NARRATOR: "My first impression was right; the library is surprisingly big. Ambling down the narrow aisles, I study the spines of the books in random order, occasionally sliding one out to read the blurb, taking it with me if it looks good. In a few moments I have a respectable stack of books in my arms. I guess I'll never be stuck for choice in here. The normality of the library sinks in. Sure, there are large-print and Braille books scattered throughout, but it is what it is: a library. It's as if the calm mood from the room I had tea with Lilly in snuck with us in here, unless it was here to begin with. Something about that puts me at ease, just like before."
NARRATOR: "I reach the end of the aisle and find a collection of desks, set up for study or personal reading. Going a little further, though, I discover a nice quiet corner at the back. While the rest of the library has the odd student sitting at a desk either reading or stealthily sleeping, the back is pretty much deserted. As I glance around, I see someone who I recognize sitting on one of several beanbags."
NARRATOR: "It's the dark-haired girl from my class. The one who snuck out of the classroom earlier. She's reading a book, keeping it close to her face which makes her look like she's really into it. From the way she was acting today, I had her pegged as more of a delinquent than a bookworm. In fact, her mysterious disappearance from the class raises all sorts of whys in my head. Intrigue floats slowly but surely towards the surface, and before I know it I'm walking towards the mysterious long-haired girl. I guess there's no harm in introducing myself as I would with anyone else. She's a classmate after all. Walking over to another beanbag, I take a seat and lay my books beside it."
NARRATOR: "The girl starts, looking scaredly up at me from underneath her fringe. This is the first time I've seen her this close. Underneath her long, dense bangs, I can see that part of her face, at least a third if not a half, is pretty badly scarred. My eyes are immediately drawn to the scars, subconsciously peeking past her hair until they meet her own eyes. For a second, I am shocked, and divert my eyes to the book in her hands, before I realize that looking away probably only makes it worse. It takes too many seconds to collect myself and remember what I walked up to her for."
HISAO: "Hi! I'm new here. Hisao Nakai. We're in the same class."
HISAO: "Umm... I just transferred here the other day. Maybe you don't remember?"
If Hisao introduced himself in Gateway Effect:
- HISAO: "I did a self-introduction too."
- HANAKO: "..."
NARRATOR: "The girl still doesn't say a word, but simply stares at me, wide-eyed."
HISAO: "I'm still getting used to the place so I'm trying to meet as many people as I can. So, er... what's your name?"
HANAKO: "H... Hanako..."
NARRATOR: "Her speech is stuttering and so quiet that it is barely audible even in the still library. Somehow I think that my “delinquent” impression of her was wrong."
HISAO: "Hanako, eh? So what are you reading?"
NARRATOR: "She gently tips the book backwards so that I can read the title, at the same time hiding her face behind it. She must have noticed me staring before."
HISAO: "'Life of Pi'? I've never heard of it before. What's it about?"
HANAKO: "A boy... and a tiger... ...on a boat..."
NARRATOR: "I can see this taking some time."
HISAO: "Sounds interesting. Is it any good?"
NARRATOR: "She nods from behind the book, but stays silent. She looks kinda tense. A bit like Yuuko earlier, but in a different way. More like... petrified with terror, I'd say. So the mystery delinquent girl turned out to be anything but, and she is quivering in a way that makes it look like she is mortally afraid of me. The only way out of this, as far as I can tell, is to try to get a normal conversation going."
HISAO: "Is it a library book? I'm looking for new ones to read, but there's just so many..."
HANAKO: "N-no. It's mine."
HISAO: "Oh. So... do you come here often?"
NARRATOR: "A huge, huge blush spreads on Hanako's face and her eyes widen far larger than I thought it was possible for eyes to do. Uh-oh. Did she interpret my lame attempt at small talk as a feeble attempt to pick her up?"HISAO: "I mean... ehh... I didn't mean it like that..."
HISAO: "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."
HANAKO: "It... it's okay."
NARRATOR: "The girl certainly doesn't look like it's okay, but I let it slide."
HISAO: "So, umm... do you mind if I sit here?"
NARRATOR: "She seems to be very uncertain whether it's okay or not for me to sit, but finally she nods, just a little."
HANAKO: "O... okay."
NARRATOR: "I take the seat next to her, and she hides herself behind her book. 'Life of Pi'... Never heard of it."
HISAO: "So, errr... sorry again for startling you. I'm Hisao."
NARRATOR: "She looks up from her book, stalling a little before replying."
HANAKO: "I... know. We... are in the same... same class."
NARRATOR: "Her speech is stilted and so quiet that it is barely audible even in the still library. Somehow I think that my 'delinquent' impression of her was wrong."
HANAKO: "H-H-Hanako. I'm... Hanako. ..."
