YUUKO: "Oh, hi."
HISAO: "Sorry. I'm here to return all those books I was supposed to."
YUUKO: "That's great, but I wish you had brought them back sooner. It wouldn't be a problem if the library had more copies of everything, but it doesn't... and they act like that's my fault."
YUUKO: "Other students. They can be... um, pretty pushy."
HISAO: "Sorry. It just kind of slipped my mind. It's been a pretty rough couple of days."
YUUKO: "Oh... Um, I suppose you don't want to talk about it..."
NARRATOR: "Yuuko meekly turns to the task of logging all the books I've brought back as returned, treating them with extreme care and precision, like she's a bomb disposal technician rather than a librarian. Over the past couple of days, I've been thinking about something Misha said. Of course, I'd thought about everything she said, but one thing in particular keeps coming back. She talked about how she didn't want to miss people or think about being apart from them any more. When I recalled those words, they stopped me cold, like a sharp slap across the cheek. In just a few months, we'll be graduating. Misha and Shizune were nearly inseparable, but after graduation, they might never see each other again. I wonder if that thought is what started all of this."
NARRATOR: "If Misha were to try and talk to Shizune about it, Shizune likely wouldn't think about it at all. It would sadden her, and for that reason, she would try and toss it away. For someone like Shizune, who is so quick to suppress her worries, it would be easy. Misha turned out to be more sensitive than she seemed. It would have crushed her, even more so because Shizune's reaction could come off as pretty cold. I don't know if that's how Shizune handled it, but it seems likely, and I can understand why she would act that way."
NARRATOR: "I can also understand why Misha would be troubled by the thought of drifting away from someone who is such an important part of her. I'd never thought about graduation until that moment. Then I began to think things like, “Has it really only been less than a year?” I started thinking of everyone I've met. Not only Shizune and Misha, but everyone else. They were fond thoughts. Then, I thought of losing them. Suddenly, I could understand Misha's anxieties. It could be nice to talk to someone about it."
HISAO: "Actually, I kind of want to."
YUUKO: "With whom?"
NARRATOR: "I can sense an obvious tinge of apprehension in her voice."
HISAO: "With you."
YUUKO: "Ah... Really? Are you sure? W-why me?"
HISAO: "Because you're an adult."
YUUKO: "That's it? Ahhhh... that's..."
NARRATOR: "Wincing, she fidgets a little in her seat, trying to get comfortable in a pretty uncomfortable-looking way. I guess this means she's okay with it."
HISAO: "Is it hard, being an adult?"
YUUKO: "Yes. I don't think I'm that old, though... It's surprising that students now, l-like Shizune and you, wear stuff like perfumes or cologne... I never did. I still don't use them... Um, by the way, you're not wearing your grape cologne today."
HISAO: "Yeah, it wasn't working out for me."
YUUKO: "Oh, that's good. I thought the same thing... Sorry."
NARRATOR: "Yuuko looks genuinely sorry, and I feel a pang of guilt. I smile, despite myself. A tiny lie like that can come back to bite me in the butt. For Misha, trying to conceal how she felt in order to put on a happy face for Shizune for so long must have been crushing."
HISAO: "Someone I know brought up that we're going to be graduating, and I realized that I've never thought about it before. I feel stupid that I could go so long and never think about these things. I've met a lot of great people, and I've never thought about what it's going to be like to graduate and maybe never see them again."
YUUKO: "There are still ways you could keep in touch..."
HISAO: "Yeah, I guess. I feel childish. I know everyone is going through the same thing, probably. I bet you hear this kind of problem a lot."
YUUKO: "N-no... I haven't been working here that long... I worried about the same thing when I graduated from high school. Um, I didn't go to school here, though. I also miss my friends... and I wish I had kept in touch with them better. I should have tried harder."
NARRATOR: "Yuuko isn't really helping me feel better, and she clams up quickly when she sees it on my face."
HISAO: "I don't want to look back and have those same regrets. I wonder if Shizune even thinks about that kind of stuff. Because she goes on sometimes, about how she doesn't want to live with any regrets."
YUUKO: "Wow... That sounds impossible, to me..."
NARRATOR: "I nod, only halfway wanting to agree."
YUUKO: "Even so... I think that is kind of admirable, too... Kind of brave. Don't you think so?"
HISAO: "“Brave” is a new way to put it."
NARRATOR: "Yuuko shakes her head insistently."
YUUKO: "It's true, though. And also kind of intimidating..."
HISAO: "Geez. You shouldn't be intimidated by high schoolers."
YUUKO: "I'll try..."
NARRATOR: "She turns away to start folding a sticky note over and over. Pretty idle behavior for a university student, but more importantly, I wonder if I said the wrong thing to her. Being around Shizune for so long, I can't stop reading as much as I can into every moment of silence. If Yuuko were the type of person who didn't get intimidated by high schoolers, it probably wouldn't be so easy to talk to her. It's all too easy to want to shed some negative quality of yours. When I think of everyone I know, it's those qualities that I like the best."
YUUKO: "Um... I don't think I really regret it. I thought, as long as I could remember the good times, that was enough. I don't know. ...Sorry."
NARRATOR: "I notice a couple students starting to trickle into the library, and decide that my time is up."
HISAO: "No, that was helpful. I feel like two of my friends are fighting because one of them is taking the fact that we might not see each other again after we graduate really hard. And the other is probably being stoic about it, which only makes it worse. I don't get how I'm supposed to handle this kind of situation. It doesn't seem like the kind of problem where I'll have to end up taking a side, but it could turn out that way, and then I have no idea what I'm going to do."
YUUKO: "You should tell them they shouldn't fight."
