June reached its end shortly after my first date with Shiraishi. Every week hence, he gave me a list of words and phrases that he wanted to know, and I cordially agreed to film them for him. He insisted that he would be happy to compensate me for every lot of signs that I filmed, but I assured him that his enthusiasm was the greatest reward I could ask for. He decided to pay me back without my permission anyway by making and bringing me lunch every time we worked together.

The first time he did it, I couldn't help but laugh. "What did your mom and sister say when they saw you making this?"

He avoided eye contact with me. "Truth be told, they asked who it was for."

"And what did you tell them?"

He pretended not to hear me.

I found the time to make videos for Shiraishi in between work, driving school, and occasional hangouts with the other members of the Chemistry Support Group (RIP). I'd never had any prior experience with filming, so I started off by sitting my phone on an uneven stack of books, using a couple of match boxes to get the angle just right. If I was filming at night—which I did often—I'd use a desk lamp to brighten my shot.

While hanging out with Koyama, Endo and Junko one day (Shiraishi had to work), Koyama got an eyeful of me trying to edit my poorly-shot videos together using a no-name program that I'd downloaded from the internet. He cringed for a full ten minutes before deciding to reach out and offer his assistance on my little side project.

"You know how to do this stuff?" I asked, gesturing at the no-name program that was open on my computer. "How?"

"I used to make multimedia resources for my mom's classes." He said. "Filming and editing videos were part of the deal."

"What kind of resources did you make?"

He chose not to justify himself with a response.

Koyama suggested that we go to the department store to pick up some new equipment, and Endo and Junko—who were playing Quarter Life 2 in an effort to reacquaint themselves with the series prior to the release of its forthcoming sequel—decided to tag along to get some food. Koyama helped me pick out a cheap (but good) camera and a tripod. When we got back to his house, he gave me video editing lessons. I commented several times on how he truly was a bag of unexpected tricks; but he tried to stay humble by saying things like, "I've really only scratched the surface of video editing, though."

He said this while seamlessly cutting a five-minute video down to a two-minute one.

Out of the kindness of his heart, Koyama donated his editing software and old gaming microphone to my cause. Once he'd installed the software on my computer, he showed me how to use it: he showed me shortcuts, and told me all the terminology I needed to know. I'd never really been the greatest with computers, but by some miracle (or simply as a result of Koyama's patience and wisdom), I managed to get the hang of editing. In due time, I actually started to find it strangely relaxing. I started to enjoy editing in my free time, and often did it when my mother was too busy cooking, cleaning or watching manzai skits to socialise with me.

It eventually started to pique her interest—the fact that her daughter, who had very little interest in technology, was spending most of her free time in front of a computer. I suppose her curiosity got the better of her in the end. She decided to ask me one night, "What are you doing?"

I explained to her that I was making videos for a friend.

She took a closer look at the edited video that I was in the process of quality-checking. "Is that sign language?"

"You remember my date from the other day, don't you?" I reminded her. I didn't even need to say Shiraishi's name for my mother to know immediately who I was talking about. "I'm teaching him sign language."

The suggestive look that she'd been wearing dropped. "Why?"

I shrugged. "He asked me if I could teach him."

She raised a sceptical eyebrow at me. "Why?"

I shrugged again. "I don't know. He wanted to learn another language, so I offered to teach him JSL."

She looked even more sceptical. "Does he have any deaf relatives? Or friends that are deaf?"

"Nope." I signed. She looked at me like she didn't believe me. "No, really. He's one of those rare people who does things solely for the benefit and comfort of other people. He lives to be a good human being."

"Those people still exist?"

"I wouldn't have believed it myself if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes."

For a moment, my mother didn't make a motion to sign anything. When I scrutinised her expression a little more closely, I realised that her eyes were glazed over. Although she would have never admitted it out loud, I supposed that she must have been touched by the lengths that Shiraishi was going to learn sign language. I could understand why, too: in her experience, the only person who had ever made the effort to learn it without throwing up a fuss had been my father—but even then, he'd had an incentive to want to learn. In my mother's eyes, the act of learning sign language for the benefit of other people was simply unheard of.

