NARRATOR: "I sit listening to another of Mutou's long-winded lectures, my mind wandering far from the scribbles on the dirty blackboard. Since I called Lilly, my mind's been drawn in two directions. Both, roughly, lead to the same conclusion; I've started to feel oddly detached from my past life. It's only been a month and a half since I arrived here, yet this school's become a second home. I've gained new friends and contacts, managed to get to grips with the school's lifestyle and culture, and become accustomed to the quirks of my classmates. To become used to a school where disabilities are the norm, rather than the rare exception, still catches me off guard sometimes when I think on it. The same school that's populated by burn victims, amputees, the blind, the deaf and all manner of disabilities inbetween. If someone had described this school to me before I'd come, I'd have shrugged it off as an overactive imagination. Even when I first arrived I felt like the Dutch, coming to this strange new land for the first time. It's amazing how quickly one becomes used to the environment they're forced to live in, really. And now I've even found someone that's got me entirely smitten. What a strange life. Before my mind can wander any further, though, I find a page of lined paper slipped under my distracted face. The garish, bright pink ink has no doubt been penned by Misha."

Don't look so bored, Hicchan! School's nearly over! Three-day holiday!

NARRATOR: "Oh, right, we get Saturday and Monday off. Can't complain about having less school, I suppose. I uncap my pen and scribble on the page before covertly passing it back to her, flicking my eyes to the front of the class every now and then. Mutou continues scrawling away arcane equations and formulas on the board."

I'm guessing you have something planned?

NARRATOR: "Misha takes the paper back and hunches over it comically, even for her, with her tongue poking through the side of her mouth. Did she misinterpret my expression as depressed, and is she trying to cheer me up?"

Student council work with Shicchan, of course.

You're not still brooding over that, surely?

But Hicchan could have helped us poor, lonely girls.

I'd lend you a hand for today if I weren't going to be busy.

Ooh, naughty naughty Hicchan!

I'm just going to meet Lilly with Hanako. I don't know what you've got going through your head.

So Lilly's back?

Yeah, she's coming on the evening flight with her sister, so she'll be back in school next week.

NARRATOR: "As she takes the note back and begins to write, I look up to see an unwelcome sight. hile I frantically try to silently catch Misha's attention, Mutou confidently strides though the gap between the desks from the front of the class, his intent gaze focused directly on her."

NARRATOR: "She suddenly stops writing as his tall figure casts an impossibly long shadow over the page."

MISHA: "Ah... I..."

NARRATOR: "He silently takes the piece of paper from her and begins to read. Sweating bullets, I quickly glance around the class, noting their complete silence. Of course, it would just have to be the one thing that actually gets their attention during the lesson. After a scant few seconds examining the page, he rolls the paper up into a small tube and lightly bops Misha over the head with it."

MUTOU: "Half an hour until you can hop off to the Student Council. I think you can hold on until then."

NARRATOR: "Misha's face cracks as the entire class erupts into laughter. He might well be awkward, but he knows how to handle her excellently. I'd probably feel sorry for her if I weren't as busy stifling my own laughter."

HANAKO: "Hisao, is that one it?"

HISAO: "No, I think that's some foreign airline."

NARRATOR: "And so, the third aircraft they're not on comes in to land. For the past half hour we've been whiling away the time with small snippets of pointless chatter. Lilly and Akira's flight has been delayed, and at this rate it'll probably be dark before their plane arrives."

HANAKO: "Is that one it?"

HISAO: "No, the company colors are wrong."

NARRATOR: "Hanako's eyes flutter left and right, following the trickle of people in and out of the huge glass doors ahead of us. Fortunately nobody pays her much heed, their attention apparently directed towards greater things."

HANAKO: "Maybe that one is it?"

HISAO: "No, I think that's... hold on a minute, I think that one might be it after all."

NARRATOR: "It takes still some more time before the billboard changes their flight's status to “disembarking.” A loud yawn sneaks up on me, not allowing enough time to stifle it. My sleep patterns have, once again, been all over the place; likely due to a mix of worrying about Hanako and the side-effects of my medications."

HANAKO: "Hisao, over there..."

NARRATOR: "I look to Hanako, then follow her gaze to the airport door."

