NARRATOR: "The following morning, I wake up thinking that most of my time is going to be spent trying to avoid Shizune and Misha. What happened last evening still makes me feel uneasy. I'd thought that sleeping on it would help alleviate that feeling. I feel like an idiot for believing it would be that easy. I think about whether or not Misha might feel the same way. If so, she probably won't show up to school today. I'd considered doing the same, but it would be pretty suspicious, and staying inside all day in fear doesn't appeal to me. It never really has. Like I thought, Misha isn't in class this morning. Shizune is, but today is a busier day than most, so she gives her all concentrating on her classwork, and that means there's little idle time for her to start up a conversation with me."
NARRATOR: "I'd grown so used to seeing Shizune and Misha together that I hadn't realized until yesterday how much that hasn't been the case lately. And it's a shame, because the empty seat next to her reminds me that they are a pair. So, yesterday is something I'll take to my grave. If I feel this way about it, I wonder how Misha must feel. Just as regretful? When she came on to me, she was more depressed than sexy to start with. I can only imagine how much worse it would be now. Thinking about it like that, I want to see her again. But only halfheartedly. The other half of me is still terrified, even though I hate to use that word. It makes me feel ashamed, but I'm sure it's the only way to describe myself right now."
NARRATOR: "I spend the next couple periods in the library, not in the mood to sit in classes for the rest of the day, but unwilling to walk back to the dorms. While I'm lazily flipping through the pages of an uninteresting historical fiction novel, Shizune drops herself into the chair across from me, pouting."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "I think it's sort of pointless to come to school and then skip every class."
HISAO: (signing) "Sorry."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "At least tell everyone that you're sick."
HISAO: (signing) "I'm just not feeling it today. Yesterday I was fine, though. Tomorrow, I'll probably be fine. Taking a sick day in the middle of the week is just too suspicious. That “24-hour flu” thing or whatever won't fly."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's not suspicious."
HISAO: (signing) "It is."
NARRATOR: "I turn back to my book, but Shizune gently pulls it down, in contrast with her expression, which straddles the line between concern and anger."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Is something wrong?"
HISAO: (signing) "What?"
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Is something bothering you? Because you're acting a little suspicious today, in a different way. If there is, just tell me, or I'll be mad. I'm not good at reading people."
NARRATOR: "What a ridiculous thing to say, after picking up my mood so easily. She is only half-kidding, but there is some truth in it. After all, she can't hear tone, and has to rely on reading to communicate with others. It's as if you could only ever have conversations with someone through text messages. That has to mess with you in some way. It's probably why she stares so intently at people, in order to gauge their reaction. Or maybe it's why she pushes people so hard, to get them to react. I've thought about it before, but it's too hard to say for sure what Shizune's exact motivations are for anything. So, I wonder how much of that was a joke. Sometimes, it's easy to tell. This time, it isn't. Assuming it wasn't a joke, I can't tell her anyway. Because it's sign language, there is enough time to collect myself and lie effectively."
HISAO: (signing) "Nothing."
HISAO: (signing) "I've just been thinking a lot about the Student Council's future, lately. I believe Misha is doing the same... well, in her own way."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "So am I, but she isn't here today. I wish she would have let me know something, because I might need her help later today. Yours too, unless you're busy."
HISAO: (signing) "I'm not..."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Thank you. I feel like I'm losing a lot of people close to me, lately."
NARRATOR: "I can't think of a good way to respond to that. Something reassuring and confident, telling her not to worry. “I'm here for you. I'm not one of those people.” Then, who is? And it seems so forced. I manage a wave of my hand that seems extremely callous as soon as I do it."
HISAO: (signing) "You shouldn't feel that way."
HISAO: (signing) "I might be just a little sick, not enough to go through the trouble of making it official. It's just easier for me this way."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's the wrong way."
NARRATOR: "I've heard the hard way and the right way are usually the same thing, so it's not a big stretch to say that the opposite is true."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Well, fine. If you say you are all right, that's good enough for me."
HISAO: (signing) "Wait."
HISAO: (signing) "You asked me, so I'm turning it around. Is everything okay with you?"
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Yes."
NARRATOR: "She signs it without a moment's hesitation. After that, Shizune waits to see if I'm going to follow up on it. I don't, and she leaves. I feel like an idiot for not going further, even though I think it's better that I didn't. I've been in the library for quite a while, and decide to go up to the roof for a change of pace. A fresh breeze hits me the second I open the door. This is really my favorite area of the school, I think. Then I see that I'm not the only one here. I can see a girl with bubblegum-pink hair in front of me. Her back is to me, but I don't have to see her face to know who it is. I'm sure Misha is the only person in the world with hair like that. I get the feeling that I've stumbled on her at a bad moment."
