NARRATOR: "At five minutes past eight, an unbelievably loud banging jolts me awake. It's coming from outside my door. Quickly, I open the door to see Shizune and Misha standing side-by-side before me. Both of them look a little worn out, although it's more noticeable on Misha."

HISAO: "Which one of you knocked?"

NARRATOR: "I ask, echoing the question that must be on the mind of everyone in the entire building."

MISHA: "Ahahaha, that's not important, Hicchan!"

NARRATOR: "She quickly dismisses it without even batting an eye."

MISHA: "Oh? You're still in your pajamas, Hicchan? So you don't wake up at eight?"

NARRATOR: "I notice her hair is wet. Her curls are barely holding their shape."

HISAO: "No, I thought I'd sleep a bit later since it's the weekend and all, and I've been seriously sleep-deprived this week."

NARRATOR: "I wonder if she missed the poison in my words."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Then it's a good thing we came to wake you

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Anyway, Hicchan, I guess you would like to know why we're here, wouldn't you?"

NARRATOR: "It's not hard to guess, but I wish she wouldn't say the words she is going to say next."

MISHA: "Would you like to skip class and go somewhere nice with us?"

HISAO: "Come again?"

MISHA: "Would you like to skip class to do something fun?"

NARRATOR: "I was certain they'd force me to help them again with some slave work."

HISAO: "Seriously?"

NARRATOR: "Misha grins and nods enthusiastically. I like this new approach they're taking although I'm somewhat surprised that they would suggest skipping class, even if we have only half a day since it's Saturday."

HISAO: "Aren't you two worried about constantly missing class?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Well, it doesn't seem to be a problem! Hicchan, this school is pretty much at a standstill whenever this time rolls around.It's a Saturday, too~. Don't you want to do something fun?"

NARRATOR: "I'm amazed by how little they seem to care."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Not that we're pressuring you to give us your company, but we thought you might like to hang out!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "So... would you like to join us? Come on, you'll have a lot more fun than just sitting here with your head on your desk~!"

NARRATOR: "I guess I won't be missing anything important; nor will I be missed."

HISAO: "All right, then, I don't think I'd be missing much. What do you have in mind?"

NARRATOR: "My eyes narrow with suspicion as a thought crosses into my mind."

HISAO: "Wait... this isn't just some trick to get me to do some more student council stuff, right?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "No, of course not! And that's a really mean thing to just assume like that, Hicchan."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "...And besides, you're in the Student Council now, remember? If we wanted you to do something for us, we wouldn't have to trick you~! Hahaha!"

NARRATOR: "This is a kind of coercion that is new to me. Only two pretty girls could pull it off. I allow myself to relax a bit. Maybe I'm being too paranoid; it seems like they may really just want to hang out. Nevertheless..."

HISAO: "No tricks?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "No tricks! Stop being so paranoid!"

HISAO: "Well, if you say so."

NARRATOR: "Suddenly, I realize I still am wearing pajamas."

HISAO: "I wonder if you'd let me dress up first?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Eh? Why, Hicchan? You look just fine!"

HISAO: "I'd still prefer wearing something else."

NARRATOR: "I close the door before she gets a chance to reply and quickly pull on my uniform. Stepping back into the hallway, I see Shizune and Misha are engaged in an animated discussion. I wonder if people discussing in sign ever accidentally poke each other in the eyes. While I'm contemplating this, Shizune taps me on the shoulder impatiently."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "So, we're planning on slipping into town! Remember that tea shop we were at on Wednesday? Tea shop?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "You don't remember?"

HISAO: "Oh, you mean that café."

MISHA: "Tea shop! It's called the Shanghai. China is the birthplace of tea, you know. Come on, Hicchan! I'll even treat you today! Ah... not me, not me, I mean Shicchan! Ahaha~!"

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

MISHA: "It's nice, it's really relaxing! It's like... half café, half restaurant, half sophisticated, half... library..."


HISAO: "That's a lot of halves."

NARRATOR: "But Misha doesn't seem to notice that."

MISHA: "So~! Come on, it's not often that we have this much free time!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "If you're busy, though, you don't have to! It's not like your presence is absolutely, absolutely required! Hahahaha!"

