Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5
Shiina’s mouth stretched into a poorly-hidden yawn. “Shicchan, I’m not getting anything done with this little sleep. Are you sure this couldn’t wait until 8 o’clock at least?”
“Absolutely not. If we are to -” I was already signing my response before she’d finished, and it took me a moment to realize my sleepy-eyed vice president hadn’t seen it. With what I hoped was a sufficiently intimidating glare, I started over again. “Absolutely not. If we are to make the deadline for noon today, the paperwork needs to be done well in advance of classes.”
Dawn was old enough for light to cover most of the grounds outside, but in the student council room I still had the lights on. Probably the only room in the school that had its lights on at that time. Shiina countered my glare with a frown. “That’s not the deadline, Shicchan, that’s the earliest they’ll accept submissions! None of the other high schools will have entered that soon.”
“That’s the entire point of being first,” I chided her. “Don’t let anyone say that the student council here at Yamaku ever slacks off…Shiina, I can read lips well enough to get the gist of that.”
That got me a raspberry. I returned one in kind. “It’s true though, Shicchan, no one’s stupid enough to say that,” she continued. “If we at least waited until 8 we could skip class and get Hicchan’s help.”
“If that lazy oaf can get himself out of bed so early.” I sniffed. His refusal to help us this morning was outright defiance, and I wouldn’t forgive him for it soon. “The nerve of him – ‘I’m just not available at that time in the morning’ indeed! I hope he enjoys his beauty sleep. I regret considering someone so lazy fit for a position on the Student Council.”
“You’re just doing this to guilt trip him later, aren’t you?”
Well yes, but I wasn’t going to admit that to her. It was hard enough keeping him in line without Shiina sympathizing with him. “I am doing this to maintain our edge and reputation,” I signed as heavily and sharply as I could manage. “If that motivates him to become a better Student Council member, then so be it.”
Shiina gave me her “Whatever” sign, a little hand and shoulder motion that was more our personal convention than accepted JSL. “I miss the days when we used this position to skip class and do less work.”
“I’m not surprised you don’t jump to call somebody else lazy.”
Another yawn escaped Shiina. “Guilty as charged, Shicchan. But in Hicchan’s defence, he evidently has different interests.”
“What do you mean, ‘evidently’? Why do you feel the need to defend him while he rests warm in bed as you work?” My face went from accusative to slightly confused. “And why are you looking out the window?”
“Because he’s not in bed. Right now he’s out running on the track with…looks to be Ibarazaki, from that hair.”
“…What.”The Speed of Sound
The first chapter in a Katawa Shoujo fanfic
I cannot say I have ever prided myself on my poker face. With my condition you learn to use every possible tool you can to express yourself, out of necessity. I can bluff quite well in any game you care to try, thank you very much, but I admit that when we approached Hisao in the cafeteria that day I did not succeed at keeping my expression neutral. I will also admit to enjoying his look of dread when he saw my face a bit more than I should have. Shiina, on the other hand, has always worn her feelings on her sleeve. The problem is they’re not necessarily the feelings I need to convey; she’s my interpreter, not my double. The visible laugh and eager smile as she delivered my “Good morning Hisao; how was your run?” rather dampened the menace my greeting was meant to carry.
Thankfully, Hisao was still watching me like a rat in the snake exhibit. Good. I wanted him to know I’d have his balls for bailing on us. From the blur of his lips, he knew he was in trouble. “I’m sorry for not explaining earlier, but I go running with Emi every morning. It’s my exercise routine.”
“A likely story. You do understand, Hisao, that we occasionally must make sacrifices for the needs of the Student Council. I recruited you in the belief that you could recognize that.” I put my hands on my hips for emphasis at the end of that while Shiina translated. Hisao’s response was…amusing.
At first I saw anger and indignation in his eyes, and figured I had managed to get some more fight out of him. Good. Finally. But then, he caught himself in the middle of something, with a look on his face that said he hadn’t intended to let that slip. It was too late; Shiina was already translating for me. “I’ve given up stuff for the Council already! That first time we went to lunch at the Shanghai – and he’s stopped cold, Shicchan. Do we press him?”
“Damn right we do,” I told her, before giving the signal to resume translation. “What about our lunch at the Shanghai Café? As I remember, it went rather pleasantly. What exactly did you give up?”