After a long pause, my mother signed, "Can I be of use somehow?"

I gave the matter a bit of thought. "You could film yourself signing. Kuranosuke-kun gives me a list of words and phrases that he wants to learn every week, so if I give you the camera, you can film the signs over the week and bring the footage back to me next Friday. I'll edit it all together for you."

"Will you teach me how to edit videos?" She asked with a resolute look on her face.

I smiled. "I usually don't take students, but I guess I can make an exception."

My mother was just as much of a rookie as I was with technology. She'd done a bit of photography in her time, so she was familiar with the process of setting up a camera, as well as how to actually use it. It took a bit more time to show her how to transfer footage to the computer, and even more effort to show her how to edit and render videos to Shiraishi's USB. Still, she had her heart set on mastering a new skill, so she persevered with much patience and few complaints.

Before she went back to Mihama at the week's end, we went to Daimaru. I splashed out on a new laptop for my mother, using the savings that I'd accumulated from working at the florist. My mother said we should use my father's credit card to pay, but I insisted on footing the bill—Shiraishi was my friend, after all. Besides, I wanted to feel like I was working adult every now and then. In the end, she conceded.

We returned home at the end of a long day, sore-footed but successful in finding the perfect deal. I installed Koyama's editing software onto my mother's new computer and sent her off at the station on Sunday morning with a brand new laptop, second-hand filming equipment, and Shiraishi's list of words and phrases for the week. She had everything that she needed to make the videos, although she said she'd leave the narration for me. She said she would have felt bad, had she left me with absolutely nothing to do.

When I went back to work the following morning to open the shop with Shiraishi, I had to inform him that, due to certain circumstances, I wasn't able to give him any new videos for the week. He was very understanding about it, for all the wrong reasons.

"I understand completely, -san." He said very seriously. "I, of course, do not wish to cut into your limited free time any more than I already have. Please, go at your own leisure—don't feel the need to rush to make them."

I laughed at how well-rehearsed his apology was. How many weeks had he spent preparing that little speech? "On the contrary, I have plenty of time to spare—but you could say that my duties were, ah, usurped."

He looked concerned. "By who?"

"My mother." I said, taking him by surprise. "When she saw what I was doing—and for who—she felt the need to chip in. She took all my equipment back with her to Mihama, but I expect she'll be back this Friday with your videos."

The very thought brought a smile to Shiraishi's face. "In that case, I look forward to it."

As expected, my mother came back the following week with a fully-edited batch of projects. After I recorded narration over the top of each video, I exported the finished products to Shiraishi's USB and handed them over to him when we opened together that Monday. He thanked me profusely for all my hard work and effort. As he gave me my next list for the week (which happened to be almost twice as long as it normally was), he asked if I also wouldn't mind passing on his thanks to my mother. I promised that I would, and he smiled in response.

It became sort of a routine—Shiraishi giving me his list of words, me passing the list onto my mother, my mother filming and editing the videos before returning them to me, and the two of us putting the final touches on the videos before passing them back onto Shiraishi, who gave us a new list in turn. After a couple of weeks, Shiraishi's progress with sign language accelerated, and before long, we spent more time conversing with signs than we did with conventional words. It was fun when it was just the two of us in the mornings: Shiraishi would be out the back going through new stock, while I manned the counter, in case any customers came by. On the occasion that Shiraishi needed something from me, he would make the effort to come out front to sign at me instead of just calling at me from the back. He always had such a bright look on his face when we conversed that way—not unlike a kid in a candy store.

When July came, I decided to take my driving test and (somehow) managed to pass. The very moment I reported to Satou that I had my licence, she decided to start training me on delivery. She showed me how to secure the flowers in the back of the car, and she took me on supervised deliveries for a week to make sure I had the protocol positively down-pat. That week, I spent a lot of time in the car with Satou. I was initially nervous about having to spend so much time with my boss, but I eased up when she made the effort to talk to me.

"Now, -chan, if this week goes by without a hitch, I'll have you and Masaki-san handle deliveries for a while." She said.

