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NARRATOR: "I've been neglecting my sign language studies, so I should probably spend some time studying up on it. Although, I think I've learned a lot just by osmosis. I'm very proud of that, and will have to be careful not to brag about it. Most of the books I brought with me aren't manuals on learning sign language, but studies about different signing “dialects.” I know Shizune has some secret signals with Misha that only the two of them know the meaning of. fter seeing a couple of them, this book caught my eye in the school library. Maybe I should incorporate some examples into my own signing, to mess with them, because I'm pretty sure that they have started using their code words more when I started learning sign language. That will teach them. After a quick break for a shower, I resume practicing my signing in the guest room mirror. Yesterday, I crashed my fingers against each other pretty hard. It still smarts, and I don't want a repeat of that to happen again. I hear knocking on the door behind me and turn to find Hideaki standing inside the doorway, staring at me. How polite of him to knock, but usually you don't open the door first."

HIDEAKI: "What are you doing?"

HISAO: "I'm practicing sign language. How long have you been standing there?"

HIDEAKI: "I did not see anything."

NARRATOR: "That isn't the point. I don't even know what he means by that. It's not like I was doing something that I would be ashamed to have people see me doing. Although, sign language must look strange to most people. I'm only used to it from being around Shizune and Misha so much."

HISAO: "I'm brushing up on my sign language, and reading about it too. Stuff like the history of it, even though they cover it in sign language class."

HIDEAKI: "Your school teaches sign language as a class?"

HISAO: "Yeah. One of the first things they brought up was that it's not very common to do that. I guess we're very international, or something."

HIDEAKI: "It looks fun."

HISAO: "Well, I wouldn't call it fun."

HIDEAKI: "If you do not enjoy this, it seems like a lot of work to go through just to talk to my sister."

HISAO: "Why does everyone keep saying that?"

NARRATOR: "Hideaki's mouth twitches like he was about to laugh, but he restrains himself. Come to think of it, he hasn't laughed once since I've met him. I could take it as a compliment that he doesn't laugh at me, but I'm curious to see it."

HISAO: "Laugh."

HIDEAKI: "... Why?"

NARRATOR: "It was the fastest and most direct way I could think of towards accomplishing my goal."

HIDEAKI: "Can you teach me sign language?"

NARRATOR: "He says it plainly, but his body language is nervous, showing that he clearly needs to put some effort in to ask. I guess Hideaki likes his sister after all. I'd think Misha is a lot more approachable though, so I wonder why he didn't ask her. Secretly, I'm shouting “yes!” inside. I had thought he wanted to learn sign language and even brought it up, but he had evaded the subject skillfully. It turns out I was right after all. I don't really know why this makes me so pleased."

HISAO: "Sure."

NARRATOR: "But now that I think about it, I'm not a sign language teacher. I don't even know where to start. In class, I'd be learning stuff gradually over a week. Does Hideaki expect me to teach him anything usable in a one-day crash course? My teacher spent a couple days just giving a history of sign language. I decide to start off with that, to buy some time while I figure out how I can segue it into the hard stuff. Five minutes in, Hideaki raises his hand."

HIDEAKI: "I don't understand what you are doing."

HISAO: "Uh... well, you can't just jump into teaching, you know. You have to ease into it. It's like when you go swimming, you don't just jump in the lake like in some movie."

HIDEAKI: "I do not swim."

NARRATOR: "It's like scientists managed to create a process to suck out all the hyperactive, infuriating, and childish qualities of a small child and then implant them into the dad, creating a raging jerk dad, and leaving behind Hideaki. I begin to feel claustrophobic, despite the fact that the guest room is three times bigger than my dorm room and there's just the two of us in here. It's all in my head, I know it, and I don't care. I still use it as an excuse to move the lesson outside. It's a lot easier to concentrate out here. Even the precious few seconds it took to relocate managed to allow me to sort my thoughts. There were no questions during this time. Hideaki can't seem to talk and walk at the same time. Eventually, however, I start to realize that if I'm going to teach him anything I have to keep the lesson constantly moving. The second there's an opening for it, he'll ask a question, which will lead to more questions. Then there's no end to it. The second time he asks me why a certain hand motion means what it does, and I have to reach deep into my memory to look for etymology I don't know about a gesture I only knew about a month longer than him, I start looking for an out."

HISAO: "Hideaki, let's take a break."

