NARRATOR: "Glancing around the class, even the bubbly, ever-energetic Misha seems oddly deflated. She sits at her desk, nervously chewing a pen while Mutou lectures from the front of the class. Wait... on closer inspection, I do believe she's eating it. Tearing my eyes from the sorry spectacle, I turn my attention elsewhere. Hanako sits frantically scribbling in her notebook, her face mere inches away from the page, seemingly trying to record every word that leaves Mutou's mouth. Shizune's, well... Shizune. Cool as a cucumber, she sits diligently taking notes with her attention wholly focused on the front of the class."
NARRATOR: "Truth be told, it's what I should be doing as well, if not for the fact that I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what's being covered already. I wonder how Lilly's doing. While she does have a good head on her, she has plenty on her plate, unlike me. Her class representative duties, taking care of Hanako, her other social contacts, her extra English studies... that girl really does take on a lot. The lunchtime bell brings a sigh of relief from the entire class, Mutou being no exception. I get the feeling he much prefers the more laid-back atmosphere of his normal classes to the frantic pace of exam preparation we're subjected to right now."
MISHA: "Hicchan~... Help me~..."
NARRATOR: "I lower my eyelids to half-mast, making clear my intention of doing quite the opposite."
MISHA: "Help me, help me, help me~..."
HISAO: "Not going well?"
MISHA: "Shicchan's going to be fine, but I think I might die. Am I going to die, Hicchan? Will you let me die from all this work?"
NARRATOR: "How maudlin. Given that she's neither the brightest student in the class, nor the most diligent, it isn't a great surprise that she's finding it hard to cope with the workload."
HISAO: "Sorry Misha, but I've got my own work to do. I thought you and Shizune would be studying together over the long weekend, anyway?"
MISHA: "Studying's too boring to waste a holiday on, Hicchan! Shopping together was much more fun, wasn't it, Shicchan?"
NARRATOR: "It's only now that I realize Shizune's been looking over to us, and that Misha's arms have been moving likely all this time. I must be really zoned out to not have noticed."
HISAO: "What is it with girls and shopping, anyway? Even Lilly and Hanako have dragged me out with them a couple of times."
MISHA: "But you went anyway? It's so rare to see a guy that likes going shopping~..."
HISAO: "Well, my role would probably be best described as “pack mule”. I can't say I share your enthusiasm about the experience. Back to the exams; you studied after you got back from the days off, didn't you, Shizune?"
MISHA: "Of course, Hicchan. It's only sensible to study in the days before... U~rgh."
NARRATOR: "Misha makes a sound vaguely similar to a dying cow as she realizes her folly and unceremoniously flops onto her desk, betrayed even by her best friend. Judging from Shizune's quite frustrated look at Misha, she probably told her to study as she did."
HISAO: "Don't worry, you can still gain some marks if you start studying now. Maybe."
NARRATOR: "Misha does not seem overly amused. It seems the bubbly balloon of everlasting cheerfulness has been cruelly popped."
NARRATOR: "Shizune's signing goes unnoticed by the moping Misha, earning her a quick poke in the shoulder. It takes barely a moment for Misha to get back into form."
MISHA: "Oh, ah, so what did you do over the weekend, Hicchan?"
HISAO: "Just took a trip up north with Lilly and Hanako. It was pretty nice."
NARRATOR: "I see both of them narrowing their eyes at me, their minds surely in the gutter. The fact that their suspicions are founded makes the situation all the more awkward."
HISAO: "We just studied and went sightseeing; there's nothing more to it."
NARRATOR: "After such a flagrant lie, I realize that it may not have been the best step, considering Shizune's connections and her total lack of restraint when it comes to questioning someone she suspects of telling untruths. I really have no idea of how she's going to take it, but she'll find out eventually anyway. It isn't as if it's really her business whom I date, in any case."
HISAO: "And yes, Lilly and I are going out now."
NARRATOR: "While Misha receives the news with an enthusiastic smile, Shizune gives a look of mild surprise somewhat masked by her cool demeanor."
MISHA: "Whoever you date is your business. I hope you two go well together."
NARRATOR: "Misha gives a look that says this is the most quarter I could possibly receive on the matter. It's all I wanted, really. After she says this, though, Shizune begins to sign something else, then stops herself and shakes her head at Misha to prevent her from translating. Normally I'd think this strange enough, but the awkwardly casual wave Shizune gives before walking off with Misha in tow adds to my confusion. Shizune's hardly the kind of person to pull a punch or communicate without forethought. I shrug my shoulders at the duo's odd behavior and look towards Hanako's desk, but see that her chair's empty. She was definitely here before, so I guess she just didn't feel like waiting. I'll go grab some food alone, then."
NARRATOR: "Walking down the hallway to the unused room that's become a second home to three students in particular, I mournfully look down at the plastic-wrapped salad roll and juice box in my hand. The cafeteria's food really is unappetizing. Maybe I'll consider this my penance for my recent indiscretions. Opening the door, I notice one less quiet figure than I'd expected."
NARRATOR: "It's strange. Despite having known Lilly for months, I can't help thinking back to the very first time I opened this door and saw her silently sitting in the sunlight. Just as she did then, she slowly opens her eyes, unmoving as they are, and calmly addresses me."