"That's fine." I said. "I'm happy to help in any way I can."

"Oh, it's so nice to finally have someone else on delivery." She said, giving a long, drawn-out sigh. "I'm so happy you have your licence now, -chan."

I laughed politely.

Since I had the tendency to enjoy mind-numbing tasks, I came to enjoy delivery—well, as much as I possibly could without having someone like Shiraishi around to keep me entertained. That wasn't to say that I didn't enjoy doing deliveries with Masaki—he was very knowledgeable about music and often had something to say about the songs that came up on the radio—but his fun facts about tunes and musicians didn't quite measure up to all the quirky little things I'd come to love about Shiraishi.

Since neither of us were taking summer classes, I now no longer had an excuse to see him every single day. On top of that, the fact that I now worked delivery often meant that our shifts didn't align anymore—which, in turn, meant that I never really saw him as much as I used to. There was no denying that I'd always found him to be a bit of an oddball, but I never realised how much I missed having him around until the reality actually happened.

After a particularly long day at work one evening, I finished my shift in a daze and caught the train back home. When I checked my phone on the way back from the station, I found a message waiting for me on LINE. It was from Shiraishi: he'd send me a sticker of Brown saying, "Good job!"

Laughing, I sent back the Moon equivalent. Then I wrote, "How was your day?"

He wrote back, "Good. I'm training a new part-timer." Then he sent a sticker of James wearing shades.

I sent back a startled Moon. "We have a new part-timer?!"

"He's in his second year of high school. He's very quiet, but he works well." He wrote back, coupled with a sticker of a Cony sitting at a desk, appearing to be hard at work. "How is delivery?"

"That's good to hear." I said, sending him a sticker of a cheerful James. "And delivery is okay. The driving part I don't mind, but it's kind of lonely."

He sent back a depressed-looking James.

These days we spent most of our time talking on LINE, since we hardly saw each other on a day to day basis. At least once a week—usually on a Monday—we made the effort to meet up after work for dinner at a family restaurant called Cheers. We would begin proceedings by swapping sign language resources—I would return Shiraishi's USB to him, and he would give me a new list of grammar points that he wanted to learn (he'd started to put less emphasis on words and phrases). After we'd gotten the pleasantries out of the way, we would order food and then spend hours catching up, despite having very little need to catch one another up on anything at all, thanks to our daily conversations via LINE. Somehow, we never managed to run out of things to talk about—well, at least, Shiraishi never did. Most of our conversations consisted of him telling a story, and me simply watching him talk, somehow entranced by the way he looked so excited about something so small or so simple. When he talked about the flower shop or his family; or whenever he showed me some new signs that he'd learned, he'd always look so full of life. He talked without letting stammers or changes in thought patterns cut up his speech. I guess part of me started to really appreciate how relaxed he seemed, since I knew just how much effort it took to make someone like him feel comfortable in his surrounding environment.

On a Monday at the start of August, Shiraishi and I met up at our usual joint for dinner. As had gradually become the norm, we started off by exchanging pleasantries in sign language and trying to catch one another up on what had been happening in the past week. After our food arrived and we ate, we reverted briefly to verbal speech, since it was a more practical means of communication than attempting to sign while holding a pair of chopsticks. After we finished our meal, we ordered tea (for Shiraishi) and coffee (for me) and kicked back.

Over his cup of herbal tea, Shiraishi began an anecdote. "You know, I was working front of house the other day when a man came into the store."

He piqued my curiosity. "Oh?"

"As with any other customer, I offered my assistance—I said, "Hello, sir, do you need any help?". I said it more than once, but each time I said it, he would just smile at me and continue browsing. So I thought to give him some space, but every now and then, he would gesture towards a flower. I would ask him, "Would you like one of these, sir?" But then he would just pause, smile and move on again. It was such a sad smile." Shiraishi said. I could imagine what kind of smile it must have been.