HIDEAKI: "Okay. What is your school like?"

NARRATOR: "This kid is like a little reporter, but it makes sense for someone his age to be curious, and this is one question I don't mind."

HISAO: "What's it like? I never really thought about it. It's on top of this mountain, so it feels kind of isolated and lonely up there sometimes, even though that's also why it has a pretty great view. The students there are interesting. Actually, I felt bad at first. You know what kind of school it is, right?"

HIDEAKI: "Yes."

HISAO: "I felt bad because I didn't want to go there. I don't even remember exactly what I was thinking at the time. Probably it was something like, a school for crippled people would be a depressing place. They were telling me to go be forgotten there. Then, everyone there was just living their lives, for the most part. So I felt even worse. It wasn't different at all, so I felt like kind of a jerk. Shizune was the first person I met. She's in most of my classes. Misha, too, they're always together. I guess the school is accommodating enough to pair them up as much as possible. There's this girl in my class, Hanako, whom I feel bad for. She has these burns, and seems to have a complex about them. But I think she looks fine. She's a cute girl. And friends with Lilly, too. You know Lilly, right? Does she bring up Hanako?"

HIDEAKI: "Yes, sometimes."

HISAO: "I'm trying to remember who else is interesting. We have a Emi Ibarazaki who runs on these prosthetics. There's this one girl, Rin, who doesn't have arms, but she's a great painter. All her art has this harsh, alive quality. Have you ever been to Yamaku? You've probably seen some of it hanging around. A little weird, sometimes, but I've always heard that artistic and creative types are like that. That reminds me, Kenji Setou is pretty weird, too. But he can be interesting, at least."

HIDEAKI: "You are also interesting."

HISAO: "Is that bad? And what's with that tone? What does that even mean? Are you saying I'm weird, Hideaki?"

HIDEAKI: "You talk a lot."

NARRATOR: "My first instinct is to go on the defensive, but the more I think about it, he has a point."

HISAO: "That's right, I do talk a lot. I don't think I used to. I think... It's probably because of all the time I spend around Shizune and Misha. Talking with them, I get caught up in all their circular logic and just how they do everything. I feel like I'm going to be drowned out, or left behind."

HIDEAKI: "My sister can drown you out?"

HISAO: "It's not like she's literally talking over me and stuff, obviously. It's hard to explain. They have more energy than I do. It's like, an aggressiveness. I don't feel like I have to match it, but I want to. I think maybe your sister has that effect on people."

HIDEAKI: "..."

HISAO: "Do you look up to your sister?"

NARRATOR: "He stares at me blankly, tense and confused as to how to react to the question."

HIDEAKI: "I will be better than Shizune."

HISAO: "Better at what?"

HIDEAKI: "At... everything."

HISAO: "Like what?"

HIDEAKI: "I can do magic tricks."

HISAO: "You mean like telling people you've got their nose, or more like the kind of magic where you pull a rabbit out of your ass?"

NARRATOR: "He doesn't look happy. Someday, I will see Hideaki laugh. I might just try tickling him, if I have to. The back door flies open and Jigoro strides out of it, keeping his back straight and taking giant, slow, regal strides, like either a king or a huge jackass. I try to turn away, using the train of logic that if I can't see him, he can't see me. Unfortunately, it doesn't pan out and he comes over so fast it's like he appeared out of the air over my shoulder."

JIGORO: "Oho. What's up here? What are you two doing, flailing your hands around? Playing cat's cradle like a bunch of girls?"

HISAO: "I'm teaching Hideaki some sign language. What about you, Mr. Hakamichi?"

NARRATOR: "He narrows his eyes suspiciously, as if he's not used to people being polite to him."

JIGORO: "I am writing an autobiography of my life and times. And by “writing” I mean I am dictating it to my biographer. Unfortunately, she is running late. Unprofessional. Perhaps you should read it when it is published later this year. I can put you on the waiting list. Maybe it will give you the moral compass you seem to lack in your life, and inspire you to stop sucking."

NARRATOR: "It can't be sustainable for him to be so casually insulting to everyone. Though, Hideaki is likely too detached to even notice, Shizune is deaf, and most of the insults must fly over Misha's head. But surely Akira must have an opinion on this. I try not to think about it. If he is doing this to psyche me out, then I have to stay calm or he wins. He must absolutely, definitely not win. This must be how Shizune feels."