There were a few moments when his eyes tested me out, looking for mercy and finding none. Then Hisao’s shoulder slumped in defeat, and he explained the rest. “Emi has invited me to lunch with her on the rooftop several times. That was the first time I’d turned her down.”
This was a development. “Give me a moment to think, Shiina. He’s referring to her by her first name, right? It sounds to me like she was expressing interest, and we can’t blame him for reciprocating.”
Shiina didn’t look too happy about that for some reason. “Then what do we tell him?”
“Follow my lead.” The signal to translate again. “You have a point there, Hisao, and I may have been unfair to you.” This got a raised eyebrow from Shiina as she translated it, and I could tell from the look on Hisao’s face that I’d certainly wrongfooted him there. “Accordingly, I suppose we should look upon your morning exercise as an opportunity rather than a necessary conflict with Council activities. I suppose Ibarazaki, as captain of our track team, is in charge of your running?”
The polite choice of words didn’t fool Hisao, to his credit. He kept searching my face, wondering what the catch was. “Yeah, you could call her my coach,” Shiina translated stiffly. “Why?”
I cannot say I have ever prided myself on my poker face. It was hard
to keep the evil grin in check as I picked up my lunch. “She only needs to understand the priority of Student Council activities. Do you know if she eats on the roof regularly?”
“Shicchan, what the hell are we doing here?” Shiina asked me privately while smiling to the others. This would have been an admirable attempt to hide our conversation, if the tension in her posture didn’t give it away. The five of us had dug into our lunches as soon as Shiina had explained that we were hoping to join them today. Hisao was watching us warily, Ibarazaki seemed cheerful enough, and as always there was no telling what the hell Tezuka was thinking.
It didn’t bother me any; I was confident I could hold my own in a confrontation with Ibarazaki, even if Shiina was antsy. This behaviour was odd for her, though. “Compliment her on her cooking,” I said after licking my fingers. “It was very kind of her to share those rice balls.”
Shiina complied, and conveyed her response. “She says ‘Thank you, I wouldn’t have finished ‘em myself.’ NOW will you tell me what you’re up to, Shicchan?”
“Just softening her up before I go in for the kill, Shiina,” I replied nonchalantly. “By the time we’re done here I will get an agreement that lets me pull Hisao out of this training when necessary. If I play it right both Ibarazaki and Hisao will think I’m kind for letting him continue his practice.”
“Both Ibarazaki and Hisao will think you’re trying to control Hisao’s life for no reason other than to win a contest of authority, and they’ll be right
. We don’t even want to get up that early, ever again.”
“It’s the principle of the thing – wait, what are they saying?” Ibarazaki had turned to us and mouthed something.
Shiina had a great, here it goes
look on her face. “She’s asking what we’re talking about. Shicchan, I really don’t think –”
“We might as well get this over with.” I cut her off by patting her hands gently, and then giving the ‘resume translation’ cue. “Miss Ibarazaki, I wanted to talk to you about the hours Hisao keeps with his running routine.”
Shiina’s great, here it goes
face spread to Hisao; it seemed to be contagious. Ibarazaki heard Shiina out, and responded. “Call me Emi, please. What about it? He seems perfectly able to get up at that time in the morning.”
“Tell Miss Ibarazaki,” I returned to Shiina with emphasis, making it clear what name we were using, “that while his dedication is admirable, on occasion the Student Council will require the use of Hisao’s time in the morning, or late into the evening the night before.” I got a “Yes, Professor” from Shiina over all the big words, but continued. “As such, he may regrettably have to skip the run on occasion. I’m sure you understand.”
There was a burst of activity, as Emi and Hisao began talking at once. Shiina couldn’t keep up at first. Then Emi made a remark to Hisao – something matter-of-fact, from the look on her face – that shut him up with a grimace. Shiina started to interpret again. “He can’t skip his morning runs – that was Emi, and…Wait, let me have a say in this, dammit – that’s Hicchan.”
“What was that Emi said last?”
“You actually don’t have a say in this, Hisao. Nurse’s orders.”
“Hold on. ‘Nurse’s orders’? What’s that mean?”
Again Ibarazaki listened and responded. A note of worry – actual worry, not just distaste for the interaction – entered Shiina’s face and signs. “It’s for his condition.”
