NARRATOR: "The morning of the track meet greets me with a brilliant sunshine from a crystal blue sky. While I leisurely stroll towards the track, I decide this is a good sign. Of what, I'm not sure; this event isn't as exciting for me as it seems to be for a large portion of the student body. I'm even less interested in watching sports than I am in participating, but cheering for Emi is a good cause. I'm not expecting this to be any sort of amazing and spectacular experience, but it can't hurt. I'd probably be spending the time reading while cooped up in my room, otherwise."
NARRATOR: "When I approach the bleachers, I spot Rin emerging from the crowd right before she spots me."
RIN: "You came."
HISAO: "Of course. I said I would, didn't I?"
RIN: "That doesn't necessarily imply that you had to follow through. Lots of people say things and don't mean them."
HISAO: "Well, I don't."
NARRATOR: "Rin shrugs. Seemingly bored with our conversation, she turns on her heel and heads back toward the stands."
HISAO: "So, are you excited about this?"
RIN: "Not really."
HISAO: "Me neither."
RIN: "Then why did you come?"
HISAO: "Why did you?"
NARRATOR: "She doesn't reply at all, so I decide not to, either. We enter the bleachers, and Rin nods upwards."
RIN: "Up there."
NARRATOR: "Rin leads the way, and soon we've settled down on an almost-empty bench. There's an older woman sitting next to Rin - someone's mother, I assume. She's got rather long hair done up in a braid. On seeing Rin, she gives her an oddly familiar-seeming grin."
MEIKO: "Well, this is surprising. I thought you went to get a snack, not a boy."
RIN: "This is no good?" NARRATOR: "The woman laughs at Rin and shakes her head, apparently unable to find a comeback for that. I know the feeling."
MEIKO: "Well, I suppose you've always been one to go out for one thing and bring back another. But I'm being rude! I haven't introduced myself. I'm Meiko Ibarazaki. I'm sure that if you know this girl, you've at least met my daughter, too. Pleased to meet you."
NARRATOR: "Well, that explains it. She's like a taller, older, more motherly Emi. Apart from her hair being somewhat darker than her daughter's, there's really no mistaking the resemblance."
HISAO: "Sorry, I'm Hisao. Hisao Nakai. Nice to meet you."
RIN: "I'm Rin Tezuka."
NARRATOR: "Mrs. Ibarazaki laughs again - she really does resemble her offspring - and then leans back a little on her seat and raises an eyebrow."
MEIKO: "So, now that we all know each other, how long have you and Rin been dating?"
NARRATOR: "My response consists of silence as my brain suddenly lurches into gear. But just before I can begin to utter a hastily babbled explanation, Emi's mother bursts into laughter again."
MEIKO: "Ha! You're a blusher, aren't you?" NARRATOR: "I don't know if there's any way to keep my dignity in this situation, so I settle for a mumbled response." HISAO: "We're not—"
MEIKO: "I know, but it's funny to watch you squirm. I'm sorry. Forgive an old woman her amusements."
NARRATOR: "She chuckles again to herself. Old woman? She sure doesn't look that old to me."
HISAO: "I suppose I can let it go."
MEIKO: "How kind of you."
RIN: "It's starting."
NARRATOR: "I direct my attention to the track, where they're preparing for the first sprint. It looks like the 400 meter dash. My eyes scan the runners, before finding Emi."
NARRATOR: "She's smiling, with an almost cocky look on her face. The starter raises his pistol."
NARRATOR: "Emi explodes off the block, disappearing from the starting line in a blur. It's amazing. Even as the other sprinters converge on the lanes closest to the inside line, Emi surges to the front of the pack. By the time she rounds the final turn, a few of the other runners have caught up with her. But she puts on a final burst of speed that leaves them at least a half second behind."
NARRATOR: "Mrs. Ibarazaki whoops and shouts, applauding wildly, and generally looking like any other parent cheering on their child. Emi bounds off the track, looking pleased with herself. I cheer right along with the rest of them. The announcer (sounding suspiciously like Misha) gleefully gives the results."
