Oh, dear, the library reopens today, so the floodgates are about to open again. Yukina's picking me up in ten minutes and I'm not dressed. I want to wear something different
. Oh, if only I had
different. Everything here is winter
, and this is still summer, technically, although summer break is over. It's not like I'll be out of place if I wear that same dress. Is it? Yamaku doesn't even have winter uniforms
– I don't know how those girls can manage with those short skirts year-round.
*** HONK HONK ***
She's here! Now where's my other shoe?
"Good morning, Yuuko!"
"Oh, Mrs. Shiromizu! Good morning!"
"In a hurry as usual, I see. I hope the next time I see you, I will also see the rent in your hand."
"Yes! I'm sorry! I meant to go to the bank yesterday, but while I was in the city I crashed into a light pole with my bike, and I had to get that fixed, so..."
"Yes, yes, just make sure I have it before the end of the day."
"I will, Mrs. Shiromizu!"
*** HONK HONK ***
"I'm coming, Yukinaaaaaa..."
Welcome to Yamaku Library, do you need to check out a book?
Welcome to Yamaku Library, can I help you with anything?
Welcome to Yamaku Li—ah!
"Ah! Welcome to Ramikin Yandere! Did you check to book out a need?! Um...I mean...awww, sorry, Yukina..."
"Hahaha...I was about to say that you seem a little calmer this morning, but I guess you were just asleep. Have you tried using that meditation technique I told you about?"
I'd forgotten about that, but I can't say that to her..."No, actually I'm glad to be going back to work at the library. It's so much less stressful than the Shanghai, and I just like all the people there."
"What about that Kamisaka boy you told me about the other day? The one who confessed to you? Anything going to happen with you?"
, but I don't like him that way. Besides, the girl he replaced is coming back, so I won't be working with him anymore anyway."
"Oh, the one from Scotland? I thought you said she'd moved away for good."
"I thought she had, too, but she changed her mind. At least I don't have to train anybody new again."
"Yes, that sounded like a hassle. Well, see you tonight!"
"Yes! Thanks, Yukina!"
I have my keys, right? Can't open the library without...yep, got it. Wait, what? Someone's actually camped out...Hanako, maybe? No, her hair's way
too short...actually she's
way too short. She's in uniform, so definitely a student...
"Eh! Um...yes, are you waiting for the library to open...um..."
"Yoshimura. Yeah, I was." Okay, key, key, this one! "I'm not surprised you don't remember me. I don't think I've been here more than once or twice since Rika showed me around. So, uh, I'm just gonna look around, so do what you do and I'll let you know if I need you."
"Okay, you...I'll be over here if...um, right!" I didn't even have to remember what to say right away and I still stumbled over it! I promised myself I wouldn't do that, and I practiced so hard...oh, good, not too many books in the return box, either. Hmm...still a few missing ones...that sounds like a rolling cane approaching. Yoshi? Unless someone else has one now...no, it's Yoshi...oh, dear, what do I say
"Um...welcome back, Yuuko." He sounds nervous...well of course
he sounds nervous. This is the first time I've seen him, or, well, he's...he's...encountered? me since I...that is, he hasn't been to the Shanghai, so... "I brought the request list for this term. Sorry I didn't get it to you sooner, but...well, things have been..."
"No, it's all right! I guess it might have been awkward, I guess, after what happened? If it was so much trouble, you could have just given it to Lilly, but you're here already so I guess I'll take it now. Ehehe..."
"Yeah, here. I wanted to get here early so I could apologize for the other day. I figured if I got here early enough, nobody would be here yet except maybe Ikezawa..."
"Um, no, well, Ikezawa's not here...actually, the only one here is an underclassman. Katayama's friend...Yoshimura, I think?"
? Noriko's here
? Man, I've been looking for her all week! Can you tell me where she is?"
"She's over by the computer terminals."
"Thanks so much!" Oh, thank goodness that conversation didn't continue. I wonder what he wants with Yoshimura?
"Good morning, Yuuko."
"Ah! Sorry, how can I...oh, thank goodness it's you, Lilly. Things are already off to a rough start."
"I'm sorry to hear that, but I expect it won't last. It is
always difficult to get back into the flow of things after some time away, after all. Speaking of which, now that I'm resuming my duties, is there anything you need me to do right away?"
"Actually, yes. Kamisaka just handed me the list of new requests from your class."
"Only just now? My, my, but he does tend to procrastinate, doesn't he? I told him I wouldn't cover for him again after he was late handing in the financial report for the Yamaku festival. It caused quite the stir with my cousin."
"Ha ha ha...well, since I don't have anything else, could you cross-check the list for me?"
"Of course. However, I am
going to be tutoring someone this morning, so I only have a short time..."
"Oh, I'm sorry! Don't worry about it, then, I can check them myself when I'm done going through the returns, or we can do it later..."
"It's no trouble at all, Yuuko. It will go faster if I do it anyway, at least until the person I'm meeting arrives."
As expected, she's stepping right back into things without missing a beat. "That's true. Yes, that would be very helpful, thank you very much."
