I wake up to find myself face to face with Misha, who is still asleep, wearing a look of peace and contentment. While we were asleep, she seems to have wrapped her arms and legs around me, holding me close.
It almost makes me want to forget all the pain of the past couple days.
… Why not? It's what Misha was trying to do, and the only reason it went wrong was because of me.
That settles it. If Misha is going to be the best girlfriend she can be for however long we have, then I'll be the best boyfriend I can be for just as long.
With one free hand, I gently stroke her back, which results in an appreciative sigh and a gentle squeeze. I return the hug, continuing to explore the contours of her back while doing so. With her eyes still closed, her face comes forward and she ends up kissing my nose, before I adjust my position so our lips can properly lock. Almost immediately our tongues come into play in an intricate dance of passion.
And then my alarm goes off.
Misha lets out a disappointed whimper as I extricate myself from our entwined limbs to turn it off. Once the noise stops, she grabs me from behind and pulls me close against her bare chest.
"That was a good way to wake up, Hicchan~."
I twist myself around so that I can face her and look into her eyes. Green this time. Not sure I'll ever get fully used to her contacts changing her eye color.
"Do we want to pick back up where we left off?"
She gives me a quick kiss, but pulls away before I can capitalise on it.
"We might want
to~, but we should do our swimming~!"
I press up against her, resting my head against her shoulder.
"Can't we have this
be our exercise?"
"Well~... It might be enough exercise for your heart~, but you're still going to have to see the nurse when we're done~!"
Right. That is part of the routine. The mental image of his smug grin immediately kills the mood.
"... That's a very good point. We should probably get dressed and head to the pool, then."
Picking at the remains of her breakfast, Misha peers at me through her glasses. Between the green eyes, the glasses, and the brown hair, she almost looks like a completely different person from the girl I met a few short months ago.
"Did the walk last night help, Hicchan~?"
She still sounds the same, though.
"You know, Shiina, I think it did."
She winces at hearing her name, and her eyes dart around the near-empty cafeteria. It's still Summer Break, so the school is still a bit of a ghost town.
I sigh. "It's practically just you and me here. And I don't think anyone cares."
She turns her eyes down to her plate. "I care…"
I still don't know why she hates her name so much. It's clearly more than just distaste.
She smiles a little at that.
"But yeah, I had a good chance to get my thoughts together. And I made a decision."
She looks up at me, her expression a mixture of fear and trepidation.
"I want to do the same thing for you that you're doing for me. I'm going to be the best boyfriend I can be, for however long we have.
Her reaction is a mixture of emotions, before setting on mild embarrassment.
"You know I don't deserve that, Hicchan~..."
"No, Misha, I don't know
that! You keep telling me that, but you've never given me a reason to believe it."
And yet again she avoids my gaze.
"I know, Hicchan~. And you're right, you don't~ deserve that. But~! These past couple months with you~... it's like a dream~ come true. I know that the dream has to end eventually, and I get myself ready to tell you everything~, but then I look into your eyes and I just can't do it~! I just get lost, and tell myself that maybe~! Maybe the dream can go on for just one more day~..."
Her speech gets more rapid as she continues, the words coming out like a dam breaking. By the time she's finished, we're looking into each other's eyes, and I know what she's telling me is the truth.
"Please, Misha. I need you to tell me. Today, not tomorrow, or the day after. If I don't have a reason to break this off by the end of the day, I'm going to have to prepare to follow you overseas."
She stares at me, dumbfounded, her mouth slightly agape. My gambit seems to have worked. It's not entirely true, but it's also not entirely false, either.
Before Misha gets a chance to respond, I notice another tray of food joining ours as Shizune takes the seat next to Misha. For a moment I try to recall whether we've been signing our conversation.
If Shizune "overheard" anything, she makes no indication, as she launches into a completely unrelated tirade.
[They locked me out! Can you believe it? The Student Council President locked out of her own club?! I know that I told them they needed to expect to do the project on their own, but I didn't expect them to refuse any help! They're probably going to get it all wrong and who is going to have to fix it for them? That's right, me.]
I exchange glances with Misha. Complain as she might, we both know she’s thrilled to have potential successors who take Student Council work even half as seriously as she does.
[So what you’re saying is that you’re bored and want us to entertain you?]
Both girls are taken aback by the blunt accusation - Misha bringing her hands to her mouth to try to stop the laughter, while Shizune simply stares for a moment, trying to process the completely unexpected question.
With a moment to recover, Shizune puts on an exaggerated scowl as she responds. [I merely intended to spend some quality time with my two best friends. Is that such a crime?]
