NARRATOR: "There's no school today, so I expected to be able to sleep in late. Unfortunately, I'm awakened by someone mercilessly pounding on my door at eight in the morning. At first, I think it could be Kenji, but when my shouts of annoyance go unanswered, I realize it's Shizune. She immediately backs away from the door when I open it, quickly concealing something behind her back. Kind of ominous."

HISAO: (signing) "What's that? Is it a surprise? I don't really like surprises."

NARRATOR: "The displeased expression on her face says that she wants me to stop being such a wet blanket, but she's too busy fumbling with what's behind her back to sign it. It must be frustrating for her, because seconds later, she swings the object out, proudly, and also a little dangerously."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Ta-da. A picnic basket. We can have lunch together, the three of us."

NARRATOR: "It's not really a basket, it looks more like a plastic bag. Taking a quick look inside, I can see that most of the food inside is also store-bought, not homemade. Some items still have the price stickers on. There's a very diverse selection here, though. Even a tiny tin of caviar. I'm slowly becoming more impressed with this lunch. I pick a grape out of there and pop it in my mouth."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Don't just take things like that! I spent all night perfecting this final weapon."

NARRATOR: "Shizune places it down on the ground to free up her hands, and immediately starts playfully tapping it between her feet like a soccer ball. Definitely not what you should do to anything you're going to call a “final weapon.”"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "All part of my “get-Misha-to-stop-being-so-depressed” plan. I stayed up all last night working on it. When we tried to order in last time, Misha barely got anything, and used it as an excuse to leave early. I won't let her get off so easily this time. The food is already here. She'll have to sit down and eat with us. It's the perfect bait. Doesn't everything look irresistible? I tried to make it myself, but I don't know how to make it look all fancy, so I ended up buying everything. Still looks delicious, doesn't it? It should be."

NARRATOR: "She's very perky today, juiced up on the thought of cheering Misha up. Although it's odd to see her so happy about it, I know that she's just as unsure now as she was yesterday. The only thing that has changed is that by viewing it as another sort of challenge for herself, she can put her worries aside and throw herself into it recklessly. It has worked well enough for Shizune so far. It wouldn't surprise me if it's the only way she knows how to live."

HISAO: (signing) "It's a little early, though..."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's already eight in the morning, that's late! Even Misha gets up at eight or nine. She goes to bed at 7:00 p.m., but that isn't important."

HISAO: (signing) "It's very important."

NARRATOR: "Shizune ignores me, gagging my hands by taking them in hers instead of a more proper rebuttal. The way she lingers against me a moment longer than expected feels really comforting."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "The point is, she's awake right now, walking around somewhere. Let's go find her."

NARRATOR: "She sprints out the door impatiently, and her gusto as she drags me along looking for Misha makes me feel more like I'm following a hunter on a safari than looking for a mutual friend. We don't have to look very hard. Even cropped short, her pink hair stands out. The fact that she's just meandering around the grounds out in the open makes it even easier. Now I'm sounding like a safari hunter."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

HISAO: "Misha!"

MISHA: "Huh~?"

HISAO: "We were just looking for you."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's a good day for a picnic, you should join us. We even have caviar; not sturgeon, of course, but really tasty."

MISHA: "Caviar? Surgeon?"

NARRATOR: "Apparently finding it annoying to have to explain anything at length with only one hand, Shizune gives up quickly."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Fish eggs."

MISHA: "What?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It tastes good."

MISHA: "Sorry, Shicchan, I think I'll pass for today."

NARRATOR: "When Misha starts to walk away, Shizune holds the bag out towards me, needing me to take it so that her hands can be free. As soon as it's out of her hands, she darts in front of Misha, cutting her off."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "I made so much food, though."

MISHA: "Sorry, I'm just not hungry right now."

SHIZUNE: "..."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "When are you going to be hungry, then?"

MISHA: "Shicchan, that's impossible to know~."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "You can guess."

NARRATOR: "The tension between them infuriates Shizune, and she's trying to deal with it by trying to tear through it. But that approach isn't going to work. I'd thought, and hoped, that Misha had gotten herself together, but I guess she was just cut too deep by what happened. In that case, it's really out of anyone's hands. I believe that Shizune might understand that, on some level. If she didn't, she wouldn't have any doubts at all. Because she can't speak, though, I've learned to notice her hesitation. It's very clear; she might as well be screaming."

NARRATOR: "Misha waves her hands in front of her, not wanting to continue the discussion any further, and quickly slips away. Shizune fumes silently, reluctant to let her go but having no way to keep her here. Misha's back grows smaller in the distance, I wonder where she's heading off to. Is Shizune wondering the same thing, as she bites her lip in frustration? I want to touch her reassuringly on the shoulder, but I stop myself, not knowing if it's the right thing to do. Not because she looks fragile, vulnerable, or sad. It's the opposite. After a while, her expression belies no emotion at all. Only contemplation. Suddenly, she whirls around."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Now all this food is going to go to waste."

HISAO: (signing) "Yeah."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "That makes me mad."

NARRATOR: "Although it's obvious Shizune is more hurt than mad. The bag dangling from my hand feels like it's filled with lead."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Let's go on a date."
(at the same time)
HISAO: (signing) "Let's use it, then."

SHIZUNE: "..."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Where do you want to go?"

