NARRATOR: "It seems like I ate too much yesterday, because I wake up in the morning feeling just nauseous enough for it to be a problem. I really can't postpone going into town for shopping, though. So despite wanting to roll over and sleep it away, I force myself to get up and dress instead. Somewhere between buying toothpaste and a few other groceries, I end up walking it off. Then, I feel hungry. After stopping for breakfast, it hits me how much time has gone by. I hadn't expected to be out this long at all. I'm not even sure if I bothered to lock my door. I should really get back."

NARRATOR: "When I get back to the dorm, I see Hideaki standing in front of my room from the entrance. I can think of few things more unexpected, and I can't help thinking I might have a heart attack just from the surprise. Fortunately, it doesn't happen. As soon as he sees me, he says hello in his usual detached way. I'm a little slow to reply to him, so he repeats the greeting, without missing a beat."

HIDEAKI: "Hello. Is something wrong?"

HISAO: "I'm just surprised to see you here."

NARRATOR: "Not as surprised as I could have been, since it's impossible to mistake him for anyone else. I'd recognize those weird clothes anywhere. Come to think of it, I've really surrounded myself with distinctive-looking people lately. Hideaki's head lolls slightly to one side, a little too easily."

HIDEAKI: "Why? Is it unusual to see someone's family come to see them?"

HISAO: "Well... yeah, actually."

NARRATOR: "So, Hideaki isn't such a robot after all. In fact, it's almost as if he's more caught off guard by the fact he even can be caught off guard, but he recovers quickly. Nevertheless, in that brief moment, he looks his age. That uncomfortable side of his seems like the more honest, and I wouldn't mind seeing more of it. Not so much, though, that I'd go out of my way to pry. Only Shizune would be that zealous. That my thoughts get so far is proof she is rubbing off on me."

HISAO: "I'd think that you'd have a reason, that's all."

HIDEAKI: "There is one."

HISAO: "See? Anyway, we can talk while we're looking for her. That's why you're here, right?"

HIDEAKI: "Shizune is in the student council room. I was looking for you. We might take a trip soon, a family trip. Do you think she would want to come with us?"

HISAO: "Yeah, I don't know. She's kind of been on the warpath lately, with a lot of stuff. And once she's focused on something, she won't just drop it. ...I guess you would know that."


NARRATOR: "Hideaki looks much more at ease walking around than I did my first week."

HISAO: "So, this isn't your first time here?"

NARRATOR: "Just throwing it out there. Of course, completely ignoring the surrounding environment could just run in the family. It'd explain why Hideaki seems so distant from Shizune. I get the feeling there's more to it than just her deafness."

HIDEAKI: "No, but this is the first time I could walk around so much. It is kind of weird here. I bumped into a person who told me women are not allowed in the dorms. After I told him I am not a woman, he told me I was misleading, and then accused me of being an assassin. I was warned that he was not only invincible, but strong enough to probably destroy the building with a punch, or at least knock over the painting hanging in the hallway. By the way, that painting is actually screwed to the wall."

HISAO: "Yeah, that's the guy across the hall from me. He's okay."

HIDEAKI: "I see. Oh, you left your door open. It was unlocked when I came here."

NARRATOR: "I'm a little annoyed that Hideaki knows that. The only way he could is if he had opened my door. But the feeling passes."

HISAO: "It doesn't matter. I have nothing to hide, or steal."

HIDEAKI: "Your soccer ball is really nice."

HISAO: "That's one of the things that doesn't matter."

HIDEAKI: "If you are a soccer player, a soccer ball is very important."

NARRATOR: "I guess it is. The thought makes me smile."

HIDEAKI: "I'm here because my father bought a new phone, and he wanted to update Shizune, in case she needs to call him. I thought that you should know, too, since you're her boyfriend, aren't you?"

HISAO: "Yeah... ...Why?"

HIDEAKI: "Just in case there is something wrong, or she needs anything."

NARRATOR: "It isn't what I meant, but I'll go along."

HISAO: "Even if she did, she probably wouldn't call."

HIDEAKI: "That is how she is."

HISAO: "Well, if you know... Coming all the way here for that, though? He could have updated her via e-mail."

HIDEAKI: "He does not like using e-mails."

HISAO: "That's so old-fashioned. Don't tell me he still does business through regular mail, or something."

NARRATOR: "Silence. Now it's my turn to feel awkward. Is Hideaki taking it literally, or did I hit the mark? Nah. I'm sure that what it really comes down to is that he does want to see his daughter and stay in contact with her. In the end, they are still family, after all. Even though they play at being at each other's throats. The door to the student council room is open, and Hideaki and I walk in on Jigoro in mid-rant. He sees us, but decides that it's not something worth stopping rambling at Shizune over. This is really shaking my faith in my previous assumption."

JIGORO: "When I was in the Student Council, our room was smaller. Colder, too. Like working out of a meat locker. Not like you spoiled kids. What a waste. Sitting here in your giant room, doing nothing."

SHIZUNE: "..."

JIGORO: "Aren't there only three of you? That makes having so many desks only seem like an unnecessary display of mindless decadence. Appalling. You must use the desks you need, and not one more. It is part of my code."

NARRATOR: "It may be odd of me to think so, but... hearing only one half of a conversation is pretty strange. Also, that's some code. Now that I've arrived, he changes the subject, and starts talking about the reason he's here."

