NARRATOR: "I guess I need to buy some supplies. I can't live off cafeteria food and eating out for my entire stay here. As I leave for the gate, I make a few loud stretches to try and stave off the tiredness that's accumulated over the week. After passing through and rounding the corner, though, I see a solitary figure walking downhill towards the small town below. The color of her hair and tapping of her cane are unmistakable. I quickly walk up to her, which seems to catch her attention without a word needing to be said."
HISAO: "Hi, Lilly."
NARRATOR: "She takes a moment to place the voice, slightly adjusting her head to face a bit more towards the source of my voice as she does."
HISAO: "Yep, that's me."
NARRATOR: "She seems to have a good memory for voices. The fact that she actually remembered is a pleasant surprise."
LILLY: "Good evening. What brings you here?"
NARRATOR: "Once again, she gives a small polite bow. And, once again, I reply in kind before realizing that I needn't do so."
HISAO: "Just going into town. You?"
LILLY: "My my, what a coincidence."
HISAO: "Doing the same thing, eh?"
LILLY: "Mm. I usually go shopping on Fridays."
NARRATOR: "She pauses for a moment, suddenly looking a little lost."
LILLY: "That said, Hanako usually comes into town with me..."
NARRATOR: "Ah. Not lost, but worried. The two do seem to keep pretty close tabs on one another. It's kind of surprising that Hanako would just forget Lilly like that."
HISAO: "I noticed her reading in the library. She probably just got caught up in a book."
NARRATOR: "She lets out a small sigh of relief."
LILLY: "Thank you. She has a habit of doing that."
HISAO: "Avid reader?"
LILLY: "Right. She doesn't like being around crowds of people, so reading away from everyone lets her relax a bit."
NARRATOR: "Although she probably didn't intend it, I can't help but grimace as I recall my first meeting with her. Hardly wanting to bring it up, I remain silent as we quietly continue to walk down the quiet road. Tack, tack. Tack, tack. With the road bereft of cars and the students of Yamaku increasingly far behind us, the quiet rustling of the leaves and the measured tapping of Lilly's cane against the sidewalk are all that can be heard. It's kind of nice, especially compared to the hustle and bustle of where I used to live. Before I know it, I've relaxed so much that a loud yawn escapes before I can control it."
HISAO: "Yeah, been running ragged these past few days."
NARRATOR: "That's an understatement, to be sure. Transferring into a different school would be bad enough, but nothing like this..."
LILLY: "Well, hopefully everything should settle down for you. The festival's got everyone in a spin right now, and you've been plopped right in the middle of things."
NARRATOR: "For a moment I hesitate, but given her apparent tolerance for frankness I decide to give my full thoughts."
HISAO: "I guess. Yamaku's kind of different though. I mean, the formality surrounding everything, the isolation around it... not to mention the most obvious difference."
HISAO: "It's kind of a whole different mindset. I suppose I'll get used to it though, in time."
NARRATOR: "She gives a matter-of-fact nod, apparently pleased with my answer. It feels almost as if she's included me in the flock of students she's shepherding, along with class 3-2 and Hanako. Well, not that I mind. It's nice to get the thoughts off my chest in any case."
LILLY: "Looking on the bright side, one could see it as a chance for a new beginning. You should cherish the ability to make new friends."
NARRATOR: "That's optimistic. Nonetheless, it's good to have a positive attitude about such things, I suppose."
HISAO: "I guess that's a good take on it."
NARRATOR: "Walking on down the road, she seems to become somewhat unsettled. Before I can ask what's on her mind, she seems to collect herself and speaks up about something else."
LILLY: "So, where in town were you going?"
NARRATOR: "That's actually a pretty good question. I'd come in to buy food, but the layout of the place is still totally foreign to me. I had intended to just wander around and see what I could find, but with sunset already approaching and nightfall not too far away, that doesn't seem very wise. I'm going to have to ask her for directions. Again."
HISAO: "I was just going to get some food... but now that you mention it, I don't really know the way."
