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Smalltalk
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Previous Scene Nobody's Room/Transcript
Next Scene Risk vs. Reward/Transcript

I wake up in a strange room.

Solid morning light shimmers against the light gray ceiling. I had forgotten to draw the curtains closed last night.

!?

This is my room, isn't it?

My room...

This is the third room this year that I'm supposed to call "mine."

Various things around here remind me that indeed, it's me who is supposed to be the one living here.

My bags on the floor, my new school books on the desk.

My numerous medications on the night table.

I stare at the bottles for a moment, deliberating, until I open a bottle, shake out a pill and pop out a tablet from a foil sheet.

I down them with a chaser of water without thinking about the chemistry.

My uniforms are in the closet.

I slink out from under the sheets and stretch my back before dressing up.

Putting on a new school uniform feels like dressing in someone else's clothes.

The artificial smell of generic detergent invades my nose, but the feeling of fresh cloth against my back is a good one, a natural one.

It feels like a school uniform, as it should. It's not much different from what I used to wear before.

That goes for other things too. So far, this place seems more or less like a normal school.

Except for the people.

I think back to my talk with Kenji yesterday, Misha's constant laughter, and Shizune's sweeping sign language gestures.

Well, I've only met three students so far. Maybe they aren't that normal, but I'm sure others are.

Or, perhaps, people like them are what passes for normal around here?

Yeah, what does pass for normal around here? What do people do?

I didn't see a lot of kids hanging around after classes yesterday, so maybe there are clubs. If so, I wonder if I should join one.

All through class, the question remains on my mind, so I decide to ask Shizune about it when we split into groups.

After all, she did say if I had anything I wanted to know, I should ask her.

Shizune "..."

Shizune "..."

She crosses her arms and shifts her gaze slowly to Misha, who looks more preoccupied with trying to grind the eraser of her pencil down so that the top is perfect and evenly flat.

Shizune "..."

Misha "Ahaha~! Sorry, sorry, Shicchan~! Is there something you wanted from me?"

Misha "Oh~... I see! Hm... That's a good question, Hicchan."

My first thought is that means she doesn't know, which is worrying. Maybe I'm being too negative. Well, anyway, Misha, please don't prove me right.

Shizune "..."

Misha "Oh, that's right! Everyone is encouraged to join a club. A lot of people do so because there really isn't anything else to do."

Misha "There are also school events, like the festival coming up in a few days. Almost every student in the school tends to help out with it, doing whatever."

Misha "So~! You actually transferred in at a busy time... maybe you can help out, too~!"

Hisao "Sure."

Hisao "What's the festival about?"

Misha freezes.

Misha "...Wahahaha~! I don't know, Hicchan, the truth is it's a local event, and I'm not from this area, so..."

She starts signing desperately to Shizune, asking her to bail her out. Shizune adjusts her glasses at the end of an oddly grandiose flourish and starts signing hard and heavy.

Shizune "..."

Misha "Huh? Oh."

Misha "Who cares?"

Misha puffs out her chest as she shouts Shizune's words out at me with a disproportionate amount of pride.

Too loud. I can see heads turning to look in our direction.

Hisao "Not so loud..."

Shizune "..."

Misha "Human beings evolve with each new generation! The ideals and beliefs behind a festival will inevitably change with time!"

Shizune "...!"

Misha "Now, it's about delicious fried food and amusing little games that you play to win prizes~! Hahahaha~!"

The teacher clears his throat very loudly, batting his long wooden pointer against his other palm like a baton. He shoots a pointed gaze at us.

Finally noticing where we are, Misha stifles a yelp and quickly quiets down. Shizune doesn't seem embarrassed at all, though, brushing it off without a care.

Shizune "..."

Misha "We are in the middle of class, and should start working."

Misha "That's right, Shicchan~!"

Misha "What? That's right~! Hicchan, are you asking because you're interested in joining a club?"

It could have been my eyes playing tricks on me, but I think I saw a suspicious glance exchanged between them. Misha's tone has also changed, although it does that every other word, anyway.

Hisao "Yeah, I was thinking about it."

Misha and Shizune look at each other again.

I'm about to ask what they have in mind when something dark flutters in my peripheral vision, catching my attention.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see the girl with long, dark hair get up from her desk and slip silently towards the door.

It doesn't seem like she was working in any group, and no one seems to notice her but me.

I glance at the teacher, who's also looking at the dark-haired girl go.

Why doesn't he say anything?

Misha "Hicchan? Is something wrong?"

Do I look as uneasy as I feel?

Or was Misha just looking at me looking after the girl who left?

Hisao "No, nothing."

Shizune "..."

