NARRATOR: "I sweat profusely, awaiting the dreaded moment. Each tick of the clock tenses my muscles that much more, every minute making more hairs stand on end. It's coming for me, I can feel it. Death. Death in the form of a single sheet of paper. I take the small pile of papers from the student in front of me and pass it backwards after plucking off the top piece. Looking to the top right of the page, I find my fears realized within that small red circle."
NARRATOR: "Forty-three. I hang my head and sigh in resignation. Cursing under my breath, I can feel the aura of a similar sentiment rising from the entire class. It's strange, but that fact lifts my mood by a minuscule amount. Misery loves company, I suppose. As the teacher opens his mouth, the room braces for the inevitable onslaught... ...only to be saved at the last minute. We quickly move to collect our bags and leave for lunch post-haste, but the teacher delivers a parting broadside.
TEACHER: "We'll be discussing the class' test scores next lesson. Needless to say, there will be quite some discussion to be had."
NARRATOR: "A collective groan resounds from the class, now reduced to shuffling out dejectedly. I push the sheet into my bag as I walk along the hallway, crumpling it in the process. It's enough that such a troublesome letter ended up on my desk yesterday, and now this."
HISAO: "I hate English..."
???: "HI— SA— O!"
NARRATOR: "A stern female voice gruffly calls out from behind me. I freeze on the spot, my face becoming like stone. It's as if I can feel my brain disconnecting from my body. My eyes slowly shift right, trying to catch a glimpse of the disembodied voice. ...nothing? My face begins to slip as time passes, and I decide to risk turning my head. Ever so slowly, I twist it to the—"
NARRATOR: "I jump into the air and drop my bag, yelling out in surprise. As I recover and regain my composure, I turn to see... I should have known. Emi."
EMI: "Gotcha, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "She stands there with a mischievous grin on her face, hands forward and fingers pointed inwards. She was the one who jabbed my ribs with her fingers. I look down at her with a grimace, rubbing my hair in frustration."
HISAO: "That's no way to greet someone, you know."
EMI: "You have no sense of humor."
HISAO: "I left my sense of humor in my English class. Complain to the teacher if you want it given back to me."
NARRATOR: "She pulls her best puppy-dog eyes on me as she pouts. Lilly's managed to build up my resistance to the tactic, but Emi's short stature adds enough to the effect to make me relent."
HISAO: "So, how are things? I haven't seen you around for a while."
EMI: "Same old, same old. I run so fast, nobody wants to join me on my morning runs. It's a real pain."
NARRATOR: "Her modesty never fails to amuse me."
NARRATOR: "Uh oh."
EMI: "You know what I'm thinking, don't you Hisao?"
NARRATOR: "Wearing my emotions on my sleeve is one of my worst habits. She's seen right through me. Fortunately, I see somebody else approaching us that will give me an out."
HISAO: "Oh, hi Hanako."
NARRATOR: "I give her a welcoming wave, and try my best at looking like I haven't noticed Emi's pouting face. She gives a small wave back."
HANAKO: "H-hello, Hisao... Emi."
EMI: "Hey Hanako."
HISAO: "I'll join you and Lilly in a sec."
HISAO: "Actually, speaking of lunchtime company, it's odd to see you without Rin, Emi."
EMI: "Ah! Rin!"
NARRATOR: "Without a second word, she forgets all about us and bolts off up the hallway. She must've forgotten she was waiting for her. Hanako and I stand speechless, only able to helplessly stand and watch this ball of seemingly boundless energy dash off."
EMI: "Oh yeah, Hisao..."
NARRATOR: "She suddenly stops herself just before vanishing around the corner to the rooftop staircase, spinning around to meet our bemused faces."
EMI: "I hate English too."
NARRATOR: "And with that, she disappears. All I can do is hang my head and give a long sigh, thoroughly left in the dust. As I hear a short giggle coming from behind me, I turn to see Hanako smiling at the corner my attacker rounded. I pick up my dropped bag from the floor and quickly dust it off."
HISAO: "'Afternoon. Been busy?"
HANAKO: "You don't... like English?"
HISAO: "Hmm? Oh, uh, nah. I had a test on it a while back, and Emi caught me brooding about the results."
HANAKO: "Ah, sorry..."
