NARRATOR: "Well, at least the weather this morning is nice enough that I can study outside before class. It's a lot more refreshing out here than it would be in the classroom. Not to mention with how quiet it is, I'm starting to think that everyone else will be sleeping in pretty late today. I put down the notes I'm reviewing for a second and stare out at the school grounds, still littered with festival stalls. Looking at them now in the daytime, without paper lanterns or crowds of people to draw my attention away from them, I notice something peculiar. A lot of the stalls that Shizune, Misha, and I visited last night also happen to be ones that we worked on."
NARRATOR: "That's cute. Did Shizune come up with this? It had to be intentional, especially knowing her. Did she hope that I would catch on and see the fruit of our labors? I hear footsteps crunching the grass behind me and turn around. I feel slightly paranoid, but all I find is Shizune standing there with an innocuous look on her face."
HISAO: "Good morning."
NARRATOR: "Why do I keep forgetting that she can't hear me? It's probably because I've gotten so used to Misha translating for both of us that I haven't actually run into many situations where I was forced to acknowledge Shizune's deafness and the problems that could stem from it. I think yesterday was the first. I give her a wave anyway. I can do at least this much, but I'm not even going to pretend for a minute that I could hold up a conversation with her, considering my ignorance of sign language. Would it be rude to just go back to my notes? I don't really know what else I could do."
HISAO: "Where's Misha?"
HISAO: "Not just because I can't understand you. You two are always together anyway, so I'm not used to seeing you apart."
NARRATOR: "I know it's silly but for some reason talking to her makes me feel less awkward. Surprisingly, she doesn't get mad at all. She starts signing; but it's different than usual. Shizune's hands move more slowly, and the gestures are simpler. I quickly realize that this isn't sign language at all, but she's still attempting to communicate with me."
HISAO: "So is this the sign language equivalent of breaking it down into layman's terms?"
NARRATOR: "I'm terrified that if I attempt to gesticulate back, I'd just look like a total dumbass. The look on Shizune's face tells me that she is starting to think that trying to have any kind of back and forth like this is not exactly the best way to accomplish things. There has to be a better way. Writing on a pad? Well, I do have paper and a pencil. What else, though? Cell phones? I don't really have much use for mine here, so I barely carry it around, and I don't know if Shizune even has one. She takes the initiative, holding up a finger to ask for a pause before pulling out a pad and pen from her bag and writing a single word on it:"
NARRATOR: "I stare blankly at her and receive a similar but somehow more intimidating stare in response. She nudges the pad in my direction forcefully, clearly wanting me to reply."
NARRATOR: "Shizune beams with a disproportionate amount of happiness. She starts twirling her pen triumphantly as she thinks about where to go from here."
HISAO: "Oh, come on, it's not like we just invented fire."
NARRATOR: "Shizune pushes up her glasses curtly, as if she had heard me, and then starts writing at a furious pace."
Use the notepad! Write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write!
NARRATOR: "I'm confused; am I supposed to take it from her and write “okay” now? This is about the furthest thing I could imagine from a smooth, flowing conversation. It makes me envy the ease with which Misha is able to communicate with Shizune."
Are you studying for the test?
NARRATOR: "I'm pretty sure I can get away with answering simple yes or no questions like this with nods."
You are here very early; most people sleep in late after the festival. That means you are abnormal.
NARRATOR: "...Is that so?"
You're here too.
NARRATOR: "Before handing that response back to her, though, I remember what I'd noticed earlier, and add:"
You're here too.
Yesterday was fun. I noticed today that I built a lot of the stalls we went to. Maybe that's why they were so familiar. Was this another game?
NARRATOR: "She shakes her head from side to side indignantly."
I thought that because you had made those stalls, they were the most important ones. We had to visit them, because everyone should be able to appreciate the fruit of their labors. I wanted you to be able to see and enjoy what you had done.
NARRATOR: "I'm sort of touched. Still, I have to wonder why she would go so out of her way, and I ask as much in my response."
Because you were depressed.
