MISHA: "She might be slacking off somewhere~! What a useless woman~!"

NARRATOR: "Hanako nods quickly and retreats with haste, obviously to avoid any further contact with Shizune. Unfortunately, this turns their attention fully back to me."

MISHA: "But Hicchan is not useless, right? Right? He said so himself~! Wahaha~!"

NARRATOR: "I can see where this is going, and I do not want any part of it, not after that experience yesterday."

HISAO: "Well, good luck with your preparations..."

NARRATOR: "I start packing my bag, ready to make a break for the exit. Unfortunately I'm all the way on the other side of the room. The short distance to the doorway seems like a vast No Man's Land to me now. Shizune and Misha both start maneuvering slowly in front of me, cutting off my route of escape in an unsettlingly cautious way that makes me think of ship-to-ship combat."

MISHA: "I think Shicchan is saying that you should help us, Hicchan~!"

HISAO: "Gee, I wouldn't know, she's so subtle."

MISHA: "But~! that's the intent, so, please? I can't keep up, we have to actually build stalls for the festival, almost all of them all by ourselves, can you believe that? Hammering boards together, over and over again, for hours, it's really hard! I'm so used to it I was doing swinging motions in class, and I didn't even know it!"

NARRATOR: "She bangs her desk a few times, imitating hammer blows."

MISHA: "It's so repetitive, I can't stand it! And yesterday, I actually hammered all the boards on top of each other... It was just a stack of boards all nailed together, and then I had to take it apart and do it all over again, and I got yelled at and laughed at~!"

HISAO: "Uh..."

MISHA: "So..."

NARRATOR: "She clamps a hand down on my shoulder and grins, quickly running her tongue across her teeth mischievously."

MISHA: "Do you have any plans for today, Hicchan? I wonder if you do~."

HISAO: "Sure I have plans..."

MISHA: "Really~? You're going to help us, right?"

NARRATOR: "I notice her hands are moving constantly. She's signing everything we both say so that Shizune can understand. Shizune is being somewhat quiet today. Is she still angry? Well, probably at least a bit. I can see it in her eyes. But, this could also just be another way of trying to guilt me into lending her a hand. I have to find a way out of this."

HISAO: "Hey, I should go now, to the library. You know, homework... I should get going, shouldn't I? I have to be diligent, because I'm a new student, and all, so I have to make a good first impression, right? Yeah... See you later, then!"

NARRATOR: "I turn to bolt for the door, but Shizune is blocking my path, her arms crossed over her chest and a stern expression on her face. She wags a finger tauntingly and begins signing to Misha with the manner of a squad leader giving directions to his fellow soldiers."

MISHA: "It didn't seem like you were in any rush to get to the library, Hicchan~! That's right, Shicchan~, it does seem like he was probably going to slack off for the rest of the day. Hahaha~! Wahaha~! You're surrounded~!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Let's go to the student council room~!"

NARRATOR: "She lets out a chuckle, and then breaks into laughter."

MISHA: "I'm sorry, Hicchan, I feel bad, but this works out for everyone, right?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "That's right, Shicchan! Yes~, that's a good point too."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Yes, this is beneficial to everyone, it solves all our problems."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Yeah yeah~!, I also thought he'd be more appreciative of our efforts."

NARRATOR: "They pull themselves closer, as if they are about to pounce."

HISAO: "Hey guys, two-on-one isn't very fair, is it?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

NARRATOR: "She keeps looking forward, impassive, then gives a sinister smile."

MISHA: "Come on, we have a lot of work to do! Let's go to the student council room~!"

HISAO: "Gee, I don't know..."

NARRATOR: "Misha laughs."

MISHA: "Deja vu~?"

NARRATOR: "She chortles, before letting out another laugh."

MISHA: "Hahaha, you know, my horoscope said it'd be a good day for me today."

MISHA: "And now that you're going to help—"

NARRATOR: "Shizune signs quickly to her."

MISHA: "Right~!, I mean, now that you've decided to help us, completely of your own free will, I'll be able to take it easy! Lucky~, huh?"

NARRATOR: "I open my mouth to say something but then realize there's no point. I refocus on trying to think of a way out of this. No, their actions are clearly deliberate, there's no sense in attempting to reason with them. You can't reason with madmen. I frown, and they don't even notice my discontent, further proving my suspicions. They seem pretty relaxed now. I guess they think they've already won, so they're letting their guard down. That's kind of arrogant. They pass forward in front of me as they move through the doorway... And I stealthily walk backwards back into the classroom as they step into the hallway, turning towards the stairwell. I let out a sigh of relief and quickly pack the rest of my stuff so I can make my escape. The classroom door slams shut."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "That wasn't very nice, there. Hahaha, you really got us good, though. Didn't he, Shicchan?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Right, right... ...Hahaha! What was that about? I thought you said you'd help us! And then you bailed on us! And you thought you would get away with it, didn't you?"

