Scene 1: The Transfer Student and the New Environment.
A soft hand shaking my shoulder pulls me from my peaceful sleep. Soon this shaking is combined with a sweet feminine voice.
With reluctance I open my eyes and regret it immediately when they are hit by the rays of the setting sun.
I raise my head from my pillow-desk while emitting a noble «mhg» to assure the people who wake me up of my total attention.
I turn my head to the right, still only half awake, and my eyes meet with some others, green and circled by oval glasses.
Those eyes are part of the face of a worried female, with freckles and long, ginger hair. This girl... no, woman, if I take her bust into account... But only some bad, sexual minded boys do that according to my mother, so I'm going to stick with girl since I've been well brought up.
So, this girl who is wearing a blue dress with black shoulder-parts, fiddles with her hands while trying to get my attention.
“I'..I'm sorry for waking you, but…” Yuuko mutters anxiously.
Right. This is Yuuko, I remember her now. But what she's doing in my room? I hope I haven't forgotten the most memorable day a man can have. After his first confession. Maybe not the most memorable day in my case. But still life-changing.
Right Yuuko. Who seems totally too dressed for what I was thinking.
“I have to close the library so…” she says looking at me with pleading eyes.
Oh. That makes more sense.
“Sorry Yuuko, seems like I fell asleep.” Yeah. Genius. I'm pretty sure she already saw that.
“You're not sleeping well?” she asks, slightly worried... Maybe even a little more than usual.
“Nah. I'm okay on that front. I just tried to race with the fastest thing on no legs this morning, and it took a lot out of me.”
And it almost killed me. Great first week.
If just running a little can make me collapse to the ground, it means that I'm in a lot worse shape than I thought. It is true that I was not the most athletic guy in my school, but I was able to last an entire game of soccer.
It's hard to integrate the fact that it was in another life and that I have a much more limited capacity now.
And I have to deal with it, if I want to live to my half-century birthday.
“I understand!” Yuuko laughs quietly “I can be exhausted just by looking at Emi.”
“You know her? She does not seem the type to come to the library regularly.”
“Even if I'm not a student, she is quite famous in Yamaku.” Yuuko’s face suddenly turns gloomy. “And she does come by sometimes.”
Poor Yuuko. I can imagine it being hard to have this bottle of energy in a normally peaceful place like the library. Even more when you have to watch over this peaceful place.
“Oh right, I have to let you close the library,” I remember.
This simple sentence changes Yuuko’s mood totally.
She jumps slightly and looks frantically at her watch with a frightened face.
“I totally forgot! My shift starts in ten minutes, and I didn't finish putting back the books! The owner is going to fire me if I’m late again!”
I feel bad for her… And it seems as if I was one of the causes of her tardiness... But I want to go back to my room and sleep some more while the drowsiness is still here…
“Do you want some help Yuuko?”
I'm a good boy.
“Really?” Yuuko asks, half-happy and half-nervous. “But it's my job…”
She looks at her watch again and jumps a little higher than the last time.
“But thank you! Can you just tidy the left section please?”
Seems the threat of being fired wins over her job consciousness.
I nod and make my way to the tables which are covered in various books.
I'm a good boy, and I hate it.
Together, it takes less than ten minutes to clean up the place and put the books back in place.
After she locks the door, Yuuko thanks me again with an awkward bow while walking backwards, then she's dashes for the stairs.
She seems to be a strange one, sometimes she is calm and collected, full of good advice, and at other times she is so nervous and jumpy that you never expect her to be part of the staff... Maybe what is considered strange in the normal world is considered normal in this sort of school?
I begin to walk towards the stairs at a much slower pace. This morning really drained me, and I don't want to start another episode - especially when I'm alone in the school building.
While walking, I rub my eyes to wake me up more, and I try to not dislocate my jaw when I yawn.
This small nap left me even more tired than before. It's always like that: When you are tired, it becomes even worse if you sleep just a bit. Well at least… Wait a minute.
As my hand still tries to rub the sleep out of my eyes, my arm comes in contact with my cheek, which seems...funny ? I pass my fingers on my cheek and feel the outline of something imprinted there.
I look around to find something that can be used as a decent mirror, and only find an extinguisher.
Oh great, I sigh when I catch my reflection on the red metal. On my right cheek, there is now a mark of the drawings that illustrate the cover of my book-pillow.
And I made a fool of myself in front of Yuuko.