LILLY: "Well now, this is quite lucky. I was just about to go to the convenience store myself."
HISAO: "Looks like I'll be in your care again, then. Thanks."
NARRATOR: "Together we walk to the store, my paces carefully slowed to remain beside her. Compared to my usual walking pace, hers is quite a bit slower. Not that it's without reason. After what couldn't be more than several minutes, I catch sight of our objective. This town really is pretty small. Without further ado, we make our way inside with a greeting from the counter."
LILLY: "Mind if I tag along with you? Usually Hanako would help me, but seeing as she's not here..."
NARRATOR: "It takes a moment before I realize what she means. Considering she wouldn't be able to read any of the labels, shopping without any help would be a big pain for her. That said, I can't shake the feeling that she'd had this idea since I said I was coming here."
HISAO: "Sure. It'd be my pleasure."
NARRATOR: "I grab two well-used red baskets from the small stack beside the entrance, handing one to Lilly. She lays it on the ground, putting her schoolbag in, retracting her cane and sliding it through the basket's handles before picking it back up in her right hand. Wait, if she doesn't use her cane... Before I can complete the thought, she comes beside me and pinches the cuff of my uniform in her slender fingers."
LILLY: "Is this all right?"
HISAO: "Ah, sure."
NARRATOR: "I have no reason not to accept. I can think of worse things than shopping with a pretty girl holding onto me, even if it is out of necessity. We navigate our way through the store, with not one of the occasional passing customers seeming to bat an eyelid. Considering how close Yamaku is, I guess seeing students from there must be entirely normal for the local residents. As we reach each aisle, I quickly check with Lilly and find out what she needs. I grab it along with what I'm looking for, and put our items into their respective baskets. I guess this is the same routine she and Hanako follow every Friday."
HISAO: "Right, all that's left is the bread and that should be my shopping done. Do you need anything else, Lilly?"
LILLY: "No, this should be everything."
HISAO: "Off we go, then."
NARRATOR: "With a quick side trip to the bakery section, we make our way to the registers. The line, thankfully, is almost nonexistent. It's not long before we've both paid for our food and are out the door. As Lilly retrieves her cane and extends it to full length, I waste a minute looking upwards at the night sky while holding both our bags. For a moment I try to make clouds with my breath, but the summer's heat doesn't seem to cooperate. Eventually she rights herself, taking a quick stretch before taking her bag and leaving me to my two."
HISAO: "You tired as well?"
LILLY: "The festival preparations have been complete chaos. Shizune breathing down my neck doesn't exactly help things, either."
HISAO: "Hey, she's only trying to get everything organized. Better now than later, right?"
LILLY: "I suppose. I'm going to enjoy relaxing in town tomorrow, that's for certain."
NARRATOR: "I guess the festival preparations must be taking their toll on both of them. We walk out into the quiet street, talking between ourselves as we carry our bags of food and supplies from the store."
NARRATOR: "...Wait, what's that? I notice a very distinctive figure making its way towards us, silhouetted by the streetlamps. For a second I think it's another male student from my class, but as he, or should I say she, gets closer I recognize her quickly."
HISAO: "Rin? What're you doing out here so late?"
NARRATOR: "Lilly perks her head, looking like she's trying to focus on listening more keenly. It suddenly comes to me that I should probably interpret the scene for her."
HISAO: "It's Rin... Tezuka, I think was her last name, from our school."
NARRATOR: "She stiffens at the name and gives a complicated-looking expression, something like a forced fusion of a composed smile and a painful cringe."
LILLY: "Ah. I understand."
NARRATOR: "I guess Lilly knows Rin too. Rin turns to look at us, looking terribly out of it. I'm not entirely sure if she recognizes either of us or at least she doesn't acknowledge it if she does. She looks like a zombie. Or a statue. A statue of a zombie. But slowly, some symptoms of understanding seem to light in her dark eyes: this is something she must react to. Rin blinks once. Very thoroughly."