Misha "Okay~! Well, like we were asking, you don't have any plans for lunch today, do you?"

"I thought I would go to the library and pick up some books."

Hisao "...Not really."

Misha "Do you want to have lunch together then?"

Hisao "Sure."

Shizune "..."

Misha "Yay~! Wahahaha~! Okay, Hicchan~! Perfect!"

The rest of class passes uneventfully. The girl with the long hair never came back.

Before I have the time to put any more thought into where she could have gone, the teacher informs us that it's time to stop working.

Shizune looks more than a little annoyed that we only just barely managed to finish our work on time. I'm just glad we finished at all; it's not a contest or anything.

Shizune "..."

Misha "Yes it is, Hicchan!"

Hisao "Impossible."

Misha "Really?"

Hisao "Really."

I've noticed this before, but it's kind of funny how Misha is always moving her hands and signing not only everything she says, but what anyone else is saying at any given time.

Obviously, it must be so Shizune can understand it. Her eyes dart back and forth between Misha's hands and me.

I don't know who I'm supposed to be looking at. I'm talking to Misha, but that might be wrong; maybe I should face Shizune. I'm used to looking in the direction of the person whose voice I'm hearing, but really...

Shizune can't hear me, but it would be disrespectful to talk to her only through Misha. Then again, isn't that what she's doing? No, she's at least looking at me. This is all very confusing and will take some time to get used to.

Hisao "It's not a contest, because contests are competitions over a prize. If there's no prize on the line, it's not really a contest."

Shizune's eyes flash dangerously with a competitive glare. She stares at me, as if surprised that I'm challenging her. I think maybe this is a contest to her.

I never noticed before how dark and blue her eyes are; it's truly an alluring gaze.

Shizune "..."

Misha "Are you sure, Hicchan?"

Hisao "Very sure."

Shizune "..."

Misha "Hahaha! You're wrong, Hicchan. Because~! I don't want to be the slowest one in the class. Therefore, what's on the line is my confidence in my abilities, and the prize is the satisfaction of proving them."

Misha "Wahahahaha~!"

Shizune pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose in a very matter-of-fact way.

I'd argue more, but the bell rings, and she quickly gets up and picks up her bag, looking at me expectantly.

I had almost forgotten that I was supposed to have lunch with them.

Shizune "..."

Misha "Where do you want to eat?"

Hisao "The cafeteria?"

Misha "Hahaha~! That's so plain... Okay~! Let's go!"

Plain? Well I guess...

At my old school, I liked to eat outside, near the back of the building. It was a good spot, but I didn't find it until near the end of my freshman year.

I wonder if there is a similar place to eat here. Misha seems to imply as much.

Shizune and Misha pull me towards the cafeteria, which is surprisingly not packed. Maybe some students favor eating in classroom or outdoors. I saw some of my classmates had boxed lunches.

After we finish eating, Misha picks up where we left off earlier.

Misha "So, Hicchan, you wanted to know about clubs and stuff, right?, right~?"

Shizune "..."

Misha "Right, Shicchan! Okay, I guess it makes sense to ask first."

Exchanging little nods of confirmation, they turn to face me again and Misha straightens her posture as if she is about to deliver a speech.

Misha "Hicchan, do you have anything you're really interested in?"

Hisao "I used to play soccer, but I'm not really into it. I don't follow the teams and players or anything like that."

Hisao "As of late, I usually just read a lot."

Misha "Hm... There is a book club, right, Shicchan? Right! But~! It seems like they have all the members they can possibly have right now. Sorry, Hicchan... It's a really popular club."

Shizune "..."

Misha "Ah, okay! But, more to the point, does this mean that you don't have anything already in mind?"

Hisao "Not really."

Shizune "..."

Misha "Good! Great~! That's great, Hicchan! Really great! Hahaha~! Wahahahaha~!"

Hisao "Why's it so great?"

Misha "No reason."

Misha "Well, Hicchan, other than clubs and the upcoming festival, there is one other thing..."

Misha "Student Council!"

I see. I didn't know this school had a Student Council. That was a very melodramatic setup, though, just to tell me that.

I'm pretty sure the two of them know this, because Shizune looks a little embarrassed about it, and Misha is laughing.

Shizune quickly retakes control of this discussion, in a manner of speaking. After all, it's still Misha who has to voice whatever she says.

Shizune "..."

Misha "Hahaha~! Hm? Right, right... Hicchan, maybe you should join the Student Council! They could use more people~. Yes! Definitely! You should definitely join!"

Hisao "Why?"

Misha "Well, for one, we could hang out every day, Hicchan~! Shicchan and I are both in the Student Council."

Misha "Actually, Shicchan is the president."

Hm...