My eyes narrowed. Ibarazaki having the faculty on her side was not a possibility I had taken into consideration. I gave Shiina the hold-the-translating signal. “Wait a second, does she know his problem?”
Shiina looked from Emi to Hisao. “Not sure yet. I’ll ask – wait, you didn’t tell them?!”
It took me a moment to realize that she had just translated Emi, who was yelling at Hisao. I closed my eyes, adjusted my glasses, and took a deep breath. This was getting out of hand. When I opened them again I noticed the tail end of something Shiina had signed to me.
“Sorry Shiina, I missed that. Let me guess: she’s berating him for not letting us know, despite all the time he spends with us and the fact we are his fellow student council members? And he’s trying to defend himself right now?”
“About right,” she replied. “His response was ‘I know you had to learn it thanks to Nurse, but I’d really prefer not to tell anyone else.’”
This…this I could use. The hold-translation signal went up. “Perfect. Now I’ve got the chance to look magnanimous. With Emi on our side this should be easy.”
“What about Hicchan’s condition?”
“What about it? I told him he could tell us when he felt he trusted us enough, and I’ll stick by that.” She glowered at me in response. What was up with her today? No matter. Resume translation. “Now Hisao, we left it up to you to decide when to tell us why you had to see the Nurse or what your condition was, but a heads up on what it requires of you would be nice; how are we to accommodate your needs otherwise?”
Emi nodded in agreement; I had her where I needed her. The look Hisao gave me said he was skeptical about how important his needs were to me, and he replied through Shiina. “I’m not just telling anyone I meet randomly about my condition, now!”
Rin mentioned something with her typical glaze. It had quite the effect; Hisao covered his face with one hand, Emi crossed her arms sternly, and Shiina stopped cold, too shocked to translate. When she began conversing with the other three again, she forgot to sign her words, and I needed to poke her to get her attention. “Shiina! What the hell did Tezuka say?”
“Isn’t that how you told me about your arrythmia?” she responded, her early irritation with me gone from her expression, visible worry in its place. “Emi and Hisao are confirming it…congenital heart defect, specifically Long QT syndrome…oh Shicchan, he’s prone to fatal heart attacks.”
This…this changed a lot of things.
How are you supposed to respond to this, really? I started calculating at first. That time when Ibarazaki ran into him at full speed and he looked like he was dying? Suddenly made sense now. She would feel even guiltier upon learning about his condition, which could explain her current behaviour. Guilt I could use. That time he was winded during the little ball throwing game at the festival suddenly made sense too. I wondered if he had been trying to tell me about his condition that night on the rooftop, before the fireworks show. It would have been incredibly sad if he had, and the reason why hit me just then. My new friend, the cute boy I had dragged into the Council, had a condition that could kill him any day now, and I’d had no idea.
Shiina was yelling at Hisao by the time I finished digesting the information. I couldn’t see what she was saying, or if she was even signing at all; her back was to me and her movements were agitated. I caught a look from Emi and Rin and understood that somebody had to intervene. I put a hand on her shoulder and turned her around. “Easy there, Shiina.”
“She ‘caught him off guard’,” she signed viciously. “I asked how Rin knew when we didn’t and she said she just ‘caught him off guard’.”
That made my hackles stand up, but I kept my cool. This conversation was almost totally out of control and I needed to reassert myself; plenty of time to set Hisao straight later. “Calm down, Shiina. He’s getting class report duty for the rest of the month for this. But right now go easy on him, alright? He just didn’t want us to worry, I’d imagine. I’d have done the same for the same reason.”
Which was bullshit, and if she’d been thinking straight she’d have seen right through it. Were I Hisao, I would have told nobody about any of my vulnerabilities if it could be helped, heart-related or otherwise. But the raw shock of seeing me of all people stand up for him was enough to take Shiina off balance and calm her down. I needed her for translation, and asked her to resume.
“Hisao, it hurts to know you’d keep a matter of your safety a secret from us, but we’ll forgive you for now. And Emi –” “Wait, she’s not Ibarazaki anymore?” “No she’s not, back to translating! Emi, I want to thank you for working as hard as you have to guard his health. We can assure you that if Student Council work should ever interfere with his exercise schedule, we will personally have him make it up. Twice over if need be.” The last part was accompanied by a perfectly synchronized glare in Hisao’s direction from Shiina and I. His wince satisfied me. Clearly, this time Shiina’s voice had given my message the right tone (whatever that might be).
