NARRATOR: "The morning chill wraps itself around my shivering body. I huff into my cupped hands to desperately try and stave off the cold as we mill about on the station platform. Lilly's clothing looks rather ill-suited for the temperature around us. I can only hope it's indicative of what she expects the weather to be like at our destination."

HISAO: "Dammit, Lilly, why'd we have to get here so early?"

LILLY: "Unfortunately the train schedule is against us. The next train to Hokkaido is at two in the afternoon."

HISAO: "Great. Just great."

NARRATOR: "I pause a moment to wipe some sleep out of my eyes, and Lilly promptly takes advantage of the opening."

LILLY: "Cheer up, Hisao. Once we get there it'll be much warmer."

HISAO: "Why not just take the bullet train? A normal train's going to take hours to get us there, so we may as well take the Shinkansen line as far north as it goes, and just switch at the end."

LILLY: "There's a certain charm to older trains, wouldn't you agree?"

HISAO: "I'd agree if I weren't freezing in the morning cold because we decided to take one."

HANAKO: "I'm... sorry, Hisao."

HISAO: "Sorry? What for?"

HANAKO: "I was... the one who suggested taking a normal train."

NARRATOR: "Way to make me feel guilty. All I can do is sigh and cover my face with my hand."

HISAO: "It's fine, I'm just grumbling."

LILLY: "My my, Hanako, you needn't shoulder all the blame yourself. Even without your suggestion, I'd still have opted for the same thing."

NARRATOR: "Thankful for the quick interception from Lilly, I take a quick gander around the station. Aside from us, the train platform's all but deserted, the morning dew settling on the empty benches. I guess no one else was masochistic enough to brave the very early morning. Though if someone was, they'd more than notice the huge bags both Lilly and Hanako brought with them."

HISAO: "Just what did you have to pack into those things, anyway?"

LILLY: "The bags? Hmm..."

NARRATOR: "She pauses a moment and tilts her head in thought."

LILLY: "A change of clothing, raincoat, underwear, sleepwear, a number of books... I think that's most of it."

HISAO: "You make it sound as if I'm unprepared."

LILLY: "You brought less?"

HISAO: "Underwear and a pack of cards. That's it."

NARRATOR: "And my pills, but never mind that."

LILLY: "No pajamas?"

HISAO: "Damn. I knew I forgot something."

NARRATOR: "As I ruffle my hair in frustration, Lilly sighs."

LILLY: "There'd be clothes you could use there. Akira still occasionally goes there, after all, and I think some of our parents' clothing is still in storage. I don't think there'll be any problem with you borrowing a set of pajamas, if need be."

HISAO: "Thanks. Still, I don't mind just sleeping in my normal clothing."

LILLY: "For two days?"

HISAO: "Good point."

NARRATOR: "Not really. Though two days would be borderline, it's more that looking even a little like a slob would be unacceptable while in the presence of two girls. As we leisurely talk on the station platform an announcement sounds from the loudspeakers, loudly heralding our ride's arrival. Looking past Lilly and Hanako, though, the train's still well out of sight. A quick check of my watch is enough to see that it's the one we'll be taking."

HISAO: "The five-thirty train was ours, right?"

LILLY: "Correct."

HISAO: "Either of you want me to take your bags? Mine's not exactly heavy."

LILLY: "My my, that's very gentlemanly of you, Hisao."

HISAO: "Don't accept too reluctantly, now."

NARRATOR: "As I bend down to pick up Lilly's large bag, I look up to see Hanako picking up hers."

HISAO: "You fine with that?"

NARRATOR: "A silent nod's the only answer. I'm starting to get the feeling that by the trip's end, I'll be able to count every sentence she said on one hand."

Lilly trainride

NARRATOR: "With the morning landscape passing by the window and the occasional rattle of the train bumping the carriage around, I try to focus my attention on the aging playing cards held in my hands."

HISAO: "I'll raise you five."

HANAKO: "Um... I..."

NARRATOR: "She scrunches her face up and leans over to Lilly conspiratorially, the two exchanging a few whispered words. Considering how often this has happened so far, I'm coming to doubt Hanako's grasp of how to play poker. It doesn't seem to disturb Lilly's reading though, her hands flitting over each page with only occasional corrections to account for the train's bumping and rocking. y collection of chess pieces that we're using as chips is steadily growing anyway, so it doesn't really bother me. Looking around us, our carriage is almost as empty as the station platform we'd waited for the train itself on. Only a handful of people can be seen, looking mostly like tourists and couples on holiday. While the two continue their less than clandestine strategizing, a small boy looks over the seat and stares at me. Hoping he doesn't begin to stare at Hanako, I simply give him a wave and a smile. Thankfully, he retreats back to his seat after finding me far too boring to waste his attention on."

HANAKO: "I'll see you and raise you... another five."

HISAO: "Damn, you got me. I fold."

NARRATOR: "I've been bluffing, and she's caught me. Hanging my head, I push over a large portion of my winnings."

Lilly trainride smiles

NARRATOR: "Hanako looks absolutely delighted, and even if Lilly keeps her attention focused on her reading material, I can see the smirk on her face. They're both extremely pleased. For a moment I try to work out what Lilly's reading, but the cover is too faded to read beyond the fact that Roman letters are on it. A pity I can't read the Braille above the printed title."