NARRATOR: "I've never seen more weakly disguised reverse psychology in my life. I feel kind of tired today, and my teachers in my classes might want to know where I am. Maybe. On the other hand, I haven't really been into town at all since I've gotten here, so this is a good reason to head there. Also, I could use something to eat. If it's Shizune's treat, even better; I'm totally broke."

HISAO: "All right, let's go. Lead the way."

MISHA: "Great~!"

NARRATOR: "We make it to the tea shop with a fifteen-minute walk. It seems that we are the only customers around."

HISAO: "Is it always this quiet in the morning?"

NARRATOR: "By that, I mean is it always this empty."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "No, this is kind of weird. Hey, this isn't a bad thing though, right?"

HISAO: "You're right."

Shizu shanghai

NARRATOR: "We take our seats at a large, square wooden table, and it hits me that I don't know what this place serves. I just went with what Yuuko recommended the last time."

HISAO: "Hey, is there a menu or something?"

Shizu shanghai normallaugh

MISHA: "Nope!"

NARRATOR: "That was a strange amount of zest."

Shizu shanghai smirklaugh

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "So, Hicchan, have you decided what you're going to order?"

NARRATOR: "I look around the store and can't see anything resembling a menu. I don't understand, what's up with this place? What gives? Is this some kind of secret shop? Can you normally only enter here with a secret handshake? Some kind of wink and a nod? Do you need someone to vouch for you? A blood oath? Dammit, it was nothing like this last time."

Shizu shanghai

HISAO: "I don't know, the last time I think I just got coffee? What do they serve here?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Tea!"

HISAO: "Ah, well, that's... Not just tea, right? Not only tea? There's other stuff too, right?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Clearly~!"

HISAO: "Clearly? Like what? There are no menus here. Where are the menus?"

NARRATOR: "They're playing another joke on me. There is no way out of this; all I can do is brace myself for the inevitable, oncoming burn. I almost want to walk out of the store, but I'm already sitting down. It would be improper to leave now; the unspoken rules of polite social conduct block my exit like a wall of fire. I decide to play it safe. I'll order what they order, if it's acceptably manly enough."

HISAO: "Why don't you two order before me? Ladies first."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Well played, Hicchan, but~ we already ordered!"

HISAO: "How is that possible? When? How? From who?"

MISHA: "We're regulars, we come here so often that we don't have to do that any more!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Well, I guess you've had enough. We're sitting on the menus, of course~! Hahaha!"

NARRATOR: "I look around at the other tables. There are no menus on any of them. That means they must just keep them in a big stack near the door or something. What a thing to sit on, and what speed to grab them so quickly."

HISAO: "Well, whatever. Can I have one, then?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "You can take one if you want, but you're not the kind of person who would do something that la—sci—vious?, isn't that right?"

NARRATOR: "I tell them that I'd just like some coffee and put my head down on the cool tabletop."

Shizu shanghai borednormal

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Coffee? This is a very high class establishment, and you're going to order coffee?"

NARRATOR: "I can tell they're messing with me again."

HISAO: "In that case, I'll have whatever you're having."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Hicchan, Shicchan is drinking a special tea that is only grown in remote areas of India. The tea is still handmade by a tribe of tea makers who have passed the methods down in their families for generations. They must wade through alligator-infested waters to obtain the leaves once a year. On each trip, some do not make it back alive."

NARRATOR: "I can't drink that, I would feel too guilty."

HISAO: "Then I'll have what you're having."

MISHA: "I don't know what I'm drinking."


HISAO: "Fine, then I want the tea that people died for. No, never mind. I'll have coffee. If this is a very high class establishment, then they should have very high class coffee, right? ... No one died for it, right?"

NARRATOR: "The perfect answer, there is no way they can stand against it. Shizune shrugs, as if to say “well played.” They still didn't answer my second question."

NARRATOR: "Misha calls for Yuuko, who brings over our drinks and a single incredibly tiny yellow cake with a little black plastic fork stuck in it for each of us. I eat my cake in one bite, amazed at how it's probably the least filling thing I've ever eaten."

MISHA: "Hicchan, do you have any plans for tomorrow?"

NARRATOR: "Misha takes a gulp of her tea, something sounding suspiciously high class even though it looks like ordinary tea. She drinks with incredible recklessness considering how hot it is. The exact opposite of Shizune or Lilly. Plans? That sounds ominous."