NARRATOR: "I want to say that I was depressed for days, but stop. It's true, I was moping quite a bit, and not being too subtle about it half the time, either, so it's possible that she knew. Was everything she did just to cheer me up, then?"
NARRATOR: "I mumble it before I can catch myself, but Shizune doesn't seem to care. I write it down instead, and she nods once, as if unused to it. The silence between us grows more vast with each passing second, and there's nothing I can do to break it. Having to write everything down on paper kind of destroys any hope of trying to be casual."
Good luck on the exam.
NARRATOR: "Shizune pushes the pad right in front of my eyes, breaking my concentration. Taking the initiative again, as always. As she walks into the school building, I can't help feeling a little sad. That felt like the longest twenty minutes of my life, and all because it's so alien to me to have a face-to-face conversation with someone by passing notes to each other that I can't help coming up blank most of the time. It makes me want to learn sign language. That's easier said than done. Although in a school like Yamaku, they might very well have sign language classes. In that case, there would be little reason not to pursue this. The only person who I can think to ask, at the moment, is Misha. How badly do I want to know this? There's two options: Wait until after class, or go look for her now. I guess I'll go now, but I'm not certain where she is. My best bet would be to start searching for her in the girls' dorm, though. After all, if she wasn't with Shizune, that's probably the only place where she would be."
NARRATOR: "A guy casually prowling around the girls' dorm early in the morning is unacceptable, but asking Misha about sign language classes in front of Shizune would be just unthinkable. She has to come to school sometime. After all, we're in the same class, so she too has to take this test. If I wait here, I'll be sure to see her sooner or later. I just hope she doesn't walk past me while I'm flipping through my notes. It turns out to be a pretty long wait. As students file into the school, I wonder if Misha is going to be late. Eventually I catch sight of her. While she bounces across the grounds, it hits me that I'd have to be blind to miss her with her incredibly distinctive hair."
MISHA: "Hi, Hicchan~! Good morning~!"
NARRATOR: "I don't have a lot of time left before class starts, so I cut directly to the chase."
HISAO: "Hey, can I ask you a question?"
MISHA: "A question? Hm~... Okay, Hicchan~! Sure~ sure~! I have time, but only because I'm late!"
HISAO: "What does that mean?"
MISHA: "Haha~. I should have woken up earlier, but I was so tired~... if I had, I would have to study, but since I didn't, it won't hurt~! What is it, Hicchan?"
HISAO: "Well, there are sign language classes here, right?"
MISHA: "Yup~! They're electives! Why do you want to know, Hicchan?"
NARRATOR: "For some reason that question briefly makes me panic."
HISAO: "No reason. It sounds interesting, but I guess it's too late to sign up now, right?"
NARRATOR: "I'm not exactly being too subtle here, but Misha never seems to pick up on things like that anyway, so I'm probably being more cautious than is necessary."
MISHA: "Hm~? Ah, well, Hicchan, I've heard there are fewer and fewer students taking sign language every year. So! If you want to, I'm sure they will let you in~! Are you thinking of learning sign language, Hicchan?"
MISHA: "If you learned sign language, Hicchan, that would make Shicchan really happy~. If you want, we can go to the teachers' office after school. They'll probably let you in."
HISAO: "That would be great. Don't tell Shizune that I want to learn it, though."
MISHA: "Why not?"
HISAO: "So it can be a surprise. Besides, it'll look bad if you tell her this morning, and then I find out in the afternoon that I can't take the classes."
MISHA: "Aw~. You're right, Hicchan. Still, this will be hard~... It's such good news..."
HISAO: "I'm in the Student Council, so I might as well try learning it. Even if it's just the basics, it'd be a step up from nothing. Besides, Shizune and I can't keep relaying everything through you as if you were a phone or something, right?"
MISHA: "Wahaha~! You're right, Hicchan~!"
NARRATOR: "... The bell rings to signal the start of first period, cutting our conversation short. I guess I'll just ask a teacher after classes are through. Her reaction was a little strange, but I forget about it as the day goes on."
Next Scene: Talk to the Hand