HISAO: "What're you reading, Lilly? The title looks like it's in English."

LILLY: "That's right. It's “And Then There Were None”, an old British story. I could read it to you if you'd like."

NARRATOR: "She extends the offer with a grin, obviously in jest."

HISAO: "I think I'll pass, thanks."

NARRATOR: "After a seemingly endless trip, we finally reach the promised land of the Satou summerhouse. Even after the train trip, the walk up seemed to take forever. Despite my grumblings though, I'd have never guessed the sight that would be in store for us once we traveled that long, deserted road. It looks more like a farmhouse than the everyday house I'd imagined, small in size and surrounded by trees and bushes. An empty expanse of wheat fields and farming land can be seen as we walk up, the fencing only consisting of rickety old wooden planks. It really drives home how far we are from the major cities, and is a sight that feels antithetical to the environment I grew up in. The only thing that doesn't surprise me is its Western styling."

HISAO: "Wow, it's amazing out here..."

HANAKO: "Mm, it's wonderful."

LILLY: "That's nice to hear. While Akira may have said that she's kept the house in reasonable condition, I was worried that we might have different standards of “reasonable.”"

HISAO: "It looks like there isn't another soul for miles. I thought Akira would be the type to keep to the city."

NARRATOR: "Lilly furrows her brow in thought, seemingly recalling almost forgotten knowledge."

LILLY: "Hmm, from memory there's a small town not too far ahead. Other than that though, this is largely just old farmland. Akira and I stayed in our parents' house which was in the nearest city for a while, but after they left we decided to move into a smaller, more easily maintainable, house."

HISAO: "To find a place like this in Japan nowadays... it's kind of anachronistic."

LILLY: "Well, this town does have quite a bit of history."

NARRATOR: "I look down the street one last time before getting back to the task at hand."

HISAO: "Shall we go in, then? I'm parched."

HANAKO: "It was a long walk to get here."

NARRATOR: "Lilly gives an enthusiastic nod, the three of us lugging our bags into the house. As soon as we set foot inside, Hanako and I start looking around, taking in every detail of where we'll be staying for the next few days. All the artifacts of another's life stopped mid-motion are around the house, such as the television guide lying beside the counter it was on, and pans in the adjoining kitchen still sitting on the stove. It's a strange feeling, really; as if we were stepping into Akira's life for a brief moment, before leaving in a couple of days just as we'd come. Of course, the more mundane reality is that she just hasn't cleaned up after herself that well."

HISAO: "Where should we put our bags?"

LILLY: "I'll show Hanako our bedroom. You can put yours here, if you like."

HISAO: "You mean I don't have the same bedroom as you two?"

NARRATOR: "Hanako flowers into a full blush as Lilly takes her cheek in her hand."

LILLY: "Oh my, how bold."

NARRATOR: "You two..."

HISAO: "Hold on, if I'm to leave my bags here, where will I be sleeping?"

LILLY: "Well, seeing as we lack a guest bedroom..."

HISAO: "The convertible futon, huh?"

LILLY: "Sorry, Hisao."

NARRATOR: "I sigh, lamenting my place on the bottom rung of sleeping location priorities."

HISAO: "I guess there's no other choice."

NARRATOR: "Lilly leaves to show Hanako to their bedroom, so I take a small tour of my surroundings after I drop my bag on the floor. The kitchen, just like the living room, is fairly modest. The rustic nature of the wooden furnishings drives home just how far we are from civilization. Returning to the living room, I decide to try out the television until they get back. With a touch of the remote it immediately flickers to life, apparently set to a news channel. Almost flopping down from exhaustion rather than sitting, I lay back and watch."

NARRATOR: "And watch."

NARRATOR: "And watch..."

HANAKO: "Hisao..."

NARRATOR: "I quickly blink to wake myself up, Lilly and Hanako having returned minus their bags. From the Hokkaido night sky visible outside the windows, it looks like I drifted off to sleep. Looking to the wall-mounted clock, it's already ten."

LILLY: "You've found the television, then."

HISAO: "Yeah. It really does feel nice and homey, here."

LILLY: "I'm glad you like it. You were already out like a light when we came back after unpacking our things, so we didn't have the heart to wake you sooner."

NARRATOR: "Judging from her giggle, I must sound funny when I sleep. I swiftly decide not to inquire."

HANAKO: "There's some dinner waiting for you in the kitchen..."

NARRATOR: "Hanako gives a deep yawn, only just remembering to cover her mouth at the last second. "

LILLY: "My my, are you tired?"

HANAKO: "Ah, mm. I didn't get much sleep last night."

HISAO: "I'm pretty tired too. It was a long walk up here, and it's getting late."

LILLY: "If that's the case, I suppose we should retire for the night. Good night, Hisao."

HANAKO: "Good night."

HISAO: "'Night."

NARRATOR: "With that, they quietly turn and walk back to their bedroom. Rubbing my eyes, I sigh. I wonder if I'll be able to get back to sleep after being woken up. I suppose I'll eat something and watch some more TV quietly before going to bed."

Next Scene: Prelude