"It was after perhaps the second time that he smiled and moved on again that it occurred to me: maybe he wasn't responding because he either couldn't hear or couldn't understand what I was saying." He went on. "The man was gesturing towards a spray of roses when I signed at him, "Would you like these ones, sir?" And then at the drop of a hat, that smile fell. His eyes were wide and so full of shock—he was like a deer in the headlines, -san." He started to tear up as he recalled the experience. "Then he started signing back at me. He told me that he had come to buy flowers for his wife, whose birthday it was today. He knew that his deafness might cause problems, but he had no friends or family that he could rely on to help him. The only people in his life who could speak JSL were his wife—whom he was to surprise—and his children, who lived too far away to help. He said that, despite having no one to rely on, he figured that he might as well wing it."

I listened intently as Shiraishi went on, telling me that the man had been surprised to see a part-timer in a small florist sign at him. "He asked me if I knew anyone else who was deaf. I told him, "Not directly, no." I told him that I was learning from you—another part-timer—whose mother was deaf, and he... he just glowed. He seemed so surprised to have met someone with no direct connection to the deaf community, despite knowing how to speak JSL."

"I wouldn't say that it's exactly common for someone to happen to know how to sign." I said lightly. "But I like that you happen to be the exception."

Though Shiraishi's usual response to my compliment would have been a large smile, a bashful laugh or a plain-and-simple blush, he reacted in no such way this time. He looked pensive, and it took him a few moments before he finally spoke: "You know something, -san?"

"What is it?"

"The saddest part about sign language is the look you get when you use it on others for the first time." He said slowly. "They look so surprised, as though they never expected someone to greet them in their own language. They look so pleased, so overjoyed—and yet, they look so sad. Even the man from the other day looked so..."

Hearing Shiraishi recount his story made me think of the way my own mother began to tear up when she'd heard about his endeavours to learn sign language for no particular reason other than wanting to be an inclusive and open-minded person with the desire and capacity to communicate with a wider demographic.

"I think I know what you mean—not in the exact same way, but I think I know what you mean." I said. "For what it's worth, Kuranosuke-kun, you're doing a good thing. I think you've managed to make a big difference in the lives of a few people in just a couple of short months. Some might be even closer to you than you think."

His slow but sure smile was accompanied by a pinkish tint on his cheeks.

- x -

Satou managed to hire another full-time employee a few weeks later. His name was Takagi, and he was something of a NEET. He had his Bachelor's in Biology, but he'd never successfully managed to net a full-time job at a relevant company. He had come across the advert for a full-time position at the florist a couple of days before working up the courage to ask about it in-store. He'd had very little experience with a florist's work, but he—like Shiraishi—knew a lot about plants. As he became a more proficient worker under the supervision of Hotori and Shiraishi, Satou took down the job advert in the window.

We finally had enough staff that Shiraishi started getting more days off. Though he still worked at the florist almost every day, the number of hours he worked were less illegal; and he rarely got called in to help on his days off. The other members of the Chemistry Support Group (RIP) and I made bets on what Shiraishi would do with his newfound spare time: Endo bet that Shiraishi had taken a new plant under his wing; Koyama bet that Shiraishi had found an injured rhinoceros beetle and was probably fighting the will to raise it; Junko bet that he would continue going to the shop to help out anyway, having nothing better to do. I bet that he would dedicate more time to learning new signs.

But bets aside, none of us could really confirm what Shiraishi did with his spare time. He hung out with us often enough at Koyama's house (it was the most that Junko, Endo and Koyama had seen of Shiraishi all summer); but when confronted with the question of what he did with all his extra hours, he simply denied that he was doing any special while sweating profusely. No one believed him, of course, but we couldn't manage to squeeze the secret out of him. Junko tried on several occasions: sometimes she did it subtly by slipping it into the conversation (though she often failed to make him trip the wire); other times, she blatantly asked what Shiraishi did with all his newfound free time.

According to Junko, he often shot nervous looks at me from the corner of his eye when confronted with her questions. I never saw the supposed looks, despite physically being in the same room as Shiraishi, but Junko swore it was true. I had every reason to want to believe her, although I'd never been willing to admit it out loud until Junko backed me into a corner one fateful morning.

