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NARRATOR: "I don't think I like riding on buses. Actually, I think I'm pretty comfortable saying that as a fact. They sway a lot, and they smell funny, and you can feel every bump in the road. I'm really not looking forward to this. Plus Emi's legs keep making a clanking noise that draws the attention of everyone else on the bus. She's in shorts again, and she's got long socks drawn up on her prosthetics so they don't look so obviously false again. But that doesn't stop the odd look or two every time her legs bump together with an audible clunk. I shift nervously in my seat, and Emi raises an eyebrow questioningly. She doesn't seem to mind the stares; either that or she doesn't even notice that people are staring. I'm sure she's gotten her fill of odd looks before. After a certain amount of time, I doubt she'd notice any more. Not that she'd ever tell me if I asked. Another fact is, I'm not just uncomfortable about the bus. I can't seem to come to terms with the fact that Emi appears to be trying to bring me closer while at the same time pushing me away."

NARRATOR: The nurse said she trusts me, even if it doesn't look like it. But I'm not sure I can trust the nurse. He's protective of Emi, just like I'm protective of Emi, and I'd be likely to say something to make her look good if someone asked me about her. So he might just be doing that. Still, there was something about the way he seemed genuinely surprised that Emi invited me along... Maybe last night's talk helped more than I think, but I'm still worried."

NARRATOR: "Meeting the parents is a big deal, right? Not that I haven't already met Emi's mother, but that was just as an acquaintance. Now it's going to be as Emi's boyfriend, with everything that implies. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, an echo of that snow-covered afternoon that feels like it was so long ago that it might as well be another life entirely. Except then, I didn't know what was going on; I also didn't have medication to help prevent things spiraling out of control. I've come a long way in terms of my physical health, and for the second time today I feel like I'll be able to live normally now, or at least as normally as possible. Now if only I could manage my relationship as well as I've managed my heart, I'd be in great shape."

EMI: "Well, we're here."

NARRATOR: "Emi grabs my hand as soon as we've stepped off the bus. She starts heading down the street almost immediately."

EMI: "Come on, we've got a couple blocks until my place."

HISAO: "What? Oh, okay."

NARRATOR: "I follow Emi down the street, watching her confident stride. She's setting kind of a quick pace for just a walk. I guess she's anxious to get there."

HISAO: "So does your mom do this sort of thing often?"

EMI: "Nah, not too frequently. Mom's never been much for playing hostess."

HISAO: "Oh yeah?"

EMI: "Yeah, my dad was always the one pushing her to have people over."

NARRATOR: "This sudden and unprompted reference to her father catches me off guard. And from the look on Emi's face, I'm not sure she meant to mention him. I think I've only ever heard her talk about him once. All I remember is that Emi's mom told me that he wasn't around any more."

HISAO: "Oh? Your mom prefers solitude?"

NARRATOR: "Emi laughs, either from relief that I didn't ask about her father or from finding my statement actually funny."

EMI: "Not at all! She's why I'm such an outgoing person, you know. She just prefers to be a guest rather than a hostess; it's less stressful that way, or so she says."

HISAO: "Clearly she's never had to meet her girlfriend's mother for dinner."

NARRATOR: "Emi giggles again and speaks in a teasing tone."

EMI: "Nervous, Hisao? You shouldn't be, you know! It's not that big a deal! Just dinner at my house, that's all!"

HISAO: "Yeah, but have you ever brought home a boyfriend before?"

NARRATOR: "I confess that part of me dreads hearing the answer to this. I know very little of Emi's past relationships - I don't even know if there were past relationships."

EMI: "No, I guess I haven't. Hey, maybe this really is kind of a big deal after all..."

HISAO: "Oh good, now I feel twice as nervous."

NARRATOR: "Though to tell the truth, I'm pretty happy to hear that I'm the first one. Maybe we've got something special after all. Bolstered by this new thought, I've managed to calm down considerably by the time Emi knocks on her front door."

EMI: "Hey, mom, open up! We're here!"

NARRATOR: "The door swings open, and Mrs. Ibarazaki stands grinning at her daughter. The grin is still surprisingly similar to Emi's. I'm never going to get used to that."

MEIKO: "You know, people normally wait for a few minutes before they start shouting at the door."

EMI: "And most mothers say hello to their daughters instead of scolding them right away."

MEIKO: "Ah, of course. Welcome home, dear. I've missed you."

