"Lilly," Hanako says, the strain evident in her voice, "on the night you left for Scotland...you said I could be...a strong and confident woman someday. I'm asking you...right now...let me show you. Let...me...TRY."
Oh, Hanako, I wish I could. If it was about anything but this...
I've been trying as hard as I can not to take this conversation in a direction that will hurt anyone, but Hanako won't let it drop. Maybe if I wasn't still feeling the effects of my long trip, I would be able to handle this better, but right now I feel as though I'm at the end of my emotional rope. The strain is piling up on me physically as well, and I reach out my hand to a nearby light pole for support.
Once again, I'm in a trap of my own devising. If I allow Hanako to help me, I risk putting myself between her and Hisao. Hanako did not do that to me, so I cannot do that to her. If I don't
open up, I risk alienating her by failing to show faith in her growth as a person. I may think this is the wrong situation in which to test that faith, but that particular choice isn't mine. As for the choice that is
mine, I know which path I must take.
"I'm sorry, Hanako," I finally manage to say. "I...can't."
After a few moments of silence, she quietly says, "I...understand. Let me know...when things are different."
I'm afraid things are already more different than I bargained for...
After a brief silence I hear Hanako's footsteps moving away, not toward the tea shop but continuing down the street toward Yamaku. For a moment I consider following her, but I realize that that would be the wrong thing to do. If she wants to show me that she's strong, then running after her would also be a sign that I don't have faith in her. It's a small gesture, perhaps, but it's the only one available to me at the moment.
You're already strong, Hanako...maybe stronger than I am right now.
Just then, as if to punctuate my thought, the rain starts to hit me. I can't chase Hanako now, but Narumi's is less than a block away, so I quickly dash around the corner and down the sidewalk until the right scent hits.
This is where Hanako should expect me to be...if she does come back.
As I enter the shop, I inhale deeply, trying to immerse myself in the calming atmosphere. At first I don't hear anything but the rain and the music of Yamashika Yoshiyuki that is always playing here. A moment later, however, I hear a familiar voice belonging to the owner of the shop. "Ah, Miss Satou, it has been far too long since we have met. How are things with you?"
I take another deep breath, this time to help compose myself, and reply, "Things are reasonably well, Narumi. It has indeed been too long, but it was unavoidable, as I have been away these past two weeks. How are things with you?"
"Ah, the same as they have been. Little changes here beyond the faces of the students that visit my shop. With what may I help you today, Miss Satou?"
"Besides the most welcome lack of inclement weather within this shop? Actually..." I pause for a moment, trying to keep myself composed as I remember why I'd intended
to come here. I take yet another deep breath before continuing, "...I'm looking for a new tea set for use at school. I'm afraid my previous one met with an accident."
"Ah, I see," Narumi says with a hint of sadness in her voice. "No wonder you look so troubled." For once, I allow myself not to correct her misinterpretation. I hear her move out from behind the counter as she says, "As I recall, the one I sold you when you first arrived at the Academy was of a rose hue with lighter pink floral designs. Are those you would serve with it pleased by that coloration, or shall we find something different?"
"I am afraid I can't answer that question properly," I say regretfully, "as I'm not entirely certain at the moment with whom, if anyone, I would be sharing such occasions. Perhaps it would be best if you chose something appropriate in a similar style."
"Ah, so the tea set is not the only thing that has been damaged since our last meeting," Narumi replies, the sadness in her voice deepening. "That is most unfortunate."
Most unfortunate indeed.
Despite my unease at the direction of the conversation, I find a slight smile on my lips at Narumi's words. "You are perceptive as always."
"Ah, the faces of the students may change, but the expressions they wear and the timbres of their voices are as old as time." She approaches me and takes my hand, and says soothingly, "And perhaps, with time, such things may be easier to repair than tea sets." Narumi's words ring in my heart as I allow her to lead me to the right-hand side of the shop, where the sets currently for sale are displayed. "I will find something appropriate if that is what you wish, but a tea set is such a personal thing that I hesitate to do so. Please, examine these as you wish."
Narumi steps back suddenly, and I nearly stumble into the display. Without even realizing it, I'd been leaning on her, and her withdrawal threw me off balance. I cringe inwardly when I realize that she's still only a step away, hovering like a mother hen, and I curse myself for allowing that to happen.