Emi raised a wagging finger while responding, like a teacher correcting a student. “That’s good to hear, but you really don’t need to push yourselves. I’ll just keep Hisao on his schedule like usual, and if you tell me in advance I’ll just wake him up earlier.”
Damn. I’d hoped she wouldn’t notice me asserting authority over his schedule like I had, but apparently I wasn’t subtle enough. I was going to respond, but then Hisao mouthed something. Shiina and Emi automatically shut him down with obvious “No”s. I inferred that he had asked “Don’t I get a say in this?” or something similar, and was already shaking my head no before Shiina confirmed my guess with her translation. “Say Shiina, what was that Rin said about it, anyways?”
“Good to see there’s a consensus.” I turned back to Emi. Resume translation. “Now, that’s not going to work all the time, Ibarazaki…yes, she’s Ibarazaki again, shut up and keep translating. Hisao will need sleep, too, and there’s no telling when we’ll need to pull hard hours – CAN it, Shiina. It can’t be that hard to wake up early on a regular basis; we can return him to you as soon as we’re done.”
Something about that last sentence offended her; she puffed up her chest and started speaking with a look of wounded pride. Shiina hesitated to translate immediately, and gave me a look. It was a look I’d seen in the past, one that said she didn’t think I needed to hear this. My opinion differed. “Come on, Shiina, what’d she say.”
“Don’t downplay the significance of a regular morning routine by saying ‘it can’t be that hard’! I’ll bet you can’t do it.”
…Was that a challenge?
Oh, you wonderful little bitch.
Which was how Shiina and I wound up on the field the next morning, joining Emi and Hisao for their morning run. I had already pulled away from Shiina, tired of her endless complaints. Hisao had slowed down to keep pace with her, which was fine. Looking over my shoulder, I saw that she was yelling animatedly at him. Having her chew Hisao out for keeping his fatal heart defect a secret from us was ideal; she needed to get it off her chest and it freed me up to keep pace with Emi.
Emi was smirking at me as I started to catch up. It would be nice to get into shape and wipe that look off her face. For all I dismissed Shiina’s complaints, I was not exactly comfortable myself; one lap alone had me breathing hard, and it was evident that I should have bought a new sports bra yesterday. I only owned one, one long past due to be replaced, and my back was going to be sore today. But like hell I would show her I was suffering. I kept up a brave face and pushed myself a little faster. To my surprise, she slowed down to my pace and pulled a note out of her shirt, passing it to me.Think you can keep this up for two weeks?
Two weeks. The term of the bet. If we ‘kept up’ for two weeks, I got executive veto power over Hisao’s exercise schedule. Refolding the note and putting it in my own shirt (got her! She gave a little twitch at that) I held up my hands with all fingers up for ten, then one hand with four. Fourteen days. As she got the gist of that, I brought my other hand up with a slow exaggerated gesture and ticked one finger off.
That got a laugh out of her, and then she took off. I immediately accelerated myself to keep her in sight. I didn’t hold any hope of beating her, but there was no way I’d let the little bitch lap me. My pride demanded that much.
Besides, I might as well enjoy the view. She had a nice ass.
Author's Notes: If you're wondering, this takes place shortly after the Shizune end in Act 1 (maybe a week or two), assuming that you made as many Emi choices as you could without pulling onto her route. Yes, I replayed Act 1 specifically for the purpose of research...And then I may have replayed it one or two times out of a need to see the other endings again...
I would have liked a bit more time to edit this, but I figured getting it out in the open and procuring reader feedback would be better for my writing in the long run. I especially would've liked female feedback on the effects of a sports bra you've outgrown. None of my girlfriends were quite as ...'gifted' as Shizune and I don't know if a sports bra that's too small gives insufficient support or just constricts your breathing. I took a guess and went with both. If a lady could correct me on that I won't hesitate to fix the scene a bit.
Some people may wonder about the Misha/Shizune characterization in my fic. I admit that I've always imagined their personal interaction to include a lot of backtalk and banter that never gets shown to the non-signing world, and that's how I wrote them. However,
there is something gradually coming between the two girls that is causing a bit of conflict. Shizune wasn't able to spot it, but canny readers might.