And now the game is afoot. I meet her eyes with a mischievous smile as I prepare my retort. [You usually spend quality time with us in the student council room. Even when we're not working, that's where you keep all your board games. Or were you hoping we were free so you could drag us with you into town?]
I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as a triumphant grin appears on her face before I finish signing. Adjusting her glasses with a flourish, she delivers the killing blow. [And thus your overconfidence is your undoing! You underestimate my resourcefulness! In your calculations, you failed to account for my reserve stockpile
! One day, you may find yourself at an advantage, but that day is not today!]
With a sigh, I raise my hands in defeat. Returning back down to earth, I resume the conversation in plain terms. [You have board games in your room, then?]
[One should always be prepared for a challenge, no matter the circumstances.]
Her own victory dance completed, she almost looks uncertain. [It's not a bother, is it? I know you two spent a lot of time apart, so…]
Misha and I exchange another glance, and it's clear that our conversation will have to wait for later.
[It's no bother, Shicchan~! It'll be fun~!]
Shizune’s room is a neat and orderly affair. Impeccably so, like one of those model rooms in a furniture magazine - the kind that’s so put together that it’s obvious no human lives there. Nevertheless, here it is. I wonder if she cleaned her room specifically because she was planning on having company.
We start with a few familiar games, but Shizune has an impressive collection, particularly if this is her fallback. As the day progresses, I find myself learning several new games. It feels somewhat refreshing to have so much information to juggle that I can’t focus on all the little dramas that have been complicating my life.
For lunch, Shizune produces several prepackaged foods from some personal stockpile which I find completely unsurprising. As we continue to play into the evening, we take a break to order out, and select what has become our routine order: Dumplings, shrimp fried rice, soup, stir-fry, and a Chinese omelette. 3685 yen. The normalcy and familiarity of it all is strangely comforting.
Shortly after dinner, we complete the last game of the night, and Misha lets out an impressive yawn.
[That was a fun way to spend a day, Shicchan, but I think it’s time for Misha to get some sleep~!]
Halfway through signing my agreement, I’m interrupted by my own yawn, which I reflexively cover with my hand, hopelessly garbling my response. Shizune makes one of her soundless laughs, which in turn becomes yet another yawn. Turning scarlet with embarrassment, Shizune quickly wishes us good night and ushers us out of her room.
As I’m about to leave for my own bed, Misha grabs me by the sleeve.
“Hicchan… can we talk for a minute? In my room?”
While it’s getting late, it’s still some time until curfew, so I don’t see why not. I nod, and follow her down the hallway, down the stairs, and into her own room.
Upon entering, Misha goes directly to the vanity, where she begins to feed Mr. Fish-chan. Closing the door behind me, I take a seat on the edge of the bed.
Glancing at her medals and trophies, I think back to our games today. Shizune won most of them, but I won a few. Misha didn’t win any. She didn’t seem
to be trying to lose, but it’s pretty evident that Misha has a talent for deception - or at least misdirection.
“I’ve been thinking about our conversation this morning, Hicchan~. And~! And I’ve come to a decision~. It’s time to tell you everything.”
I briefly consider saying something, but think better of it. She still has her back to me. I can just barely see her face in the mirror, but the angle makes it difficult to read.
“You probably think you have it all figured out, don’t you, Hicchan~? You’re smart like that. ‘Poor Shiina was treated badly. Maybe by her parents, maybe by someone at school, but it was some terrible~ person who made her feel bad so he could make himself feel better. If only you can show her that she’s truly loved~, she’ll come to accept her worth’, right~?”
I can’t be certain, but I almost think I hear a hint of bitterness in her voice.
“It would be a lot cuter if that were true. But~! That’s not the truth. Just another beautiful lie~.”
Having finished with the fish, she begins to remove her make-up.
“The truth is, Hicchan, no one ever told me terrible things about myself. Except for me. Other people didn’t know~. Or were too afraid to say anything.”
Afraid? Of Misha? I manage to avoid laughing at the absurdity, but she still seems to pick up on my skepticism.
“Ahaha~, I didn’t think you’d believe that~. It’s true, though. Things were a lot different in my old school. I had longer hair, and it wasn’t dyed. I was thinner, too~.
“Back then, swimming was my whole life~. I would wake up, swim, eat breakfast, go to school, swim, come home, eat dinner, and back to sleep. Every day~. It was going to be my future, too~. I was really good at swimming. Really, really, really~ good.
“But~! I never got to do the things normal kids did. No hanging out at arcades, no late night tests of courage, I never even learned how to ride a bike!”
I’m not sure that I’d consider those to be the most important experiences of being a kid, but I must admit that they’re all things I kind of took for granted.