NARRATOR: "An affectionate hug later we're inside, and it is only then that Emi's mom seems to remember that I'm actually here."

MEIKO: "And hello to you too, Hisao. How are you?"

HISAO: "I'm quite well, thank you. Nice to not have school to worry about for a little bit."

MEIKO: "Ah yes, you've finished up your exams, haven't you? That must be quite a relief for you both."

HISAO: "It's certainly a weight off of my mind, that's for sure."

EMI: "Mine too! I think I slept well for the first time in weeks last night from relief alone."

NARRATOR: "If this news is a surprise to Emi's mother, she doesn't show it. Still, her response betrays a note of interest."

MEIKO: "Is that so? I'm very glad to hear that, Emi. You know I get worried when you get all wound up about... well, exams."

NARRATOR: "Certainly Emi's mother knows something I don't - or rather, she doesn't know that Emi's told me about the nightmares. It's interesting, being able to observe how Mrs. Ibarazaki covers for Emi. That protective instinct to make sure that I don't know any more than Emi's willing to tell me."

NARRATOR: "I suppose Emi's got more in common with quarks than I ever realized. Moves around fast, impossible to understand through direct observation, yet she has an effect on everyone she encounters."

NARRATOR: "I wonder if Mrs. Ibarazaki will figure out that I know about the nightmares, or is she just keeping everything secret from everybody?"

EMI: "Yeah, it's not been as bad this year as in the past; Hisao helped me to stay focused."

NARRATOR: "Okay, I know that's not true. She even cut off contact outside of school hours during exam week! But... she did see me during the day. And she told me more than once that the morning run was the only thing she looked forward to during exams, so maybe it's not that much of a lie. Either way, to hear that being around has helped even a little makes me feel a bit better. Emi's mother raises an eyebrow at this statement. Either she doesn't believe Emi, or she's as surprised as I am."

MEIKO: "Well, then it appears that it's a good thing you two have become so close. I'd tell you to take good care of my daughter, Hisao, but it looks like you're already doing that."

NARRATOR: "Emi grins at this and seems to take pride in my having managed to ingratiate myself with her mother so easily."

HISAO: "Actually, I'd say your daughter's been the one taking care of me. She's gotten me out and running. I've probably been more active since meeting her than I ever was, even before…"

NARRATOR: "I'd actually never thought of it that much, nor had I ever appreciated the humor in it. I wasn't too active before the heart attack. Pickup games of soccer don't really count since they weren't that common. So now that I know for sure that I have a weak heart, now I run every day, pushing my luck with the help of my medication. I chuckle quietly, then realize that I never finished my sentence."

HISAO: "Well, before I had my heart attack and wound up at school here."

NARRATOR: "It comes out so casually. There was a time that I would have thought twice about talking about what was wrong with me at all. But now? Now it just seems silly to care, especially in the company of Emi and her mother. If Emi can be cavalier about her disability, then so can I. I think back to the track meet, where Emi declared herself the fastest thing on no legs. The fact of her obvious loss has never seemed to bother her, at least not in public. Being stuck in the wheelchair frustrated her, I know. But even that was something she dealt with on her own, despite my efforts to the contrary."

MEIKO: "Emi has a way of bringing out the more active side in people. I've never quite figured out how she does it."

NARRATOR: "Those puppy dog eyes she gets, for starters."

MEIKO: "I'm not surprised that she managed to rope you into an exercise routine. If Rin weren't just as stubborn as she is, I'm sure that Emi would have gotten her out and running with you too."

EMI: "Oh, that reminds me! Rin says hello."

NARRATOR: "I drift to the outer edges of the conversation again as we move into the dining room to eat. It smells delicious in here, and the spread that Emi's mom has produced is impressive."

EMI: "Woah, you've made enough to feed an army in here!"

MEIKO: "Is it too much? Well, you can always take some leftovers with you when you go."

HISAO: "That sounds great! I can only handle cafeteria food for so long. Something home-cooked would be a welcome change of pace."

EMI: "What he said. Thanks, mom."

NARRATOR: "The food tastes as good as it smells, and there's a lull in the conversation while we all dig in. Emi assaults her plate with the usual amount of gusto, and I will admit that I set a pretty fast pace myself."

MEIKO: "So Hisao, I hear that you and my daughter here have gotten rather close, hmm?"