LILLY: "Good morning, Hisao."
HISAO: "It's afternoon, I think. Has Hanako been around? She skittered out of class without me even noticing."
NARRATOR: "Lilly cradles her cheek thoughtfully as I take a seat, my bag taking its place against the closest leg of the table and my unsatisfying meal neatly set out in front of me."
LILLY: "She did appear... for a time. She said she had to study for the upcoming exams, and left for the library."
NARRATOR: "We find ourselves not entirely believing her words."
HISAO: "Well, at least her intentions are in the right place."
LILLY: "She is sweet, but she needn't go this far to let us have our space. I might talk to her about it sometime."
HISAO: "Probably for the best."
NARRATOR: "For a while we quietly eat our meals, Lilly elegantly nibbling on her sandwiches and sipping her tea as I eat what tastes like a garden sandwiched in dry dough. The atmosphere feels slightly strained, neither of us knowing quite what to say to each other now that our small talk has dried up. Eventually we both finish our food, with no conversation forthcoming for quite some time. Eventually, though, Lilly's soft voice breaks the silence."
LILLY: "A lot happened back there... didn't it?"
NARRATOR: "Again, silence. With both our minds on the same topic, though, I think I have my feelings on that sorted out."
HISAO: "I know everything happened in kind of a hurry, but... I don't regret anything that happened in Hokkaido. Not one thing."
NARRATOR: "Slightly tense, I take her hands in mine; half to feel her, half to settle my own nerves."
HISAO: "I stand by my words back there, Lilly. I love you, and I won't leave you. I only wish for you to think the same."
NARRATOR: "She silently reflects for a long time, which feels like an eternity. Her reverie comes to an end as she takes one hand from mine, placing it over them as she leans her body forwards and stands out of her chair. After a moment's hesitation, her face slightly pensive, her lips meet mine for a brief moment. My mind feels as if it briefly stopped at that moment, barely registering Lilly sitting back in her chair and smiling back at me with ever so slightly reddened cheeks."
LILLY: "Hearing that makes me very happy, Hisao. I would be glad to stay with you."
HISAO: "Maybe it would be good to slow things down a bit, compared to before. We still have school, after all, and our exams."
NARRATOR: "She gives a mischievous giggle, which proves to be contagious."
LILLY: "That might be a good idea indeed. Do you think you'll fare well in your exams? It's only one day until they arrive, as you say."
HISAO: "I probably should have studied more, but I think I've got a good enough head to manage. That said, I had to bat off Misha and Shizune. Is your class as worried about the exams as mine?"
NARRATOR: "She lets out an exasperated sigh, all but confirming it. I'm thankful for the atmosphere becoming a bit lighter."
LILLY: "I think so. I've already been asked for help by two of my classmates, and there'll no doubt be more."
HISAO: "Think of it as your first training in being a teacher, maybe?"
LILLY: "That's probably a good way to think of it. On that note, how are you faring in your English studies? I remember it was far from your strongest subject, and the few sentences you memorized to speak to my mother aren't likely to help."
NARRATOR: "Damn, right on the mark."
HISAO: "You got me. If you don't mind, would you be able to possibly help in that regard? Please?"
LILLY: "It would be my pleasure to help you, Hisao. But in exchange..."
NARRATOR: "She lowers her eyebrows at me, her coquettish nature tentatively coming to the fore."
HISAO: "No problem at all. You'd probably be better off with some help in your studies, though."
NARRATOR: "She beams a smile at me, one of girlish victory that nearly makes me blush. I get the feeling she's aware of how to use her face to twist my judgment, so I should probably be more on guard. Here and now though, a study group seems like an expedient way for both of us to shore up our more lacking skills. The school bell rings out, reminding us that time isn't going to stand still."
HISAO: "Huh, lunchtime's over already. It sure is easy to lose track of the time here."
LILLY: "This room's so far from the other clubs and activities, not much sound can reach us. That's probably most of the reason why."
NARRATOR: "A place far from all the others, alone with just one person whom she loves. As Lilly stands and collects her bag and cane, my thoughts are cast back to the time we spent in Hokkaido."
LILLY: "Ah, before I go; Akira and I are having a homecoming party in my room tomorrow. Will you be able to come?"
NARRATOR: "...and back again."
HISAO: "My schedule is free, so I should be able to make enough room in my study time to make it."
LILLY: "Good to hear, Hisao."
HISAO: "For what it's worth, I'm glad you're back from Scotland. Once exams are over, we should have some more time to ourselves."
LILLY: "Mm. Holidays start soon after, too."
HISAO: "We can start the holidays with Tanabata then, just as we promised at the school festival."
NARRATOR: "She brings her hand to her cheek and laughs slightly nervously, recalling the event as I silently thank myself for managing to remember. It seems odd to see her react in such a way, though it's not like I never saw her embarrassed before."
LILLY: "I'd... better be going. Farewell, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "Whether it's out of habit or just a stubborn desire for one small fragment of normality, I hold my hand up in farewell just as I always do. At least I'm consciously aware that I'm doing it now. I think I'm beginning to see a bigger picture than I ever have before, not only with Lilly but also my life ahead. The chains of my past are finally breaking."
Next Scene: Pajamas and Suits