AKIRA: "Hey, Hisao."
HISAO: "Hey. Hello Lilly, Hanako."
NARRATOR: "Hanako looks up tentatively, her hands buried in her oversized pink nightgown. From her side, Lilly turns sideways towards the direction of my voice and smiles. It would be a flagrant lie to say I dislike the sight of her in those pajamas. I catch Akira giving me a sidelong look with a knowing grin, to which I reply with a sharp glare. She takes the hint, shrugs and walks back to the low table in the center of the room. As I go to join her, Lilly gives me a nod of greeting and starts pouring me a cup of tea."
HISAO: "It's nice to see you again, Hanako. You've been getting around recently."
NARRATOR: "Lilly wears a look of concentration as the light brown liquid, carefully measured by her finger as always, flows from the teapot into the cup."
LILLY: "It seems Hanako has taken up helping one of the people in your class with the newspaper club. Naomi, I think?"
NARRATOR: "Hanako gives an affirmative nod. Even after spending about two months in the class, I still have trouble remembering the names of those students I rarely talk with. It takes me a few mental contortions to connect the name with a face, but I eventually remember the girl that sits beside Hanako at the back of the class. Naomi Inoue. A fairly average-looking girl, except for her bleached blonde hair. Given her upbeat and straightforward personality, Naomi may have seen an opening to poach Hanako for her club when she enquired about joining one. Either way, it's nice to see Hanako broadening her horizons. When I first met her, the idea of her joining a club with anyone but Lilly would have seemed utterly laughable."
HISAO: "That'd explain how busy you've been. Enjoying it?"
HANAKO: "Mm. It's... really interesting."
NARRATOR: "As always, Hanako's far from being talkative. Some things never change, and it seems that Hanako's personality is one of them; she'll likely always be one to shy away from being overly social. Warned by the sound of crockery against the table as Lilly gently places my drink in front on me, I thank her and take a long sip. Hanako and Lilly are attending to their own, and Akira is quaffing a mug of strong-smelling black coffee."
AKIRA: "You're a lucky bastard, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "I can't help grimacing at her teasing smile, still visible around the edges of the mug pressed to her lips."
AKIRA: "Seeing my sister in her pajamas, there's a lotta men out there who'd like to be where you are."
NARRATOR: "I've seen a lot more than that of her, not that I'd admit it."
AKIRA: "Hey, I'm just teasing."
NARRATOR: "She leans over to me as much as she can, whispering with a sly grin written on her face."
AKIRA: "And Hanako, too. You perv."
HISAO: "Hey, it was her idea."
HANAKO: "Um, I... uh..."
NARRATOR: "We both look over to her, her face turned to the ground and her hands fidgeting in the lap of her nightgown."
HANAKO: "If... it's Hisao... I don't mind..."
NARRATOR: "Ah, this could be bad. I know Hanako's altogether too innocent to bother reading too much into such a thing, but the expression Akira directs at me is positively stormy."
LILLY: "Um... Akira... please..."
NARRATOR: "It seems Lilly can sense Akira's sudden change in aura just as well as I, even without seeing it for herself. Akira slowly looks away from me, like an attack dog leashed by its owner in the nick of time. I breathe a sigh of relief. I can't think of a more appropriate time to try and change topics than around now."
HISAO: "If you don't mind me asking, Akira, what do you do for a living? I've never seen you out of that suit."
AKIRA: "Thinking about what to do with yourself after school's over, eh? I'm a lawyer. For the most part, I work in the legal department of the Japanese branch of our family's company. The most boring possible answer, I suppose. Law's a pretty dry topic to most people."
AKIRA: "Oi, you're not supposed to agree."
NARRATOR: "Lilly gives an amused giggle while holding her teacup and saucer, Hanako quickly joining her. This friendly atmosphere between everyone is something I'd missed while Lilly and Akira were on their trip. While the dealings I had with Hanako didn't help, I think just not having Lilly around changed the mood."
LILLY: "It's nice to be back. I missed you, Hisao, and you too, Hanako."
HISAO: "Same goes for the both of us. I'm guessing your classmates were happy to see you back."
LILLY: "In a manner of speaking, yes."
NARRATOR: "Akira's amused snort shows she's well aware of Lilly's attitude towards such figures of speech. I imagine she'd have to be, given how long they've been together."
HANAKO: "Did you have fun in Scotland?"
NARRATOR: "For a moment I wonder why she's asking, it having been quite a while since they came back, but then I remember everything that happened. We've simply not had time to look back, what with the exams and our Hokkaido trip. Lilly's face goes distant for a moment, and the fact that Akira's first reaction is to look over to her sister doesn't escape me. Nonetheless, she quickly collects herself."