HISAO: "Plans? Yes. Yes, I am incredibly busy tomorrow. In fact, I have so much to do that I will not have any free time at all. That's right... none whatsoever. And everything I have to do is extremely important. Very, very important."

NARRATOR: "Misha giggles, clearly not buying it, and then signs it all back to Shizune, who nods slowly and deliberately while looking very unamused. Suddenly, she leans forward, staring analytically at my face like a human lie detector, waiting for the smallest tell to give me away. After at least a minute of this, she sits back down in her seat and takes a sip of tea."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Okay, Hicchan, if you're that busy. We don't have anything to do tomorrow, so we thought maybe you would want to hang out with us at the festival! You're new here, anyway, right? Right? So~ we thought we would show you around and have some fun together, but if you're that busy, we understand!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Oh well, oh well!"

NARRATOR: "The both of them shrug together in perfect sync, as if they've rehearsed it."

MISHA: "Ahahahahaha~! Hicchan, you're so paranoid."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "...And you'll never beat me anyway, so why bother getting so worked up about it? Haha! Wow, Shicchan~!"

HISAO: "Beat you? What are you talking about?"

NARRATOR: "Is she talking about the coercion? I never realized that was just a game to her. I thought I was the only one who saw it as competition."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "You know~! ...Eh? Do you, Hicchan? Because I don't."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "You can't outwit me! —Ah, well, Hicchan, not me..."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "What? What are you talking about, Shicchan..."

NARRATOR: "I can see Shizune smiling craftily, daring me to enter this battle of wills and wits with her. When he is pushed to the edges of despair, a man has no choice but to sink, or grasp at the fleeting wisps of hope, fight with all his power against the inevitabilities of his fate and struggle against the impossible. For even if he fails, at least fail knowing that he dared greatly... ...Or something like that."

HISAO: "Well, we'll see about that. Don't underestimate me."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Don't you have to follow through to make good on that, Hicchan?"

HISAO: "Ah, well, I could get lucky. Don't count out that possibility."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "You won't~."

HISAO: "I will! Wait—"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Let's make a wager on it, then!"

HISAO: "I don't care about competition."

NARRATOR: "That's a blatant lie."

HISAO: "Wait, what exactly do you mean?"

MISHA: "That's okay if you don't know, neither do I! Wahahaha!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "So it's settled, then! All right, all right!"

HISAO: "What? Didn't you hear what I just said?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Now all that's left is the stakes! What the winner wins, or, more interestingly, what the loser loses!"

HISAO: "Hey!"

NARRATOR: "This is a very dangerous game I'm playing. Shizune herself is a very dangerous girl, if she can only think in terms of winning and losing. If she views every time that I talk with her as some kind of battle of wills, I don't think I could take it. That kind of thing drives people insane. She's too Machiavellian; before this I'd assumed she was just kind of stoic. But nevertheless, I'm interested. In hindsight, I realize that I just challenged her to what is essentially a duel without any rules that won't end until one of us... what? I guess that's it. That's so vague. What are the conditions for winning or losing? The first person to feel stupid loses?"

HISAO: "I don't know, I've never had to think of anything like this before."

MISHA: "Never?"

HISAO: "Never."

MISHA: "So you have never gambled, Hicchan?"

HISAO: "I'm surprised you two have."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Oh, come on... It's just for fun, anyway! Between friends~! It's about causing humiliation, suffering, and absolute despair! Isn't that the point?"

NARRATOR: "Shizune puts a finger to her temple thoughtfully."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Hm... Ah, how about this, Hicchan: If you lose, you have to go to school one day without any pants on."

HISAO: "Are you insane?"

NARRATOR: "Although in comparison to what I was afraid she would say, it's pretty mild."

HISAO: "Can't we just bet money, like normal people?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "It's not like you could match my wager if we did~! Now, it's your turn! ...But nothing perverted! Understand?"

MISHA: "Hahaha!"

HISAO: "I think I need more time."

NARRATOR: "This is going to have me constantly on edge for weeks."

MISHA: "Okay~! Come on, you should both hurry up, your drinks are getting cold!"