It would have been worse if it had been Hanako or Lilly who saw me, but I think that I’m going to be in the library a lot during my stay in Yamaku, so it would have been great to not feel ashamed every time I borrow some books.
Thinking of thinking Hisao, Lilly couldn't see you… Idiot.
I really should watch what I say. And think.
In this case, Lilly being blind could be a good thing - and I'm a terrible person for thinking that...
While admonishing myself, I arrive at the entrance of the building. I push the door and feel the cool evening air.
The sun has set almost completely, and only some frail orange rays light the garden, while a light breeze blows gently, carrying the smell of fresh cut grass and flowers.
I begin to slowly walk on the path to the boys’ dorm, the sound of my steps echoing in the peaceful garden.
It's been only five days since I've been transferred to Yamaku, and I enjoy the liberty that comes with it, but it is also pretty unsettling.
It's hard to say - and pretty depressing - but the hospital was a known ground, even if I hated it and just wanted to leave.
But here I'm on my own. Not totally of course - even if they try to deny it Yamaku is also a huge hospital.
Certainly they don't have an operating room, but the same air of cleanliness hangs in the air.
Sure, the patients are only students who laugh and seem happy, but when you scratch at the surface it remains a cripple school with classes and homework.
Just the form of the hospital has changed.
Maybe it's just me thinking like that after all, and I'm going to see things otherwise soon.
I was told that my… our conditions are only a big deal if we make them one, but how do you forget about them when they are in front of you every time you try to socialize?
How can I forget that Shizune is deaf when I have to talk to Misha when I want to have a conversation with her?
Or when I see Rin painting with her feet? Or Emi bursting with pride at being the fastest thing with no legs?
I sigh loudly while climbing the stairs to the dorm and making my way to my room.
I glance at the door across from my room, hoping that it won't open.
One thing is for sure: Even if he could see more than two centimeters in front of him, I still would have some issues talking with Kenji.
He does not seem that bad, I think with a small smile, just….special?
I guess to an outsider we are all special.
Let's say unique. It's the term one uses when he wants to say ‘weird’ but politely.
I unlock my room and collapse on my bed.
Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, I'm now wide wake.
I sigh again briefly and take one of the books that I borrowed. I shouldn't read my stock too quickly, but it's not like I have anything else to do.
While the other students are working for the festival, I have just given a bit of help here and there, and it left me with a good load of free time that I pass doing my homework
Mutou seemed happy that I didn't have trouble to catch up, and now, with nothing else to do, I can immerse myself in a book.
And I have just the right one: Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton. Thank you, sir, for letting a young and lost man like me travel in your SF world.
I don't know how long I read, but I'm already half done with the book when I start to get sleepy.
Looking at the now dark sky, it seems I’ve been lost in my book for quite some time.
I close the book, making sure to mark my page and let my head rest on the unfamiliar pillow.
Even though my stomach is grumbling slightly, right now I prefer to welcome the drowsiness.
Just when I'm falling into the darkness of sleep I'm jolted awake by fear.
I almost fell asleep without taking my pills! Jumping off my bed and beginning to open the numerous bottles of medicine on my bedside table.
Stupid Hisao! If you really want to survive you shouldn't forget the only thing that can prevent a new hospital stay.
I take the small water bottle that I used this morning for my failed attempt at running and begin to gulp my pills one by one with more and more difficulty.
Maybe, like the rest it's going to become a habit, and I'm going to take my pills without thinking and all of them at once.
Or I'm going to forget them more and more, and I'm going to see Tolkien sooner than expected.
No, don't think like that after only one week, Hisao.
I finished my ‘To live’ list of pills and sigh, now once more wide awake.
If it's true that we let some of our life slip away every time we sigh, then I wonder if it's necessary to take my medicine.
I let some of my lifetime slip away again and begin to make a trip to the boy's kitchen.
No more excuse for being lazy.
When I wake up in the morning, I feel a throbbing soreness in my legs the instant I get up from my bed.
It's always like that with sport: You don't feel too bad when you do it, and the next day you crawl on the ground like a slug.
Even before the… confession I wasn't the sportive type, and often a football match left me exhausted and sore, but now…
It was already bad enough to have another episode the other day, but the pain in my legs now just makes me understand one thing:
I hate physical exercise.
And yet, my continued health depends on it.
Sighing, I carry myself to the shower with two hopes: That the hot water will loosen my muscles and that Kenji is not in here.
I don't think my eyesight and reason would survive another grand feminist conspiracy talk naked.