LILLY: "It was... nice. I... we... hadn't met our family in such a long time, so it was a wonderful reunion."
AKIRA: "Yeah, I guess that's right. Their house being beachside was the best part, though."
NARRATOR: "From her dismissive tone, I get the feeling Akira doesn't like their family as much as Lilly does."
LILLY: "You only liked that because you finally had time to play around."
AKIRA: "Just 'cause I'm the better swimmer..."
LILLY: "I don't take after the athletic side of the family, that's all."
AKIRA: "Well, you can take heart in the fact that you got the height genes at least. And the bust genes..."
LILLY: "That's not really the right kind of thing to say around others..."
NARRATOR: "Though Lilly pretends to scold Akira, she does so with an unmistakable, slightly cheeky grin on her face."
NARRATOR: "I doubt Akira really minds that, judging from her nonchalant expression. While I don't either, Hanako's looking down and blushing furiously beside me. The sisters' antics aside, their parents really do lead a bourgeois lifestyle. It seems utterly divorced from the life that Lilly and Akira have lived until now. I suppose practicality must have made the decision for them. To have come from such a wealthy and well-connected lineage only adds to the almost noble air Lilly seems to have, though. It's a small wonder none of it seems to have rubbed off onto Akira. They really are as little alike as siblings could be. Their only similarity seems to be their shared confidence, which can be both endearing and a headache at times."
NARRATOR: "Most of the night continues much the same, with Hanako eventually leaving the Satou sisters and I to ourselves as she heads back to her dorm room for a rest. For a while, only the barely audible sound from Lilly's teacup and saucer can occasionally be heard as she slowly drinks. The silence is strained as Lilly and I wait for the elephant in the room to be addressed."
NARRATOR: "Lilly dutifully puts her cup down, giving her sister her undivided attention. With Lilly and I on one side of the low table and Akira at the other, this almost feels like a judge passing down a verdict."
AKIRA: "I hear that you two are going out now?"
NARRATOR: "I glance sideways at Lilly to confirm her as the source of Akira's knowledge. She gives a gentle nod to Akira, which I mirror in affirmation. Deciding that this is the proper time and place to do so, and Akira being the closest figure to a parent Lilly's had for much of her life, I bow deeply with my hands on the floor before me and my head very nearly the same."
HISAO: "I'll take good care of your sister, Akira. I promise you."
LILLY: "See? He's a lovely young gentleman."
NARRATOR: "She must've heard my voice coming from a lower position than usual. I slowly bring myself back up, my eyes tentatively looking to Akira from under my brow. To tell the truth, I very much doubt my suited judge will raise any objections. She's very definitely the type to make her disapproval with others well known, something that lends her a measure of respect in my eyes."
AKIRA: "The old-fashioned kind, huh? Well, he's the kind of person I guessed you'd go for. I don't have a problem with it, and I wish you two the best. Even if I didn't like it, I couldn't really do anything anyway."
NARRATOR: "I offer a nod of appreciation to her as Lilly gives a small sigh of relief, likely more out of duty than any actual belief Akira might have had any problems with us being together."
AKIRA: "I do wonder though... how's the rest of the family taking it, particularly the part residing at Yamaku? Have you told her?"
NARRATOR: "Smiles turn to grimaces as Akira grins downright evilly. Those closest know how to twist the knife best, after all."
LILLY: "“Putting up with it” may be the best term for the situation. Don't you agree, Hisao?"
HISAO: "Yeah, that sounds about right. At least she's being reasonable about it."
AKIRA: "Good to hear. That girl can be a handful at the best of times. We sent a few messages back and forth during and just after the trip, and she was already busting my chops for seeing my boyfriend when we came back, after leaving Hideaki for so long. She really does care for the little guy."
NARRATOR: "I cast my mind back to Shizune's odd reaction after telling her about our relationship, but decide not to bring it up. It's no doubt simply born of their mutual antipathy, and Akira's comments only back that up."
AKIRA: "Well then, that's settled. Gotta get to work early tomorrow, so I'd better be off."
NARRATOR: "She rises from the table with a grunt, her hand on her knee to push herself up. I just notice Akira's eyes lingering on Lilly for a couple of seconds before turning away, as she begins to take her leave."
NARRATOR: "After she walks out the door, she stops and looks up thoughtfully before turning to us one last time."
AKIRA: "Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you. Use protection. Every time."
NARRATOR: "I gag violently on the tea in my mouth. Contrary to my own, Lilly's composure holds perfectly as she seems entirely unfazed. I'm kind of impressed."