NARRATOR: "The urge to say something like “Not really” is so strong that I open my mouth to say it, but then reassert control. We are close, there's no getting around it. I mean Emi's brought me here, hasn't she? Fortunately, both Emi and her mother seem to take my reaction as a sign that I'm caught off guard rather than considering saying something cruel."

HISAO: "Heh, I suppose we have. I blame the morning runs, myself."

EMI: "You make it sound like a bad thing, Hisao."

MEIKO: "Well, I for one found it a relief."

HISAO: "Why's that?"

MEIKO: "Emi's always been a popular girl, but never made many close friends."

NARRATOR: "This is a bit of news to me. I've always seen Emi chatting with her classmates in the hallways. And certainly the whole track team seems to love her, but it is true that she chooses to isolate herself during lunch with Rin and me. Not exactly the sort of behavior one expects from a popular girl, after all. Then again, I've experienced her unwillingness to get close firsthand, so I can't say I'm that surprised."

MEIKO: "I was beginning to have my doubts."

NARRATOR: "Emi rolls her eyes to the ceiling and grumbles something I can't quite make out."

HISAO: "Huh?"

EMI: "What?"

HISAO: "What's that you just said?"

EMI: "Nothing."

NARRATOR: "Mrs. Ibarazaki chokes on her drink with laughter."

MEIKO: "You've been hanging out with the nurse too long, Emi. I'm going to have to talk to him about corrupting my daughter."

HISAO: "Somehow I don't think that would be very effective."

EMI: "I learned most of it from you anyway. Not the nurse."

MEIKO: "Don't listen to her, Hisao. She's a born liar."

EMI: "Hmph. Yeah right."

HISAO: "Oh, I don't know, Emi. I think your mother has a point."

EMI: "What? You traitor! You're supposed to take my side in this!"

HISAO: "Yeah, but you did lie about your leg after the meet—"

NARRATOR: "A kick in the shins from an unmistakably plastic foot cuts me off, but not before Mrs. Ibarazaki's eyebrows shoot upwards."

MEIKO: "What about your leg?"

EMI: "It wasn't a big deal, that's all... I just was, er, inawheelchairforabit."

NARRATOR: "The last few mumbled words are quickly deciphered by Emi's mother - I suspect she has experience with this sort of thing - and a worried frown appears on her face."

MEIKO: "So that's why he kept dodging my calls... Oh Emi... I know how much you hate being in a wheelchair. No wonder you've been in such a mood lately!"

HISAO: "Yeah, she's much happier on her feet, so to speak."

MEIKO: "Well of course! She spent enough time in a chair just after the accident."

HISAO: "She didn't get prosthetics immediately?"

MEIKO: "No, she had to finish healing up before they'd let her start the sort of therapy you've got to go through to adjust to those things. Especially since she wanted to run on them."

HISAO: "I had no idea."

EMI: "Yeah, it sucked. Oh, did you see Rin's mural at the festival?"

NARRATOR: "Emi's sudden change of topic makes me realize belatedly that she's been fidgeting the whole time her mother and I have been talking. I should have figured on her being a little skittish when it comes to talking about the accident. Even around her mother."

MEIKO: "No, I didn't make it out to the festival, remember? Although I caught a glimpse of it at your track meet. It seemed pretty weird to me."

EMI: "I think that's more or less what she was going for. She talked a lot about it being dreamlike. Or trying to make it dreamlike."

MEIKO: "Rin's art is one of those things I don't think I'll ever understand."

EMI: "That's not surprising. I don't think Rin expects to be understood. She told me once that art allows people to understand stuff they wouldn't understand otherwise, but all the same she doesn't think it actually works that way."

NARRATOR: "I'm surprised that Emi's talked about this with Rin extensively enough to actually have Rin's opinion, such as it is. Although I expect that Rin could not, if she were so inclined, say the same thing about Emi's. Unless, of course, Emi is purposely keeping me in the dark about everything; which is likely, but unpleasant to think about. I drift down this unpleasant train of thought for a while, losing track of the conversation."

MEIKO: "Hey Emi, I've been meaning to ask..."

EMI: "Huh?"

MEIKO: "Are you going to visit your father this year?"

NARRATOR: "From the way she says it, you'd think Emi's mother was talking about the weather. From the way Emi reacts, it's clearly not the weather they're talking about. She flinches, a slight jerk of the head backwards as if she's just been slapped in the face."

EMI: "Can we talk about this later?"