Either my prayers have been granted or Kenji's predictions were true and the feminists murdered him, because he is nowhere in sight when I enter the shower.
I let the hot water stream over me, my back resting against the stall.
It's one of the advantages of living in the same wing as Kenji.
Since it seems that he has scared away all of his neighbors, this shower is just for us, and we can take all the time we want.
Just joking. I hope.
Thanks, life-changing accident that befell him… Because he couldn’t have been like this since birth, right?
After some time asking myself whether it's scientifically plausible to be a conspiracy theorist from the very first day of your life, I reluctantly get out of the stall, my legs now much more ready for the day.
After drying and dressing, I glance at my hair in one of the mirrors.
Seems like they are all right, and it's not as if I can tame them. My mother tried and failed. And more importantly, I like them like that.
My eyes wander downwards and meet the stranger that I have become.
In the hospital, I never really looked at myself. I just deduced my appearance from the looks that my visitors gave me. In the beginning they already were bad, but they became more and more depressing until I finally stopped looking at them.
And now that I take a look at me myself…
My eyes are surrounded by dark circles, I lost some weight, and my cheeks and face are a little bony.
But it's the atmosphere that I release that is really depressing.
I try to crack a smile at my strange reflection, only to be greeted by a strange grimace.
Sighing loudly, I go back to my room.
I stuff my science books in my bag and begin to gulp down my medication.
It’s good that we only have morning lessons with Mutou today, because I don't know if I could survive if today was a full course of english.
I exit the dorm, still undetected by Kenji and begin to walk to my classroom under the warming sun.
It’s a beautiful day outside - not too hot and with a fresh breeze blowing. I must have taken my sweet time in the shower, because there are not many students left on the path.
I enter the building and climb the stairs, which causes the lingering pain in my legs to get a bit worse again.
Maybe it's stupid of me, but I can't muster the courage to simply take the elevator.
Call it misplaced pride, but I still have all of my limbs so I have to take the stairs. Maybe it's just a way to keep me from breaking my illusion.
Even more depressed than this morning, I enter the classroom which is already full of groggy students.
I slip onto my chair sighing and put my head on my desk.
Something is amiss. I'm not assaulted by a rambunctious greeting this morning.
All of the gang is here, except for its fierce leader and indispensable right hand, whose desks are empty.
Student council business I guess.
I shouldn't ask if I don't want to be embroiled in a shady cripple business war or called on to paint all of the festival stalls.
Talking about the festival, everybody seems to work hard for it.
It makes me a little guilty to be the only one doing nothing, but as I said to Shizune the other day: You can't expect the new transfer student to do the same load of work as the others.
And I did help. I found the wooden boards that they were looking for the other day - even if I let them carry them afterward.
While I’m fighting to stay awake, Mutou enters, greets us with a grunt, and the class begins.
Well… begins is a strong word. Mutou writes some page numbers with exercises on the board and falls onto his chair. Some students raise their heads slightly, others sleep soundly like the blue haired girl in the front, and some like me open their books. But I think that I'm the only one who grasps the stuff.
I have only read half of it when Mutou's voice tears me from my science kingdom.
“Nakai, can I speak to you for a moment?”
Oh Dear, we are in trouble…
I'm beginning to put my books in my bag after class, while the other students dash for the exit as if there were no tomorrow, energized by the ringing bell.
The talk with Mutou in the hallway was a little ambivalent for me.
Of course it made me pretty proud of myself when he said that I could keep up with class. That pride was reinforced when he seemed impressed.
But the part about the incident yesterday left me with mixed feelings.
Shame, because of course I know that I have to take care of myself and that this school has been made precisely to help people like me, and what I did was pretty stupid.
But anger was there, too. I already know that I screwed up, but how can he expect me to adjust so quickly to my new condition? That I can now die doing something as simple as running? Something that I have done a thousand times before? That I dreamed of doing when in l lay in my hospital bed, tubes hanging on me and surrounded by beeping machines.
I exhale slowly, loosening my grip on my desk.
It's not Mutou’s fault. It's his job to hammer that into my head.
I sigh heavily and take a look around.
It seems as if everyone left except for Hanako, who is reading quietly in the back of the class, her book hiding most of her head.
Not a bad idea after all, and it’s not as if I have anything else to do.
I sit back and extract the book that I read last night. Time to finish this tome.
I just need to read the first line to immerse myself in this world again, and I read silently for some time.