NARRATOR: "There is an awkward pause, everyone waiting for someone else to say something."
HISAO: "What are you doing here this late?"
RIN: "I... I was wondering about that myself too. Just now. Some people asked that just before. I assume they were wondering the same. I didn't know. They didn't know either. I asked. That's why I'm wondering. So that was pretty much it. It's a murder mystery without a murder."
RIN: "They were going that way."
NARRATOR: "She turns facing to her right in order to demonstrate the direction the other people went to as if that was important, then rotates back like a mechanical puppet in one of those overly complicated clockworks. For a person who gives an impression of being the quiet type, Rin really does use a lot of words to say things that don't need a lot to be said."
NARRATOR: "Unsure if she's finished, I say nothing. Neither does Lilly, who seems equally robbed of words for the time being. I think that both of us are in fact just scared that any response might provoke her to continue. Our stupefied lack of reaction doesn't faze Rin at all. She keeps looking at us expectantly, a calm hint of expression on her blank face. She seems to be that kind of person. Always so relaxed. As if bull elephant-grade sedatives were flowing in her veins in the place of blood."
LILLY: "Do you have amnesia? I don't recall you having anything of the sort, though..."
HISAO: "No, I don't think it's that. The other passersby were probably just worried, though. You do look really lost, the way you're standing in the middle of the street."
RIN: "Oh, I see. Maybe I should've taken some other kind of pose in that case."
NARRATOR: "I ponder for a while whether I should chase this angle further, or give up for the sake of my own sanity. I decide on the latter. It seems that most of the time, it's better to not read too deeply into what Rin is babbling about. Talking with Rin is like playing chess with a supercomputer who does seemingly completely random moves as if to mock everything you know about chess. It's like that, except with human interaction. And even if I win, it feels like losing. Damn, it's just like Kenji said. Even when I win, I lose. Is this the power of the girls of Yamaku?"
NARRATOR: "I push the thought aside as too dangerous to consider further. It's probably just Kenji's anti-female propaganda getting to me during a moment of weakness."
HISAO: "Yeah, maybe taking another pose might have worked. So anyway, you have no idea what you're doing here?"
NARRATOR: "She frowns, looking extremely displeased at either my question, its consequences, or the answer she's about to give."
RIN: "I do have. Some idea. I can't really tell what kind of an idea."
LILLY: "That sounds like progress, at least."
NARRATOR: "Lilly sounds as if she's spotted an opening for some kind of discernibly normal conversation. I can't say I share her optimism."
RIN: "Yes, there is some. Definitely. The rest will come later. I'm sure of it. I always have... reasons."
NARRATOR: "The ensuing silence kills Lilly's hopes all too visibly. That didn't last long. Rin's, as far as I can tell unbased, assurances aside... what should be done? We could just leave her to her own devices, whatever those are... but it's late and I don't think we'll be getting any thanks if Rin is found standing here in the middle of the night. Which she probably will, unless she manages to remember what she was doing here in the first place. As for me trying to guess what might've been going on in her mind when she decided to embark on this adventure, the chances seem to be on par with winning the lottery. Several times in a row."
NARRATOR: "Lilly is oddly quiet too. I'd appreciate some support from the sidelines here, especially if she's more familiar with Rin than I am. But it can't be helped. It seems her familiarity with Rin is exactly why she's staying subdued."
HISAO: "So, I assume you were going somewhere, not coming back to the school... any idea where?"
NARRATOR: "Her eyes widen in shock and she jolts back in a somewhat artificial way, making it seem like an act rehearsed for situations like this."
RIN: "Are you a mind reader? Is that your disability? How unique!"
HISAO: "No... What? Why would you think that?"
RIN: "You knew what I was doing."
HISAO: "Eh, it was just an educated guess. We walked this same street in the other direction just before, to get to the store."
HISAO: "If you were going to school, we would've met you on the way."
NARRATOR: "She looks a little disappointed. Like Kenji, Rin appears quick to jump to completely irrational conclusions. Maybe it's something in the water here. I make a mental note to stock up on soft drinks."