NARRATOR: "I quickly down the rest of my coffee as Shizune does the same, staring at me with a fierce look of competition in her eyes. It seems like a waste for her to be gulping down something that someone may have died for her to enjoy."

MISHA: "Hicchan, are you sure you don't want to hang out tomorrow? A lot of people are looking forward to it; you don't want to miss out."

NARRATOR: "I mumble unintelligibly at her."

MISHA: "I don't really understand..."

NARRATOR: "It's time to think. Shizune's drink is smaller, but I can consume mine faster. If Shizune finishes her drink first, she might skip out on paying, leaving me to pick up the tab, even though she said the drinks were on her. Because I have no money on me, I would be humiliated, and therefore this could be considered a loss. If I finish first, the laws of chivalry would make me look like a jerk, as I would need to run out of this teahouse, leaving her to pay for everything. That could also be considered a loss. She would use that. In the event of a draw, she may attempt to run out the door, and I'll probably do the same. This might lead to a collision at the door, which would be humiliating, but not overly so. ...And Misha would be left to pick up the tab. This is really childish. I'm a little disappointed in Shizune, and myself."

MISHA: "Well, Hicchan, it'd be really nice if we could all celebrate how well we put everything together for the festival by taking a look at our handiwork..."

NARRATOR: "Misha seems oblivious to the fact that an epic battle of wills is raging in front of her. I nod slowly and down the last of my coffee."

HISAO: "Well, I am finished enjoying my drink. I guess it's time for me to leave. And I am going to leave now. Calmly."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "You too, Shicchan? Why are you two acting so weird?"

NARRATOR: "I quickly walk out the door and Shizune follows. Misha is going to have to foot the bill. Sorry, Misha. Catching up to me, Shizune quickly pushes her glasses up and presses a note into my hand."

"If you lose, you have to come hang out with us tomorrow."

HISAO: "So you think you can win today? That's kind of cocky, Shizune."

NARRATOR: "I forgot for a second that she can't hear me. I nod. Right now, she seems much cuter than she usually is, smiling softly with a hint of confidence coming through. Shizune looks energetic and carefree, although it could just be the caffeine. She winks, and extends her hand for a handshake. I wonder if there's a buzzer in there and she plans to shock me, but that doesn't seem like something she would do, so I accept. With a squeeze, she pushes another note into my hand. I momentarily think that it's a buzzer and wonder if the shock could kill me. Shizune smirks and then runs off."

"You probably don't know how to get back to school from here.

There will be work waiting for you when you do. See you then~"

NARRATOR: "I crush the note in my fist dramatically, but no one is there to see it, and that makes me sad. I wonder if it's too late to go back to the shop and ask Misha for directions. But then again, I gave her a hard time for not knowing the way here, so I can't allow her to score off me for not knowing the way back. And if I ask her, Shizune could see it as a victory. No, it's not necessary. The school is on top of a damn hill, how hard could it be to find? I may be slightly directionally challenged, but I'm sure that even I can do this."

NARRATOR: "About an hour and a half later, I walk the long paved path leading from the gates to the main building."

MISHA: "Hahaa! Just the person we were waiting for. So you made it here eventually, Hicchan, good! Now it's time for work work work~!"

NARRATOR: "Misha and Shizune had laid an ambush for me in the main lobby of the ground floor and I walked straight into it. I should have just circled around the school like I had originally planned, but I thought that I was overreacting and being silly. Misha is waving a thick stack of printouts in my general direction, taunting me."

MISHA: "We sort of need your help~!"

HISAO: "Sort of?"

MISHA: "We need your help~!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "You will help us!"

NARRATOR: "Misha speaks with her usual playful, carefree manner, but even so I can hear Shizune's unnervingly hard severity behind it."

HISAO: "That sounds like an order."

MISHA: "Really? Is it?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Eh? It is?"

MISHA: "Ah, sorry, Hicchan, I guess it is! Hahahaha!"

NARRATOR: "She doesn't sound very sorry at all."

MISHA: "I thought we had almost everything done by now, but it turns out we have all these signs to attach to backing boards."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "More hands make light work! And everybody wins! Hahahahaha!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "This is your duty, after all, as a member of the Student Council. Which you are a part of. As a member. Of the Student Council. Ahahaha~!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "It's a simple task, so getting it out of the way now would be good. It's not that much work. A small thing, really!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "And we'd really appreciate your help! Really, really appreciate it! Besides, it's time to pay back for us treating you so nicely!"