I feel something changing slightly in the atmosphere, and I raise my head the moment Hanako gets up to join Lilly, who stands peacefully in the classroom door.
I watch them, slightly interested. They are talking in a low voice. Maybe Hanako tells Lilly that I am here, and they don't want to disturb me. Or they just don't talk loudly. Could be that. With Hanako, I have the feeling that she would run away if you talk too loud.
That makes me think of something: Should I tell Lilly that I am here? I can imagine that if I were blind, I would like to know if they are other people in the room.
Maybe it's impolite to not signal myself, even if Hanako has already done it.
Another thing where I'm clueless.
It seems as if something came up, because Lilly is now wearing a small frown and seems to apologize. Then, they split up. Lilly exits the room her cane in front of her while Hanako sits back down again.
She must have finished her book, because she doesn't open it again and looks bored moving her head slightly right to left.
Maybe this is the time to be sociable? And to apologize for making her run off the other day.
I get up, a bit anxious and walk over to Hanako.
She sees me approaching, because she raises her hand to hide her scars and her beautiful amethyst eyes are fixed on me, looking scared.
She seems ready to dash of in case I move too abruptly.
“Hey, Hanako” I say with the softest voice I can muster.
“H-Hisao?” She doesn't run away, and she remembers my name. I’ve seen worse beginnings of conversations.
“Yeah. I wanted to apologize for the other day at the library... ”
“I-It's alright...I..It was my fault…”
Now reassure her!
“I don't think it was anyone’s fault.”
It’s super effective!
She smiles softly, her hand still hiding half of her face but it's an achievement. I didn't think that she’d really let her guard down in front of anybody but Lilly.
“I saw that Lilly came by.”
“Y-Yes but she has… has to g-go meet someone.”
Okay, Nakai, a smile is no guarantee for her being calm.
“And you finished your book?”
“Almost... ” she says sheepishly.
“I should borrow it when you are done. It has to be interesting since I always see you reading it.”
She smiles slightly again. I was right, she is pretty cute.
“I-I’ll tell you…”
Talking about books could be a good idea with Hanako, and it seems as if I'm going to meet her in the library often. It would be good if I don't make her run off every time.
Hanako begins to wriggle slightly on her chair, glancing at me shyly. Maybe she wants to go somewhere but doesn't want to be rude and leave me hanging here. We both make an extra effort not to screw up this time.
“You want to go somewhere?” I ask.
Oh please Lord, make it that she doesn't want to go to the bathroom.
But fortunately, she nods slightly and whispers: “Library…”
“I can walk with you… if you want.”
She nods again and takes her bag while I go back to take mine, and then we're off.
The walk is pretty quiet, Hanako staying one step behind me, as if I'm a shield even if there is nobody else in the hallways.
When I think about Hanako, I have to say that my condition has one advantage: Nobody can guess what it is. It must be hard for her.
Stupid! Of course it's hard. If not, she wouldn't be this shy.
Or, I’m totally wrong again, and she was already like that before. If she has a before...
“I… I al-also s-should… borrow yours…”
It seems as if she mustered all of her courage to speak.
“Oh yeah, my book? Yes! We should exchange them when we are done, because it is pretty good... If you like SciFi,” I say with enthusiasm.
Fortunately, she smiles again and nods. Three smiles in one conversation: not bad, Nakai.
I escort Hanako to the safe ground of the library where we split. Even if a bit of reading in this quiet place seems appealing, I have a load of homework to do.
Hanako seems slightly relieved to be left alone. You can't get from extremely shy to friends with only one small conversation.
But it's been interesting.
I leave the building and begin to cross the school grounds, to get to my dorm room and - it's a huge load of homework.
It's safer for me to do it now. If I don’t, I could use it as an excuse to not go to the festival.
This afternoon it is really hard not to think about the festival, that everyone is already talking about.
The grounds are filled with students who put the last touch on their stalls for tomorrow. I can imagine that is also why the student council duo was not there for class.
It’s probably a huge load of work to prepare all that with only two people. It makes me feel guilty for not joining the student council. Of course it's not my thing, but I could have lent a hand more I guess.
But it's better to have regrets afterwards in this case. It's less tiring.
On my way to the dorm, I spot a female figure in a boys’ Yamaku outfit, lying on her back with her pants rolled up to her knees and a brush between her toes.
The red head moves slightly as she paints on the huge wall in front of her.
“That looks good,” I say.
