and forces her to clap joyously for herself. Yuuko doesn't look very happy about learning that she has more responsibility and power than she'd previously thought."

MISHA: "Hicchan~! Since you're here, you can help me put them up!"

NARRATOR: "Pulling out a giant stack of posters from her bag, she cuts them in half like a deck of cards and passes me the slightly smushed half."

MISHA: "Shicchan had a really good idea~! We can put some flyers inside books, too~! Then, even if they try to ignore us, they won't be able to! They could even be spring loaded!"

NARRATOR: "Misha tries her best to convey the same tone Shizune used. It sounds close to the real thing, and also a little menacing."

HISAO: "She was probably kidding."

MISHA: "I liked it~."

YUUKO: "N-no... please... not that..."

MISHA: "A super ultra aggressive marketing blitz~! We're going to start going door to door, too~!"

HISAO: "That's a terrible idea."

NARRATOR: "Misha pouts in her best Shizune impression, fingertips tapping together rapidly in annoyance."

MISHA: "Hicchan~! You think every idea is terrible..."

HISAO: "Yeah, but that idea is too terrible, too terrible to ignore. I can't have that."

MISHA: "Wahaha~! Hicchan, that sounds like a challenge. Mutiny~, mutiny~!"

YUUKO: "M-mutiny is bad... Don't fight."

MISHA: "Wahaha~! It was just a joke~!"

YUUKO: "Okay... Don't fight."

MISHA: "Aha~ ha~ ha~."

NARRATOR: "The way Yuuko sounds when she's trying to be firm makes me think of a kindergarten teacher. I suppose that makes her very persuasive in her own way. Putting up the posters is surprisingly hard, simply because the library is already plastered with bulletin boards and flyers lining every couple meters, some of them in places so unlikely that I'd never noticed them before. Deciding which of them to peel off in favor of our own adds a lot of time to an otherwise simple job. By the time the bell rings to signal the end of lunch, Misha and I still have a sizable amount of posters left. As we leave, I decide to stick one right by the door. It must be one that Misha did; it has a little drawing of Shizune on the bottom."

Next Scene: Tongue-Tied