It takes a few moments to steady myself enough to trust that I can touch the delicate items in front of me without damaging them. Once I begin, I'm thankful for having a task to perform, something on which I can focus my energy. I run my hands lightly over each of the pieces, feeling their shape and texture, all the while absorbing the sounds and the scents of the shop all over again. In that way, the next hour passes, until finally I choose one that feels the most suitable. "I believe this is the one for me, Narumi," I call out, and an instant later she is at my side.
"An excellent choice, Miss Satou. It appears that your affinity for shades of red and pink continues. Please wait here. I shall package this for you, and then we will select your tea."
Red and pink...not white after all.
As I move across the store to the canisters of loose tea leaves, I remember the day I bought that tea set. Akira was with me, and when I told her I wanted a white one, she chided me for it. "The color of death" she called it, and decided that since I needed a boyfriend, red was more appropriate. Memories of the dozens of tea parties to which it was witness start to come flooding back to me, and suddenly...
...I feel myself...
...perched on the edge of a precipice...
...the scent of vanilla, which was not there before, fills my mind...
...and then, there is a hand on my shoulder. "Miss Satou," Narumi says softly, "perhaps you should rest. There is a futon in the back room which you may use if you wish."
I blink a few times, and I am back in the tea shop. My face is wet, even though I don't remember feeling the tears. I take a deep breath, and then a second, before shaking my head. "I...appreciate the offer, but I must decline. It would not be...proper for me to impose upon you like that."
"It is no imposition," she replies. "You would not wish to reject this poor old woman's hospitality, would you?"
"I mean no insult, Narumi," I say, stepping back to bow deeply. "I just...do not believe I can rest here right now."
"Ah, I understand," Narumi says, the sadness returning to her voice. "If you will not rest here, then perhaps you might allow me the honor of driving you back to the Academy. It would not be...proper to allow you to endure such a long walk in this miserable weather without an umbrella."
"I gratefully accept your kind offer," I say with another bow. "Now, about my tea..."
"I have taken the liberty of preparing your usual order," Narumi says, pressing a bag into my hands, and I wonder for a moment how long I was standing in front of the canisters. "Now, we must get you back to your school. My car is quite old, but it still runs, even in such ghastly weather."
"I still need to pay you..."
Narumi clicks her tongue at me as she takes my hand and puts it on her arm. "You will be here again soon enough. We can settle your accounts at that time."
As she leads me toward the back of the shop, I say, "Your kindness knows no bounds, Narumi. For that, I doubt I will ever be able to repay you, but I will if I can."
"You have always been kind to this poor old woman, Miss Satou. I am the one repaying you."
Without another word, I hear a door opening ahead of me, followed by the rush of humid air on my face. Narumi opens an umbrella and leads me into the passenger seat of her car. Once the door closes behind me, all is quiet again. I close my eyes, listening to the rain pattering on the car's roof. Ordinarily, I would find the sound soothing, but right now all I can hear within it is the echo of Hanako's footsteps, walking away from me down the street.
Narumi doesn't say anything as she gets into the car and starts the motor. The vibration of the engine is much rougher than that of the Evo in which I'd gotten used to riding with Akira, but it's still quite tolerable. Narumi's driving, on the other hand, is much smoother than my sister's, which is something of a relief, especially given the conditions. Even so, it takes only a few minutes to reach Yamaku. "I am afraid this is where you and I must part company, Miss Satou," Narumi says as the car comes to a halt.
"So it would seem," I say, mustering the best smile I can. "Thank you again for everything, Narumi. You can be sure I will return to your shop as soon as I can to settle my account, but my debt to you is much greater than that."
"Then you may repay that debt by making your best efforts to repair that which was broken, and telling me of the results. Good afternoon, Miss Satou," she says, her voice indicating her inclined head.
Inclining my own head in return, I open the car door and say, "Good afternoon, Narumi," then step out of the car and back into the rain. As she drives away, I quickly walk to the main building, where umbrellas are kept in a storage area for those in need. I have never had such a need before, but today I am quite thankful to be able to borrow one.
I may be wet, but there's no sense in getting utterly soaked.
The rain seems to be falling even harder as I continue on my way back to the dorm. I wonder fleetingly if it's enough to hide my current state from those who see me, but I hear nothing along the way except the relentless sound of the falling rain. By the time I reach the building, whatever remaining resolve I had has been washed away as well. Considering my embarrassing display in front of Narumi, there wasn't much left.