MEIKO: "I think she's gotten faster since the last time."
HISAO: "That was incredible."
NARRATOR: "Mrs. Ibarazaki grins proudly."
MEIKO: "Emi's a heck of a runner."
NARRATOR: "We fall silent as the next event prepares to start. I'm surprised to see Emi striding out onto the track again."
HISAO: "Wait, didn't she just run?"
NARRATOR: "Emi's mother nods." MEIKO: "Yes, but she runs multiple events for the team. Especially the sprints. It's a lot of running, but Emi can handle it."
NARRATOR: "From the looks of things, she's right. Emi doesn't appear to be tired, as if she hadn't run the previous event at all. If not for the sweat visible on her shirt, you'd never know."
HISAO: "Which event is this?"
MEIKO: "It's the 200 meter dash. She'll do this one, the 100-meter, and the relay." HISAO: "I see."
NARRATOR: "Once again the pistol sounds, and once again Emi flies off the block. A thumping sound draws my attention away from the race. It's Rin's foot. She seems completely absorbed in the race."
NARRATOR: "Emi's mother cheers again, and I assume that the race is over. Sprints don't seem to me like they'd take very long to complete."
HISAO: "Your foot."
HISAO: "Your foot was bouncing on the bleachers."
HISAO: "You seem pretty into this stuff. I'm surprised; I thought you said this wouldn't be exciting."
RIN: "Hmm, I suppose you're right. It's not that interesting. But I'm watching Emi, not the sport."
HISAO: "I don't follow." RIN: "Emi's the most Emi when she runs. You don't get to see Emi at her Emiest very often. But here, you can. See?"
NARRATOR: "She directs my attention toward the track again, where the 100-meter dash is about to start. I watch Emi closely. As she gets onto the starter blocks, her whole body seems to relax, but it's a false relaxation. I can see that she's actually like a coiled spring."
NARRATOR: "As the starter tells everyone to get set, her head snaps up, and her eyes narrow slightly. Her mouth curls upward in what could be a grin and could be a growl. When the pistol goes off, it's as if she's been unleashed from a cage, like she was always moving at this blinding speed, but we couldn't see it happening until the starter's pistol dispelled the illusion of motionlessness. As soon as she crossed the finish line, the fierce look was replaced by her normal grin. The conquering general returning to his farm."
HISAO: "Amazing. She's really amazing. I've never seen someone move that fast."
MEIKO: "Well don't look at me, I'm far too relaxed to run that fast. No, I think Emi's prowess all came from her father's side."
NARRATOR: "At the mention of Emi's father, Mrs. Ibarazaki looks wistful, almost sad."
MEIKO: "He got her into running, you know." HISAO: "Ah, really? I didn't know that."
NARRATOR: "I leave it at that, and don't say anything for a little while. I get the feeling this is something personal I shouldn't ask about. A beeping noise suddenly emanates from Mrs. Ibarazaki's pocket. Reaching into it, she pulls out a cell phone and looks at it."
MEIKO: "...Honestly, text messages? What is he, sixteen?"
MEIKO: "Oh, nothing. I've got to go meet up with a friend of mine. Will you tell Emi I'm very proud of her and that I'll call her later tonight?"
HISAO: "Of course."
NARRATOR: "While waiting for the relay to start, I peer at Rin. She seems uninterested in her surroundings, myself included. That remark she made before is still stuck in my head. “Emi's the most Emi when she runs.” It does make sense, now that I think about it. After seeing her run now, I can believe that Emi gives her all on the track. Sports are more than a hobby or even a competition, to her. They're a defining aspect of her life. What about Rin, then? Does she feel the same way about art? Considering the persistence she displayed before the festival, I could easily believe it. Did I see Rin at her “most Rin” when she was painting the mural? The relay's about to begin, but I don't see Emi anywhere." HISAO: "I thought Emi ran the relay."