I'm starting to get the suspicion that Shizune and Misha might not exactly be the most unbiased people to talk about this with.

As if reading my mind, Shizune quickly adjusts her glasses and signs something to Misha.

Shizune "..."

Misha "Hahaha~! Of course, we're not trying to get you to join just because we would obviously benefit from you joining the Student Council and therefore have an incentive to try and get you to--"

Hisao "So, you're admitting that--"

Shizune "..."

Misha "Ahaha~! No! We admit nothing~! I mean, Hicchan, of course it would be nice if you joined, and we'd appreciate it."

Misha "But even without all that, joining the Student Council shows a healthy interest in the workings of one's school."

Misha "Yup~! It's true, Hicchan. Besides, don't you want to spend time with us after school, Hicchan?"

I can't tell if she is being genuine or if this is just really good acting. Both of them seem to be trying hard to look their cutest, although they are already pretty cute to begin with.

Hisao "Well..."

Shizune "..."

Misha "So it's settled, then. Welcome to the Student Council, Hicchan~!"

Hisao "What? No. No!"

Misha "Aww... See, Shicchan? Of course it wouldn't go so easily."

Shizune "..."

Misha "Yup! That's right, though, it would be boring if it went that smoothly. Oh well~! Shicchan owes me candy now!"

Hisao "You were betting on it? Hey, my life is not a game here!"

Shizune seems very intrigued by this when Misha signs it to her. The aggressive glint returns to her eyes.

Shizune "..."

Misha "Wahaha~! That's interesting, Hicchan. Let's play a game!"

Hisao "That's not what I said."

Misha "How about Rich Man, Poor Man, Hicchan? If you lose, you have to join the Student Council."

Hisao "No, absolutely not."

Misha "Aw~, why not?"

Hisao "Well, because you two both have the same incentive, and therefore the same goal, which is to get me to join the Student Council, right?"

Shizune "..."

Misha "Yup!"

Hisao "Yeah, that isn'tmy goal. But what this means is that both of you can team up and I'll be at a clear disadvantage. So, I will have to decline."

Shizune "..."

Misha "Hicchan! I'm very offended! Are you saying you don't trust us, and that we would pull something so d--dis--in--gen--u--ous...? That makes me sad..."

Hisao "Sorry?"

It's hard to tell where Shizune's influence ends and Misha's thoughts begin.

Shizune "..."

Misha "In order to atone for hurting a young girl's feelings, you should definitely join the Student Council!"

Hisao "No!"

Misha "How about a game of paper football, instead of Rich Man, Poor Man?"

Hisao "Paper football?"

Misha "Yeah~! It's a game they play in America~! You make a paper triangle, and then you try to shoot it past goalposts that the other player makes with their fingers!"

Misha "Isn't it cool~? It's the ultimate form of competition between two people, Hicchan~!"

Shizune "..."

Misha "...And it's also played by elementary and middle school children, Shicchan? Wahaha! That means it's a game that really separates the boys from the men!"

Hisao "More like the boys from the slightly older boys. Anyway, I'm not going to play that either. Just the fact that you know about it means you're probably surprisingly good at it."

Misha "Hahaha~! Yeah yeah~, that's true! How did you know, Hicchan?"

Shizune frowns at Misha, telling me that she probably wasn't supposed to admit that so readily.

I wouldn't say that I'm happy with their attempts to get me into the Student Council but I'm a little curious about what the Student Council does here.

I've never been on one before, or even know anybody who was a member, so it interests me. I also kind of like Shizune and Misha, so maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

Shizune "..."

Misha "Okay, Hicchan, how about Risk? The game of world domination!"

Hisao "I don't know what that is."

Misha "It's really fun, Hicchan. You fight for control of the world, with armies and everything."

Sounds like Shizune would be good at it.

Misha "If you want to play, we can after school."

Shizune "..."

Misha "Ah, really, Shicchan? We can just play for fun, Hicchan. Shicchan hasn't played in a long time, so if you want to, there are no strings attached~!"

Hisao "Well, okay..."

Misha "Okay! Okay, okay~! Perfect~! We'll see you after school in the student council room, then, Hicchan!"

Hisao "Wait, why there?"

Misha "Because~! That's where we keep the game."

Misha "Wahahahaha~!"

I grimace to tell them how much I do not like this, but it's more for show than anything.

So in the end I agree, but only after getting Shizune to acknowledge that I don't mean anything concrete just by accepting to take a look around a play a game with her.

Lunch ends, and we go back to class.

During afternoon classes, the long haired girl comes back and sits down in her seat without a word.

Again, no one seems to notice, or if they do, no one says anything. I want to ask Misha about it, but I don't want to be nosy.

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