As I make my way down the hall towards my room, I hesitate in front of Hanako's door, but only briefly. Whether she's returned or not, I know I'm not yet ready to face her. I enter the room that is now mine once again, and I move the suitcases that Hanako and I had placed by the bed so that I can lie down.
I try once again to let the sound of the rain relax me, but unfortunately my mind is still filled with today. After an hour or so of tossing and turning, I decide that I need some task to focus on again, and my mind lights on unpacking. It's usually a task that I dread, given how time-consuming it is, but today that's exactly what's needed. If nothing else, it should tire me out enough for physical exhaustion to overtake mental activity.
Perhaps a new day, and a bit less jet lag, will make things clearer.
When I open my closet, I'm surprised to find something already hanging there: several uniforms, which by the tags I discover would seem to be the very ones I left here two weeks ago. For a moment, I'm amused by the idea of the Student Council neglecting their duties, but it's more likely that Shizune was efficient enough to have already brought them here, tags and all. Still, just the thought of the irony of my cousin procrastinating like that lifts my spirits a bit.
I've barely started unpacking when I'm surprised by a knock on my door. At first, my heart leaps in hope, or perhaps in fear, that it's Hanako. However, a second knock confirms that it's not her, nor anyone else I know well.
Unless, of course, that's also changed.
I hang up the blouse in my hand and make my way to the door. "Who is it?"
An unfamiliar voice responds, "Miss Satou? My name is Keiko Kobayakawa, on behalf of President Hakamichi. She would like to speak with you."
Calling to mind the quite appropriate proverb: it never rains, but it pours.
I open the door and bow, saying, "Pleased to meet you, Kobayakawa. Is Miss Hakamichi with you, then?"
"She is," Kobayakawa replies. "I will be serving as translator for President Hakamichi this afternoon."
"If it wouldn't be impolite to ask, where is Miss Mikado?"
After a somewhat lengthy pause, Kobayakawa replies, "She is...unwilling to translate certain portions of the message President Hakamichi is intending to convey, Miss Satou. I was...recruited in her place."
So, my cousin wants to talk about Hisao again. Perhaps I shouldn't have opened the door after all.
"Also, please excuse my frequent delays during translation, as my skill with sign language is still rudimentary. Many of President Hakamichi's messages must be written out for me."
Shizune must want to talk to me quite badly if she's willing to use her notepad. Perhaps I can relieve both of them of such unpleasantness. "If you do not wish to be here, Kobayakawa, then you may leave. Hakamichi and I can communicate with each other at need, unless she finds it entirely distasteful to touch me." The last phrase I add with a slight smile, but Kobayakawa doesn't react.
"I am honored to work with President Hakamichi," she says with no small measure of pride. That in itself strikes me as odd, but then from her comportment Kobayakawa seems not entirely unlike my cousin. "My reticence is due only to my lack of skill. Also, President Hakamichi expressed concern over a lack of recent practice between the two of you in such communication."
"In that case," I say with a smile, "you may inform Miss Hakamichi that if such a thing is an impediment to our communication, it will not be because of me."
After another extended pause, Kobayakawa says, "President Hakamichi was intending to allow you to defer further conversation due to your obvious recent emotional distress. However, she now says that if you are well enough to issue such an obvious challenge to her, she can do nothing but accept. Therefore, at President Hakamichi's request, I will withdraw and leave you to converse privately." The last sentence is delivered with a bow, and I silently congratulate them both on their deft maneuver. "It was a pleasure to meet with you, Miss Satou."
"You as well, Miss Kobayakawa," I reply, mirroring her bow. I hear footsteps moving down the hall, followed by the sound of my door closing. A moment later, I feel a familiar, yet long-absent pair of hands take mine firmly. That sensation is followed by another one, also long-absent.
<Are you certain this is how you want to do this?>
The message is transmitted in short, sharp, clear strokes, which I understand to be a hallmark of all my cousin's movements. <It has been a long time, hasn't it?> I reply. <However, the discussion I believe you wish to have is one that should be kept private.>
<True enough. In that case, I will try and be straightforward. I know you will consider this prying, but please tell me why you insist on not attempting to reconcile with Hisao.>
Straight to the point, as always.