RIN: "She runs anchor. So she won't be running for a while yet."
RIN: "Did you see it?"
RIN: "Emi at her Emiest."
RIN: "Hmm. Maybe this time."
NARRATOR: "The race begins, and I cheer Emi's teammates along as they pass the baton."
NARRATOR: "Finally, I see Emi sprinting onto the track to take the final handoff. Once again I'm taken aback by how graceful she looks when she runs. It really is beautiful. The look of determination and fearlessness on her face only adds to the picture. Emi at her Emiest, I suppose."
NARRATOR: "Emi flies across the finishing line with a great leap, just barely ahead of the next runners, but still in first."
RIN: "Well, let's go down. Gotta crown the victor. See if you can find a laurel branch."
HISAO: "That's not going to be easy."
NARRATOR: "Rin shrugs."
RIN: "At least we tried."
NARRATOR: "Emi is surrounded by her teammates, all of them congratulating her on the run. Rin seems to be waiting for Emi to notice that she's arrived. It doesn't seem her style to draw attention to herself. Or to emote beyond shrugging. Being more impatient than Rin, I wave to Emi in her stead. She looks up and grins happily at us."
EMI: "Hey, you showed up!"
RIN: "We would have brought you a crown of laurels, but Hisao didn't find one."
HISAO: "Neither did you."
RIN: "It wasn't my job to look."
HISAO: "When did we assign jobs?"
RIN: "When I said “See if you can find a laurel branch.” Try to keep up."
NARRATOR: "I shrug. Guess Rin's rubbing off on me."
HISAO: "Seems it's my fault after all, Emi."
NARRATOR: "Emi laughs at Rin and me."
EMI: "It's okay, I'm sure you'll make it up to me somehow."
HISAO: "Uh, sure."
EMI: "Good! So, how'd I look?"
HISAO: "Very impressive."
NARRATOR: "Emi seems pleased with this assessment. I don't mention how much more impressive her performance is given her lack of legs. I figure she knows that already. Besides, it seems like it would take away from her efforts, somehow."
EMI: "Great to hear! I was worried that I looked a little slow on the relay, but I guess I did fine, huh?"
NARRATOR: "Emi giggles, and then seems to remember something."
EMI: "Oh, before I forget... Rin and I are going to do something next Sunday as a post-track meet celebration! You should come along! Normally we do it the day after, but since today is Sunday, I've got homework and class and all that stuff to take care of."
HISAO: "Oh sure, I'd love to."
EMI: "Great! It's a promise, then!"
HISAO: "Oh, right. Your mom wanted to say she's proud of you. She'll call you later tonight."
EMI: "I thought I saw her in the stands! I'm glad she made it!"
TEAMMATE: "Hey, Emi! You're going to miss the medal ceremony!"
EMI: "Oh yeah, thanks!"
NARRATOR: "She turns to Rin and myself."
EMI: "You don't have to stick around for this part. It takes forever. Besides, you should get cracking on your homework now if you don't want to be up late, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "Emi skips back to her teammates, leaving me and Rin by ourselves. Neither of us has the slightest interest in the post-competition ceremonies, so we silently get away and back to the quad. Rin yawns without even trying to restrain herself and shuffles her feet around restlessly. I feel awkward, but less so than if I was with someone else. Still, I'm left hanging, not knowing what I should say next."
HISAO: "Emi was great, wasn't she?"
RIN: "She was great. I am very jealous of her."
RIN: "Like I said, don't you think it's great to be able to really be yourself?"
NARRATOR: "It sounds weird, coming from Rin."
HISAO: "I don't think you, of all people, should have trouble finding a way to express yourself. Don't you have your paintings?"
NARRATOR: "She turns to look at me. For the first time, I see in her eyes this strange, hollow expression that I think must be unique to her."
RIN: "No, you see, the problem is that I'm not really sure who I am."
Next Scene: Eternity in an Hour