NARRATOR: "I wake up all sweaty, as if I had run a half-marathon in my sleep. Odd; I don't recall sleeping badly. It sends a little pang of worry through me; I wouldn't want to have my heart acting up without being able to notice it. Still, apart from this odd exhaustion right after waking up, I'm feeling just fine. My mouth is like sandpaper and I have nothing to drink, so I have to go all the way to the bathroom to take my meds. On impulse, I decide to take a shower while I'm at it."

NARRATOR: "While I'm in the shower, I make up my mind that this counts as morning exercise, if I properly compensate with a nice half-hour walk after school. Obviously, I wouldn't want to risk possible complications by going running now. Besides, Emi will never know, and I think she's giving up on me, in any case. Walking could be nice, anyway, just to get to know the area. There's a big forest in the hills behind the school, or I could go down to the convenience store. While still dabbing the moisture off my skin, I set out to find my uniform. I quickly button up my shirt and pull on my pants before going outside."

NARRATOR: "Normally during this time of the year, I'd be eagerly awaiting summer vacation. Having only been at school for a little over a week, I don't really have that kind of feeling. I'm still savoring the school life and considering the sharp and awkward turn my life has taken. I haven't had the time to become preoccupied with getting free of it. Besides, once vacations hit, it'll be a nice surprise for me if I'm not expecting it. Especially with the end of term exams looming ahead. At least I don't have any catching up to do with my studies. My diligence has finally paid off. I push myself past the boys gathered in the doorway and flop into my seat."

NARRATOR: "From the corner of my eye I can see Shizune and Misha pause their unavoidably animated conversation and turn almost simultaneously in my direction. They clearly want something from me; I can tell from the way Shizune smiles. It's too obnoxiously bright to be sincere and too calculated to be spontaneous."

MISHA: "Good morning~!"

NARRATOR: "Her greeting is made of one hundred percent cheer and bursting energy."

HISAO: "Mornin'."

NARRATOR: "I fail to put either of those into my response."

MISHA: "You don't look very energetic."

HISAO: "No wonder. I don't feel very energetic either. I think I didn't sleep well, but I'm not sure."

NARRATOR: "She slaps me in the back and grins."

MISHA: "Cheer up a bit! It's a great day~!"

NARRATOR: "I catch Shizune's eyes. She has a strange, focused expression on her face, but she furrows her brow a little at direct eye contact and looks away. For a moment, I think that Shizune caught a glimpse of my worries, somehow, and is pondering how to respond. But then she quickly straightens her glasses, and with them, her expression."

SHIZUNE: "..."

show misha sign_smile_close with charachange

MISHA: "Anyway, we were wondering if you're still interested in that student council position, because we're going to make an offer that you can't decline~"

HISAO: "Wait, what? I wasn't really interested in the first place. You're putting words in my mouth."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Not as such. But, wouldn't it be nice to hang out with us every day while also being useful to your school?"

HISAO: "Well, to tell you the truth, I... I kinda joined a club. So it'd actually be sort of hard for me to join the council too. Even if I wanted to. Which I don't, as I said."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Is that so? Which club is it, Hicchan~?"

HISAO: "The art club."

SHIZUNE: "..."

NARRATOR: "Shizune's eyes glint in a sinister way as she scowls at me. With the way she looks, I'll be expecting the art club to lose its funding before lunch break, or the art teacher to mysteriously disappear from the face of the Earth. Before she manages to comment, the teacher finally enters the classroom, getting Shizune and Misha off my back, and sending everyone rummaging in their bags for books and pens."

NARRATOR: "I did join the art club, but the first meeting didn't really boost my confidence. I'm not really sure what I'm doing it for. I wish I could draw like Rin, but I don't know what I would do if I could. To what end would I use such a skill? I don't really know. Ignoring the teacher's sleep-inducing voice, I open my notebook to an empty page and press the needle-sharp graphite tip of the pencil onto it. What to draw? I can't really think of anything good to draw. As I hesitate and raise my hand, a meek black mark left on the previously blank paper seems aggravating. I can't even seem to get to the starting line, let alone get started. It's almost a physical feeling of being held back. Annoyingly, it reminds me of my failed attempt at jogging with Emi."

NARRATOR: "I look out of the window in desperation. Right then, a small bird takes flight from one of the cherry trees that grow everywhere on the school grounds. I can't really see it clearly, and it's not like I could tell one tiny bird from another. But I pick it as my subject anyway. Conjuring up the image of a bird in my mind's eye, I turn my gaze back to the notebook and deliberately draw a thick line across the paper to get started. It seems to be mocking me, as I can't follow up right away. Still, it's a start. Getting started is good. I slowly sketch the picture on the notebook page, the image in my brain becoming clearer as the drawing takes shape."

NARRATOR: "It's really nothing, just that nameless nothing bird on paper, but that's not important. My hesitation fades into the background along with the teacher's voice as I continue my struggle. The feathers form a simple pattern in my mind, but on paper it's a mess of too many rough lines despite my best efforts. I realize that I don't really know what a bird's wing should look like, even if I try to think about it. I even put the pencil down and close my eyes for a moment, trying to trace the shape of a wing in my mind. Being this serious about it all of a sudden makes me a little frustrated. Art class in middle school was the “easy” class in between exhausting subjects like math or Japanese. But there's this other side to art, the one that you see when you don't just fool around. It's almost like a completely different thing."

MISHA: "Hicchan?"

NARRATOR: "I look up to see two girls staring back at me. Misha and Shizune have carried their chairs to my desk and are now standing by my sides, looking at my drawing."

HISAO: "How long have you two been there?"

MISHA: "I think you need more practice."

NARRATOR: "Shizune draws a few sharp signs in the air between herself and Misha."

MISHA: "Shicchan agrees."

NARRATOR: "Rin said the exact same thing yesterday, but why did it sound less condescending?"

HISAO: "You shouldn't judge before I'm finished. Besides, don't you know it's bad luck to see an unfinished piece of work?"

NARRATOR: "Misha cracks in exuberant laughter."

MISHA: "What? Don't be silly~! There's no way that could be true."

HISAO: "Whatever."

NARRATOR: "Shizune's eyebrows furrow dangerously, and the movements of her hands become abrupt, like the slashing of a knife."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "You should learn to take constructive criticism better."

HISAO: "I would if you'd actually offer some."

NARRATOR: "I know I'm getting too defensive and that Shizune is taking advantage of it, but I can't help it."

HISAO: "What are you two doing here, anyway?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

NARRATOR: "Misha wags her finger admonishingly at my nose."

MISHA: "Tsk, tsk, Hicchan. Were you not listening to the teacher at all?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "We have a group assignment, now."

NARRATOR: "I nod bleakly, and let them take the lead."

MISHA: "So, what do you think of the lesson for today?"

HISAO: "Not much of anything... I didn't listen to a word of it."

NARRATOR: "Misha slaps her forehead and shakes her head theatrically."

MISHA: "What are we going to do with you, Hicchan?"

NARRATOR: "Luckily, Shizune and Misha together are more effective than three or four normal people, so I can mostly slack on the assignment. I try my best to offer at least some assistance, but I end up being mostly useless."

NARRATOR: "The teacher keeps us in class five minutes past the lunch bells, but eventually lets us off the hook. I quickly stuff my books into my bag while Shizune and Misha carry their chairs back to their own seats. The failure of a bird-drawing ends up crumpled and stuffed in my pocket as I hurry outside."

Next Scene: Hisao's Smile