Still, I admit to some curiosity. The last I knew, Shizune thought our match to be a poor one. <Why is that so important to you?> I ask.
<Because you are my cousin, and you were happy when you were with him.>
That answer is so unexpected I almost miss the last few words. I pause for a moment before responding, <Your concern for my well-being is appreciated. However, I would prefer that chapter of my life to remain closed.>
<So you said earlier. Is this for Hanako's sake?>
At least I expected that one.
I don't know how much my cousin has learned through the rather literal game of telephone, so I decide to demur. <I said that I want it to remain closed. That should be enough.>
<Enough for me? Or for you?> Shizune pauses for a moment before continuing, <Never mind. I'm not going to allow you to bait me further today. You know I normally wouldn't ask about this, but I know something's going on, and you look like it's tearing you to pieces. If there's anything I can do to help, tell me.>
<Thank you,> I reply, still a bit puzzled at this sudden show of concern. <Perhaps I will. If I may ask, what brought this on?>
<I would say that both of our siblings had a hand in it. Your sister and my brother are quite close,> Shizune hesitates for a moment before adding, <much like you and I once were. I only realized how much I had lost when you'd already left.> Before I can respond, she continues, <But, that is for another time. Regarding my earlier question, I believe Misha already told me the answer to that. How sure are you that they will get together, then?>
<What do you mean?>
<You are aware that Emi Ibarazaki has also been seen with Hisao, and that they were seen kissing several days ago.> When I shift slightly at the last part, Shizune continues, <So you understand, if you do decline, it may not be in favor of Hanako at all.>
<I wasn't aware, but I don't think it changes anything, since Hisao doesn't feel that way about me anymore.>
<Don't be so sure. Love doesn't go away so easily. I...> Shizune doesn't finish her thought, but in that brief moment, in the intensity of the gestures, I felt the presence of Aunt Mayoi in her daughter. My mother used to tell me stories of how she was the only one of the Satous to support her marriage to my father, and her belief in the everlasting nature of love that backed that support. When Shizune resumes signing, though, the moment has passed. <I know you're aware of Hisao's heart condition. I learned about it some time ago from Hideaki.>
The memory of the day Hideaki deduced that, the day of my first date with Hisao, is as vivid as ever. I wouldn't put it past my cousin to have brought it up purposefully for that very reason. Pushing the thought out of my mind, I reply, <What about it?>
Shizune's grip on my hands tightens as she signs even more tersely, <Ibarazaki is careless. I have always believed that she will seriously injure someone someday, and in Hisao's case, that could easily have grave consequences. The two of them together would be an accident waiting to happen.>
Shizune's words strike my heart, as I remember Emi running Hisao over shortly after his arrival at Yamaku. Still, I find my cousin's words a bit harsher than necessary. <That's debatable. Of course, it is Hisao's decision to make, and while I may wish for a match with Hanako, I don't believe one with Emi would be quite the disaster you're proposing.>
Shizune's grip intensifies further for a split second, but then I hear her exhale heavily and all the tension disappears just as quickly. <Normally, I would enjoy that debate. However, I can see that you are tired, and would not be a worthy opponent, so I will let the matter drop for today. Think about what I said, and perhaps you will change your mind.>
<You've certainly given me plenty to think about,> I say, as the pouring continues. <We should talk again soon.>
<I look forward to it. Until then.>
With that, Shizune withdraws her hands from mine, and a moment later, the door opens and closes again. I sit down on my bed, feeling a bit at a loss at what's just happened. I never expected my first normal conversation with my cousin in over a year to come under these circumstances, but I'm not about to complain.
I do wonder what kind of influence Misha has had on our conversations, though...
I did learn something else important from my cousin during that conversation. I had nearly forgotten that Emi Ibarazaki was also pursuing Hisao, and the revelation that they've kissed as well is troubling. I had thought that Hanako and Hisao were at least unofficially a couple, especially once they came to the airport together, but it seems I was wrong. Perhaps...
Perhaps you should find out if Hisao still has feelings for you after all?
I quickly dismiss that thought from my mind. The last thing I need to be doing right now is deluding myself. Knowing I still need to rest, I lie down and try once will to sleep, but my mind will not stop. Once again, it teases me, telling me to find Hisao's music box again to help me relax, but I can't give in to that, either.
There is...ONE other person that might help me handle this.