HISAO: "So the tea shop was a trap after all! You two-timing scoundrels!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Don't say that, it was completely unrelated. We wanted to celebrate you joining the council!"

NARRATOR: "But why did she bring that up, then?"

HISAO: "But—"

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "No buts! You're coming with us!"

NARRATOR: "I don't even get to finish my sentence as they grab me by the arms and try to pull me towards their office. Misha laughs giddily as she and Shizune exchange sly looks behind my back."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Ah, I don't think you have a choice in this, Hicchan! Hahahaha! There are two of us, so don't even try to get away, now! Don't take us lightly!"

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Hicchan, it's your duty to help us, anyway! As a member of the Student Council!"

HISAO: "All right, all right! How could I forget? But, seriously, aren't there other people who can help you?"

MISHA: "Like who, Hicchan? You were fine with helping us yesterday..."

HISAO: "Yesterday is not today! And anyone who isn't me! Why don't you have anyone else in the council?"

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "That's what we'd like to know! ...Aha... Ahahahahaha!"

NARRATOR: "Misha's laughter explodes through the hall. She doesn't notice the grimace on my face at all. That's right, it's just the two of them, isn't it?"

HISAO: "Oh, right. Okay, I'll help you."

NARRATOR: "Misha runs her tongue over her teeth, looking quite pleased."

MISHA: "That's my Hicchan! I knew we could trust you~!"

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "So predictable~."

NARRATOR: "When we get to the student council room, my jaw drops. The number of signs, backing boards, and signposts is insane. They're stacked all over the place like building materials at a construction site, something I let Shizune and Misha know right off the bat."

HISAO: "There are so many signposts here you could probably build a second wall around the school with them!"

MISHA: "Hahaha~! Really? Well, there are a lot of them, so maybe..."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Eh? No? How do you know that, Shicchan?"

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Really?"

HISAO: "Don't tell me she's actually considered it?!"

NARRATOR: "Shizune hesitates, then pushes her glasses up a bit as Misha lets out a very uneasy sounding laugh. So she has considered it."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Ahaha! That's... irrelevant, Hicchan! Can you get on with making the signs, please?"

HISAO: "All right, all right. I feel sort of lied to, though. I thought you said it wouldn't be that much work?"

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Ah, well, Shicchan meant it wouldn't be that much work for us."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Someone has to supervise you while you do this, you know, to make sure you're doing it right. And those people will be us."

HISAO: "So what are you two going to do?"

MISHA: "Watch you! Hahahaha~!"

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "No, that was just a joke, Hicchan. We'll help out too, of course. The Student Council is really supposed to have a lot more people."

MISHA: "This is just a bad year. Fewer people than usual, even though we already didn't have many the year before. And then there's just a lot more work than before, too."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Besides, Shicchan likes working with you. And so do I! We've accomplished a lot more than we normally could, you know."

NARRATOR: "I can accept that. Lately, they've been looking a little fatigued every time I see them. Student council work is apparently a 24-hour-a-day thing, and from what I've seen and heard, there are just the two of them. Well, I guess I make it three. They must work almost nonstop. I wonder how much time they spend working in this room, when I don't see them. And I've even glimpsed Misha taking naps sometimes without Shizune at her side. By herself, Shizune has to be working 60-hour weeks doing her student council duties, on top of regular classes."

NARRATOR: "Two hours pass, and I reach for a tack only to find the box is empty. Shizune grabs it before I can even say anything. She smiles, tossing it expertly into a trash can along with another empty box of tacks."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "So you're out too, Hicchan? Don't worry, Shicchan says she'll get some more. Hahahaha! We went through a box too, but me and Shicchan decided to wait until you needed a new box as well before getting a new one."

NARRATOR: "Something about that strikes me as odd."

HISAO: "Wait, we both ran out of tacks just now? Wow, what a weird coincidence, huh?"

MISHA: "Ah, well, actually, Hicchan, we ran out twenty minutes ago, and there was only one spare box of tacks, the ones we gave to you. And you were flying through those pretty quickly, so~! we thought that we should wait until we both had no more tacks before getting more! Then, Shicchan could go get fresh boxes of tacks for all of us at the same time. You know, for efficiency~!"