HISAO: "How old are you?"

JIGORO: "Forty-six."

HISAO: "That doesn't seem old enough to justify writing a biography. I mean, that's not even old. Don't most people start writing their memoirs a lot later than that?"

JIGORO: "Shut up, boy. I am going to give you advice: do not talk about matters of age with people older than you. You are less than half my age, you have no right to talk about old. I have an ulcer older than you."

NARRATOR: "He should get that checked out. He might have a point though, he is definitely older than I am."

JIGORO: "...Either way, even if we were the same age, I wouldn't have to explain myself to you, sweater vest."

HISAO: "Eugh."

JIGORO: "Why do you make that noise? Are you mad? Well, obviously. Good. Your sweater is terrible, and I want you to feel bad about it. The burn tells me it's working."

HISAO: "I like my sweater."

JIGORO: "I'm sure you like huffing glue, too. That doesn't make it right."

HISAO: "I don't huff glue. Where did you get the impression I do?"

HIDEAKI: "That is slander."

NARRATOR: "I wonder how Hideaki knows what slander is. Maybe Jigoro is a lawyer. I can sort of see that, although I thought only TV lawyers were this antagonistic. I don't know if I should take the chance and ask if that's his job."

HISAO: "He's right. It is slander. Are you a lawyer?"

JIGORO: "I was guessing, a guess based on the fact that you are stupid. It's like how you are assuming I am a lawyer, except you have no reason to think that. If you want to know what I do so badly, why don't you preorder my autobiography? Now you are insulting my book, and, by extension, my entire life. What gives you the right to do that? Arrogant. I'm trying to think of how I could make you understand my struggle. Maybe by beating you. With my autobiography. I hope you walk away from the beating having learned a valuable lesson, like not making assumptions."

HIDEAKI: "Assault..."

NARRATOR: "But he made an assumption too, that I huffed glue. I consider calling him out on this glaring example of hypocrisy, but I don't think it's worth it. He would probably explain his way out of it by saying “Shut up, boy.”"

JIGORO: "Back in my day, children were seen and not heard, and to be an adult meant having experienced many hardships. With even a glance, people could instantly judge a man's character. Childhood existed only to temper you for adulthood."

JIGORO: "When you look at me, can you not see the catalogue of my experiences even at a glance?"

HISAO: "Uh... maybe. Were you a swordfighter?"

NARRATOR: "He could also be Hawaiian, and a werewolf."

HISAO: "Wait, didn't you tell me before not to make assumptions? Now, you just asked me to assume stuff. And you're saying everyone when you were my age did it. And that had to be in, like, the '80s. That wasn't even that long ago!"

NARRATOR: "I'm ready to give him a piece of my mind, for talking like he had to walk fifteen miles in the snow to ride a coal train, that he had to shovel coal into himself, before climbing up a mountain while fighting ogres to get to school. But, now that I finally want a fight, Jigoro is happy to have a good thing going just continuing to ramble about how difficult it was growing up one generation ago, twirling his sword like a baton and stopping occasionally to yawn or check the time. The tardiness of his autobiographer is still foremost in his mind. That means the whole time he's been insulting me, he must have been doing it just to pass the time. To add insult to insult, his watch is also really nice."

JIGORO: "...When I was your age, kids had responsibilities. Not like today. Sickening. No one thinks about the consequences of their actions any more. They just do whatever they want, thinking no one will hold them accountable since they are young."

NARRATOR: "It's odd, that description could fit Shizune and Misha. I thought something similar only yesterday. But it only fits them slightly."

JIGORO: "Look at yourself. An amoral, directionless, delinquent glue-huffer, with a complete lack of etiquette and absolutely no fashion sense. You are tomorrow's Japan. Disgraceful. Is this the future of this once-great country?"

HISAO: "I know someone you would get along well with."

JIGORO: "Don't interrupt! Who? One of your friends? Why would I want to talk to some awful teenager? Have you even been listening? Why are you so rude, boy? Your attitude is not one that will make you a lot of friends."

HISAO: "I wish you would stop giving me so much advice."

NARRATOR: "Or at least, I wish he would give me advice that he would have the decency to adhere to himself."

JIGORO: "Where have you been?"

HISAO: "Huh?"

JIGORO: "Not you, idiot."

SHIZUNE: "..."

HISAO: "Oops. I didn't notice you there."

