HANAKO: "Is he still sleeping?"

LILLY: "I think so."

NARRATOR: "I'm not. I am, however, incredibly tired."

HANAKO: "It's getting late in the morning..."

NARRATOR: "I know that."

LILLY: "He likely stayed up to watch television. I could hear it from our bedroom."

NARRATOR: "Only because I couldn't get to sleep."

HANAKO: "Should we wake him?"

NARRATOR: "Don't do that, Hanako. Please."

LILLY: "No, we should leave him. I doubt he'd want to be woken early if he didn't get much sleep during the night."

NARRATOR: "Thank you, Lilly."

LILLY: "Besides, he sounds so peaceful. It would be a shame to wake him when he's like this."

NARRATOR: "Keep a straight face, Hisao. It is nice she cares so much, though."

HANAKO: "Um..."

LILLY: "Hanako, could you go to the fridge and fish out what's needed to make lunch?"

HANAKO: "All right, just the vegetables and rice?"

LILLY: "Mm, that should be enough. We only need something simple, as we can eat in town later."

NARRATOR: "Hanako's footsteps on the carpeted floor can be heard, moving away from the living room. As they do, I feel Lilly's hand gently rest on my chest. It takes a titanic effort not to react, but something about her makes me think she knows I'm awake. A long silence passes. The only thought in my mind is of that gentle, outstretched hand laying upon my chest. After an indiscernible amount of time, Lilly withdraws her hand."

LILLY: "Good morning, Hisao."

NARRATOR: "Conceding defeat all too easily, I prop myself up and rub my eyes."

HISAO: "How'd you know?"

LILLY: "Your breathing was off."

NARRATOR: "While that makes sense, she couldn't have needed that long to work it out. Knowing her hearing, she likely knew before laying her hand on me."

LILLY: "If you want to sleep more, you should really go to bed earlier. I heard the television going long into the night."

HISAO: "Sorry about that. My medications have been interfering with my sleep for a while now. Even if I'm tired I have trouble actually sleeping."

LILLY: "I'm... sorry for bringing it up, Hisao."

NARRATOR: "I sigh. This is exactly the kind of thing I wish others wouldn't do."

HISAO: "Come on, you worry about me more than I do at times. It just means I have to sleep a bit longer, that's all."

LILLY: "But still..."

HISAO: "I'd say that I look absolutely fine, but I guess that wouldn't have a lot of meaning for you."

NARRATOR: "She gives a sigh of consternation before trailing off with an amused chuckle, giving up the point."

LILLY: "If you say so. Please do take care of yourself, Hisao."

HISAO: "Go on, Hanako could use some help."

NARRATOR: "She moves to protest, but reluctantly acquiesces and disappears into the kitchen, her hand running along the smooth white walls as she slowly walks."

HISAO: "Hanako could... probably use some help."

NARRATOR: "Lilly seems about to protest for a moment, but eventually acquiesces, nodding before leaving for the kitchen."

NARRATOR: "For a while I sit and watch television in an attempt to wake myself a little more, but it's futile. I don't have anything better to do, so I follow Lilly's lead. As I round the corner, I see Hanako and Lilly, backs turned, quietly cutting food on the granite-colored counter. I am temporarily engrossed as I watch Lilly guiding the knife down carefully with a finger on the cabbage she's cutting, each slice delivered slowly but with precision. She seems a little slow, but considering that she can't see what she's doing it's a small wonder she can cook at all, let alone for both her and Hanako."

HISAO: "Hi Hanako, Lilly. Want any help?"

LILLY: "Is that Hisa— ah!"
(at the same time)
HANAKO: "Oh, 'morning Hisao."

NARRATOR: "Lilly jerks back in surprise before turning around, her yelp immediately drawing Hanako and I to her side."

HISAO: "What's... ah."

NARRATOR: "A small trickle of scarlet falls downward from her pale fingertip, the knife having cut just deep enough to draw blood. With the television's sound masking my footsteps, she must not have noticed me coming. To compensate for having to use touch to guide everything she does during cooking, she must need to pay extra attention."

HANAKO: "Lilly!"

LILLY: "Don't worry, Hanako. It's just a small wound."

HISAO: "You should still get a band-aid on it, at least until it stops bleeding. First aid stuff would be in the bathroom, right?"

LILLY: "I think so. Will you be okay here, Hanako?"

NARRATOR: "I frown at how little heed she's paying to herself as Hanako gives a quick, almost automatic, nod."

HANAKO: "It's fine, I can keep making lunch."

NARRATOR: "An awkward silence reigns as I set the bottle of antiseptic and box of band-aids on the side of the sink, Lilly's finger held out for me to treat. The lid of the bottle comes off with a minimum of resistance, and the small ball of cotton I soak in the liquid stains a pale green."