NARRATOR: "Shizune nods, preparing to step out the door."

HISAO: "Wait a second, so what did you two do for the past 20 minutes?"

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Ahaha~! Nothing, of course! What could we do? We had no tacks, Hicchan!"

NARRATOR: "Shizune and Misha exchange knowing glances before they give me a perfectly synchronized and incredibly exaggerated simultaneous shrug."

HISAO: "I see. So you decided to take a break. Clever."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Oh, we know it was clever."

HISAO: "Whose idea was it?"

MISHA: "The both of us, of course, of course! Ahahaha~! Well, Hicchan, it was all Shicchan's idea."

NARRATOR: "I turn immediately to Shizune, who gives me a curt wave and a surprisingly cheery smile before quickly vanishing out the door. Well then why didn't you just say you wanted to take a break!? I used to think that Shizune and Misha were polar opposites. Misha always seems so energetic and playful, like any other girl. Shizune, on the other hand, always seemed distant. Aggressively manipulative and vaguely scary, but distant. There were times when I thought that she had no sense of humor. As cute as she was, I'd almost never seen her smile. Not to mention all the other things. The analytical stare, the permanently stoic expression, and even her penmanship; so mechanically precise that everything she writes looks typed. But Shizune and Misha really aren't as different as I'd thought."

HISAO: "I'm a little surprised."

MISHA: "Why?"

HISAO: "Shizune. I didn't know that she liked to joke around like that."

NARRATOR: "What I mean to say is, I didn't know that she could act so girlish. It was actually pretty cute."

MISHA: "You would be surprised, Hicchan."

HISAO: "Well, I didn't know you and her were so close, either, the first time I saw you."

NARRATOR: "I've always been curious as to how these two met."

HISAO: "Do you two go far back or something? Childhood friends? Next-door neighbors?"

MISHA: "Haha... Sorry, Hicchan, it's not anything like that, even if it would be cuter that way. When I came to this school, they just placed me next to Shicchan, and she looked like a very serious person. And I thought, “I'm going to be spending the rest of the year next to this person, maybe! So it would be nice if we could be friends! But~, I wonder if she'll like me.” And I learned that she was deaf. You know, Hicchan, the first time I just thought she was ignoring me~! But, luckily, I knew a little sign language, and we became friends."

NARRATOR: "I want to know where Misha learned how to sign, but I guess that's something for another time."

MISHA: "Now, I guess we're always together. It's nice, I've always wanted someone to listen to me, and I think Shicchan likes having someone to talk to! So, everybody wins."

HISAO: "Heh. That's nice."

MISHA: "That's it? You look disappointed, Hicchan, what were you expecting? Ahahahahaha! You know, Hicchan, I don't think that me and Shicchan thanked you properly."

HISAO: "For what?"

MISHA: "Joining the Student Council. You've been a real help to us, Hicchan! I think I will get a lot more sleep now~!"

HISAO: "Well, I'm glad I could help, if it helps a young woman sleep at night."

MISHA: "That's an interesting thing to say, Hicchan. Shicchan really appreciates you helping us out too."

NARRATOR: "At that moment, Shizune steps back into the room, looking slightly annoyed and sipping offhandedly from a juicebox."

SHIZUNE: "..."

NARRATOR: "She throws two boxes of tacks on the floor with a wry smile."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "Ah, Shicchan."

NARRATOR: "Misha opens her mouth to speak, but then quickly closes it as Shizune suddenly crumples her juicebox with a crunch like the sound of breaking bones."

SHIZUNE: "...! ... ...!"

NARRATOR: "I can tell that each harsh, quaking hand gesture is most likely an epithet."

HISAO: "What's she saying?"

MISHA: "It was just very hard to get these..."

SHIZUNE: "...!"

MISHA: "I guess that is an understatement, Shicchan..."

NARRATOR: "Shizune calms down a bit, straightening her glasses and lightly brushing her bangs back with one finger."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "It really wasn't a big deal in retrospect? That's forward thinking of you! All right then, I guess the two of us should get back to work, Hicchan!"

HISAO: "Sure, why not."