NARRATOR: "The indignant expression vanishes and she begins to laugh hysterically, calming down only after an aggravated look from Shizune."

MISHA: "Oh, ah... Yeah~, you thought you could get away with it! But, a criminal always returns to the scene of the crime!"

NARRATOR: "I didn't even manage to leave the classroom in the first place. No, wait, I didn't even agree to help in the first place."

MISHA: "Not very bright, are you, criminal? Thinking you can just shirk your duties like that... How low, Hicchan~!"

HISAO: "I'm a criminal? What did I do? What's the charge? What am I guilty of?"

MISHA: "That's for the courts to decide, criminal! I don't think we have to tell you that! Besides, you're the criminal here, you know what you did!"

HISAO: "Have you ever read “The Trial,” by Kafka?"

MISHA: "No, what's that, Hicchan~? What does that have to do with this?"

HISAO: "I read it a few months ago. It's about these people who run a kangaroo court on a guy who just wants to live his life. They refuse to leave him alone, and he can't fight the power."

SHIZUNE: "... ..."

MISHA: "Hicchan, what does that have to do with anything? Hey~!, what does that mean?"

NARRATOR: "She turns back to me after signing back and forth for a lengthy amount of time."

MISHA: "You know, we're both a little disappointed in you. You've let us down, Hisao."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Dropped the ball."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Left us hanging. And out in the cold~."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Is that any way to treat a person? To run away from your responsibilities, to abandon your comrades?"

MISHA: "We think you owe it to us to honor your commitment."

HISAO: "What? But I didn't commit to anything~!"

NARRATOR: "My breathing catches in my throat and I momentarily start choking."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "That's not true, Hicchan! You said you are not useless, you definitely said it, yes, definitely, definitely definitely~! We are calling you on those words now~! You better prepare to show you are not a useless guy! Your honor will be soiled forever if you try to get out of this~! So for the rest of the day, we are going to hang out together, just the three of us, and work hard!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "You can't fool us! You should be happy, you're doing your school a great service. Ask not what your school can do for you... But what you can do for your school! Hahaha! Hahahahahahaha!"

NARRATOR: "How depressing."

MISHA: "Cheer up, cheer up, Hicchan!"

NARRATOR: "She slaps me hard across the back with enough strength to knock the air out of my lungs. I gasp to breathe."

MISHA: "Besides, aren't you happy you get to spend the day with two cute girls? Hahahaha!"

NARRATOR: "I guess they are right. I did blurt those words out. Accepting my fate, I follow them to the student council room..."

NARRATOR: "...And hammer the final nail into the stall. It took all of the afternoon, and dinner time is nearly over. But it is done now. Shizune pulls out a roll of measuring tape and a small level, and inspects it thoroughly. She smiles, looking pleased, then motions for Misha to come over."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "She says you did a very good job. In fact, you might actually have a gift for this."

MISHA: "Wow, I'm impressed, too. And that was fast, have you done this before?"

HISAO: "No. Never. Never before. And I never will again."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Well, our quota for the day is six stalls. In a few minutes, me and Shicchan should finish this one."

MISHA: "That means~... four more to go! We're making good time, she says~!"

MISHA: "Isn't this great fun?"

HISAO: "What?"

NARRATOR: "I could think of a million things I'd rather do, but I suppose everyone has to do their share for the festival, even me."

HISAO: "You're both lucky that I'm helping you two out, if I really didn't want to, I could have gotten out of it easily."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Really, Hicchan?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Wahaha~! Shicchan thinks you are just running your mouth! Japanese people have no flight or fight reflex, Hicchan~!"

NARRATOR: "Shizune tents her fingers deviously."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Definitely~! Definitely, definitely~! If you really wanted to escape, you would have taken immediate action~! That is how you know someone is serious; when they have no doubts, no regrets!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Maybe it was a bad idea to tell you that, since now Hicchan knows what to do next time~."

NARRATOR: "But, just the fact that she is all right with telling me this shows me that she doubts I'll be able to act on it. That only makes me want to do it more, and I almost want the opportunity to do so to arise again. But if that happens, she might get me again somehow."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Shicchan says she is happy now."

NARRATOR: "Much, much later in the evening, we are looking at six completed stalls. With the pride of a job well done, we sit back and admire the fruits of our labor, not sharing a word between us. Just admiring. I realize I'm feeling quite thirsty."

HISAO: "Hey, isn't there a vending machine out in the hall? They're on all day, right?"

MISHA: "Yeah, the drinks are very cheap, too. We usually get something from there on days like this."

NARRATOR: "I dig around in my pocket, and find a single hundred yen coin."

HISAO: "Is this enough? I'm feeling kind of thirsty."

MISHA: "A hundred yen? You can get any drink in the machine with that."

HISAO: "That's good, that's very good, then."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Ah, wait a second."

MISHA: "Hm? What is it, Shicchan? Do you want him to get you a drink too? Hahaha!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Hicchan, you've really helped us out, so today I - I mean Shicchan, will treat you. Hey, what about me?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "What would you like? I'm feeling thirsty myself? So am I!"