JIGORO: "Hideaki and I are going on a trip."

SHIZUNE: "..."

JIGORO: "What are you doing? Does everyone who uses sign language mumble while they do it?"

HISAO: "No, but I'm just an amateur. It helps me think. It's kind of like force of habit."

JIGORO: "Just an amateur... unbelievable... Fine."

NARRATOR: "He turns back to Shizune just in time to catch her shaking her head from side to side."

JIGORO: "Are you sure you won't be coming along?"

NARRATOR: "She reiterates the gesture."

JIGORO: "Fine. Can you tell her to call me if she needs anything?"

HISAO: "Yes. I really think sending an e-mail would have been easier, though."

JIGORO: "I'm not going to read e-mails on my phone. If she won't speak, she can call Hideaki. I suppose if I have to be reached, you would have to call me, or that other girl would have to call me. ...Hmph. Actually, all three of you can just call Hideaki."

NARRATOR: "And with that, he swiftly turns and leaves, Hideaki trailing behind him. A long trip, for something that took five minutes. Neither of them can express their feelings very well. In Shizune's case, I have to question whether she would if she could. It explains a lot, but she doesn't seem unhappy with the arrangement. Even so, I wonder if she might be. When the door closes behind them, leaving Shizune and I by ourselves, she lets out a deep breath that seems to echo in the silence of the room."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's totally ridiculous asking me to go on a trip. The timing couldn't be worse, it overlaps the student council elections, for one. Second, I haven't even cheered up Misha. If you consider that, it's annoying to even have anything else to think about."

HISAO: (signing) "Yeah, but you might be too focused on all of that stuff right now."

NARRATOR: "Shizune adjusts her glasses roughly."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Completely, one hundred percent right. The minute I decided I was going to cheer up Misha, everything else went on the back burner, I suppose."

HISAO: (signing) "I think your dad might care about you more than he lets on."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "I know."

HISAO: (signing) "So, then, it could be a good idea—"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "No."

NARRATOR: "And then again, more firmly, as if for both of us."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "No. After coming this far, I can't take a break. A vacation would be jarring. It would be like waking up in a different life. Yesterday was like my vacation. So now we have to go all-in. I'm sorry, but it's just how I am."

NARRATOR: "I remember what Yuuko said, that she found Shizune brave, in a kind of way. I think I understand what she meant, and I have to agree. Even though it could also be called recklessness, and foolishness, and pointless stubbornness, I guess you could call it “bravery” too. However, I can see that there is a fundamental flaw in Shizune's thinking that I hadn't noticed until now. I'm sure that Shizune has reflected longer, and more arduously than I could, about where she messed up to create such a bad situation between her and Misha. However, as typical for her, she wouldn't let it hold her back and immediately set out to fix the problem. This completely ignores a large part of the problem: Misha herself. Moving from critical introspection to holding Misha up as part of a goal causes the person to get lost in the shuffle. Shizune has “said” a lot in the past few days, but nothing about how Misha feels."

NARRATOR: "Shizune's way of thinking is abnormal. Few normal people would reject a friend, and then expect things to go back to the way they were so easily. Shizune does, because she sees life as, if I had to put it simply, capable of being segmented and compartmentalized. Misha, like anyone else, sees it as a whole experience. A long, continuous journey, where one moment of heartache can follow you forever. For Shizune, an event is an event, and few of them cross over. Life is compartmentalized around triumphs, failures, and decisions, where each one stands as its own story. It's why the thought of a vacation is jarring to her. It's why she can only appreciate people's immediate emotions. It's exactly how someone obsessed with living in the moment would think, really. Likewise, Shizune can see Misha as a friend, but I doubt that she has ever thought of Misha as anything more until recently. Or questioned anything about her. “Misha is Misha” would be enough for her, even if to Misha it must be unbelievably stifling."

NARRATOR: "Shizune is just Shizune to herself. It's likely she doesn't even think about the aftereffects of her actions in the long term, as long as they stir up other people's lives. To Misha, though, I'm sure it made her seem almost heroic. Like Yuuko admiring her bravery, and even myself. And Shizune's thoughts on that sentiment are that it was good she could touch someone's life. But it ends there. It's easy to captivate; much harder to nurture. On to the next thing. Thinking of life in terms of almost completely isolated events has a tendency to isolate a person, too. Though she's trying to remedy it now, the point remains: There is simply no way Shizune could have avoided hurting Misha. Her emotional investment in Shizune was something Shizune couldn't account for, so she didn't. Combined with her personality, it was inevitable. Both of them have pretty much told me all of that in bits and pieces over the past couple months I've known them. In the middle of considering their differences, an idea begins to take shape in my mind."

HISAO: (signing) "Are you working on your plan right now? This second? Your cheer-up-Misha plan."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Of course. I was thinking about it the whole time I was being yelled at."

NARRATOR: "Flicking her glasses up the bridge of her nose with an oddly triumphant air, she taps her finger against her temple."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's multitasking!"

NARRATOR: "Really? Isn't it more like you're able to concentrate on something like that because you can't hear? Well, whatever. When I ask her what she thinks of mine, it turns out we've both arrived at a similar idea."

Next Scene: Parfait