"I don't know if you're blind or you're just trying to deny it." She said out of the blue while we were hanging out one morning. She was about to go to work, and I'd made plans to meet up with Shiraishi afterwards.

"I have no idea what you're talking about." I said, confused by the lack of context she'd given me on the matter. "What am I blind to?"

She gave a long, drawn-out sigh. "What's your type, ?"

"My type—you mean, concerning people?"

"Yeah. Like your ideal partner."

I blinked, not quite sure how to immediately respond. "I don't know... someone genuine, with compatible interests and hobbies. I always just figured that I'd fall for whoever I happened to fall for. Why do you ask?"

"Do you have anyone that you like at the moment?"

I eyed her suspiciously. "What do you plan to do with this information?"

She looked confused. "So... you do like someone?"

I looked back at her, equally as confused. "Why do you look confused?"

"I just didn't expect to win so easily." Junko said. She paused to take a sip of coffee, and I did the same. Almost as soon as she swallowed, she asked, "Is it Kura-chan?"

I choked on my own coffee. "Is it really that obvious?"

She grinned. "You could say that."


"Let's see: you talk about him a lot, lately you've been complimenting him five times more than usual, you two have your own secret language that you talk in..."

"JSL happens to be a recognised language spoken by many, many people."

She waved me off. "I know, I know. But it's so cute watching you two speak to each other in sign language. It's like, whenever Kura-chan goes to the kitchen to make drinks for everyone, he asks all of us verbally, but then he asks you in sign language."

"He's just practising." I said.

"Practising for what?" Junko asked. "Do you really think he learns sign language just because he's a genuine and noble person?"

"Yes." I said simply.

She paused. "... Yeah, okay, you're right—but that's not the point. As well as being a genuine and noble person, I think he really enjoys talking to you in sign language because it's just this... this thing that the two of you have—something that no one else in the general vicinity of you guys can get in on."

"You could if you tried." I pointed out.

"Yeah, but where would the fun in that be? I wouldn't get to poke fun at you guys and your secret signs anymore." She said. "Anyway, back to the point. Are you gonna tell him?"

"Wait—why would I wanna do that?" I asked, drawing up the horse and carriage. Junko raised a sceptical eyebrow at me. "Okay, so maybe I like Kuranosuke-kun—that much is obvious to you. But can I be so sure that he'll reciprocate? We've already established that he's too nice for his own good."

"You'd be stupid not to say anything—trust me." Junko said. "Kura-chan clearly—"

Then she stopped talking. It wasn't even that she'd done a double-take: she'd consciously begun to say the sentence, and then stopped herself halfway through.

I looked at her suspiciously. "He clearly what?"

"Nothing." She said, clearly not meaning nothing.

Eager to change the subject, I said, "Why are you so invested in all of this, anyway?"

Junko sighed loudly. "Because one of these days, I'd really like Kura-chan to stop telling me how great you are and start telling you how great you are." She seemed so exasperated and so caught up in her own story that she hardly seemed to notice me going red in the face. "Of course I know how great you are—does he think I'm stupid? Does he think I wouldn't be friends with someone I didn't think was great? Like, okay, Kura-chan, I like too, but Quarter Life 3 just came out and Endo's at work and I really need to talk to someone about Quarter Life 3."

I couldn't bring myself to laugh; I was too busy trying to hide my embarrassment when, in an effort to change the subject once more, I said, "Tell me more about Quarter Life 3."

"Thank you." Junko said.

She ranted about Quarter Life 3 until she had to leave for work. She made me swear up and down that I would at least consider telling Shiraishi how I felt, and that our conversation today should have told me something about how he might react. She'd left me with enough hints to presume that maybe, just maybe, he really did feel the same way about me. I didn't want to entertain the notion too keenly, yet part of me couldn't help but envision how Shiraishi would change if we started dating. Would he go backwards and, once again, become a quirky, awkward oddball? Or would he go forwards and, instead, never think twice before speaking his mind?