NARRATOR: "Her voice sounds brittle, strained. It looks as if she's been severely shaken by the question. It seems that Mrs. Ibarazaki misjudged just how close Emi and I are. Some things, it seems, are best not conversed about with me around. Her father is one of these things. The accident that took her legs is probably another one of those things, if her reaction to the earlier conversation between her mother and myself is any indication. It doesn't take Emi's mother long to realize she's screwed up."

MEIKO: "Of course we can, dear. I'm sorry to bring it up, I just wanted to ask so I could make plans—"

EMI: "It's fine. Don't worry about it."

NARRATOR: "Emi fidgets nervously, as if embarrassed by her own reaction. I confess that her reaction is confusing. She only just mentioned her father to me earlier today! Less than a few hours ago, even! Why does a simple question about when she'll visit her father cause such a strong reaction? Unless whatever serenity she claimed to have reached by means of our talk the previous evening has suddenly evaporated. Or it didn't help as much as she thought. Or claimed."

EMI: "I'll uh, be right back. Gotta visit the little girl's room."

NARRATOR: "Emi gets up suddenly and leaves the table, leaving me and Mrs. Ibarazaki alone. I'm a little conflicted. Should I go after her, or should I stay here? It's obvious that Emi's departure was not based on the call of nature. Something's bothering her, and I have to know what it is. How to go about it?"[1]

NARRATOR: "The only way to find out is to go to the source. And the source is currently pretending that she has to use the toilet. I excuse myself politely from the table and head that way, only to catch sight of Emi not in the bathroom, but in the kitchen just next to the living room. Emi's left the door open, and as I approach I can see that she's holding on to the table in an attempt to compose herself, an effort that fails as soon as I open my mouth."

HISAO: "Doesn't look like nature's call was that urgent."

NARRATOR: "Emi jumps and glares at me."

EMI: "What are you doing here? I didn't come here to be with other people."

HISAO: "I just wanted to help you. You looked pretty rattled."

EMI: "I said it was nothing, didn't I? And besides, I thought we'd established that you can't help me."

HISAO: "No, we've established that you're stubborn."

EMI: "Look who's talking. The guy who followed me."

HISAO: "This is different! I want to help you with... whatever this is."

EMI: "Funny, because I just want you to leave me alone."

HISAO: "But why? Why can't you just trust me?"

EMI: "We've been over this already, Hisao. I've got to deal with this stuff on my own."

HISAO: "I won't accept that! You need my help, you just won't take it!"

NARRATOR: "My wording seems to have been a little off."

EMI: "Need? I need your help? Well, it's a good thing we met, isn't it? Because otherwise I guess I'd just be a broken human being, wouldn't I? No, it's a damn good thing that Hisao came along to save the day, isn't it? Because God knows I can't save myself, can I? I'm just the poor, emotionally damaged girl with no legs, right?"

HISAO: "Emi, you know I don't think that—"

EMI: "Really? Because if you thought differently then I don't think you'd be here, saying I need your help. I've gotten pretty far in life as a normal human being without you."

HISAO: "So what, nothing we've shared was important? I'm just the guy who hangs out with you?"

EMI: "You're my boyfriend, Hisao, not my savior."

HISAO: "Well no, that much is obvious. You won't even consider that I could be a help to you, will you? You'll just bottle it all up and hope that a run will solve your problems, or you'll come visit me and we'll fool around until you feel better. That's not being a healthy human being, Emi. That's not what a relationship means."

EMI: "Well it's what it means to me right now, Hisao. I wish—"

NARRATOR: "She seems to reconsider her words just then. A flicker of pain, of doubt on her face. For a moment I think she's about to cry. But the moment passes, and now she's composed herself again. Whatever that wish was will have to go unspoken."

EMI: "Look, I just... I can't do this right now."

HISAO: "What, have a serious conversation? Be open? Be honest? Give a damn about anyone besides yourself and your problems?"

EMI: "What do you know about my problems? Nothing! You don't know what I've been through, so don't pretend that you do."

HISAO: "I know you have nightmares, and I know your father's gone. What happened to him?"

NARRATOR: "Emi's head jerks backwards as if I've just slapped her. That brittle quality has gotten back into her voice."

EMI: "That's enough."

NARRATOR: "This is stupid. This whole conversation has just been variations on Emi stonewalling me."

HISAO: "What, you won't even answer that question? Fine, keep your secrets. They can lie in the grave as far as I'm concerned."

