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NARRATOR: "The morning sunlight streaming through my window wakes me up instead of my alarm, and I realize that it must be Sunday. Emi has kindly deigned to give me weekends off from our morning runs. I don't actually know if I woke up at all yesterday, or if I just slept through the entire day. My legs groan in protest as I lever myself out of bed. All this running has really taken it out of me."

NARRATOR: "Still, I can't deny that Emi wasn't lying to me. It has gotten a little easier. I'd been worried that the runs would start to wear on my nerves, but thus far I haven't minded them that much. Well, it's only been a week. I suppose there's plenty of time for me to start dreading the sound of my alarm in the morning. Not that I could ever skip out now. As Emi said, it's harder to stop a routine when there's another person. And frankly, I don't think I'm equipped to deal with a disappointed Emi. She'd probably give me those puppy-dog eyes and I'd feel terrible about myself. Which reminds me... wasn't I supposed to be somewhere today?"

(flashback)

EMI: "Hey, you're coming to my track meet on Sunday, right? What am I talking about, of course you are. Right?"
NARRATOR: "Those puppy-dog eyes again."
HISAO: "Of course I'm going! I owe you, right?"
EMI: "Exactly! So don't forget, okay?"

(end flashback)

NARRATOR: "Crap, Emi's track meet! I'd better get a move on if I don't want to miss her running, since she's the only reason I'm even considering going. Otherwise, it would defeat the whole purpose of going. And so, I soon find myself quite suddenly surrounded by a crowd of people, all turning out to see our track team compete with another school like this one. I'll admit it, it's almost comforting to know we're not the only school like this. After you see that there can be two schools with a bunch of...defective kids, well. ...You stop feeling so defective. You also stop feeling unique, which in most cases would be a bad thing, but in this case it sure as hell isn't."

NARRATOR: That's part of Yamaku's appeal, I guess. Learn that you're not unique - hell, learn there's a lot of others who would kill to be saddled with your problem instead of whatever they're dealing with. Some of the kids here aren't here because they're missing a leg or they have a heart condition. Some of them might be here because they're as good as dead in two, maybe three years if they're lucky. And that's only if they get the right sort of care. It's a bitter sort of comfort to be able to say “Well, at least I've got a chance of being alive through college,” but there it is. I'm brought out of my rather morbid musings by the appearance of Rin near the entrance to the bleachers."

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."

RIN: "I owe Emi money now."

HISAO: "Why's that?"

RIN: "I didn't think you'd show up. Emi did. So I owe her 500 yen."

HISAO: "You two bet an awful lot, don't you?"

NARRATOR: "Another shrug from my armless companion."

RIN: "I don't think so."

NARRATOR: "We enter the bleachers, and Rin nods upwards."

RIN: "Up there. I came out to see if you'd come."

NARRATOR: "For the bet, I presume. 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."

HISAO: "Huh?"

RIN: "A snack? I wondered why I was down there."

NARRATOR: "The woman laughs, again in a way that seems familiar. Where have I seen her before?"

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, Emi's mother. Pleased to meet you."

NARRATOR: "Well, that explains it. She's like a taller, older and better endowed Emi. Apart from her hair being a darker shade than Emi's, there's really no mistaking the resemblance."

HISAO: "Sorry, I'm Hisao. Hisao Nakai. And really, you don't have to apologize for not introducing yourself, Mrs. Ibarazaki. That's really Rin's job in this situation, isn't it?"

NARRATOR: "Another laugh from Emi's mother."

MEIKO: "I take it you've not known Rin for that long, then. It's best not to expect her to remember something like that. She's got other things to think about, I assume."

NARRATOR: "Rin nods, seeming pleased by this assessment."

RIN: "She's right. I was thinking about sunsets."

MEIKO: "You see? It's really up to us to make introductions and the like."

NARRATOR: "For lack of any better response, I nod. Mrs. Ibarazaki leans back a little on her seat and raises an eyebrow."

MEIKO: "So, 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: "Maybe."

MEIKO: "So this must be a new romance then, mustn't it?"

HISAO: "Wait, that's not the question that—"

NARRATOR: "Another laugh."

MEIKO: "I know, but it's funny to watch you squirm. I'm sorry. Forgive an old woman her amusements."

NARRATOR: "Old woman? She sure doesn't look that old to me. Clearly Emi gets her youthful features from her mother."

HISAO: "I suppose I can let it go."

MEIKO: "How kind of you."

RIN: "It's starting."

Emitrack blocks

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."

Emitrack blocks close

NARRATOR: "She's smiling, with an almost cocky look on her face. The starter raises his pistol.

Emitrack running

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, some of the other runners have caught up with her. Their efforts come to naught though, since a final burst of speed from Emi leaves them at least a half second behind.

Emitrack finishtop

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 is being prepared. 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. 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."

Emi wins the race

HISAO: "Your foot."

RIN: "Hmm?"

HISAO: "Your foot was bouncing on the bleachers."

RIN: "Oh."

HISAO: "You seem pretty into this stuff. I'm surprised." NARRATOR: "Rin looks at me quizzically."

RIN: "Why wouldn't I be?"

HISAO: "No reason, I just thought stuff like sports wouldn't interest you."

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."

Emitrack blocks close grin

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. It's all over in a few seconds, but in those few seconds I feel like I just witnessed something very personal for Emi. 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 anyone 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: "Yeah, she told me."