HISAO: "Okay, hold still. This'll probably hurt a bit."

NARRATOR: "She gives a small nod as I take hold of her hand to steady it. With all the tenderness I can muster, I gently bring the dampened wad to the small red line."

LILLY: "Ah!"

HISAO: "What? I've barely touched it."

LILLY: "Sorry..."

NARRATOR: "I give a sigh, both at her reaction and to settle my own nerves. Her pain tolerance is startlingly low."

HISAO: "I would tell you to man up, but I can't really do that."

NARRATOR: "As she gives a small giggle, I take advantage of her momentary distraction and gently press the cotton against her finger a few times. Thankfully, it's enough to do the job. We both settle somewhat as I bring the band-aid over the tip of her finger, covering the wound while making sure not to get it stuck to her fingernail."

HISAO: "There, finished. You can move now."

NARRATOR: "Taking her hand from mine, she gently clasps it in the other."

LILLY: "Thank you."

HISAO: "It's no problem. It's the least I can do after causing you to hurt yourself, after all."

NARRATOR: "She lowers her head slightly at the apology, absentmindedly rubbing her hand in what seems to be embarrassment."

LILLY: "I really don't mind."

NARRATOR: "Her answer doesn't seem to make much sense, given that what happened is pretty clearly my fault. I can't help grimacing at her, despite the fact that her dainty smile still holds. She must not like being reminded of the limitations her lack of sight imposes on her. It's something I can't possibly fault her for. I've fallen prey to the same kind of feelings before, despite my condition not being nearly as ubiquitous in my life. Neither of us any the happier, we head back to the various smells of cooking food coming from the kitchen. I lay out the plates of food, steam slowly rising from the well-cooked rice and curry dishes, while Hanako lays out the cutlery. Knife one side, fork on the other. Western. How perfectly fitting for someone like Lilly. As we take our seats, taking careful heed of the dark red tablecloth hanging below our knees, Lilly emerges from the kitchen. In her hands are three glasses and... a bottle of wine? As I recall our previous run-in with that devilish elixir, I hide my face in my palm."

HISAO: "Alcohol? Seriously?"

NARRATOR: "She pauses as she reaches the table, a playful grin perched on her face."

LILLY: "Akira specifically gave permission to take a bottle from her collection."

NARRATOR: "Not only does she give alcohol to minors, she even lets them pilfer their own? The perfect model of a responsible adult Akira is not. More to the point, though, is that this is hardly a meal deserving of alcohol. I'm starting to think Lilly's the type to easily become hooked on things."

HISAO: "That's not really the problem. I don't really have any qualms with it, but didn't you have a bad experience with it last time?"

LILLY: "Last time was likely due to drinking too much, so a single glass shouldn't prove a problem."

LILLY: "Think of it as a learning experience."

HISAO: "I can't recall many learning experiences that made me feel rotten before putting me to sleep, but I'll take your word for it."

NARRATOR: "She dips an uninjured finger inside to feel the liquid level, tip against the bottom as the liquid rises up. The white of her finger almost seems to glow as the sunlight hits it, the delicate outline blurred and refracted by the glass. Her fingers are definitely longer than mine, the kind I'd think more suited to a pianist than a teacher. She'd likely have done well if she'd learned how to play. We quickly dig into our meal, forks and knives clattering against plates. None of us are particularly eager to speak while eating, Lilly altogether too reserved for such a thing, Hanako probably too shy to start conversation, and I too busy savoring the food. Such a pedestrian activity, eating together at a table. It seems so utterly normal, yet it makes me realize how long it's been since I've done something like this. Just the three of us, sitting around a single table eating as if we were a malformed family. Maybe this trip, as far away from everything as we are, was worth it. It takes quite a long time, but eventually we all finish our surprisingly filling meal. The wine, thankfully, has little effect given we've only had a glass or two each. I slump back into the seat, rubbing my stomach contentedly."

HISAO: "I'm stuffed."

NARRATOR: "Lilly pats her mouth with a napkin. Twice, only twice, and with evenly timed intervals inbetween. It's hard to tell sometimes whether how she acts is a well-trained routine or a well-rehearsed act."

LILLY: "I think I must be as well. Did you like it, Hanako?"

HANAKO: "Mm, it was nice."

LILLY: "Now that we're well fed, shall we be off?"

HISAO: "Off? Where?"

LILLY: "Ah, you weren't privy to the discussion between Hanako and I earlier."

NARRATOR: "I get the impression that she's having a subtle dig at my sleeping in."

HANAKO: "We'll be going into the town nearby."

NARRATOR: "I guess I should have expected two girls to take a holiday as an excuse to go shopping, no matter where on the planet they may be. I am interested to see more around the north though, so this can only be a good thing."