NARRATOR: "She averts her gaze, guilt written onto her face. A casual observer would think she'd just accidentally reminded me of a dead relative."
HISAO: "Come on, it's not your fault. How're you doing in it?"
NARRATOR: "She looks up, though still avoids meeting my eyes."
show hanako basic_worry with charachange
HANAKO: "All right, I... suppose."
NARRATOR: "An awkward silence passes. They seem all too common around Hanako."
HANAKO: "Oh, Lilly asked if... you'd like to join us for lunch on the roof."
NARRATOR: "I guess I don't exactly have any pressing engagements to attend to."
HISAO: "Sure, I'll be right up."
HANAKO: "Um, I'll... go get my lunch from the cafeteria now... then."
HISAO: "Go on. You don't need my approval to leave, you know."
HANAKO: "O-okay. I'll... be going then."
NARRATOR: "She gives a skittish reply, a small nod and quickly makes off towards the cafeteria. I guess she must've forgotten to bring lunch today. As I walk through the hallways, more and more students start to come out of classrooms and pass me, going in the same direction as Hanako went. By the time I manage to make it to the stairs, I'm having to push my way past a busily chatting throng of students. I finally manage to get past the last of the crowd and round the staircase, slumping slightly in relief and slowing my pace before I open the door to the roof."
HISAO: "Ah, damn!"
NARRATOR: "I momentarily avert my eyes, all but blinded by the harsh summer sun."
NARRATOR: "As I slowly regain my vision, the surroundings finally take form. Lilly, Emi and Rin sit together on the rooftop, the top of the hilltop forest around Yamaku visible past the fence around them, as if to frame the view."
EMI: "Ah, Hisao!"
NARRATOR: "Lilly and Rin give a quick nod of acknowledgment and a deep nod of greeting respectively. I start walking towards the rather mismatched trio, and can't help marveling at the speed with which Emi devours the rest of her half-eaten banana."
HISAO: "Hey. Strange to see you three together like this."
LILLY: "It seems to have been quite the day of coincidences; Emi and Rin decided to eat on the roof just as Hanako and I decided to."
EMI: "You stole it! This spot was ours!"
HISAO: "Simmer down, you can't steal a place in the school."
NARRATOR: "I plonk myself down beside Lilly, the four of us creating a semicircle."
RIN: "I think she is right."
HISAO: "You too?"
RIN: "The butterfly is her accomplice."
HISAO: "The butter..."
NARRATOR: "As I glance around, sure enough, a small yellow butterfly floats across my field of vision."
HISAO: "So tell me, how did this butterfly help Lilly “steal” this spot?"
RIN: "It scouted out our conversation and told her."
NARRATOR: "I should've known better than to expect sound reasoning from Rin. Regardless, I guess it wouldn't hurt to play along."
HISAO: "You're telling me she can talk to butterflies?"
RIN: "There are people who can talk to horses, called horse whisperers. Lilly must be a butterfly whisperer."
NARRATOR: "I bury my head in my hands as Emi rounds on her strange companion. She doesn't seem to share Rin's sense of humor."
EMI: "Whisperers don't work like that."
NARRATOR: "Emi and Rin continue their banter as I turn to Lilly, who's busily finishing off her small box of curry and rice with a pair of wooden chopsticks."
HISAO: "So what brought you up here, anyway?"
LILLY: "A little fresh air every now and again doesn't hurt."
NARRATOR: "Emi breaks off from her vain attempts to introduce the concept of logic to Rin."
EMI: "That was why we came up here too!"
NARRATOR: "Something tells me it was her idea alone, and that Rin only got dragged up here on Emi's whim. Then again, the same could probably be said of Lilly and Hanako."
LILLY: "Now, now. We can share."
NARRATOR: "The creaking of the door to the roof can be heard as soon as she says the words. A moment of silence falls over us as everyone's attention focuses on the figure appearing from it. Hanako slowly walks over to us, her eyes pinned to the ground, silently ruing the attention she's attracting. She tenses, just barely, when her eyes meet Rin's. I can't help raising an eyebrow as she walks over to us and sits next to me, doing her utmost to avoid looking up even as she brings her cafeteria bread to her mouth."
HISAO: "So how do you and Emi know each other, anyways?"
