NARRATOR: "The next Monday is marked by a strange emptiness that grips me, caused by the knowledge that I won't be able to see Rin whenever I want to any more. This hollow feeling's a little bit disconcerting, but I make it to the afternoon all the same. My last class is, in a word, terrible. It's not that the lesson is that bad. It is, however, boring, and it's so hot in the classroom that I feel like I'm melting. The air conditioning is either broken or turned off, so the windows are open. It makes no difference, since the air outside is completely still. Only the chirping of cicadas carries inside. The sweltering heat permeates the room. Students and teachers alike are in an almost delirious state. I just want to stand up and walk out of here without caring what the teacher or anyone else says. I can see I'm not the only one with these thoughts too."
NARRATOR: "Next to me, Misha is shamelessly holding her skirt up a bit and fanning air in with her notebook. Only Shizune seems to be as cool as always, sitting with her back perfectly straight, arms folded on her chest, her eyes fixed on the equations scrawled on the blackboard. keep shooting yearning glances at my watch, but it doesn't help the time go by any faster. It's funny. I remember how badly I wanted to get out of the hospital and go back to school. Now all I can think of is the upcoming summer vacation, and freedom from classes and homework. Perhaps it's human nature to think only of the situation at hand. Finally the bell rings. Relieved, my classmates and I burst out into the hallway already crowded by students from our neighboring classes. I spot Emi's diminutive figure nearby and walk up to her."
HISAO: "Hey there."
NARRATOR: "She smiles sweetly, clearly happy to see me."
EMI: "Hisao! What's up? Is your classroom super hot too?"
HISAO: "Yeah it is. I thought I was going to melt in there. Nothing else is really happening, though. Feeling a bit weird now that Rin's on her great adventure or whatever you want to call it."
NARRATOR: "Emi's face cracks in a wider smile and she jumps up and down enthusiastically."
EMI: "Isn't it great? I'm soooo happy for her, I bet everyone will like her paintings and she'll sell a lot of them and make piles of money."
HISAO: "Yeah, I'm sure it'll work out great."
EMI: "I'm totally sulking at her, though."
NARRATOR: "She huffs angrily and places her hands firmly on her hips, even letting a little anger seep into her voice. It doesn't quite have the impact she's probably hoping for, but I say nothing."
HISAO: "Why's that?"
EMI: "She said that she doesn't want me to go see her."
HISAO: "Oh yeah, she mentioned that. I guess she prefers to not be distracted. I can understand that."
EMI: "I don't think I'm that much of a distraction! Besides, I'm sure she'll forget about sleeping and eating properly if someone's not there telling her to do it. Sometimes she's like that, gets completely fixated on whatever and drops everything else. It really makes me worried, you know. Is she going to be all right?"
HISAO: "Such friendship."
HISAO: "Speaking of that... I don't even know if I should be saying this, but it's been bothering me. How do I put it...? Rin said that she doesn't really see you as a friend... or something. And I really can't figure why she would say something like that."
HISAO: "You two seem to be so close."
NARRATOR: "I feel really awkward saying it, but I've finally managed to get the words out. Emi doesn't seem to be too shocked, but it gives her pause for a moment. Even her perpetual smile flattens into a more difficult expression."
EMI: "Ahaha, is that so? I guess I'm maybe more like a big sister or something to her."
HISAO: "Excuse me? Big sister? You?"
NARRATOR: "I put my hand on top of my head and then hers, as if to measure and re-confirm our heights. Emi playfully slaps me on the wrist and sticks her tongue out, looking annoyed."
EMI: "Hey, that's hitting below the belt. I thought you were more of a gentleman."
HISAO: "Sorry, I just couldn't resist. Too easy."
NARRATOR: "I really wanted to make the joke to soften the mood rather than to make fun of Emi, though."
EMI: "But I am serious. Besides, I'm a year older than Rin is, or even you, for that matter. So there."
EMI: "Yeah. I missed a year of school when I relearned to walk and run with these legs."
HISAO: "Oh, right. That makes sense."
NARRATOR: "I should've figured that out by myself. In my defense, her tiny figure is really misleading. Emi smiles wryly and something deep and hidden floats up into her eyes, like a swirling vortex suddenly appearing in an otherwise calm river. I watch her struggle with it for a brief moment, until she blinks it away and her smile widens."
EMI: "Anyway, it's true. She's just so cute that I want to pamper her. I've always wanted a little sister but, well... I guess I ended up never getting one. It's a little bit hard to really talk with Rin, so I guess I never really tried. I like her a lot though, so hearing that she said that doesn't make me happy. It's not like I can really argue, so maybe that's just how it is. We are really close, but maybe it's just not in that way, you know?"NARRATOR: "She sighs loudly."
EMI: "I wonder... I wonder if she thinks I'm annoying."
HISAO: "I'm pretty sure that's not the case at all."
NARRATOR: "Emi shakes her head, looking amused. I'm not sure if she's joking or not."
EMI: "She has these weird ideas about a lot of stuff. Things just make sense to her in a totally different way than they do to me. I can't even remember all the weird stuff she's talked about over all this time. I don't think Rin does either, really. She's the type who would forget her own head if it wasn't attached to her shoulders. That's why I just can't leave her alone. Is that weird?"
NARRATOR: "She leans against the wall, managing to look distraught, yet still cheerful as always. I get a strange feeling about it, as though I was talking to two people at the same time. How would I know? Everyone's weird in some way, but if that's yours, it's a very nice way. At least I can understand what you're talking about, unlike Rin."
HISAO: "Most of the time, I have no idea about what's going on inside her head either."
NARRATOR: "Emi giggles, nodding in agreement."
EMI: "I think it's okay even if you don't understand her. That's how she usually is."
NARRATOR: "Emi stands up straighter, brushing the hem of her skirt and straightening the waistline. She laughs awkwardly."
EMI: "Ahaha, wow, we ended up talking pretty seriously. What's up with you, Hisao? Why'd you bring this up?"
HISAO: "Oh, sorry. I didn't really mean to get into this sort of discussion, either. I just... I don't know. I've had this weird feeling lately, about Rin. I don't know why."
NARRATOR: "I feel a bit guilty, bringing up something like this for no reason except my own anxiety."
EMI: "It'll be fine. Don't worry about it."
NARRATOR: "Suddenly Emi clutches my wrist and twists it so she can see what time is it from my watch."
EMI: "Oh damn, this late already? I should really go, there's a meeting with the rest of the track team at the field. It's not going to be fun in this heat. We're going to sweat like pigs, but I promised I'd be there. Bye bye!"
NARRATOR: "She skips downstairs, leaving me wondering if what I said - or what Rin said, rather - hurt her or not. Maybe what Emi herself said hurt her the most, come to that. So in the end, even the person closest to Rin is just as far apart from her as everyone else. I wonder if Rin herself ever feels that distance. I've felt like I was drifting away from the world too, during my hospitalization. I felt anxious and depressed, and even now, I sometimes still do. But I fight against it with all I've got. If Rin has been on that side of the divide for her whole life, I can't imagine how she could not be lonely, but perhaps she's truly different. I refuse to belong to that other place, but maybe she's found comfort there."