Following Junko's departure, I lingered in the booth for a little while longer, treading in a puddle of hopeful thoughts. Once I finished my coffee, I left the café to meet up with Shiraishi.

Although these days we had a tendency just to meet up at Cheers, Shiraishi asked if I could meet him at Tanimachi Sixth Block Station that day. I arrived at around midday and found him already waiting for me. He greeted him with a warm smile before leading me out of the eastern exit. The way he managed to effortlessly navigate his way around the area as we walked and talked gave me the impression that he'd come this way many times before. I regarded my surroundings with curiosity as we traversed the streets and, eventually, arrived at a rather ordinary looking building. Shiraishi led the way inside—into a small reception area—where he signed the two of us in. An amiable nurse escorted us down a hallway and into a moderately-sized room. It was, in contrast to the reception, filled with a collection of people—elderly people. There were one or two middle aged people conversing with a few of the elderly on the far side of the room. I didn't find this particularly remarkable until I realised that they were conversing in sign language.

Like a deer in the headlights, I turned to look at Shiraishi with wide eyes. "What is this place?"

He had a wide smile. "It's a nursing home, built especially to house those who are hard of hearing. Come on."

He sat down across from an elderly man, who eased into a smile, and greeted Shiraishi like they were family. The elderly man reached out for Shiraishi's hand and squeezed as firmly as his old bones could afford. When he let go, Shiraishi signed a greeting and asked how he was doing. With slow and shaky movements, the old man signed back, "Much better now that you've come back to visit."

The nurse who had escorted us into the room asked if I might converse with one of the other elderly people in the room, and I said that I would. She led me over to an aging woman, who wore a troubled look, and whose eyes were staring off into space. She seemed somehow ethereal—somehow elsewhere. Perhaps the most remarkable think about her was her appearance: certainly, her hair was losing its colour, just like most other people in the room, but she didn't appear to be fully Japanese. On top of being very pale, her eyes were wide, round and grey.

"Hello. My name is ."

She looked at me for a moment, somewhat puzzled. She spared her surroundings a panning gaze before responding, "You don't look like the other people in here." As if unable to see me clearly, she leaned forward to try and garner a closer look. "You are very young."

"I'm a university student." I signed back, shuffling a bit closer to allow her to inspect me more closely. When she looked at me with those troubled and mistrusting eyes, I offered her a warm smile, in the hopes that it would melt her tepid gaze.

By some miracle, it worked. She nodded slowly as she eased into a little beam. "You have a very beautiful smile."

I laughed politely, not sure how else to respond. "That's very kind of you to say."

"You remind me of the Arctic." She signed, roving her eyes over me. "But you don't look like you're from the Arctic."

Her remark caught me off guard. "Have you ever been to the Arctic before?"

I watched as her beam dropped into that same, troubled look she'd been wearing to begin with. Her hands were shaking when she signed back, "I can't remember."

For a little while, we kept our conversation to short pleasantries, for she never signed more than a few sentences at any given time. A little while into our chat, I realised that she was starting to repeat some of the topics that we'd spoken about before. Each time she repeated a topic, she signed with admission, leading me to believe that she hadn't realised she'd said the exact same thing naught but ten minutes ago. We must have talked around and around in circles for hours.

At times, when our conversations lapsed into a pleasant silence, I found my gaze wandering over to Shiraishi. He was sitting in front of his elderly friend, his eyes as wide and as bright as a kid in a candy story. Shiraishi watched the man sign with great care and attention, and—at times—the two would laugh together. From afar, they looked like grandfather and grandson.

The first time the elderly woman caught me looking at Shiraishi, she laughed gently and said, "You two look very good together."

I was so startled by the sound of her laughter that I almost didn't realise she'd been talking about me and Shiraishi. "Oh—we aren't actually together. We're just good friends." I signed back, laughing nervously.

She nodded and beamed. "I was in love once."

I looked at her curiously as her smile changed into something more thoughtful. "Can you tell me anything about them?"

Although I'd watched her over the past many hours struggle to recall signs and memories, she didn't seem to have much difficulty recalling one simple fact: "When she laughed, it always rang out like the church bells on a Sunday morning."