NARRATOR: "Emi's eyes widen in shock. When she speaks again, it's in a voice that is low, dangerous."

EMI: "Get out of my house, Hisao."

NARRATOR: "The sudden change in her tone snaps me out of my self-righteous anger and makes me realize with a dawning horror what I've just said."

HISAO: "Emi, I didn't mean—"

EMI: "I said go, Hisao. Tell my mother that she cooked a wonderful meal but you've forgotten a prior engagement, and get out of my house."

NARRATOR: "She's trembling now, shaking with anger, or sadness, or determination. Her voice is still low, controlled. Almost a growl. I reach out to put an arm on her shoulder, to apologize for going too far, but she jerks away from my touch."

EMI: "Get out."

NARRATOR: "What can I do? I walk out of the kitchen and go to the living room, make my apology to Mrs. Ibarazaki, and let myself out."

Next Scene: Instant Replay

NARRATOR: "There's an awkward silence at the table for a while after Emi dashes off. I can't think of anything to say. Emi's mother sighs, breaking the silence."

MEIKO: "Sorry about that, Hisao. I sometimes forget that Emi's touchy about certain subjects. And I was talking about the wheelchair thing, too..."

HISAO: "Should I go after her?"

MEIKO: "Heavens no! She didn't leave the table to continue the conversation, you know."

HISAO: "But if she's troubled, shouldn't someone help her?"

MEIKO: "If it were anyone else, I'd say yes. But my daughter is stubborn as a mule, and if she wants to be alone it's best to let her be alone. Otherwise she'll probably say something she'd regret, which would cause you to say something you'd regret, and I would prefer that dinner doesn't end with one or the both of you storming out of the house. If that were to happen I'd be a terrible hostess, wouldn't I? I've already acted as a fool once today."

HISAO: "That's okay, I shouldn't have brought up the wheelchair, apparently."

NARRATOR: "Mrs. Ibarazaki frowns, clearly more bothered by Emi's omission than she'd let on."

MEIKO: "I wish she wouldn't do that. It just makes me worry more, you know."

HISAO: "She does this often?"

MEIKO: "What, running off to the bathroom? No, I can't say she does. Keep injuries from her mother, though? Well, that's a little more common. Every time I catch her lying like that, she assures me that the only reason she didn't tell me is because it wasn't a big deal."

HISAO: "If it's any consolation, I'm sure the only reason I knew about it at all was because I saw her every day."

NARRATOR: "This elicits a dry chuckle from across the table. Mrs. Ibarazaki sighs, a little sadly."

MEIKO: "Still hesitant about getting close to people, huh? I keep hoping that she'll get over that. It's funny, really. She's bounced back so well from the accident in so many ways... I guess some things never really go away."

NARRATOR: "From the looks of it, the whole thing still bothers her, too. She seems to be a little more willing to talk about the accident without Emi around, though."

HISAO: "Hey, I've got a question, if it's all right."

MEIKO: "Oh?"

HISAO: "What else did Emi lose in that accident? The nurse said that she gets this way near the anniversary, and she won't talk about it to me..."

MEIKO: "So you thought I'd fill you in, hmm?"

HISAO: "Er, yeah. Hopefully."

MEIKO: "Well, there's a problem with that request, you know."

HISAO: "Let me guess: you promised Emi that you wouldn't tell anyone she didn't want to know, and you don't know if she wants me to know?"

MEIKO: "Something like that. I promised Emi that she'd be the one to tell people the full story."

HISAO: "But isn't that important? I mean, it's clearly had a huge effect on her if she's still like this so long after the accident happened."

MEIKO: "That's true. It did have a long-lasting effect on her. There are a few things that she'll probably never really get over."

NARRATOR: "For a moment Mrs. Ibarazaki looks incredibly saddened, as if an old wound is bothering her."

MEIKO: "I suppose there are a few things I'll never really get over either..."

NARRATOR: "Another dry chuckle, and with a shake of her head Emi's mother banishes the memory."

MEIKO: "Look, there's something you absolutely must understand about the way Emi thinks about the accident."

HISAO: "What's that?"

MEIKO: "It wasn't a big deal."

NARRATOR: "Somehow I manage to keep my mouth from falling open in surprise, but it takes some effort. That has to be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."

HISAO: "I beg your pardon?"