I roll over and check my alarm clock, and its electronic voice says "Eight...oh-three...PM." That would be just past noon in Inverness, which means Akira might be at lunch, assuming she even gets to take lunches these days. I pull out my phone, which I made sure was still active while I was in Tokyo, and dial my sister's cell phone. There isn't even time for a second ring before she picks up.
"Heya, Lils, I didn't think I'd be hearing from you again so soon. What's up?"
"Akira...do you have time to talk?"
There is a brief silence before Akira says, "Whoa, you don't sound too good, sis. Everything okay?"
I sigh at that. "If it was, I wouldn't need to talk to you again so soon."
"Yeah, gotcha. Tell ya what, if we're going to be that serious, I don't want to do it here. I'll head down to that café you told me about and call ya back in ten. That work?"
"That should be fine, and thank you."
"No prob. Talk to ya in a bit."
I hang up the phone and return to work at unpacking. Even with that distraction, it feels like much more than ten minutes before my phone rings. "It took you long enough," I say teasingly.
"Yeah, well, this place gets damn busy at lunch time," Akira responds, clear evidence of that in the background. "So, why exactly are
you calling me again? Some problem with your stuff not getting there?"
"No, nothing quite so ordinary, I'm afraid. A lot of things happened today, and I think I just wanted to hear a friendly voice."
"Huh, things not all peachy over there either, eh?"
"Akira, don't..." I start, but stop myself, because I was about to snap at my sister for no real reason other than that she was being herself. Also, she did say "either," which reminds me that she's not exactly in an ideal situation herself. I let out a deep breath and start again. "No, they aren't. I wasn't exactly expecting to step right in and pick up where I left off, but...a lot more has changed than I expected."
"Well, sis, like I said, a week's a long time. Two's even longer. You wanna bring me up to speed?"
"I suppose I should, especially since some of it is your fault."
"Now what's that supposed to mean?"
"I just had a talk with Shizune, who was asking me some rather...uncomfortable questions. It seems someone
told her brother some things about my decision to come back to Yamaku that I'd rather she hadn't."
"Ah, well," Akira says, sounding suitably embarrassed, "you know how Shortie is, forever curious. A lot like his sister in that regard, I guess. I didn't expect things would get passed on to her so quickly. What was she asking about, anyway?"
"Apparently, when you told Hideaki that I was coming back here to undo some of the damage I'd done, she assumed that I meant my relationship with Hisao."
"Serio...no, wait, that actually makes sense, doesn't it? Let me guess, she's trying to convince you not to get back together with him, right?"
"Surprisingly, it was quite the opposite. She wanted to encourage me to rekindle things." I can't help but laugh at how absurd that sounds.
Akira whistles softly. "So Shizune's pushing you to get back together with the kid, huh? I thought she was dead set against the idea."
"So did I. I even used to wonder if she had designs on Hisao herself since she was so adamant about it." I sigh heavily, both from the memory and from the weight of today. "Still, I can't deny that she was right about one thing. I was
happy when I was with Hisao."
...but was he happy when he was with me?
I can hear Akira shifting restlessly over the din in the café behind her. "So whaddya want me to say, sis? You want me to disagree with her? Can't do that, really. You want me to tell you everything'll be fine? Well, I'll be damned if any of us know that. You want me to tell you that you made the right decision, or hell, even that you made the wrong
decision? Can't do that, either. The only one who can decide that is you."
"You pushed me into this decision, Akira..."
"Whoa...stop right there. I did no such thing. All I did was get you to consider something outside the box that you put yourself in. Once that happened, I didn't need to push. You just ran with it."
I sigh in frustration. "Yes, but I wouldn't have come back without your encouragement."
"Well, yeah, of course
I encouraged you. I could see you were breaking down, and I knew that if you stayed here you weren't going to have anyone that could help you through that. Mom's got her work, and mine just got a whole lot more time-consuming. Who was going to help you out? Your mobility instructor? So, yeah, I encouraged you to remember you had friends, that you had people you told me were like family to you. I know it's rough now, but I also know you'll be better off in the long run. And so do you."
"You're probably right," I say, laughing a bit bitterly. "It's just a bit hard to see that right now."
"Just give it time, Lils. Hey, it's still your first full day back, right? You know, striking out on your own can be a scary thing. Hell, I never really did it myself. Here I am, twenty-five goddamn years old, and I'm still leaning on my family. Be proud of yourself that you got there before your older sister did."