NARRATOR: "Shizune smiles and gives a short wave. Her arrival made Jigoro stop talking, so I'm already happy to see her for that reason alone."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Misha and I decided to go into town again. Hisao, I noticed you were looking at some clothes yesterday in a store window, and I thought I would go back and buy some of them for you. It was supposed to be a surprise, though."

NARRATOR: "She looks annoyed that the surprise is ruined, even though she ruined it herself."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Here you go!"

HISAO: "Thanks."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Misha wanted to cut her hair. I told her not to, but she said it was too hot for the summer."

HISAO: "Yeah? I don't know, that makes a lot of sense to me. It must be like an oven under there. I want to see it. Where is Misha, anyway?"

MISHA: "Over here~! Hi, Hicchan~! Hi, Mr. Shicchan's-father~! Hi, Hideaki~!"

JIGORO: "..."

NARRATOR: "Misha runs around us once in a wide circle before stopping next to Shizune. For the first time, she hasn't put her hands over my eyes, although now I see she has bags of her own to carry, so it's not like she could have even if she wanted to. Although I am positive she's tried before. Her meticulously styled curls are gone now, in favor of a much shorter, sportier look. Misha looks even happier than usual, probably because she knows she won't have to wake up at the crack of dawn every morning just to do her hair."

JIGORO: "What is that haircut? You look like an intern. Your old haircut merely made you look like you were wearing a pink judge wig. Judge to intern is a huge demotion."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Hisao, is he saying something insulting? Tell him not to insult my friends!"

HISAO: "Don't insult my friends."

JIGORO: "Which one of you is talking?"

HISAO: "Both of us. I agree with her."

MISHA: "Hehehe~! What do you think, Hicchan?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "You should have kept it like it was."

MISHA: "Aw~... Hicchan, you look disappointed, you don't like it either?"

HISAO: "Well, yeah, I'll admit I kind of liked your old haircut more, but I think this one is nice too. It suits you."

MISHA: "Aw, thanks, Hicchan~!"

JIGORO: "Touching. If you like it so much, maybe you two should trade."

HISAO: "You can't trade a haircut."

JIGORO: "What a shame. Even her old haircut would suit you so much more than your current, slacker haircut. Awful. As for you... Hmmm... Actually, this is much less garish than your other haircut. I like it."

MISHA: "Ahahahaha~! Really? Thanks, Mr. Shizune's-dad~!"

JIGORO: "It's Mr. Hakamichi. Talk like a normal person."

MISHA: "Hm~? I don't understand~! Okay, okay okay~! I'll call you Mr. Hakamichi!"

JIGORO: "Agh, it's like speaking to a slide whistle. Contemptible. Where's my biographer? Hideaki!"

NARRATOR: "He starts quietly muttering to himself and walks off. I guess a wannabe-cranky old man like Jigoro would at the very least be hesitant to yell at girls. Suddenly, he doubles back, unable to resist his urge to have the last word."

JIGORO: "And another thing, you do not have to be so loud. I do not like being shouted at."

MISHA: "What? Shouting~? I'm not shouting~!"

NARRATOR: "I can't think of anyone more unqualified to talk about what's garish or to chastise someone else on shouting at people. It's like a parade of hypocrisies and the hits just keep coming. An unusual reaction seems to be taking place. Misha apparently finds Jigoro funny and laughs pretty much every time he says something, which only makes him berate her harder. I guess this is what they call a vicious circle. Misha's voice is punctuated with explosions of laughter and seems to come from everywhere. On the other hand Jigoro's is booming and directed like a cannon. In any case, they are both unbelievably loud. The more they talk to each other, the more they seem to play off each other's volume and get louder."

MISHA: "Ow~! My ears hurt~!"

JIGORO: "WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING?"

NARRATOR: "Shizune's hands wrap around my eyes from behind, something I'm so used to Misha doing that for the first time I find myself confused by it, since Misha is in front of me. She lets go and holds a finger up to her lips."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "What a perfect distraction! Now's our opportunity. Let's sneak off."

HISAO: (signing) "Why do we have to sneak off? Why not just walk off?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It wouldn't be as fun. It's decided: it's a secret mission. Escape without being detected. Extract Hideaki for bonus points."

NARRATOR: "Already, she has simplified the situation into a game. Shizune quietly slides away from the scene and begins edging towards the house. I walk towards it, normally."

Next Scene: Closer

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