NARRATOR: "Once again, Hanako doesn't turn up for class. Try as I might to concentrate on other matters, this fact continues to distract me throughout the entire school day, and even as I walk through the school gardens to the dormitories. I don't think today being her birthday is a coincidence, either. I don't know the link between the two events though, nor do I have any idea on what she's feeling. Were it physical pain, I could at least provide some limited comfort. With something like this though, I have no idea where to start. I run the people I know through my head, thinking about whether they could help. Shizune and Misha don't know that much about Hanako, and what little they do know they can't tell me. Same for the nurse. In the end, there's only one person that knows Hanako well and would be willing to tell me anything."

NARRATOR: "Entering my dormitory room, I notice something that takes me off guard; it's starting to feel familiar. With everything that's going on around me, I'm thankful that this room's started to finally be somewhere I can relax a little. When I'd first entered Yamaku, it felt immediately foreign in every way, from the untouched neatness to the way it smelled. Focusing back on the task at hand, I throw my bag onto the bed as I open the top drawer of my desk. Before she left, Lilly told me the number to call her on while in Scotland and I wrote it down. In hindsight, I wonder if she knew something like this could happen. Now that she's out of reach, I realize just how much both Hanako and I have relied on her for guidance. I dig around drawer after drawer, looking for that damned piece of paper. Eventually, thankfully, I find it nestled under a borrowed library book."

NARRATOR: "I probably should have just entered it directly into my cell phone, come to think of it. Without further ado, I enter the numbers and anxiously press the call button."

NARRATOR: "Eventually the phone picks up, a feminine voice I don't recognize on the other end. It's probably Lilly's mother."

???: "<Good morning. This is Karla Satou. May I help you?>"

NARRATOR: "English? Suddenly finding myself unprepared, I realize I can't understand a word she says, either due to my limited vocabulary or her heavy accent. I should have anticipated this, since according to Lilly, her mother is a native Scot. I soldier on in the hope that she must know some Japanese, considering it's her daughter's native language."

HISAO: "Um, it's Hisao Nakai... speaking..."

NARRATOR: "An enthusiastic sound of realization can be heard as she recognizes the language. My feeling of relief is immense."

MRS. SATOU: "Ah, you must be one of Lilly's friends from school, correct?"

NARRATOR: "Even so, her accent means I have to concentrate to work out what she's saying."

HISAO: "Yes, that's right. Pleased to speak to you, Mrs. Satou."

MRS. SATOU: "It's so nice of her to find someone so polite! Lilly dear, it's for you!"

NARRATOR: "Her mother seems nice, if a little overenthusiastic given the mundane situation. There's a small silence as Lilly takes her time getting to the phone. In the distance, I can just make out her mother scolding her playfully for just getting up."

LILLY: "Hello, Lilly speaking."

HISAO: "You sound awful."

NARRATOR: "She makes a sound somewhere between a dying animal and a yawn. The one thing I did remember to check before calling was the time zone. It'd be pretty late in the morning over there, so she really has no excuse."

HISAO: "Not feeling well?"

LILLY: "Just tired. What time is it there?"

HISAO: "Late afternoon. School finished for the day not long ago."

LILLY: "Hanako's not well, is she?"

NARRATOR: "That was quick. My assumption that she must have known something like this could happen seems to have been on the mark."

HISAO: "How did you know?"

LILLY: "Because today is her birthday. I'd hoped she might have gotten at least a little better after coming to know you, but... How is she right now?"

HISAO: "She missed school today and yesterday. I still have to check up on her today. To be honest, after seeing how she was when I talked to her yesterday... I'm pretty anxious. I really have no idea what to make of it. Has this happened in the past? Is it related to her scarring in some way?"

LILLY: "Unfortunately so. Roughly the same thing happened last year when her birthday came up. As far as I can tell, it's because her parents died in the accident that caused her scarring, and Hanako blames herself for their deaths."

NARRATOR: "What she says does seem to make sense. If she's blaming herself on her birthday, she may well be ruing that she was ever born. Hanako had mentioned her stay in the orphanage to me. Maybe I should take some heart that she trusts me enough to tell me such a thing. Lilly seeming so in the dark about it though, almost to the extent that I am, is a surprise."

HISAO: "So that's why she lives in the student dormitories, as well. Has she told you any more about the accident?"

LILLY: "As close as we've come... she's very barely told me anything about what happened. What I know about it is largely conjecture."

NARRATOR: "She sounds depressed, almost defeated. Considering the trauma Hanako must have gone through, I really can't fault Lilly for not knowing. Nevertheless, she still seems to consider it a personal failing."

HISAO: "Don't blame yourself, Lilly. With everything she's gone through..."

NARRATOR: "There's a long silence from the other end of the line. I begin to wonder if the call cut out before the voice at the other end speaks once again."

LILLY: "There is another person, though, that has been a subject of worry for me as of late."

HISAO: "Oh?"

NARRATOR: "I run through the people she could be talking about in my head. The only friends she seems to keep very close are Hanako and I, though there is Akira as well..."

LILLY: "That person is you, Hisao."

NARRATOR: "There's another silence on the line, but this time it's caused by me. Making others worry about me is something I've very actively tried to avoid since coming to Yamaku. Indeed, even my interaction with Hanako has helped stave off any major health problems thanks to our relaxed and slow-paced lives."

HISAO: "Uh... huh. What is there to worry about over me?"

LILLY: "I apologize; I didn't mean any offense."

HISAO: "Sorry, I was just taken a bit off guard. Still, isn't Hanako a bigger problem at the moment?"