NARRATOR: "I'm uncertain as to whether or not it would be rude of me to ask after Emi's father. But after that look on her face a few days ago, I feel compelled to ask."

HISAO: "Where is her father now, if I might ask?"

NARRATOR: "Emi's mother hesitates, clearly not willing to answer the question but at the same time not wishing to appear rude."

MEIKO: "He... isn't around any more."

HISAO: "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring up bad memories. Emi just seemed a little sad when she mentioned him earlier."

MEIKO: "That's not surprising, considering."

HISAO: "Hmm?"

MEIKO: "They were very close."

HISAO: "I see."

NARRATOR: "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?"

HISAO: "Hmm?"

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: "I'll admit that I zone out for a while. I almost don't notice that the relay's about to begin. But when I look, I can't find Emi." HISAO: "I thought that Emi would be running the relay."

RIN: "She runs anchor. So she won't be running for a while yet."

HISAO: "Ah."

RIN: "Did you see it?"

HISAO: "Huh?"

RIN: "Emi at her Emiest."

Emitrack finish

HISAO: "Maybe."

RIN: "Hmm. Maybe this time."

NARRATOR: "The race begins, and I cheer Emi's teammates along as they pass the baton. 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. But then, as she crosses the finish line, I see her stumble slightly. It's only barely, but it's a definite stumble. Rin inhales sharply, and actually looks concerned for a second."

RIN: "Aw, Emi..."

HISAO: "Did she hurt herself, do you think?"

RIN: "You noticed it too? It must be bad."

NARRATOR: "She frowns, as if deciding on the next course of action. Eventually that proves to be too tiresome, and she shrugs again."

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: "Well, we didn't really try all that hard. Or at all. But hey, whatever. 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. Oh yeah, I guess she can't exactly wave Emi over. Then again, I'm not sure that Rin would do such a thing even if she had arms. It doesn't seem her style to draw attention to herself. Or to emote beyond shrugging. Either way, I'm not willing to wait, so I wave to Emi, who looks up and grins happily at me - er, us."

EMI: "Hey, you showed up! Guess Rin owes me money, huh?"

RIN: "We would have brought you a crown of laurels, but Hisao didn't find one."

HISAO: "Hey, 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?"

NARRATOR: "I stop myself from blurting out “beautiful” or “amazing” and settle for the substantially safer “very impressive.” 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?"

HISAO: "Actually, I noticed—"

NARRATOR: "Rin kicks me and keeps me from finishing my sentence."

EMI: "What was that all about?"

RIN: "He noticed it. At the end."

EMI: "Hmm, that's no good. Guess the nurse will look at it for me later."

NARRATOR: "There's a carelessness in her voice, as if it isn't a big deal, but I suddenly notice a slight twitch on her face. Like she's trying to hide the fact that she's in pain. It's then that I notice her breathing is a little shallow, too. I guess she really is hurt. She must notice my concern, because she skips up to me and gives me a friendly pat on the shoulder."

EMI: "Hey, you look a little worried! I'm fine, really! Just sore from all the running, is all. And come on, a little pain isn't going to stop me."

HISAO: "Oh no?"

NARRATOR: "Emi grins, and for a moment she looks like she did during her sprint, fierce and unconquerable. Or to put it another way, really beautiful."

EMI: "Hasn't yet."

HISAO: "Well then. I guess I shouldn't worry, huh?"

EMI: "Damn right! I'm Emi Ibarazaki, fastest thing on no legs! I don't stop for anything!"

HISAO: "Impressive."

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 the track meet was on a Sunday, I've got homework and class and all that stuff to take care of. Plus our morning run, of course."

HISAO: "Right, of course. 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! Used to be my dad who showed up to my meets, but Mom's done a pretty good job of taking over."

NARRATOR: "She shivers slightly, and I realize that she's still all sweaty. A breeze has started to blow, too. I'm not cold at all, and I've got my jacket with me, so without a word I throw it around her shoulders. Emi jumps slightly and then grins at me."

EMI: "Hey, thanks! It's getting a little cold, I guess."

HISAO: "Yeah, looked like it."

NARRATOR: "Just as I begin to wonder whether or not giving Emi my jacket could be taken the wrong way, a boy in a track uniform approaches."

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. Morning run tomorrow! Don't forget!" HISAO: "How could I?"

EMI: "Good point. I mean, it's spending time with {b}me{/b}, after all."

NARRATOR: "With this, she waves quickly and dashes off to receive her medals, or whatever they pass off as a medal these days. Rin and I head away from the track, Rin remaining deep in whatever thoughts she has for most of the walk back to her dorm. As I see her off, she speaks up."

RIN: "You're probably not getting that coat back, I think."

HISAO: "I'm sure I'll get it back eventually."

RIN: "Interesting. Take it as it comes, huh? Very Emi-ish."

NARRATOR: "With this odd statement, she turns and heads into the building. Honestly, was it that big a deal? Emi was cold and, unless I'm mistaken, in pain. Giving her a solution to at least one of those problems seems like an obvious reaction. Though I guess there is a chance I could lose my jacket if Emi never remembers to return it. I guess Rin has a point. Still, I can't bring myself to muster much worry over the whole thing. After all, it's been getting warmer lately. I don't need a jacket. Odd. I think I used to be a little more responsible with my stuff. “Emi-ish,” huh? Maybe that's not really a bad thing."

Next Scene: Down That Medicine Now

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