LILLY: "We are, don't worry."
AKIRA: "'Atta girl. Seeyas."
NARRATOR: "And with that she turns and strides out of the door, a hand held high as she disappears into the darkened hallway, closing the door behind her. The most reaction I can muster is flopping forwards onto the table, completely drained of energy and truly exhausted by her. Lilly's ability to hold her own against that suited devil is something I admire."
HISAO: "She really is incredibly blunt. I don't think I'll ever be able to keep up with your sister's energy."
NARRATOR: "As I feel Lilly's soft hand come to rest on my own, I roll my head to the side to see her gently smiling. For a long time, we simply sit beside each other silently. Given her unquestionably unusual height, she is pretty much exactly as tall as I am; probably a couple of centimeters higher if anything. Like this, she appears even taller. The feeling of her pale, soft hand against mine is a pleasant one, as is the sight of the thin silken pajamas she wears, showing her curves and collarbone."
LILLY: "You do get on well though, even if you do say that."
HISAO: "I guess. You know, you two are a lot more alike than I first thought when I met you."
LILLY: "Then it's a good thing I quickly stopped you from going after her, isn't it?"
NARRATOR: "Though she jokes about it, my assessment of my inability to keep up with Akira, either physically or mentally, was quite in earnest. Lilly's slow-paced and ladylike, almost motherly, nature is perhaps the single thing that helped me most in my first weeks at Yamaku. Come to think of it..."
HISAO: "Wait... since when were we using protection?"
NARRATOR: "As I give a curious look to my side, Lilly's cheeks puff out as she huffs at me."
LILLY: "Unlike you, I remembered. The packet is in the cupboard next to the sink."
NARRATOR: "So, I'm not the only one of us that takes a pill. In hindsight, I feel rather thoughtless for not remembering at all and leaving it to Lilly. Looking over to the cupboard she mentions, I notice again the knee-high piles of books around us that were here the other times I'd visited. For the most part, they're lined up against the wall to give a little more room around the table."
HISAO: "Why don't you get a bookshelf for your books? It's odd to see books just piled around, especially given that your room looks so neat and orderly otherwise."
LILLY: "They're easier to find this way; I know exactly which pile each book is in."
HISAO: "Wouldn't you still know that after putting each set on a different shelf?"
LILLY: "That may be, but..."
NARRATOR: "So she's not immune to bouts of laziness after all."
HISAO: "You have so many of them, it's kind of a shame we can't share our book sets despite both of us reading so much."
NARRATOR: "She gives a short giggle."
HISAO: "Come to think of it, why do you order your books through Yuuko? I imagine there'd be plenty of sites that you could order books in Braille from, especially in English Braille. There are a lot of text-to-speech programs, too."
NARRATOR: "She turns her head slightly away from me, which strikes me as somewhat surprising."
LILLY: "I'm just... not all that good with computers. I'm all right with typewriters and braillers... but that's about it."
NARRATOR: "Her tone almost makes me chuckle. She's a prideful person, so admitting something like that must be difficult. So, Lilly's the low-tech kind of person. Given her old-fashioned personality, it's not really a stunning surprise."
HISAO: "I wouldn't worry about it. A lot of people aren't really that good with them, so it's not that unusual."
LILLY: "“That” unusual..."
NARRATOR: "Now she's even more depressed. It feels like I'm twisting the knife, rather than healing her wounds. With a bit of squirming I shuffle my way closer to her, tentatively putting one hand around her waist to hug her. I'm still not really used to this kind of physical affection, but Lilly seems to like it."
NARRATOR: "Lilly smiles as she turns to face me, a kiss being the reward for giving in to her. She draws me in, brushing my upper lip with hers before pressing against both. This way, every one of my senses is filled with her. The barely perceptible scent of her hair, her taste as her tongue fleetingly touches mine, the tenderness of her lips, the image of her filling my mind, the total silence apart from her faint breath... We may have kissed before, but even if this is more a kiss of simple affection than anything, it's still a new and pleasant sensation. Judging from her vivid blush as she pulls back, it's obvious she feels the same as I do; even if we're entirely alone, it still feels a little embarrassing to open up to each other this much. "
LILLY: "If we take everything day by day, I think that would be for the best. Small steps, right?"
HISAO: "Yeah. Just small steps."
NARRATOR: "We have plenty of time to be together, even after the school year is over. As long as we move together, I think everything will work out okay; neither of us is going anywhere soon, after all. For now, I'm just thankful for this small moment in time we can spend together."
Next Scene: Correct Procedure