LILLY: "For some time now I've thought that the both of you may be feeding into each other's more worrying habits. I tried to amend this before leaving, but it seems to have done little."

HISAO: "“Worrying habits?”"

LILLY: "When I asked you about what you had in mind for the future, your answer was very similar to what Hanako has said in the past when that question was posed to her. It is well and good to want to protect her, but I fear that treating Hanako like this, as if she were a daughter or someone in need of special care, is only going to achieve the opposite."

NARRATOR: "The situation got effectively turned on its head. After everything that's happened, this is the first time I find myself doubting Lilly's judgment."

NARRATOR: "I don't want to admit it, but she may have a point. Something else bugs me, though."

HISAO: "And you tried to... “amend” this? Wait... our outing into the city?"

LILLY: "Quite astute. I thought that it might help if I dragged both of you out of Yamaku and into the wider world. I am thankful you became closer for it, though."

NARRATOR: "So she noticed that. I suppose she may well have been paying attention to us, and her hearing's incredibly good; quite likely good enough to have picked up what we were talking about, if she tried."

HISAO: "This sounds more and more like you were manipulating us."

NARRATOR: "Silence. It's a harsh way of putting it, but I have no intention of stepping back from those words."

LILLY: "I'm sorry. I was just... worried about you."

HISAO: "It's fine. I guess there are more important things anyway."

NARRATOR: "It's not a total surprise that she'd do such a thing. Her motherly nature can be slightly overbearing at times, but she does have the best of intentions."

HISAO: "So you think I should think about myself more instead of trying to cater to Hanako?"

LILLY: "That largely sums it up. Again, I'm sorry for not telling you this in a clearer way before going behind your back. I know I am at least as guilty of being overprotective of Hanako as you, but I fear that you are neglecting yourself in your efforts to give Hanako happiness."

HISAO: "Do you really think Hanako will be okay?"

LILLY: "She isn't as fragile as you think. I don't know exactly what experiences she's lived through, or what feelings she has in her mind, but she has managed to work her way through them until now. It's also my hope that giving her a little space will allow her to decide what she truly wants for herself, and give her the initiative to reach out for it. Please have faith in Hanako. That's all I ask."

HISAO: "I'll... I guess I'll think about it for a while."

LILLY: "That's good. Being rash won't get you anywhere. I know that at times you may doubt your relationship to Hanako, but she does..."

NARRATOR: "Lilly cuts herself off and takes a moment to reconsider her words."

LILLY: "Please keep in mind that I wouldn't have befriended you if I hadn't thought you a fundamentally good person. You're a good friend, both to myself and to Hanako."

HISAO: "Thank you. That helps."

NARRATOR: "We share some smalltalk to try and lighten the atmosphere, but it feels very stilted. There's a lot I don't know about Lilly's stay in Scotland, but after such a heavy subject, I want to be alone for a bit to think. After a few minutes, we end up saying our goodbyes and I set my phone on my desk."

NARRATOR: "Compared to Hanako's situation, mine feels utterly mundane. I still have both of my parents, I had a reasonably normal childhood, and unlike many in Yamaku, my condition isn't immediately visible to the public. But then again... isn't this just an attempt to justify the way I've been acting towards her? That may well be what our pasts were like, but when it comes to the future I still have no idea what I want to do. In school I've just concentrated on each day's work, and I've put off more and more things to cater to Hanako. I recall the words Mutou told me after Hanako's breakdown; about the purpose of Yamaku and my education. In hindsight, he was probably trying to push exactly the same thing. Just what have I been doing in the time since my heart attack? If I ever did manage to get Hanako out of her room and to open up, what then? I look out of my dormitory window as the sun slowly sets. It's a nice sight, but what I really savor is the quiet as the students return to their dormitory rooms. All I want to do now is think. I'm not sure how much time I have, but I want to work out where I'll go from here."

Next Scene: Continuing Melody

NARRATOR: "I listen carefully to what Lilly has to say, but I can't bring myself to agree with her. I want to be with Hanako more. I want to be a better friend to her, to support her when she needs support, and to be there when she most needs people. I think that now is one of those times. The memory of the store owner we met in town together still puts me off. Anyone who takes even the slightest glance at Hanako ends up staring, and to fault them for it would be completely hypocritical, given my own reaction. I don't like my own scarring either, but at least I can cover it up with something as simple as a shirt. I can't imagine a life where every day would be spent trying to hide myself as much as possible. And on top of that, Hanako doesn't even have people around her that would support her no matter what she looks like. I live away from my parents, but I can still contact and visit them when I wish. I mull over the best course of action in my head, and find myself trying to verbally agree with Lilly as softly and as ambivalently as I can. We make some smalltalk afterwards, but the both of us don't really have much stomach for it in the light of recent events. We say our goodbyes before I hang up. There is at least one thing I can do for Hanako. If I make this small gesture for her, I can only hope that she allows me to come that little bit closer."

Next Scene: Cut Petals

NARRATOR: "I listen carefully to what Lilly has to say, but I can't bring myself to agree with her. Hanako is a delicate person at the best of times, and after what happened when her birthday was brought up, I think this is the very last situation where we should be leaving her alone if she's deliberately secluding herself. It feels like Lilly has a very definite image of how best to deal with Hanako in her mind, though. Not just now, but in all the time that I've known the two. I mull over the best course of action in my head, and find myself trying to verbally agree with Lilly as softly and as ambivalently as I can. We make some smalltalk afterwards, but neither of us really has much stomach for it in the light of recent events. We say our goodbyes before I hang up. I want to talk to Hanako myself, to help her as best I can. The best thing for her right now would be to have someone close to her, not to be left alone."

Next Scene: Misstep