LILLY: "Emi's somewhat well known around the school for her athletic ability. She's the fastest member of the track and field club by some margin, even beating Miki Miura at the track meet last week."
NARRATOR: "Miki Miura... ah, that tanned girl from the front of my class. Considering her height and toned body, being able to beat her is quite an accomplishment. Looking over to Emi, it's very clear she's well aware of this fact as she beams proudly."
EMI: "So, Hisao. What was your score in English?"
HISAO: "No comment."
NARRATOR: "She puffs her cheeks and pouts, but it doesn't take long for her to bounce back."
EMI: "All right, if I tell you mine, you have to tell me yours. Deal?"
HISAO: "Fine, fine."
EMI: "Okay, on the count of three, we both say our results. One... Two... Three!"
(at the same time)
NARRATOR: "I beam a mischievous grin."
EMI: "Ah! Evil! Evil, evil, evil, evil!"
HISAO: "You said it, not me. Still, the fact that you managed an even lower score than me is kind of amazing."
NARRATOR: "She looks and sounds like a small terrier growling at an intruder. I can't say it's the most threatening sight I've seen."
LILLY: "Either way, scoring higher than thirty-two isn't something to boast about, much less scoring below it. For any subject."
HISAO: "Yes, Lilly."
EMI: "Sorry, Lilly."
LILLY: "I could help you with your English, if you'd like. It would be my pleasure to—"
EMI: "No, no, that's fine. But I appreciate the thought. Really."
NARRATOR: "Lilly looks slightly deflated, her hopes of imparting her knowledge dashed. Judging from the badly hidden laughter of the rest of us, neither she nor Emi seem to have garnered too much pity. As I sit happily laughing though, I feel my voice suddenly cut off as my chest clenches. I sit in silence for a few seconds, all my concentration forced on my heartbeat. It's only a small pain, but the ache feels like it's growing. Breathe deeply... breathe deeply... I glance upward to try and keep at least some of my attention on my surroundings, to see Emi suddenly freezing when she notices the expression of pain on my face out of the corner of her eye."
EMI: "Hey, Hisao... are you okay?"
HISAO: "Yeah, I'm... fine..."
NARRATOR: "I look back down and redouble my efforts to try and stay calm, clenching my fists to try and dull the pain. It takes a short time, but the pain, thankfully, begins to fade. When I look back up, there's only silence and pensive faces to be seen. I guess I'd better explain myself."
HISAO: "Arrhythmia. I'm fine, it's... just a heart flutter."
LILLY: "Are you sure? Should we get the nurse?"
NARRATOR: "Taking her cue, Hanako quickly picks herself up and begins to dash to the door."
HISAO: "Hanako, stop. Lilly, I'm fine."
RIN: "You look like a wet, wrinkled tomato."
NARRATOR: "As I bring my hand to my forehead, I can feel the beads of sweat gathered on it and dab them off with my cuff."
HISAO: "Thanks. I told you, I'm fine. I'm just kind of... fragile, I guess."
NARRATOR: "The entire atmosphere's changed from one of gaiety to downcast faces, the situation being too awkward for anyone to know exactly how to react. And of course, the whole thing is thanks to me. It just had to happen now, around others."
LILLY: "Oh, Emi?"
NARRATOR: "She looks up, a box of juice halfway to her mouth."
LILLY: "I haven't told you of my score yet, have I?"
EMI: "Yeah, well. You're half-foreign, so your score doesn't count anyway."
NARRATOR: "Lifting an eyebrow, I inquisitively turn to Lilly."
HISAO: "What was your test result, anyway?"
NARRATOR: "She gives a cheeky grin."
LILLY: "One hundred percent. Perfect score."
NARRATOR: "No way. All I can do is hang my mouth open in wonder. Considering those tests are insane even for some native speakers, I can only imagine she's gone and done something like committing to mind part of the dictionary. A gift for rote memorization, maybe."
EMI: "See! Only someone part-foreign could get a score that good."
NARRATOR: "Lilly and I grin at Emi's expense, her reaction identical to mine when I'd first tripped on that little landmine. Lilly's foreign ancestry does raise a point, though."
HISAO: "Ah, that's right. You leave tomorrow for Scotland, don't you?"