HISAO: "Sounds good. How long's the walk in, then?"

LILLY: "It's supposed be around a mile to a mile and a half."

HISAO: "Nearby, huh? Great."

NARRATOR: "Just great. As we climb up the path surrounded by trees and undergrowth, I watch Lilly and Hanako walking ahead. The slight breeze all but whisks away the sound of Lilly's cane gently tapping on the ground. I notice that Lilly's since removed the bandaid now that the bleeding of her finger has stopped. A deep, lung-filling breath of the fresh country air makes me wish all the harder that the air around home had been quite so clean. It can't have even been half a mile, but I'm already working up a sweat. It isn't a pleasantly cool day, though, so I shouldn't be too hard on myself for it."

HISAO: "Hey Lilly, how well do you know this town, anyway?"

LILLY: "Since I spent quite a few of my vacations here up until I entered Yamaku, I'd say I know it fairly well. We used to drive there once a weekend then."

NARRATOR: "How I wish Akira was here to drive us now. I quickly take a moment to rub my hands a couple of times, staving off the oddly cold feeling in them."

HISAO: "Did you like it up here?"

LILLY: "I'd say it was nice during winter, but as you can work out, summers get a little too hot for comfort. It's nice and quiet, at least. My family's real house is quite far south. When they left Japan, my parents gave it to Akira and I. Only Akira lives there now, after my moving into Yamaku."

HISAO: "Well, quiet certainly describes this place."

NARRATOR: "Though lonely is how I'd put it. Other than the prophesied small town, there isn't another soul for miles around. Coming from a home nestled deep within the big city, it's certainly different. I think that if I'd not come to Yamaku, staying out in the country like this would be too much of a change to get used to. After getting accustomed to the school's isolation, though, the idea of living in a place such as this has become almost inviting. To be somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan centers."

LILLY: "So Hisao, have you been to Hokkaido before?"

HISAO: "Nah. I used to live down south, and we never had any field trips or holidays up this far."

LILLY: "Well, it's a new experience for you then."

HISAO: "Yeah, it is. I'm surprised at how nice it feels here. How about you, Hanako?"

NARRATOR: "She shakes her head from side to side."

HANAKO: "It's my first time too."

NARRATOR: "As we continue walking, I begin to feel pins and needles in my legs. It's a little disturbing, given there's no reason for it to be happening."

HISAO: "Could you two hold on a moment? I just need to..."

LILLY: "Is anything wrong?"

HISAO: "Nah, I've just got pins and needles in..."

NARRATOR: "My vocal cords suddenly become taut as my chest tightens instantaneously. I quickly pull my upper arm over it, trying to quell the shot of pain spreading throughout my entire body."

LILLY: "Hisao?"

NARRATOR: "Lilly's face is only mildly concerned, not knowing the sight which Hanako's recoiling from."

HISAO: "I'm fine, I'm... fine. Just... tired..."

NARRATOR: "I remove my arm from my chest and force myself to begin walking again. It's just a minor heart flutter, so it'll pass like the others. It only takes a couple of steps before my body violently revolts against me, my legs suddenly beginning to give way underneath me and all tension in my knees seeming to evaporate. Before I can react they uselessly give way under my weight, leaving me only just enough time to brace myself and fall onto all fours."

HISAO: "Ah, damn..."

HANAKO: "Hisa... AAAAH!"

NARRATOR: "As I look up to her I realize my face is still taut with pain, only adding that much more to her worrying."

LILLY: "Hisao!? Hanako, tell me what's going on! Hanako, tell me!"

NARRATOR: "Hanako quickly moves to my side as Lilly almost panics, having little clue as to exactly how bad a condition I'm in. While she stands there petrified, I lower my face and take a deep breath. I come to a realization that makes me endlessly irritated with my stupid self. With all the excitement of my new surroundings, I'd entirely neglected to take my medications last night or even this morning. Taking another breath, the acute pain in my chest begins to die down as suddenly as it had arrived. Thank God. Thank God. Thank God, thank God, thank God."

NARRATOR: "As it does, I become acutely aware of the sweat by now pouring off my face and the two scared girls around me."

LILLY: "Hisao!"

HISAO: "I'm fine, Lilly. I'm... fine."

NARRATOR: "I screw up my brow in an effort to lever myself up, Hanako's arms quickly moving to catch me if I fall as I stumble a bit before regaining my balance. I look to Lilly and Hanako, worry written on both their faces. I feel awful. Utterly awful."

LILLY: "I think we should go back."

HISAO: "I..."

NARRATOR: "Realizing the futility of protesting, I look away in frustration."

HISAO: "Fine."

Next Scene: Crescendo