AKIRA: "Hmm? Oh, Lilly, they're here!"

LILLY: "Really?"

NARRATOR: "We all call out to each other in greeting, quickly shuffling over to the side to avoid blocking the passage of others."

HANAKO: "Lilly!"

NARRATOR: "Hanako jumps forward to hug Lilly, a wide smile on her face being all that's needed to see her happiness at Lilly's return. Lilly simply smiles in return, her voice soft."

LILLY: "It's wonderful to meet you again, Hanako."

NARRATOR: "As the two give each other a hug, well deserved after all that's happened while she was gone, I turn to Akira."

AKIRA: "Yo."

HISAO: "You're pretty late."

AKIRA: "Yeah, there was a really bad storm over the airport. We got drenched just going from the car to the door."

HISAO: "I guess you'll appreciate the weather here more, then. Welcome back to you too, Lilly."

NARRATOR: "Hanako breaks off from Lilly as I speak. For a long time, neither of us says a word. Contrary to what I'd thought her homecoming would be like, the atmosphere feels awkward, almost stifling. Both of us try to guess each other's feelings, not quite sure about what should be said. Damn. This is exactly what I feared when I'd thought of trying to move things forward between us. Lilly runs her hand through her fair hair and awkwardly twirls one of her bangs in her fingers, clearly trying to think of how best to react. Eventually, thankfully, Lilly gives a small sigh and breaks the silence."

LILLY: "Thank you, Hisao. It's nice to be back."

HANAKO: "Are you okay? You look tired."

NARRATOR: "Evidently not recollecting herself all that well, she quickly waves her hand in front of her face to stave off any concern Hanako may have over her."

LILLY: "I'm okay, really. It's just a bit of jet lag."

AKIRA: "Weak."

HISAO: "You don't have any?"

NARRATOR: "She simply gives a big grin, puffing out her modest chest."

AKIRA: "I feel absolutely fine!"

LILLY: "That's not fair..."

AKIRA: "Haha, ah well. Ya shouldn't take too long to get rid of it."

LILLY: "Ah! That's right, Hisao?"

HISAO: "Yeah?"

LILLY: "Don't we have a holiday from school soon?"

HISAO: "I'd have forgotten if Misha hadn't reminded me this morning. We've got a three-day weekend starting from tomorrow."

NARRATOR: "Akira playfully bumps her elbow lightly into Lilly's side, grinning."

AKIRA: "Told ya you wouldn't miss it."

HISAO: "You have something planned?"

LILLY: "If neither you nor Hanako are busy..."

HISAO: "I've got no plans, so something to do would be appreciated. Hanako?"

HANAKO: "No, nothing."

LILLY: "That's good. I was thinking we could go to my family's summerhouse for a bit of quiet over the break. We've rarely used it recently, though, so we'd have to dust things off a little while we're there."

HISAO: "Oh? Where is it?"

AKIRA: "Up north, in Hokkaido. The place is practically deserted, so it should be a nice quiet break for you guys."

HISAO: "You're not coming?"

AKIRA: "Nah. Got a little holiday of my own set up with my boyfriend."

NARRATOR: "I lower my eyes at her, suspicious of her intentions."

HISAO: "It sounds like we're just cleaning up the summerhouse for you."

LILLY: "That's... perhaps a valid conclusion..."

NARRATOR: "Both of us zero in on Akira, her face somewhat evasive. Looks like we were right."

AKIRA: "That's just a convenient bonus. Really. Me and the guy left it in pretty good condition last we were there, I promise. Now then, I'm outta here."

LILLY: "Already? Akira..."

NARRATOR: "She quickly turns and walks away, her hand held high."

AKIRA: "See ya in a few days, guys."

NARRATOR: "Lilly and I can only sigh at her hasty retreat."

HANAKO: "It does sound like it would be a nice place to go."

NARRATOR: "Lilly gives an enthusiastic nod, taking her carry bag in one hand and placing her other on Hanako's shoulder for guidance as we begin to make our way to the taxi area. After the fracas of the past few days, spending a weekend in the country alone with her and Hanako sounds like a dream. The more I think about it, the more sure I am. This will be the right time and place to confess my feelings to her."

Next Scene: Northern Sojourn