LILLY: "That's correct. Emi heard some rumors about it; it seems word's spreading quickly, considering I only told a friend in my class a couple of days ago."
EMI: "It must be so nice to go halfway around the world on a holiday. Hey, could you buy me something while you're there?"
HISAO: "Don't be too shy now."
NARRATOR: "Lilly gives a lighthearted giggle, evidently fully expecting Emi's bluntness. The rest of the lunch continues much the same as before, the jauntiness from before my heart flutter thankfully returning in full. As everyone files off with the appropriate farewells, only Lilly and I are left."
HISAO: "Hey, Lilly?"
NARRATOR: "She packs the last of her things into her bag and clips it shut, before perking her head up slightly."
HISAO: "Um... thanks for breaking the silence back there. I kind of wanted to stop it, but didn't really know how to."
NARRATOR: "As much as I'd like to sound less morose about it, the letter from yesterday, screwing up a test so badly in class, and now my heart make things very hard indeed. She gives an indulgent smile and nods. I hope she hasn't picked up on it, but knowing her, it's unlikely that she hasn't."
LILLY: "Emi's strong, but only human. We do worry about you, Hisao."
HISAO: "Hold on, why would I worry you?"
NARRATOR: "Her smiling face collapses, becoming uncomfortably serious."
LILLY: "Hisao, we are not ignorant of your situation. Unli..."
NARRATOR: "She suddenly cuts herself short, unsure of whether she should say what she intends to. I give a weak smile and rest my hand on her shoulder."
HISAO: "Don't. It's enough that I worry about it. I don't want you all to shoulder my burden."
HISAO: "If you all worry about it, I have to worry about your worrying. If... that makes sense. I'm fine, okay?"
NARRATOR: "For a moment she looks to be lost in thought, carefully pondering how to react."
LILLY: "Hisao, do you have any paper left from your food's packaging?"
HISAO: "I... think so? I'll just check."
NARRATOR: "I rummage around in my bag for the leftovers from lunch, eventually finding a paper square from my sandwich's package. My eyebrow raised and my expression rather quizzical, I gently place the square into Lilly's hand. Without another word, she brings her fingers around it to feel out its edges."
LILLY: "This should be large enough..."
NARRATOR: "With both of us seated on the roof, the minutes to the lesson ticking away, she proceeds to lay the item on the ground and begin her work in earnest. Wrapped in silence, I watch her fingers move about on the small square with amazing dexterity. A small fold here, a larger fold there, her fingertips keep a slow but sure pace. Looking up, her expression is calm and placid. The fact her face is pointed well above the sheet in front of her makes the sight of her work all the more curious. Her shoulder slump a bit after finishing one final fold, her work apparently done. It's only when she holds the item up in her hands that I realize what it is."
NARARTOR: "A small origami crane. Light brown thanks to the packaging used, the result looks quite delicate and precise."
HISAO: "You can do origami?"
LILLY: "I taught myself how to do it when I was younger. It improved my dexterity a bit."
NARRATOR: "A little baffled, I carefully take the small bird from her pale cupped hands as if it would break from the slightest breath. It seems to be folded quite well, and holds its shape easily. We both grab our bags and head out the door, Lilly extending her cane as she does so. I hold Lilly's handiwork up to my face for further inspection while we walk down the hallway, her hand running along the silver handrails for orientation. If she taught herself origami to improve her dexterity, with the use of her hands meaning so much to her given her condition... ah, so that's it. I smile as I realize the bird's meaning. “Everyone here has had to find their own ways of dealing with their conditions. You aren't alone here when you have problems.”"
HISAO: "Thanks, Lilly. I appreciate this."
NARRATOR: "She gives a sweet smile and a nod, not using words where none need be used, in her typical manner."
LILLY: "All I ask is that you take care of yourself, Hisao."
HISAO: "Don't worry, I will."
NARRATOR: "And with that, we part ways. To be honest, I don't know what annoys me more - the fact that I could die at any moment, or the fact that everyone knows that. I guess I'll just take each day as it comes. As the unexpected present in my hand reminds me, I'm not alone here. Even though I may be like this, I'm not alone. If they worry, if anyone worries, I'll smile. I'll smile enough for all their worries to go away."
Next Scene: Bon Voyage