HISAO: "I know. Fighting is bad. It's not Shizune and Misha, by the way."
YUUKO: "Okay... Um, I wasn't really thinking that, though..."
NARRATOR: "How embarrassing. Even though I knew it would be, I still feel my cheeks redden, and even so, I still said something so transparent and blatantly a lie. But it could be that sometimes that is the right way."
HISAO: "Do you have any books about people who have to make hard decisions?"
YUUKO: "We have a lot of self-help books..."
NARRATOR: "It's funny that I can find that surprising, because I wouldn't have only a few months ago."
HISAO: "I meant “about,” not “for.” There aren't many, right?"
YUUKO: "Yes. Um, not many, I mean."
NARRATOR: "Though I feel a bit apprehensive about it, I want to talk to Shizune. I don't understand why I feel nervous about it, and that disgusts me a little. It also motivates me to look for her, right then and there, although I don't have to look very hard. She's in the student council room, as always. Worryingly, Misha isn't with her. When Shizune notices me and looks up from her paperwork, the first thing I ask is where she is."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "I don't know."
NARRATOR: "There is so much uncertainty in her answer that I can't let it go just like that."
HISAO: (signing) "She's missing a lot of school."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Are you the attendance police?"
HISAO: (signing) "That's really strange, coming from the Student Council president."
NARRATOR: "Shizune hides a laugh behind a cupped hand, and I start to think that I might be worrying for nothing, but then her laughter slowly fades away to a more serious and pensive expression."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "You're right. Yesterday,"
NARRATOR: "I catch the hint of a knowing smile on her face when she sees my poorly-hidden panic at the word. Despite her best efforts, she can't help being satisfied in eliciting surprise from everyone else, to the very end. Even then, I can see that she has bigger concerns from how quickly her smile vanishes."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "...before either of you noticed me, I saw what you were saying. I'm not stupid. If I hadn't, I could still see through Misha while we were walking back. Even if she hadn't told me everything later. She didn't make a big deal out of it, but any way you look at it, it's my fault, isn't it?"
HISAO: (signing) "What did she tell you?"
NARRATOR: "Shizune winces at the question, though it's clear she's been expecting it. She follows it up with a very grand gesture."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "A lot. Like, that I can be selfish, and confusing. I try too hard to bring people around me, and then push them away. I didn't know what I should do. I thought she was right to mention all of those things, so I just agreed with her, but that only made things worse. I don't understand."
NARRATOR: "Adjusting her glasses, she looks pretty tired. I hope it isn't because she's been busy avoiding Misha, but I can't help considering the possibility, seeing where this conversation is going."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's true. Even the Student Council being this small, and us always being swamped with work, is my fault. I might have even ended up driving a lot of people off, and away from the Student Council, acting like that."
NARRATOR: "Shizune wags a finger mischievously, acknowledging that “might” is an understatement. However, from how wearily she does it, it's obvious the humor is only to put me at ease, and therefore not genuine."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Like Lilly, for instance. She was the first person to join when I started trying to recruit people again after everyone else left, because they couldn't stand me, I guess. We managed to put together the last festival, and even ran a booth together at the last minute. But I didn't like her because I thought she was selfish, always holding us up in order to tend to one friend of hers or another, and leaving Misha and I alone to sort out things involving the whole school by ourselves."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "If there were any problem she was going through, she would leave us high and dry while she panicked over it, and wouldn't come back until it was solved. She would focus on it one hundred percent, and be too preoccupied to focus on any student council work! That was the worst, to me, that she could be so nice and still take so many people for granted. Why even join the Student Council, then? It seemed so shortsighted and selfish, don't you think? But, it's actually me who's that way."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Like Misha said, always trying to pull people close to me and then shutting them out. That is how I've treated her, which makes me a bad friend. And it feels like I did the same thing to you, then, so I guess I'm a bad girlfriend, too, even if Misha says that you might as well replace her. I'm angry that I screwed things up enough for it to get this out of hand. All I wanted was to..."
NARRATOR: "She pauses to look for the right words, tenting her fingers in concentration."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Make people happy, I think. Even though that seems like a simple way to put it."
NARRATOR: "As she rests her head against her hand, Shizune's bangs fall delicately across her eyes, hidden behind those polished glasses reflecting just the tiniest bit of light. It may be wrong to think so, but right now, she seems especially beautiful. Like a more complete person. It feels like this is my first chance to respond to her outpouring of emotions. Replacing Misha as Shizune's interpreter? Misha must be joking. It took all my energy to keep up with her just now, her signing filled with gestures that I've never seen before. Likely, they're habits picked up from Misha, and developed from years of them being together. I could never replace someone so close to her."
HISAO: (signing) "I like you because I like you, not because I got tricked into it by you."
NARRATOR: "Despite how hard she tried, anyway. I continue to stare back into her eyes, as sharp as ever. The first time I saw them, they had seemed a bit intimidating to me. Like the eyes of a predator. That hasn't changed, which I find reassuring."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "I still want to make everyone happy."
HISAO: (signing) "Starting with Misha?"
NARRATOR: "Shizune looks a bit annoyed that I would imply she would start with anyone else, and smiles confidently, as though a friend's sadness is a physical opponent she can just strangle into submission."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Of course; obviously; naturally."
NARRATOR: "Taking off her glasses, she leans back in her chair and lets out a sigh. It's the first time I've seen her without them on, but I don't get a good look before she slips them back on."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "But, I'm too tired to start today. First thing tomorrow. Do you want to help?"
HISAO: (signing) "Yeah."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "And... I have other student council stuff you could help me with, while you're at it."
NARRATOR: "Although it turns out that there isn't much other work at all."
Next Scene: Off by One