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NARRATOR: "The following days pass uneventfully and with surprising quickness. I find renewed motivation to learn sign language. It seems that I have a knack for learning sign, so it would be a waste to not do it, and falling behind would be even more unacceptable. Summer break is coming up. Even though I figured that student council work would see a drop-off proportional to how lethargic my classes are becoming, it doesn't happen that way. Every day, I get swamped under increasingly meaningless work. Despite how much I want to, I don't have even a free second to talk to Shizune nowadays. Every time I look at her, her face is buried in some book of records or some stack of papers that need to be checked over in triplicate."

NARRATOR: "Today, I woke up early to come to school before everyone else, hoping to catch Shizune. She has a habit of coming in first thing in the morning, to be more punctual than all the other students. Unfortunately, I think I am earlier than her. Hearing the student council room door click closed to my right tells me that isn't the case. I guess I got here just behind her. I enter the room and tap Shizune on the shoulder to get her attention. Maybe she expects a conversation, which is why she puts down the carton of orange juice in her hand."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Good morning."

HISAO: (signing) "Where's your better half?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "We are separate individuals."

NARRATOR: "Thinking about it, they must get that quite a bit. I can think of no other way to explain how ready she was with that answer."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "You're here early. That's good, you can help me look over some handouts. They're going out later today."

HISAO: (signing) "I came here early specifically so I could see you without having to do work."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "According to Misha, being early isn't new for you."

HISAO: (signing) "It's not new for you either."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Are you saying you want to race?"

NARRATOR: "Shizune adjusts her glasses nonchalantly, a gesture that belies how giddy she is inside about the thought of having something very petty to take competitively and seriously. I think the smaller the matter is, the more it excites her."

HISAO: (signing) "It's not a race. Do you want to make it a contest? I don't."

NARRATOR: "I almost forget to add the last part, the most important part."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "...Well, that's fine. There are too many days left in the school year, I'd get tired of it anyway."

NARRATOR: "With that, Shizune picks up her juice and finishes it off. I wonder if she's going to try and shoot the empty container into the trash, but she doesn't. In fact, she seems puzzled as to why I seem so disappointed. I'd better get to the point."

HISAO: (signing) "I just wanted to talk. Our break is practically here, you know. And we should spend more time together, anyway. I was thinking that we could do that over the summer."

NARRATOR: "Shizune's face turns as red as mine must be, and she starts adjusting her glasses, flustered. What an all-purpose gesture. She taps her fingers together in thought, considering her next words carefully."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "You mean like a date?"

HISAO: (signing) "Just because we're going out somewhere, that instantly makes it a date?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's not? I want it to be a date."

HISAO: (signing) "Then it is one."

NARRATOR: "Shizune approvingly claps her hands once, before adding on to my statement:"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "But not today. I'm going away for a week to visit my family."

NARRATOR: "That is an oddly formal way of putting it, and for that reason, my interest is piqued. Maybe her family is the prim and proper, traditional kind, living in a giant old-timey mansion with a little stream and koi pond, where everyone wears kimonos all the time. It's a wild assumption, but it's fun to speculate sometimes. I wonder if Shizune puts on the appearance of being a calm and mature good daughter like Lilly when she is with her family. I can't imagine it, but if there's even a possibility that it's true, then I must see it."

HISAO: (signing) "Only a week? It must not be that far of a trip, then."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Of course not, they're still in Japan, after all."

HISAO: (signing) "Really..."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It isn't like you can come with me. Is that what you're trying to say?"

HISAO: (signing) "Why can't I?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It isn't like you would enjoy it."

HISAO: (signing) "You don't know that. It could be fun. Ah, I almost forgot: you didn't answer my question. Are you going alone, or is Misha going with you? Does your family know sign?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Misha is coming along."

NARRATOR: "The part of the question left unanswered is the most telling. If Shizune's family can't communicate with her, I have to wonder what her childhood was like. She probably wrote everything on that pad she carries around and still produces out of nowhere sometimes. Usually, it's when neither Misha nor I are around. I can notice her from far away when she pulls it out like a last resort, grimacing the whole time."

HISAO: (signing) "If Misha is going, then I'm going to go, too."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Do you like Misha?"

HISAO: (signing) "It's the principle of the thing."

NARRATOR: "I entertain the notion that Shizune might actually be jealous, but I doubt it. She usually wears her emotions pretty plainly on her face, and I don't see anything that would support my theory right now."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "I think you're just bored. That's okay, though. All right, we'll all go together. It's what I hoped for in the first place. You can't skip out on Student Council today to pack your bags, just because you're coming with us on such short notice, it's no excuse!"

HISAO: (signing) "It's okay, I hardly have anything to pack anyway."

NARRATOR: "Shizune pauses, tenting her fingers thoughtfully."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "You must have come to this school on very short notice."

NARRATOR: "It could be that she is thinking back to the time when she and Misha unexpectedly shoved themselves into my room and caught a glimpse of all my medicines. That was an awkward moment I'd like to forget, and I don't like revisiting it. The way she tiptoes around the issue even now only makes me more uncomfortable."

HISAO: (signing) "I did. It was kind of an on-the-spot decision. It worked out better than I expected, though."

NARRATOR: "I hope Shizune won't pursue the matter, and to my relief, she doesn't."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "My home is in a particularly beautiful part of Saitama. We'll be leaving early in the morning, so be ready. Let's talk about it more later, okay? For now, those handouts won't look over themselves, and you're going to help me."

NARRATOR: "As Shizune dives into her work, pulling me along with her, I think that she seems almost, but not quite, excited to go."

Next Scene: United Nations

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