NARRATOR: "I resist the urge to say 'that's a nice name' just to have something to say, but really, it's the only thing that I can think of. I feel like an idiot. Everyone here must be used to being different to each other, and here I am being all bothered and fussed about that kind of thing."
HISAO: "Don't let me interrupt your reading. I'll... just check these books if you don't mind."
NARRATOR: "She nods a little, and sighs a little sigh of relief."
NARRATOR: "..."NARRATOR: "So I try to read the covers and the introductions of the books I picked up and she buries her face in her book. Uncomfortable silence consumes us. My eyes still wander to her direction, and I sneak peeks at her flowing hair and the scars it's hiding. After a while I realize that she's doing the same, and only pretending to immerse in 'Life of Pi.' Her gaze is not inquisitive at all though, it darts around like a scared rabbit. When our gazes finally meet, the chain reaction is unstoppable. She stands up forcefully from the beanbag and takes a deep breath."
HANAKO: "I... I..."
NARRATOR: "Without warning, Hanako takes off and runs towards the counter. Her hare-like takeoff catches me so off guard that I don't manage to go after her until she has a good head start. By the time I reach the counter she is nowhere to be seen. Lilly and Yuuko are happily chatting away. Knowing that I won't be able to catch Hanako myself, I approach the girls."
HISAO: "Hey, did you see... er... notice a girl run past here?"
YUUKO: "Um, maybe... what did she look like?"
HISAO: "Long, dark hair. Kinda shy. She had... well... some scars... on her... face."
LILLY: "You wouldn't be talking about Hanako, would you?"
HISAO: "Yeah, that's her. I saw her reading and tried to talk to her, but I think I scared her off or something."
LILLY: "Oh dear. Yuuko, would you excuse me, I had better try and find her."
YUUKO: "S-sure. I'll just hold onto these until you come back."
HISAO: "Um, what's going on?"
LILLY: "I'm sorry, but I'll have to explain it to you some other time."
HISAO: "Right. I'll see you later then..."
NARRATOR: "Lilly hastily grabs her cane and hurries out of the library, leaving me alone with Yuuko."
HISAO: "I don't think I'll ever get the hang of this place."
HISAO: "Did I do something wrong?"
YUUKO: "What did you do?"
HISAO: "Nothing! I just... talked to her. Tried to get to know her. Didn't even manage to get started."
NARRATOR: "Yuuko sighs and looks awfully bothered, even more so than she did before."
YUUKO: "I guess you weren't 'wrong' so much as 'tactless.'"
YUUKO: "That girl is a bit of a special case. It's like she never really talks to anyone."
HISAO: "Isn't that a bit... strange?"
YUUKO: "I wonder... It's just how she is, I think."NARRATOR: "Yuuko doesn't sound all that convincing. Then again, maybe this is just the norm around here. Everyone has their own problems, or else they wouldn't be here. Perhaps I was being a little tactless after all."
HISAO: "Nothing! I was just looking for some books and then she got this fit and ran off. The most offending thing I can think of was that I might've looked at her general direction a few times."
YUUKO: "Well, she is a very timid girl. You have to be very careful around her. She can be very jumpy, I think, and she's not accustomed to talking with other people."
HISAO: "Isn't that a bit... strange?"
YUUKO: "I wonder... It's just how she is, I think."NARRATOR: "Yuuko doesn't sound all that convincing. Then again, maybe this is just the norm around here. Everyone has their own problems, or else they wouldn't be here."
HISAO: "But how should I deal with these people? Forcing myself to act overly casually only makes me feel phony. Like I was supposed to be ignoring the elephant in the room."
NARRATOR: "Yuuko fidgets, looking like she wants to say something to that, but resists it."
YUUKO: "I think it's an elephant only if you feel that way."
NARRATOR: "I guess she doesn't have a good sense of self-restraint. It makes me smile, and she blushes heavily."
YUUKO: "W... what? Did that sound stupid?"
HISAO: "No no, it sounded really wise. I guess you're right. It's more about me than anyone else."
NARRATOR: "Neither of us has anything to add so Yuuko fills the silence by shuffling some papers around. People who have papers on their desks really like doing that."
YUUKO: "Did you find any books? I should be closing soon. I mean this library should be closing. But I have to do it. I hope that's not too inconvenient for you."
HISAO: "Oh. Yeah, I want some books, but I left them over there because... ...I'll just go get them."
NARRATOR: "I fetch my stack of books from beside the beanbags where Hanako and I were sitting and return to the counter."
YUUKO: "Wow. You read a lot, don't you?"
HISAO: "I surprise myself with that too, honestly. At least, when I really think about it. I had a lot of free time earlier this year, so I just kind of... started reading books to fill that time. I couldn't do much else."
YUUKO: "I see."
NARRATOR: "But she doesn't say anything else, and just checks out my books for me. I guess this is what they call 'tact.'"
Next Scene: Bizarre and Surreal