MEIKO: "Okay, maybe it's not that simple, but it's a pretty accurate summation. Emi believes that the accident did not define her, and that everything she lost that day didn't define her either. She's not “that girl who lost her legs,” she's “The Fastest Thing on No Legs.” Her optimism and energy came out of that wreck without a scratch, as far as she's concerned."

HISAO: "Yet it goes beyond that, doesn't it? I mean, last night she told me that she refused to rely on me because it would make losing me too painful."

MEIKO: "Not really. You said she won't tell you about the accident, even though you've asked her about it before. The reason she won't talk about it when you ask is because to her it's not something you absolutely need to know. Even if she wasn't terrified of getting too close to anyone, she still wouldn't talk about it."

HISAO: "She's afraid of being close to me?"

MEIKO: "Oh goodness me, yes. For all that talk about being unscathed by the accident, she's gained the ugly knowledge of how quickly it can all be over. So she's not going to let people get especially close to her, and she certainly would resent any implication that she cannot work through this on her own."

HISAO: "But I don't think she can."

MEIKO: "Oh no? Are you sure you've been dating my daughter and not somebody else? Trust me Hisao, she could get through it on her own."

HISAO: "But she has nightmares, and can't sleep well, and—"

MEIKO: "And she does this every year. Tell me, if she wasn't able to get through it on her own, do you really think she'd still be alive? She would've killed herself, or something equally melodramatic."

HISAO: "So what, I shouldn't try to help her?"

MEIKO: "I didn't say that! I hate seeing my daughter like this, and knowing that she could rely on someone else would let me relax. You just need to understand that accepting help goes against everything Emi thinks about herself and the way the world works. If you still want to offer her help, then I guess that's your call. Honestly, I'd like you to, but it'd be silly not to warn you that it's not going to be easy."

MEIKO: "You just need to be patient with her. She's already closer to you than anyone else she's ever met at Yamaku."

HISAO: "Well it sure doesn't feel like we're very close."

EMI: "Good, that makes this part easier."

NARRATOR: "Emi's voice nearly gives me a heart attack."

HISAO: "Whoa! Didn't hear you come back, Emi."

EMI: "How convenient."

HISAO: "Wait, were you eavesdropping?"

EMI: "Nope. Just happened to come back at the right moment, I guess."

MEIKO: "Emi, Hisao was just—"

NARRATOR: "Emi holds up a finger, cutting her mother off."

EMI: "On his way out of the house? Yeah, I know."

NARRATOR: "Emi's trembling with anger now, looking vaguely betrayed."

MEIKO: "Emi, don't be ridiculous, we were just—"

EMI: "You promised!"

NARRATOR: "The pain carried in that last word is almost too much for me to bear. The idea that I could hurt her that much is like being kicked in the gut. Emi's mother looks similarly pained by the thought."

MEIKO: "And I kept that promise! Just listen, there's no reason to go throwing people out of the house."

NARRATOR: "Emi's mother seems to be both angry at her daughter's outburst and embarrassed that I'm a witness to it. There's only one real solution to this problem, I think."

HISAO: "It's okay. I'll go."

MEIKO: "Now really, that seems a little unnecessary..."

HISAO: "Don't worry about it. Thank you for dinner, Mrs. Ibarazaki, and for the advice."

MEIKO: "It was my pleasure, Hisao. I'm sorry we didn't get to the dessert."

HISAO: "That's okay. I have to watch what I eat anyway. Good evening, Emi, Mrs. Ibarazaki."

NARRATOR: "The formality of our conversation, coupled with the fact that I'm getting ready to leave, seems to snap Emi out of her anger."

EMI: "No, wait. I'm sorry, I've been so... and after last night I just thought... You don't have to go, I take it back, it's okay—"

NARRATOR: "I can't help but smile slightly. She can barely articulate her apology, and I really would like to stay... But I don't think I can, right now. I need to think about what her mother said, and about what I'm going to do about us. I don't want to risk accidentally getting Emi angry again in her current state, either."

HISAO: "No, I think I'd better leave. You seem pretty shook up, and, well, I'd only wind up trying to help you again. I know you'd prefer I didn't, so I'm going to leave instead."

EMI: "But—"

HISAO: "Hey, it's not a problem. You don't want a knight on a white charger, right? Just promise me one thing, okay?"

EMI: "What?"

HISAO: "Don't be angry at your mom, okay? She was just giving me some advice, that's all."