NARRATOR: "She obviously wants to be alone, and I wonder if she hasn't noticed my presence. If so, I'll leave right now. But she has, and turns to face me."
MISHA: "Oh, Hicchan. I thought someone was behind me, but I didn't think it was going to be you. This time, you surprised me."
NARRATOR: "If she's referring to her habit of sneaking up behind me and asking me to guess who it is... I've never been surprised by that."
HISAO: "I'm surprised, too. But this is good. I had something I wanted to talk to you about, anyway."
HISAO: "Not that... "What's going on between you and Shizune? She won't tell me, so I'm asking you."
NARRATOR: "“Because you're easier to get an answer out of, since the same sign language that gives me the leeway to lie to her gives her a cushion against my questions, so that she can more easily brush them off.” When she hesitates, I push her harder."
HISAO: "Give me an honest answer, please."
MISHA: "It's complicated, Hicchan... It's because of something that happened a long time ago. I thought I could just forget about it, but~... it's really hard. So~, that and graduation coming up made me want to spend more time with Shicchan~!"
MISHA: "But Shicchan is always busy now. So~! We've been fighting. But, I'm tired of it now. Because~... I like Shicchan."
HISAO: "So do I."
MISHA: "Wahaha~. No, no~. I know you like her, Hicchan. I mean that I like Shicchan in the same way."
MISHA: "I want her to be my girlfriend."
NARRATOR: "Misha closes her eyes, like a condemned criminal confessing the last of their sins in front of the executioner. It only makes it harder for me to think of a response, and I know I have to give one."
HISAO: "I see. I never knew."
MISHA: "I didn't really want to come to this school, Hicchan~. But it sounded interesting, and even if everyone hated me, at least it felt like they would leave me alone. I was learning sign language, but wasn't very good at it~. Shicchan was trying to get people to join the Student Council, because it was only her and Lilly. Then, she came up to me. I couldn't understand her at all~."
NARRATOR: "But~! Shicchan wouldn't use her pen and paper. She knew that I was taking sign language classes. I was exposed quickly, I didn't know any~... That only made her try harder, and I hated Shicchan and thought she was making fun of me. That wasn't the reason, though~... So~! I slowly fell in love with Shicchan, and I told her... that I loved her."
MISHA: "It was in the student council room, you know. When it was just the two of us. I had these fantasies of Shicchan staying alone in the office, trying to put everything together all by herself. It seemed so lonely to me, and so sad~. I think I wanted it to be that way~. That way, I could be there for Shicchan, and maybe Shicchan would like me. Even though there was no reason for me to believe it, I did anyway. I wanted it to be true, so I was okay with letting myself believe it, even though I think I knew. That day was really, really~ beautiful, too, Hicchan~. We were done with everything, and I was looking out through the window. Even through the window, the light was so warm~... I wanted to stay like that forever, next to Shicchan. But~! Then I looked at Shicchan, and she had her back to the window and was still working on something, blocking out the rest of the world. The light was on her shoulders, like when I would put a blanket on my shoulders as a little kid."
NARRATOR: "Misha stops for a second as if trying to hold onto the image of Shizune in her mind."
MISHA: "Shicchan looked... hm~... It was like, Shicchan looked in a way that made me want to be with her... But it felt like it would be hard for that to happen. Wahaha~. That was~, a really~ long~ time ago. My hair was different back then, too. A little messy~? I cut it because Shicchan was always talking about it. Anyway~! I told her, right then and there; I confessed~. I was rejected~. So~, I thought that that was it, Hicchan. But Shicchan was always trying to find me, and I hated Shicchan again for it. And when I asked her why she was doing it, it was because I was her friend."
NARRATOR: "Her cheeks have a hint of red in them. I wonder how much experience she has had with crying, that she can keep herself from doing it so well. If she didn't pause to wipe her eyes, I might never have noticed."
MISHA: "Having Shicchan say that made me happy, but also sad, and even though she never meant to hurt me, it still hurts. Even now... Shicchan has a way of manipulating people, Hicchan. Sometimes she wants to, and sometimes she doesn't really, but it happens anyway~. And sometimes I'm just not sure... exactly which one it is. And I feel doubt... I just wish that Shicchan liked me instead of you. It made me wonder if I was starting to hate you and Shicchan... just a little. I... didn't like that."
HISAO: "So you were thinking, maybe it would be better if I weren't here at all?"
NARRATOR: "She looks confused. The thought has never crossed her mind."
MISHA: "That's not it, Hicchan. I thought about it a lot these last few days, and I don't want to hate anyone. You, or Shicchan. It's so stupid that I ever felt like that, isn't it, Hicchan? I don't want to think about that kind of stuff ever again. And missing people, and being apart from them; I'm tired of it, and don't want to think about it any more. I already did, though. So~! ...I'm still really the worst kind of person. I wasn't thinking that it would be better if Hicchan had never come to this school. I was thinking... wouldn't it be better if I just died?"
