NARRATOR: "The library seems as good a place as any to go. Hanako looked as if she was taken pretty off-guard by Lilly leaving, so she might want someone to talk to. Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I make my way out of the classroom. I walk down the hallway to the library, past a multitude of closed doors. Through each one the sound of furious rehearsal can be heard. Rock music blares out of one door, almost as loud as a concert. I guess that's one of the advantages of a private school; there are actually enough rooms to go around at a time like this. And, when I think about it, the grounds and buildings of the school are kept in pretty good condition. That can't be too cheap. I've heard that this place has some pretty serious benefactors."

NARRATOR: "The walls of the library only partially insulate the noise of the festival preparations, but they're the only sounds to be heard. Not a soul stirs here, with everyone apparently enjoying the weather outside or working on festival events. Yuuko isn't here either. Maybe she doesn't work on Saturdays[note 1]. I quietly walk through the library, now fairly familiar with its layout. I head to the back, where Hanako's private little corner is."

NARRATOR: "I run my hand along the spines of the books on the way through, feeling the individual texture of each as I glance across the titles. I used to do this all the time at the library at the hospital. Some things never change, I guess. Like the smell of a library. No matter how much care you take, the paper in books is always going to degrade with time. Probably, no matter which library you go into, anywhere in the world, it must have that same, musty smell. I find something that looks light enough to read without any major thought involved then look for Hanako in the reading area."

NARRATOR: "Once again, she is sitting on a beanbag with her back to a bookshelf. Reading the same book she'd had in the classroom, she's slowly making her way through the pages. Unlike last time I saw her here, I quietly take a seat in a beanbag. The noise is enough to catch her attention, but not startle her. This delicate routine that must be followed each and every time I try to talk to her almost feels like hunting game."

HISAO: "Is that the same book as before?"

HANAKO: "Y-yes... I'm almost finished..."

HISAO: "Cool."

NARRATOR: "I wonder if I should..."

HISAO: "Do you mind if I borrow it when you're finished?"

NARRATOR: "My mouth is faster than my mind, it seems."

HANAKO: "S-sure... you m-may not like it but..."

HISAO: "I'm sure it can't be that bad. After all, you've stuck with it, haven't you?"

HANAKO: "I-I guess."

NARRATOR: "I settle into my beanbag and set about reading my own book that had been buried in my bag. It's a light novel about pirates. To be honest I'm barely skimming over the words, having chosen the book merely because it belongs to a different genre than I usually read. Finding it hard to muster enough enthusiasm to finish the book, and noting that I've inadvertently distracted Hanako quite a bit, I decide to try and make conversation."

HISAO: "So, I see Lilly left without you?"

NARRATOR: "She nods before taking her eyes off her book. She must have been really into it after all."

HANAKO: "Lilly said she had to go and... meet someone..."

HISAO: "Oh?"

HANAKO: "A-Akira. Her sister..."

HISAO: "Sister? I haven't heard her talk about her family..."

HANAKO: "She... she and Akira used to live together."

HISAO: "I thought all the students lived in the dorms?"

HANAKO: "T-they... I mean we... don't have to."

HISAO: "But it's easier, right? I mean, there's food here and you're close to school... I don't think I've ever been to class on time so often in my life."

NARRATOR: "Her badly hidden smile proves quite rewarding. In the back of my mind I know I have a bit of homework to catch up on, but it's quite comfortable in here. No one can find me and force me into working for their pet project, either. Though now that I'm thinking about the festival, another question comes up..."

HISAO: "Hey, Hanako, what are you doing for the festival?"

NARRATOR: "For a split second I think that Hanako is about to throw her book in the air from shock."

HANAKO: "S-sorry...?"

HISAO: "I was just asking what you're doing for the festival tomorrow. Anything planned?"

HANAKO: "I... I don't know."

NARRATOR: "Hanako answers in the way that people do when they don't want you to ask any more questions. I take it large crowds and loud music aren't really her “thing.”"

HISAO: "Oh, okay."

NARRATOR: "Change the subject, change the subject..."

HISAO: "So, what's Lilly's sister like?"

HANAKO: "She... she's nice. She's pretty like Lilly, but she dresses... business-like..."

HISAO: "Business-like?"

HANAKO: "She... she's always wearing a suit..."

HISAO: "Ah, I see. And that makes her less pretty somehow?"

NARRATOR: "Hanako gives an embarrassed shake of her head."

HANAKO: "N-no... just... different."

NARRATOR: "I'll admit it, this has got me intrigued. To hear Hanako talk about someone other than Lilly is a first, and to be complimentary about it too... But as I try to picture this mystery sister, all I can think of is Lilly in a suit. And I can't imagine that not being attractive. Not at all."

HISAO: "Well, one day you'll have to introduce me to her."

HANAKO: "O-okay."

NARRATOR: "Our brief conversation ends as abruptly as it started, and we both return to our novels. The passage of time is marked only by the gradual movement of the patch of light cast through the window. Slowly, the noises from the various rehearsals in the building fade out and die as students start to get hungry and tired. Just thinking about that makes my stomach start to turn knots around itself. I think it's time to head back."

HISAO: "Do you think Lilly would be back by now? I think I might head back to my dorm. I'm pretty tired from this week."

NARRATOR: "And not a word of that is a lie. Moving to a new school as it ramps up for a major event has been taxing, to say the least. I can feel myself nodding off as I read my book."

HANAKO: "O-okay. I... I might stay here a little longer."

NARRATOR: "Looking at Hanako's book, I can see that she is only a few pages away from completing it. For a moment I consider hanging around until she finishes, but once again my stomach turns, emitting a gurgling sound."

HISAO: "Sure thing. Well I'm going to head off before it gets dark. I'll see you around, okay?"

HANAKO: "O-okay. See you, Hisao."

HISAO: "Later."

HANAKO: "H-Hisao?"

HISAO: "Hmm?"

HANAKO: "T-thank you. F-for hanging out with me."

NARRATOR: "I can see how hard it was for her to get that simple sentence out of her mouth. It leaves me hanging for a moment. So. There is someone in this school who is even lonelier than me. Maybe lonely is a wrong word, I haven't been lacking company for this first week, but I've still managed to feel somewhat alone and detached. Maybe lonely is a wrong word for Hanako too, she has Lilly after all, doesn't she? I realize I've been standing there far too long without answering, and pull off a flawless, not too exaggerated smile."

HISAO: "You're welcome. Good night, Hanako."

HANAKO: "N-night."

NARRATOR: "I leave her to finish her book and head back to the dorms and the promise of food..."


Next Scene: Don't Panic

  1. At this point, it may be possible that Hisao has never visited the Shanghai -- the tea shop where Yuuko works part-time. There is a comment in the code to this effect, but as far as I know, it is not confirmed.