HISAO: "You know, that is the second time this week that someone asked if I was a mind reader. Do I really give off that impression?"
NARRATOR: "Rin shrugs her shoulders, which is all the answer I get."
HISAO: "You know—"
LILLY: "Maybe you should come with us back to the school?"
NARRATOR: "Lilly interjects just as I am about to further debunk my alleged mind-reading capabilities. She sounds rather concerned, the paper-thin smile on her face badly disguising that fact. Maybe she came to the same conclusion as I did. For everyone's sake, I decide to let the mind-reading topic drop, as it's entirely inane anyway."
HISAO: "Yeah, Lilly's right. If you can't remember, there's no point staying here."
NARRATOR: "Rin considers this rather simple deduction for a moment, then nods."
NARRATOR: "We start towards the school again, having wasted way more time than necessary with this episode. Rin walks along the edge of the sidewalk in her arrhythmic way, looking like a mix of sleepwalker and rope dancer, while Lilly keeps one hand on my shoulder, tapping at the ground with her cane."
NARRATOR: "Tap step step tap tap step step step."
NARRATOR: "Apart from that and a few fragmented beginnings of conversation, it's quiet. A quiet quite apart from the relaxing one into town, at that."
HISAO: "So how's the mural going?"
RIN: "We are going to get bad luck. Never talk about works in progress."
LILLY: "I'm sure it'll be wonderful."
RIN: "Bad luck."
NARRATOR: "Tap step tap step. She doesn't care to talk about it. Lilly's politeness feels out of place, for the first time. Step step step. The hill Yamaku rests on top of is surprisingly steep, going uphill. We slow the pace, but I still feel my pulse rising and breathing getting heavier. Almost there, I can see the gates already. More than that, though, I notice that Lilly's hand slightly tightens on my shoulder. Interpreting it as a gesture that she wants to ask something, I speak up."
HISAO: "Anything wrong, Lilly?"
NARRATOR: "I resist the urge to say “Aside from our traveling companion?” But only just. For a moment she seems to debate whether she should even bring it up, but goes for it anyway."
LILLY: "Is everything... all right?"
HISAO: "All right? How do you mean?"
NARRATOR: "The fact I can't interpret her incredibly vague question puts her off, for a second."
LILLY: "It's just... you seem unusually tired, I guess."
NARRATOR: "Now that she brings it up, I notice that my breathing is strangely heavy. The uphill walk has really done a job on me. Lilly noticed it all too quickly..."
HISAO: "It's all right, I just need to catch my breath. My condition isn't the best, these days."
LILLY: "Oh. Is it something that... is related to you being transferred here? I mean..."
NARRATOR: "She cuts herself off rather abruptly, maybe realizing she was being a bit intrusive. Her instincts are sharp though, and while I don't like the subject it's not like I should lie about it. If it's Lilly, I don't think I mind."
HISAO: "I'm just a little weak for the time being."
LILLY: "Hanako said you look fairly... healthy, so I naturally thought..."
NARRATOR: "Lilly doesn't finish her sentence again, letting it trail off with a measure of concern. As she furrows her brow, Lilly's uncomfortable expression spurs me to say at least something to ease her feelings. It's surprising she's this flustered, considering her straightforward attitude with her own blindness. She must know that not all share her own comfort about such things."
HISAO: "No, it's okay. I have a pretty... I guess the best way to put it would be messed-up... heart. Arrhythmia. I had a bad heart attack a while ago because of it, and spent most of the spring in a hospital. Ended in Yamaku on doctor's orders."
NARRATOR: "She silently nods her head in acknowledgment. My answer, though, only seems to make Lilly furrow her brow even further. She doesn't seem to quite know how to react, given we don't really know each other that well. I can't really fault her for it, given I have the exact same reaction. To my surprise, in a moment's time her face shows that she comes to some sort of realization."
LILLY: "Wait... so the time when Emi and you collided in the hallway...?"