NARRATOR: "Misha presses herself harder against the fence at her back, as if hoping to slip right through it. Without really thinking about it, I grab her hand. My reflexes are terrible, and I manage to only grasp onto a few of her fingers, but it's unimportant."
HISAO: "Sorry. It's just that you said something pretty weird just now."
MISHA: "Hahaha~. Yeah~, I guess that's right, Hicchan."
HISAO: "Yeah. Do you want to know what I think? Shizune is the type of person who won't let anyone close to her except on her terms. It's frustrating, sometimes it's even infuriating. That probably would have bothered me, when I was in the hospital and anyone who shut me out was dead to me. I'd forgotten all about it until recently. I got a letter, and it was all about that. I was mad. I thought, “How can you accuse me of closing myself off from everyone and giving up? Isn't that what everyone else did to me? What else am I supposed to do? What can I do?” Yeah, even now, I know that's how it happened, but... she was right, too. I did close myself off. So, I made up my mind that I'm not going to let that be the case ever again."
MISHA: "The hospital? Hicchan... is that what those pills are for?"
MISHA: "The hospital? Hicchan... what are you..."
HISAO: "Just listen, please. Shizune is the opposite of how I was. She has always wanted to draw people closer to her. That's the only reason Shizune was interested in me in the first place, I think. And I think I was determined to not let that happen, in a way."
NARRATOR: "Misha casts her eyes downwards, understanding perfectly."
HISAO: "I never realized how hard that can be. And now, I feel like I'm going to return the favor, even if it takes twice as long. I already learned a second language just to get this far. It wasn't as hard as I thought, but it was definitely hard. Sometimes, I felt like I was clawing my way up a mountain, with how my hands hurt. And you did the same thing. And it was for the same reason, wasn't it? That's really amazing. Which is why it makes me sad, and a little angry, that you would say a stupid thing like that."
HISAO: "That's just what I believe, anyway."
NARRATOR: "Her shoulders slump, and Misha almost slides to the floor, like she is drained of all energy."
MISHA: "You're too dramatic, Hicchan."
NARRATOR: "She says, while looking away, turning her head almost as if she wants to look out at the school grounds, but not turning it enough to do so."
NARRATOR: "The door behind us opens, the sound only barely able to be heard over the ambient breeze."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "I've been looking everywhere for you two. Is this some secret meeting?"
NARRATOR: "She walks over to us, leaning against the fence next to Misha as if she needs to stop and catch her breath, before pushing herself off it and continuing."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "I'm bored sitting in the student council room every day now, without either of you ever coming by. Taking some time off is fine, but this is just too much."
NARRATOR: "Normally, Misha and I would be jokingly making excuses for ourselves at this point. This time, there's only silence. Shizune, always expecting resistance, is thrown off balance by the lack of it. A few seconds pass in uneasy silence, which Shizune breaks with an ear-shattering snap of her fingers, smiling as if to say “eureka.”"
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Let's go do something together."
HISAO: "Like what?"
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Anything! We should go to the student council room first, and then figure it out from there."
HISAO: "That seems like a trick to get us to do work instead."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "Very funny."
NARRATOR: "Misha laughs, managing to let out a restrained “wahaha.” That Shizune can't see it makes me feel better. It means that it wasn't only for her benefit."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "I was thinking that you both actually could help me with something. What else is there? We can't go out to eat. We already ordered in yesterday, and that was already breaking policy. Three days in a row would be unforgivable."
MISHA: "But~! That was ordering in, Shicchan~! Going out to eat is different."
HISAO: "Yeah, totally different."
SHIZUNE: (signing) "You're both kidding yourselves."
NARRATOR: "Before I can reply, Shizune grabs my hand, limiting my ability to do so. My options cut down so drastically, I have no choice but to settle for making a face at her instead. She makes one back, before extending her hand to Misha as well. When Misha is reluctant to take it, I walk forward as far as holding onto Shizune at the same time will allow me, and take her hand myself."
NARRATOR: "She only has a second to smile before Shizune starts pulling us impatiently towards the door, binding us together, like a human chain."
NARRATOR: "Although it's dangerous, none of us seem to think of letting go any step of the way through the school, out of the doors, and across the grounds. This feels familiar, as if we've walked like this before. The three of us, hand in hand. Of course, the mood was a lot happier then. I can see the lingering sadness on their faces, and it makes me wonder if anything has really changed. If this is all just a distraction or not. But I think it's just me slipping back into being cynical because of the moment. It's a start."
END OF ACT 3
Next Scene: Grand Strategy