HISAO: "Hm, I don't know. Anything's fine. I guess the melon soda."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Hey, wait, Shicchan! I also want a drink! Aw...! You know, it's times like this that I think she is just teasing me."

HISAO: "That's probably it. I'm sure she'll get you something, right?"

MISHA: "Yeah, she usually does. But... you never know..."

HISAO: "Heh."

NARRATOR: "Shizune comes back with two melon sodas and a can of fruit juice. She hands me one of the sodas, and the other to Misha."

MISHA: "Thanks, Shicchan~! I had total faith that you'd get me one, I knew I could count on you! Wahahaha! But how did you know this was what I wanted? I usually get something else."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "What? You knew I'd want to try it? And that I like these kinds of childish things? Hahahaha! Hahahaha!"

NARRATOR: "I gesture my thanks to Shizune, who smiles and nods."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Hey, Hicchan..."

HISAO: "Yes?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "We've been spending a lot of time together. Already, in such a short time, we've done so much. We should both stop beating around the bush. What I'm trying to say is,"

NARRATOR: "It sounds a lot like she's going to ask me out, but that can't be it. Nevertheless, my heart is beating like a jackhammer. Damn, this reminds me of another similar scene earlier this year. I try to say something, but my brains can't decide whether to stop her or to tell her to continue. I feel myself blushing all the way to the ears."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "What I'm trying to say is... Would you like to join the Student Council?"

HISAO: "Ah, what a disappointment."

MISHA: "Hahaha! Hahahaha! Hahahahaha! Wahaha! Hahahaha! Did you think she wanted to ask you out, Hicchan? Hahahaha! Hahaha! Hahaha! Hahahaha! Hahahahahahahaha!"

NARRATOR: "I feel very embarrassed right now, I can feel myself getting even redder in the face. Shizune also tries to hide a blush after Misha translates, and then puts a few sheets of paper in front of me."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "So, how about it? All the paperwork is right here. And you are sitting down, anyway. You look very at home here. Drinks and everything~!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "What do you say?"

NARRATOR: "She quiets down a little and asks again a little more solemnly."

MISHA: "Hicchan, what do you say? You don't exactly hate this, right?"

NARRATOR: "I'm more than a little surprised by this sudden change of tone. I don't really know how to react to it. For one thing, she isn't shouting uproariously with no regard for tact. Before, I'm sure she knew already that I was going to say no. This time, she seems actually serious."

MISHA: "I think maybe you should join. Not just because we could use your help, but, well, you're hanging out with us anyway. I think Shicchan would like it if you would join as well. It's not like you hate us or anything, right? It wouldn't hurt if you joined. And I'd appreciate it if you would."

NARRATOR: "She seems to be having a hard time getting her words out, which is strange for someone talkative like Misha. For some reason, I'm almost troubled by it. My eyes drift over to Shizune, who stares back at me tentatively, absentmindedly cleaning her fingernails."

MISHA: "If you don't want to join, I promise we won't ask again, but if you did, we would be really happy."

NARRATOR: "Both Shizune and Misha seem to be unable to look me in the eye. I can't lie, the thought of being around two such cute girls is something that I couldn't possibly pass up. I'm not looking forward to this kind of work every day, but there should be less after the festival. At least, I hope so."

HISAO: "All right. I guess it can't hurt, so, why not?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Wonderful. Wonderful! Ahahaha~!"

"Shizune tents her fingers in satisfaction."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "She'll fill everything out, Hicchan. Congratulations, you are officially a member of the Student Council now!"

HISAO: "Great. I'm not looking forward to a lot of work. To be honest, I've never done any student council activities before. But maybe it'll be a positive experience?"

NARRATOR: "Misha starts to clap, laughing exuberantly as she does."

MISHA: "Congratulations, Hicchan!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Congratulations!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Congratulations!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Congratulations!"

HISAO: "I get the message."

NARRATOR: "I can't help but smile, finding such a display childishly cute."

MISHA: "The Student Council is always busy, you know! But for today, we're done. See you tomorrow, Hicchan! We still have work left, so we'll be counting on you!"

NARRATOR: "I leave the room, feeling totally wiped out. The grounds are totally deserted, and the school looks pretty ominous this late. The council office is the only window with lights on any more. Is this what the Student Council will be like? My body might not be able to take it."

NARRATOR: "Adhering to the nurse's nagging voice in the back of my head, I set my alarm clock to wake me up early enough to go jogging again. I made a promise and I'm going to keep it. Besides, Emi is bound to rat on me if I don't show up. But it's not all that bad."


Next Scene: Exercise

NARRATOR: "I'm feeling tired so I set my alarm clock to wake me up as late as I can afford, while still making it to the first class. The nurse's voice is almost nagging in the back of my head about morning jogs. I make a resolution to make up for it by going for a walk after school tomorrow. Emi won't care either way, I bet."


Next Scene: Invisible Hat