“So~! When I heard the other students talking about all the fun things they did day in and day out… I started to hate them. I wanted to hurt them; to make them sad. But~! I couldn’t do anything directly. If I got caught doing something like that, I wouldn’t be allowed to keep swimming, and I couldn’t disappoint my parents like that~.
“I always had a talent for ‘seeing the big picture~’. I could see that it was all like one big game - in order to win, someone else needs to lose. And I was really~ good at winning. People started to notice that bad things happened to people I didn’t like, but they could never prove that I had done anything~. I made a lot~ of friends that way.”
As she continues, her voice starts to catch.
“After my accident, all those friends left - I wasn’t a threat anymore. They just ignored me. And I learned that it’s a lot harder to turn around and look away when you’re in a wheelchair. I started to really see what happened to the people who lost the game. And it made me feel bad. But I also knew that they still hated me, and wouldn’t trust me if I tried to fix what I’d broken.
“When I got better, that’s when things got really~ bad. I was dangerous again, and that meant they’d be trying to break me before I got back to the top. My friends hated me, and my victims hated me, too. And I deserved it. I started to hate myself. I couldn’t tell myself that it was just a game anymore.
“So I ran away. To Yamaku.”
She turns to look at me directly. To see my reaction? To ask for sympathy? I can’t think to do anything but nod, urging her to continue.
“I had heard my parents talking about how expensive~ it was to go to school here. So I started looking for scholarship opportunities. I found one for a Sign Language teaching program. So I lied and said I was really interested in becoming a Sign Language teacher. In reality, I assumed that it wasn’t a real language, and I could fake my way through it.”
She grimaces at this revelation, clearly still embarrassed by her earlier thinking.
“I somehow managed to bluff my way through the interview, and got accepted into the program - I think they were desperate for anyone~. And then Shicchan found me.
“I may have been able to fool the teachers and the people in admissions, but Shicchan found me out. I was afraid that she’d expose me as a fraud, but she just helped me to learn~.
“The more I got to know Shicchan, the more I wanted her all to myself. I determined to learn as much Sign Language as I could, to be Shicchan’s translator wherever she went, and be closer to her than anyone else.
“When it really comes down to it, I’m the one that drove the rest of the student council away. I’m the one who pushed Lilly away. I hated Lilly because of the relationship she had with Shicchan. It’s true that I didn’t do anything to actively push Lilly away, but I also didn’t step in when a friend should have~.”
Her makeup removed, Misha moves on to taking out her contacts.
“On the one hand, I hate myself for all the terrible things I’ve done. But on the other, I don’t think I’m sorry for anything I did. I sometimes wonder if I’ve ever stopped.
“I hate the monster I see when I look in the mirror. I tried to kill myself~ - the old me. I changed everything about myself, to try to be someone I didn’t hate~. But that’s where you come in, Hicchan."
She takes a deep breath, then continues. "The more time I spent with you, the more you pushed to see the real~ me, and the more I started to wonder if I really had~ changed anything. Shicchan deserved your love and I stole it from her~! Even though I knew I'd be leaving, I kept pulling you closer~, telling myself that it was okay because I knew~ you would throw me away like a piece of garbage before that happened. The way you loved me, no matter how little I deserve it~, helped me to see that I haven’t changed anything - all I did was give myself a second face~!"
And with this, the dam finally bursts. Misha is now sobbing uncontrollably - the first time I can think of that she’s allowed me to see her cry. I get up and take a step toward her, but she manages to seize enough control to speak again.
“Please, Hicchan~, don’t touch me, and don’t say anything~. I know you mean well~, but you’ll convince me that it’s all okay~, but the moment you’re gone, it will all come rushing back, and I’ll hate both of us even more!”
She turns around to look at me, her eyes a brilliant red and green, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“I know you love me, Hicchan~, and I love you too, but~... I think… the kindest thing you could do… the least painful thing for both of us… would be if you could find it in your heart to hate me. I don’t deserve all the happiness you give me~, and you deserve someone who’s... who’s not... not a monster!”
At a loss for what to do next, I feel I have no choice but to step away as she’s weeping in her arms. She’s not in a good place, and I… I have a lot of thinking to do.
Knowing that I can’t just leave her like this, I make my way back to Shizune’s room. Her door has a button, like a doorbell. Misha had explained that it flashes a light, so Shizune can see that someone’s “knocking.” I push the button.
When she answers the door, I’m surprised to see that she’s still fully dressed in her uniform. She eyes me questioningly.
[I think… that Misha needs some company tonight.]
She nods. No questions, no snide remarks about how I should be good enough. I guess she can tell more than enough by looking at my face.
As I head back to my own room, I think that this is going to be a long night. There’s no way I can sleep with all of this on my mind.
Act 4 Scene 1 Part 3
| Act 4 Scene 3