Hisao visibly relaxes as we get out into the open air. I guess an apology is in order. “Sorry.”
“For bringing up your heart with so many people around.”
“Oh… It’s not a big deal.”
I scoff. “It seemed like a big deal back there. You looked like you were about to die of embarrassment, or-“
“Okay, okay, you’re right. I…” He sighs a long, heavy sigh. “I don’t tell a lot of people about my condition.”
“You told me quickly enough.”
“Well, yeah, but it was only so that you would understand why I can’t join the running team.”
“But that turned out okay, right? I mean, it’s not like telling me has made me hate you or anything.”
“I guess so, but…” He stares at the ground, rubbing the back of his neck, for a few seconds before giving up and shrugging.
“Well, either way, last night I was thinking about what you said. You mentioned that you couldn’t run, but walking would be sufficient exercise, right?”
“I may have some exercise for you.”
He perks up a bit at the idea. “Oh?”
“Yeah. See, there’s a track meet two weeks from now, so I’m trying to get some extra running in after school. To make sure I don’t hurt anything, though, I’m supposed to walk a few laps when I’m done. Problem is, I really hate walking to cool down.” It sounds dumb, but I always get really impatient when I’m walking and it’s not getting me anywhere. Running is exhilarating, and it’s great exercise, and it feels nice, but walking… “Anyways, I figured that if anyone could help me actually do the walking, it would be you.”
He’s surprised. “Me? Why me?”
“Because, Hisao, you
are going to talk to me while I do the cooldown laps.”
“Talk to you? Like, motivation?” I laugh a bit, oh man, I’d love to see that. Motivational speeches from the guy who frowns when he gets a question right in class.
“No, nothing like that, just hold a normal conversation with me while I walk. We could talk about… I don’t know. Just something
to keep me from dying of boredom.”
“Oh, okay. And to talk to you, I’ll have to be walking with you, so I get the exercise from it… That’s not a bad idea.”
“So you’ll do it?”
“Yeah, I guess… When would it be?”
“I get finished running at around 5 each day, so if you show up to the track then, I’ll be just about done.”
“Sure, but, uh… I’m not sure I can come today.”
“That’s fine, I’m not running today, I’m still kind of tired from the festival. But we’ll start tomorrow, right?” Besides, it’s not like I’d expect him to show up on only a few hours’ notice.
“Yeah, tomorrow, sounds good!”
“Cool, see you then!”
The second half of today’s lectures were about as exciting as the first, minus Hisao saving my hide. That’s okay, though; I’m not really sure I can handle exciting at the moment, the fatigue from staying up last night is still wearing on me, and I’m tired enough that I should probably just go to bed. Getting some extra sleep can’t hurt; after all, I’ve got a lot of running to do tomorrow, and then-
“Hey, wait!” I turn around to see Suzu waving after me.
“Oh, hey Suzu.”
She mock pouts, and puts her hands on her hips. “You were just going to leave without telling what happened at lunch today?”
Lunch? “Oh, that. I had to ask Hisao if he wanted to do cooldown laps with me tomorrow.”
“Really? You couldn’t just have asked him that at the table instead of leaving together?”
“No, I couldn’t.” I hadn’t thought about it before, but this conversation is getting dangerously close to the subject of Hisao’s condition.
“Why couldn’t you?” Well there we go.
It’s strange, ordinarily I wouldn’t worry about this sort of thing; after all, it’s just Hisao’s disability. We all have one, here at Yamaku. It’s a part of anyone who goes to the school. And yet… It feels like it would be wrong to tell anybody. Maybe it’s because Hisao’s so worried about it, but then again, that’s his problem, not mine. One way or another, though, I just can’t bring myself to just come out to Suzu about it. “It’s kind of a long story.”
“The kind of long story that you have time to tell me anyways?”
“No, the kind of long story that I can’t tell you because I’m going to bed as soon as I get back to my room, because I’m really tired.”
“What? You- Oh, right, you were up late. Well, be sure to tell me tomorrow, okay?”
I'm not so sure about 'tomorrow', but I'm too tired to argue about it right now, so I grunt in agreement before continuing to my room. If there was any doubt about going to bed early, it’s been settled. I’m sure that everything will be much easier to deal with tomorrow, when I’m not really tired. I change into my nightclothes and turn out the lights to discover that it’s early enough that my room is still well-lit by the sun. Pulling the curtains across my window, I curl up in under my sheets and try not to think about anything as unconsciousness slowly takes me.
Eventually I wake up and open my eyes to… Black, apparently. Blinking a few times, I manage to make out the contours of my room. That’s strange… Looking at my alarm clock, it’s only 1 in the morning, far from when I should be up. Why would I ever be up at-
“Ah!” I gasp reflexively as a sharp tingling sensation hits my left hand.
As I lift my left arm up in front of my eyes, I can see that it still ends in a rounded stump, like it has for the past few years. Not caring a bit what my eyes say, my left hand starts to clench, getting tighter and tighter, until it feels like it’s burning.
Well, no point in trying to sleep with this going on. Getting out of bed and walking over to my closet, I rummage through it until I reach a familiar black hoodie and a black pair of sweatpants.
You want to play this game again, huh?
Then let’s play.
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