NARRATOR: "Emi nods, hesitantly, like this simple idea is all that she can grab on to at this point. She's so terribly off-balance, but I can't do anything about that right now."

EMI: "Okay."

HISAO: "See you tomorrow, okay? Running in the morning. Don't forget!"

NARRATOR: "I can see that I've hurt Emi by deciding to leave. But there's nothing I can do for her as things stand, and I know that she's too stubborn to admit that she wants me to stick around. I watch various emotions cross Emi's face as she tries to process everything that's just happened. Shortly comes that calm look again, like last night, and that voice that tries so hard to sound careless."

EMI: "Sure, Hisao. See you around."

NARRATOR: "Both of us are unwilling to concede emotion at this point, and I'm having a hard time keeping up my facade, so I turn on my heel and walk out the door. I shut it behind me slowly, pausing for a moment as the latch catches, my hand on the doorknob. Did I make the right decision just now? Should I have stayed and tried to work things out?"

NARRATOR: "No, I decide. Not in front of her mother like that. In spite of everything, I'd rather keep Emi's mother insulated from the sort of anger that surfaced last night. Even though she's probably used to it, some protective instinct wants me to keep Emi's image as a cheerful girl intact. With a start, I realize my hand is still resting on the knob. I take my hand away, put it in my pocket, and head down the slowly darkening street."

NARRATOR: "I let out a long breath. The wait until tomorrow morning comes isn't going to be easy. In any case, I have to think on what to say to Emi. I must apologize, and I must get through to her somehow. On that account, something has been on my mind for most of the way back to my room. The letter of apology from Iwanako."

NARRATOR: "I was so concerned about my new life when I received it that I didn't even bother to really read it. Now that I find myself in a similar position, my curiosity got rekindled. What did she want to let me know so badly? If nothing else, reading her thoughts might help me frame mine. I remember tossing it away. Damn, where did I throw that thing? I check under my desk. That turns up nothing, so I look for harder-to-reach, more unlikely locations."

NARRATOR: "..."

NARRATOR: "Well, now I know where that lost sock went, at least. Still no letter, though. It's when I try sweeping my arm under my nightstand that I feel something crinkly jammed between it and the wall. Grunting a little with the effort, I reach for my prize and soon manage to bring it into the light. Bingo.

Hisao letter open

NARRATOR: "I sit at my desk and spread the crumpled paper open. A flick turns on the table light. Skipping past the empty pleasantries, I look for the point where I stopped reading. Ah, here it is."

Iwanako Letter

There are other things I want to say. I'm writing to you because I felt that there are things I should've said after the incident back in winter. I really regret that I wasn't able to say them in person, and I have no excuse for it.

The truth is, the times when I visited you at the hospital made me worried about you. I am not talking about your health. You seemed to become more distant and disheartened. It was natural after something like that happened, I'm sure, but somehow I got the feeling that you had given up on something back then. Happiness, maybe?

NARRATOR: "Giving up on happiness... This sounds unpleasantly familiar."

I wanted to somehow express my feelings, but the right words didn't come to me. I couldn't say anything to comfort you. I am really sorry for not being able to support you when it mattered the most, even though I like you so much. At least now, finally, I can be more honest.

If I could go back to those quiet days in February and March, I'd tell you to not give up on yourself. That's what I would say. Maybe you wouldn't have drifted so far away if I had just said something. I hope you've managed to get back on your feet on your own.

Now that the distance between us is also physical, it also feels more final, somehow. I wonder if we will meet again. Perhaps it's for the best if we don't? Still, if you would like to correspond with me, by all means write me back. I'd very much like to hear about your new school and how you are doing. I wish you all the best.

Sincerely, Iwanako

NARRATOR: "After finishing reading the letter I smooth it out carefully and set it aside on my desk."

NARRATOR: ""Thank you, Iwanako. I wanted to answer “yes” to your question on that snowy winter day, but I never got to. By the time we met again, it was too late. Or so I thought. What would have happened if I had behaved differently, back in that dismally sterile hospital room? I'm sorry. There's no point in wondering now, but there's no point in trying to forget either. I am who I am because of all that happened to me and all I look forward to experience. Present, future, and past. And the past may just have taught me an important lesson now."

END OF ACT 3

Next Scene: A Swing and a Miss

Notes Edit

  1. If Hisao talked to Mutou in Phantom Pain, then the player gets to make this choice. If Hisao didn't talk to Mutou, it automatically invokes "Go after her.".

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