Still, something about her face looks different...
Is this book even one of ours? I don't see a stamp on the cover..."Hey, Yuuko!"
"Oh, Emi! Welcome back. Did you need something?"
, and she's right over there. Hey, Lilly! Sorry I'm late, but...heh heh, well, I'm still getting used to walking
through the building. Throws off my timing something fierce."
"Good morning, Emi. I seem to recall you not being particularly punctual in the past, either. Yuuko, as you've probably guessed, Miss Ibarazaki is my tutoring appointment, so I'm afraid this will have to wait until later."
"Um, by all means, please go ahead! I have the request list to handle anyway."
"Oh, yeah, Yuuko, Hisao gave me a list of books to pick up for him, so can I just give this to you?"
Why does Emi have Hisao's list? "I suppose..."
"Thanks! Also, can I talk to you later? I wanna ask you a few things about what college is like."
"Um, tomorrow might be better..."
"Yeah, okay, sounds good! You sure this isn't bothering you, Lilly?"
"Not at all. So, if Hisao's not here, does that mean you've decided not to have him help you?"
"Yep, that's right! In fact, I've forbidden him from coming here when I'm studying with you! I want no distractions what-so-EVER
Wait, does that mean Hisao's dating EMI? I thought for sure he'd be with Hanako...
"Quite understandable. Shall we get started, then?"
Lilly and Emi start to walk away, but I can still hear Emi. "Oh, by the way, Lilly, Rin said she wanted to paint something for you. Something about, she wanted to talk to someone with...some kind of thing where they can hear colors or something, and make something that sounded white?"
"Ah, you mean synaesthesia?"
"Yeah, weird, huh? Anyway..." Emi's voice trails off, and I'm just looking at the list of books she handed to me when I hear the familiar sound of snapping fingers. Turning around, I see Shizune, for some reason without Misha.
[Good morning, Shizune.] I learned sign when I first started working here, but with Shizune I usually let Misha interpret so she can keep learning, too, which is good because I don't have to worry about whether what my hand is doing is something strange...
[Good morning, Yuuko. I was hoping you might help me with something. I'm doing some research on a university I'm considering attending, but the administrative office didn't have what I needed.]
[That's odd. What school were you interested in?]
[Specifically, I'm looking for information on the De-za-u-te-ru-zu Faculty of Management.]
I start to shake a bit, because at first I don't know what she means. Then it strikes me. "Ah!" I say aloud, then return to signing. [Desautels? In Tokyo? I think they only have a master's program.]
[No,] she says, smiling and adjusting her glasses. [I'm talking about their home campus at Ma-gi-ru University.]
Home campus? Wait...that would be...McGill? In CANADA?
[I don't have anything here right now, but I can request some information. It may take a few days, though.]
[That would be fine, Yuuko. I'm just looking into it right now, but if it meets my needs it will be one of my top choices.]
[Yes, I'll request the material right away!]
* * * *
Whew, it's finally lunch time. As I thought, things were hectic here. I still haven't even looked at..."Good morning, Yuuko."
Oh, Hanako's here? I expected...oh, I'll just ask her. "Good morning, Hanako! I thought you'd be here earlier. Is everything all right?"
Hanako...smiles at me? A real smile, and not just one of her small ones? Am I smiling for real, too? "Everything's fine. I'm h-here to pick out some books and I...I just wanted to thank you."
"Thank me? What did I do to be thanked for?"
Hanako leans in close and whispers, "For...letting me use your camera before." She leans back again. "I'm...g-going to try for a career in photography. I'll be in M-Misaki's care from now, so...um...well, I probably won't b-be here as often as I used to."
"Really? Oh, that's great, Hanako! I mean, I'll miss seeing you, so that's not great, but...I mean, I'm glad you found something...well, that is, I'll be rooting for you!"
Hanako smiles again – she looks really cute when she does that. "Okay, then, I'll go f-find the books..."
Wow, she's really different now, isn't she? It's a nice different, though. Come to think of it, so is Emi, and that Yoshimura girl suddenly coming here...and Shizune leaving Japan? I never would have expected that...even Lilly seems like she's different...less guarded, maybe? And Yoshi...ah, Yoshi, I'm sorry, but...well, from the look of it he and Yoshimura are getting along well, so I'm happy if that's the case.
"Hi, Yuuko. Emi's still here, right?"
"Oh, Hisao! I'm sorry, I was just..."
"It's fine, Yuuko. Do you have those books ready for me?"
"Books...oh, the list Emi gave me! Yes, here they are!"
"Thanks, Yuuko." Something's different about Hisao, too. It's like he's...more confident, maybe? I suppose that might have something to do with Emi, and they're smiling...and...Hanako's going to greet them? Well, Lilly's there...and...all four
of them are leaving together? That's...that's...
That's wonderful, isn't it? I'm not sure how it happened, but I'm not going to question it. It's like everything is new for all of them – a new term, a new chapter, maybe a new book, or even a new life. It seems like they've all been through a lot this year, but that's what it means to be young. There's a lot of their story still to come.
Still a lot of story...
...maybe even mine.