HISAO: (signing) "I don't know."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "The roof. It's my favorite spot."

NARRATOR: "A wry smile appears on her face, disappearing just as quickly. On the roof, I immediately crack open the caviar, ignoring a derisive look from Shizune all the while. I end up putting it down immediately."

HISAO: (signing) "Where are the toast points?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "I didn't make any. Like I told you, I bought everything."

HISAO: (signing) "Not toast points, though..."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Why is that important? Anyway, they don't sell just toast points. That would be stupid."

HISAO: (signing) "I bet they do."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Maybe in stores for the exceptionally lazy, but not here. Why don't you use a tortilla chip?"

HISAO: (signing) "A tortilla chip is not the same."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "They're both triangles. Stop being such a princess. I didn't know there was a proper way to eat caviar, this is the first I'm hearing of it."

HISAO: (signing) "It's not the same thing at all."

NARRATOR: "I can't be decadent like this. And anyway, how can she not know? She lives in a huge mansion. Shizune takes the opportunity to scoop half the tin onto a single chip in the meantime."

HISAO: (signing) "Hey!"

NARRATOR: "I'm sure it doesn't even taste good like that."

SHIZUNE: "..."

NARRATOR: "There is too much food here for two people. Because we can't communicate with each other while we eat, both Shizune and I have a lot of time to sit in silence and think about the fact that Misha, the person she set all this up for, isn't here."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's annoying that she isn't here. I can't even enjoy my meal like this."

NARRATOR: "I stare at the paper cup next to her, still half-full of juice."

HISAO: (signing) "I thought you didn't want all this food to go to waste."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "I wanted Misha to be here, too. That was the whole point. I wasn't able to accomplish what I wanted to, so it doesn't taste good. You should eat it. Eat more."

HISAO: (signing) "I want the fried things, though. You keep eating them all, even though you say they don't taste good."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Fried things are always delicious. There is always an exception for them."

HISAO: (signing) "You'll get fat. I think you're being too aggressive."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's like I told you yesterday, I'm only trying to cheer her up."

HISAO: (signing) "Yeah, but it seems more like you're planning a military campaign."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "I'm only trying to take it seriously. ...And this is the only way I know how to do it seriously. I feel so powerless. I hate it. I can't even yell at her, too, even though I want to. Yelling is for serious occasions, right?"

HISAO: (signing) "Yeah."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "You should yell at Misha for me. You can tell her that I want her to stop being so down. Even if she feels sad and alone, it's no reason to stay gloomy forever."

HISAO: (signing) "Why don't you?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "I already did. Over a game of dice. Under-Over, to be exact. I won! Five times!"

NARRATOR: "Only the two of them would take so much pride in winning games of pure chance."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Then, I tried to talk to her, but it didn't go so well, obviously."

HISAO: (signing) "Well, so did I. I tried and failed."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "My goal has always been to do everything better, though."

HISAO: (signing) "Yeah, your one-upmanship is really something."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "But I failed too... That's why I want your help. I don't understand what I'm supposed to do any more."

NARRATOR: "For someone like Shizune, who has only ever interacted with the world by locking horns with every obstacle in her path, understanding only goes so far. I want to tell her that she doesn't have to worry. That she is great at cheering people up, because she managed to cheer me up, my first week here. In retrospect, I must have looked like kind of a dick, being in such a sour mood from the moment I came here. Even though I don't think I was being unreasonable. Even having months to digest it, finding out that you have a heart defect like I did is hard to deal with. I'd had had much less time to mull over suddenly being transferred to Yamaku, on top of that. Spending the festival with Shizune really helped me out of a rut. I was happy, enough to forget that the entire time it had felt as though she were manipulating me. I understand now that I had allowed myself to be manipulated."

NARRATOR: "Even though I felt like I was at the bottom of the world, I still wanted to have a normal life again, I'm sure, because I enjoy what I have now. I think it must be the same for everyone. Including Misha. Everyone wants someone there to pull them up, out of their self-pity. It's just that Misha always wanted Shizune to be that person, but because they can't be together, I think Misha feels that she can't accept Shizune's hand. And that frustrates Shizune. But if she could cheer up a stranger like me, then she'll die trying with Misha. I can see it in her eyes, too. Though she tries to treat it like any other problem in her life, Shizune cannot do that with Misha's depression. Her thought processes are entirely different, in some ways more careful, in some ways more reckless and frenetic. She cares that much more."

NARRATOR: "I end up not saying anything. Partly because sitting next to her like this, just the two of us, is pleasant enough in itself that I don't want to interrupt the moment with a question. And partly for a more cowardly reason. I've started to think they weren't, but I don't know if her actions that day might not have been an afterthought, or even a fluke, just a collection of coincidences. I don't know if that would change anything, but I'm uncomfortable thinking about it."

NARRATOR: "The fence behind me trembles slightly, and I turn to see that it's because Shizune has fallen asleep leaning against it. Considering she was up all night, it's not surprising. Where does all that motivation come from? Not just in regards to Misha. I'm cynical, so it's hard for me to just accept that anyone can simply be that strong. My first thought was that maybe it's because she hates herself. It's very plausible. Leaning against her, I feel sad knowing that that might be the case. But it could be that we're similar in that we both want to be better people."

Next Scene: Invasion