“You’re going to bring misery on your life,” Rin responds in her usual deadpan voice.
“That's alright. I like to live dangerously.” Yeah, like hell.
Rin's toes stop in mid-air, and she bows her head, looking at me from below with her usual indescribable expression.
I wait some time in an awkward silence, Rin still staring at me.
“Is there something on my face?” I ask, trying to break this moment.
“No, but you said that you like to live dangerously. But you don’t look as if you like that, so I looked at you to see if you changed. But you have not. So I was wondering if you were you or if you were someone else.”
“I'm Hisao, and it was a joke.”
“Oh, I see,” she says nodding her head with closed eyes. “So you like to joke about future atrocities in your life. Our friends’ bonds grow again.”
And then she goes back to her work.
It's a bit disconcerting to stop a conversation like this, but it seems like a natural way of social interaction for Rin.
Social interaction that surely normally extends to Emi and no one else.
As I wonder if I should go or try to small-talk a little, Rin’s monotonous voice interrupts my thought.
“Pour me some Prussian Blue.”
Guess I'm not leaving.
She looks at me with a surprised expression. “You’re standing there, so I thought that you were going to help me, like Emi when she brings the paint and tries to help me. Am I wrong?”
“No, no it's alright. I was feeling guilty for not helping for the festival, so it works out. So, Emi was helping you ?”
“Yes. But she ran off somewhere at some point. So she was here, but she didn't really help.”
I’m glad that I don't have to face her puppy look for now, but at some point I'm going to have to tell her that running is definitively not my thing.
“She didn't pour the paint the way it should be and didn't mix it like she should have.” She frowns and continues. “And after that she wanted to help me paint.”
“My back hurt. And it's hard to paint the top.”
“I don't think that she was a great help for that.”
She looks at me with an inquiring expression, tilting her head.
“She's shorter than you, I don't think that she can reach the top,” I say cracking a small smile.
“So you really DO like to live dangerously,” she responds with a smile.
Oh. So Emi doesn't like it when someone talks about her height.
“I don't think that I must fear her. She is only half my size.”
“Did she bring you food?” Rin asks.
“Emi brings mine. Maybe you don't have to fear her then. But I do. Otherwise I will starve to death. So I'm not going to say that to her.”
She nods to herself and goes back to her work while I pour some Prussian Blue in a bowl.
When I tell Emi that I'm going to quit running with her, I should still follow Rin’s advice. As they said: It's the smallest who are the most ill-tempered.
And being killed by a girl half my size would certainly be a shitty death.
Finally, I helped Rin with her painting for all of the afternoon.
It's a nice way of passing time and strangely calming. Rin working on her mural and me sitting on a can of paint and reading.
Her voice breaks the silence from time to time, asking me to pour some paint, or sometimes to mix several.
It's a tricky exercise, Rin’s instructions being what we can call very vague. “One splouch with half a hazelnut of this”. But it's satisfying to see her nod, approving, with a small smile.
After the sun sets, Rin rises and states that we are done.
I can't honestly tell, since it's pretty dark, but she is the artist here.
“I'm sure that it's going to look good tomorrow.”
Rin nods and begins to wander towards the dorm, her step uncertain. I follow her, and stay close, in case her legs give in. Painting like that all afternoon must have exhausted her.
We soon arrive at the split between the girl’s and boys’ dorm.
“Thanks for the help,” Rin says in her deadpan tone with a touch of tiredness. “You were more helpful than Emi.” She smiles.
“My pleasure. But you should watch out what you say if you want to eat tonight.”
“You’re right.” She nods. “I want to eat tonight.”
And then she's off.
“Good night,” I say before going my way.
“I don't know. The future is uncertain.” Rin’s voice echoes behind me, as I reach my dorm.
Rin is weird, but it's pretty nice hanging out with her, I think as I open my room’s door.
I kick off my shoes and slump on my bed.
Finally, no one can say that I didn't do my part for the festival. I should announce my accomplishment to Shizune and Misha next time I see them.
Maybe at the festival tomorrow?
I should have made plans, I think while stretching myself on my bed and gulping my pills. I was so stressed to fit into my new environment that I might miss the last big event of my school life.
I guess, I should just ask Kenji what he is doing tomorrow... And also make sure that he is still alive.
Or I could just wander around the stalls.
One of these ideas is more appealing than the other.
I flop back on my bed and begin to drift off.
I should try to enjoy what remains of my school life.
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