"I am grateful to you for that, Akira, so don't beat yourself up over it."
"Yeah, I know, but like I told Hisao, life doesn't always go the way you want it to go. That's true even if you do everything exactly the way you're supposed to – maybe even especially
if. Now, if that were all that was bothering you, you wouldn't have been so upset when you called. What else is going on back there?"
Now that it comes to it, I suddenly find myself reluctant to talk about it. Still, that is why I wanted to talk to my sister, so I'm rather bound to it. "Hanako and I had a...well, a falling out
There is a long silence on the other end of the line, and if not for the ambient noise I'd think we'd been disconnected. Finally, Akira says, "About...what, exactly?"
I sigh again. "Before Shizune and I had our talk here, we had a brief one at the Shanghai, and Hanako overheard part of it."
"So, now Hanako thinks you want to get back together with him? Shit, that's..."
"No," I say with a forced laugh, "that
would be something I could handle. What she wants is...is to help me with the pain of still having feelings for him."
Akira chuckles, which nearly causes me to hang up the phone in her ear. "Yeah, you could cut the irony with a knife there, couldn't you? So, let me guess, you couldn't do it?"
"Damn it, Akira, just...could you
talk about how much you love someone with another person who's in love with him herself?"
"Yeah, sorry, that's a good point. I've never been in that situation, and I wouldn't wanna be. Anyway, it sounds like you were right about a lot changing when you were gone. I don't know that I coulda pictured Hanako doing something like that."
"Me either, at least not so soon. I'm starting to wonder if...well, if maybe she doesn't really need me anymore."
"Don't be stupid, sis. Of course she needs you. But you know what? It sounds like you need her, too. Isn't that how it's supposed to be?"
"How...what's supposed to be?"
I hear Akira sigh in what sounds like frustration. "Lils, remember what you told me what our father said, about finding your own path and being less dependent? Being independent doesn't mean not needing help. It means being able to seek out help when you do
need it, and not depending on someone to come and give it to you. Someone tried to give it to you anyway, and you rejected it. So, here's your chance. I'll bet she'd be thrilled to death if you came to her."
She would, wouldn't she? I imagine it's what she's been waiting for me to do since I returned.
"You know, I'm really
getting tired of you being right," I answer, and Akira laughs. "I think it might just be too soon. I need some time to think about things."
"Yeah, that wouldn't hurt, but don't take too
long. Sounds like you might be able to fix this, but it isn't something you're gonna fix in a day, and the sooner you get started, the better."
"Yes, it's not a tea set, is it?"
"Nothing, I think I'm just...tired. I don't think I've slept properly in a week."
"Ouch...yeah, with the way you handle traveling, that's gotta be rough. Yeah, get a good night's sleep, your mind'll be fresh in the morning."
"I've been trying all day, but I keep thinking about everything..."
"Yeah, that happens to me a lot. How do you think I became so good at picking out wine? Now, see, there's one reason you should've stayed over here: we could be sharing those bottles of wine legally
I laugh at that, and for one precious moment, I feel like Akira is here with me again. Sadly, it passes quickly, and when it does I feel more alone than ever. "Legal or not, I really hope we can do things like that again someday soon. I do miss you, Akira."
"Trust me, Lils, the feeling's very much mutual. Now, I'd better get going, or our father the boss will be all over my ass. You take care of yourself, sis, you got that?"
"I will, and you do the same."
"Heh...yeah, I'll try. Give me a call when your stuff gets there."
"I will. Talk to you then."
I hang up the phone and place it on the nightstand. I feel a bit like I stepped into a whirlwind today, and I'm certainly not in Kansas anymore. I don't think I quite want to brave that again just yet, but Akira is right that I should try soon. However, I realize that there's another storm I've nearly forgotten I needed to brave. I promised Hisao I'd call him tonight.
Perhaps I should start building an ark.
After everything that was stirred up today, I almost decide to defer our meeting, but something inside of me tells me I need to do this as soon as possible, too. I was also supposed to talk to Hanako about it, but I never had the chance. Perhaps, under the circumstances, I shouldn't worry about that. I pick up my phone again and dial the familiar number. The phone rings twice before the familiar voice connected to it answers. "Hello?"
"Good evening, Hisao."