NARRATOR: "By the time we're done with the signs, it's already getting dark out. I hadn't expected something like this to take so long. But then again, if it were that easy, I doubt Shizune and Misha would have asked for my help. Shizune falls into a nearby chair, cracking her knuckles systematically and letting out a muted yawn."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "That's all for today, I guess! That's a good thing, Shicchan, I'm very tired, too."

HISAO: "That took longer than expected."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "You agree? Hahaha, we didn't expect it to take so long either! Not as planned! Aww, I'm so hungry. I just realized I haven't eaten all day."

NARRATOR: "Now that I think about it, I have eaten nothing since I woke up this morning, but right now I'm almost too tired to think about food."

HISAO: "I think they already stopped serving dinner."

MISHA: "This can't be happening! Hicchan, can you think of any way we could... obtain food?"

HISAO: "Obtain food?"

NARRATOR: "I don't like her tone of voice."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Why not order out? Oh, that's right, I guess I could do that."

HISAO: "Order out? From where?"

MISHA: "From town, of course!"

HISAO: "I didn't know they deliver to the school. Well, what are you going to get?"

MISHA: "Maybe some Chinese food!"

HISAO: "As long as you're going to, can I get in on it too? I'm also pretty hungry."

MISHA: "Ahahaha~! Hicchan, you should have just said so in the first place!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "What's that? It's your treat? That's great! That's great!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Wahaha, that's true, if it wasn't for you, we wouldn't be here so late, Shicchan!"

NARRATOR: "Misha quickly grabs a menu from a drawer behind her and begins to enter the number slowly and carefully, as if she's used to messing it up."

MISHA: "What do you want, Hicchan?"

HISAO: "Well, I guess I'll just have some dumplings."

NARRATOR: "I raise my hand in a gesture of thanks to Shizune, who responds with a very faint, split-second smile."

MISHA: "Ahahahahaha~!! Hicchan, Shicchan is paying for everything tonight, it's all on her, so you can afford to splurge a little!"

HISAO: "Some shrimp fried rice too, then."

MISHA: "All right, all right! And you, Shicchan?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "A Chinese omelette? Okay, then."

HISAO: "Hey, Misha, does that really mean “omelette”? Can I see that again?"

MISHA: "Sure! Haha! Like this, like this... And this is for what you ordered: Dumplings! Shrimp fried rice! I'm going to get soup and a stir-fry, you say that like this... And here's how much it all costs: 3685 yen! Wahahahaha~!"

HISAO: "Well, I don't know in how many situations I'll need to remember such an exact number..."

MISHA: "Ahahahaha! Okay~! I'm going to order now, unless anyone wants something else. No objections? All right all right, then!"

NARRATOR: "Shizune impatiently twirls a pair of chopsticks between her fingers as we wait for the food to arrive."

HISAO: "Hey, where did you get those?"

MISHA: "This isn't the first time we've ordered out, Hicchan, and they always give us a ton of chopsticks, for some reason, even when we tell them we're only two people."

HISAO: "And you two have accumulated a lot of them from a lot of long nights eating takeout in the office?"

MISHA: "That's exactly it! Hahahahahaha!"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "I'm overstating it?"

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Haha! That's right, Shicchan! Hey, Hicchan, did you know that once we've collected a hundred pairs of chopsticks from ordering out, we'll be able to take over the universe?"

HISAO: "I used to think that too, when I was little."

MISHA: "Hicchan, are you good at breaking them down the middle? I can never do it right, so I found the little pile of chopsticks Shicchan had saved up and practiced on at least twenty of them. She was really mad about that!"

SHIZUNE: "...!"

NARRATOR: "I let out a laugh as Shizune turns bright red with indignation. I didn't know she had such a childish side. When the food arrives, I dig in heartily, drinking one of the tiny cans of soda Shizune bought for us from one of the vending machines in the hall. Thanking them both for the food, I head back to the dorms, ready to turn in for the night."

NARRATOR: "The dorms are eerily quiet except for the sounds of portable TVs and radios murmuring unintelligibly behind thin walls. It's quiet here at night, and very peaceful. I can hear the crickets chirping outside my window, and see actual stars when I look up. Tired, I try to fall asleep as quickly as I can, only feeling slightly robbed of my Saturday."


Next Scene: Don't Panic