NARRATOR: "I grimace slightly. Her ability to connect the dots quite so fast is unexpected."
HISAO: "Yeah. I guess I'm a textbook example of why those rules about running in the corridors exist."NARRATOR: "That was a lot more dry than I'd intended. Lilly visibly shies away from continuing the topic."
HISAO: "I... I'm fine. There's nothing to worry about, the hill is just surprisingly steep, don't you think? I wonder what they have the school so high up here for anyway, don't we have students in wheelchairs and everything?"
NARRATOR: "Lilly's forehead wrinkles in concern, and I don't really want her to have that kind of an expression over me. We barely know each other."
HISAO: "Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Not that you can find a place like this wherever, I guess, but it makes me wonder what they were thinking."
NARRATOR: "My voice is overly calm, it sounds weird to my own ear and I speak way too fast. I briefly wonder how much Lilly can sense from someone's voice alone."
HISAO: "Let's continue. We're almost there anyway."
NARRATOR: "For the rest of the way back to the school, we all remain silent. While I do want to assuage her concern, I really don't want to dwell on this either."
HISAO: "Don't worry about it."
NARRATOR: "I try to offer a reassuring smile but then I realize the futility. Without knowing this, Lilly smiles at me reassuringly but doesn't say anything further."
NARRATOR: "Arriving at the dorms, Rin stops in front of her mural as if lightning struck her. She had been so quiet for almost all of the walk back that I had all but forgotten she was here."
RIN: "It's Friday, isn't it?"
LILLY: "Yes... Friday, the eighth of June."
RIN: "This is bad."
LILLY: "Bad? Why?"
RIN: "I think I am going to go in a fetal position and throw up. Possibly in reverse order."
LILLY: "Is something wrong?"
RIN: "No. Nothing is wrong. It's Friday and nothing is wrong yet. This mural, it's going to need to be finished by Sunday. So everything's all right. Do you have any drugs? Or a time machine? This is not good. Not good."
NARRATOR: "So she's behind her schedule. Recalling Shizune's exasperation at Rin's carefree attitude several days ago, I don't know what to think. She has left herself open for a “told you so” unless she can pull off whatever she needs to pull off by Sunday morning. Rin keeps staring at her mural looking as mortified as she can."
RIN: "Leave me. I'm going to need to work for a while."
NARRATOR: "I glance at Lilly, expecting her to share an incredulous look with me as I roll my eyes, but then I realize she's not one to do that kind of thing."
RIN: "Leave me."
NARRATOR: "We do, of course, not wanting to aggravate her any more than she already is. There is a churning bad feeling in my gut. Rin sure has a knack of making people feel worried about her. She seems like a person who should never be left alone."
HISAO: "Maybe we should call someone? She sounded like she was going into shock or something."
LILLY: "I'm sure she will be just fine. She's just a... eeeh... how to say..."
NARRATOR: "Lilly cocks her head a little, trying to find a polite way of calling Rin crazy without calling her crazy."
LILLY: "Yes, a very unique person."
HISAO: "I guess you could say that."
NARRATOR: "She giggles at the notion melodiously, nodding in agreement."
LILLY: "Sorry about leaving you stranded as you talked to her. I... don't really understand her, so I keep my distance."
NARRATOR: "So my guess was right. Lilly offers a slight, apologetic smile as if she was sorry that her own shortcomings have prevented her from becoming closer to Rin. I'm not one to blame her. At all. Lilly lets slip a long breath, probably a disguised yawn. I imagine she's as exhausted by all this as I am."
LILLY: "I'd better leave now and give these to Hanako. Thank you for the company, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "She smiles very sweetly at me. It feels different than normal, despite the fact that she seems to be smiling so often. I can't put my finger on what the difference is. It's just different. Relaxed, I'd say, but that's probably just relief over getting rid of Rin. Maybe."
HISAO: "Yeah... good night. Say hi to Hanako for me."
LILLY: "I will. Good night."
END OF FRIDAY
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