I was curious to hear more about the elderly woman's stories of her old flame, so—with as much discretion as I could—I asked her more about who it was that she loved. She was able to recall smell details here and there. She never signed anything longer than a sentence or two, but what I found remarkable was that her answers to my questions occasionally changed. There were times that she often repeated the same remarks, but the point was that she remembered more about her old flame than anything else.

I didn't realise how much time had passed until the nurse came by and kindly informed us that visiting hours would soon be over. Almost as soon as the elderly woman heard those words leave the nurse's mouth, she reached forward and grasped my hands in hers. When she finally pulled away, she signed, "You'll come back to visit me, won't you?" She held my gaze with such intensity and desperation that I couldn't bring myself to pull free. "My grandchildren don't come to visit me anymore."

Gingerly, I rested my hands atop hers. Then I signed, "Of course I'll come back. I promise."

Shiraishi had a much harder time trying to leave his conversation partner. As I approached the pair, I saw tears filling the eyes of both the elderly man and Shiraishi. Shiraishi assured the man over and over that he would come back to visit, but the man kept shaking his head and kept a tight grip on Shiraishi's hands. At the gentle insistence of the nurse, the elderly man slowly let go. Shiraishi promised that he would come again tomorrow, but the man didn't cheer up so easily.

We walked out of the building after being thanked for our time, both of us a bit harrowed. I found it rather difficult to shake the memory of the woman's troubled gaze as we wandered through the neighbourhood in search of dinner. According to a teary Shiraishi, there was a good ramen place nearby, so we decided to head there.

Despite the waterworks leaking from his eyes, Shiraishi was in the mood to converse. As we walked through the streets, he asked, "How was it?"

I smiled half-heartedly. "Harrowing. You?"

He smiled back in a similar way. "Quite the same, I think."

"That man didn't seem to want you to leave." I remarked. "He was in tears, the poor thing."

Shiraishi wiped away his own tears to appear a little more inconspicuous. "Yes, that's nothing out of the ordinary. The very first time I had to leave him was heart-breaking, but I've gotten a little better at learning how to handle the situation, I think."


"I've learned that the best thing you can do for them when they start to cry is to hold their hands. They might keep crying, but at least they have your blessings to cry it out."

With a little surge of courage, I reached out to take Shiraishi's hand. "I see. I didn't know that."

He went a little red, but when I squeezed his hand in an effort to comfort him, he squeezed back. His tears didn't clear up until we made it to a ramen shop and ate our fill of comfort food. When all was said and done, we decided to head back to the train station. Since Shiraishi hadn't cheered up completely, we held hands all to the platforms. It wasn't until it came time to send me off that he finally found it within him to grace me with a smile.


Manzai: According to Wikipedia, manzai is a traditional Japanese form of comedy that generally features two performances: a straight man (the tsukkomi) and the funny man (the boke). The two trade jokes at high speed, and the jokes often revolve around mutual misunderstandings, double-talk, puns and other verbal gags. Ask Princo for more information. (Princo: I mean, the closest we can get to manzai is... Koharu and Hitouji I guess? Hm.)

Moon, Brown, James and Cony: I can't remember if I mentioned this in one of the previous chapters, so I'll throw it in here again if you're too lazy to go back and check (since this story updates weekly, after all). If any of you are at least acquainted with Messenger, you'll know that it has stickers. LINE has a set of mascots, each of which have their own sticker sets, or feature in other sticker sets. Moon, Brown, James and Cony are four of many other mascots. If I find the time and effort, I'll try to screenshot all the LINE stickers that I described in this story so I can show y'all what I mean LOL.

Cheers: If you want to know why the family restaurant is called Cheers you need to blame Princo LOL.

NEET: NEET stands for "Not in Education, Employment or Training", and it is basically a term used to describe a young person who is neither in the education system, nor working, nor being trained to work. It was actually coined in the UK, but it's usage has spread to a lot of Asian countries, Japan being one of them.

Ribbon: I regret everything.

Princo: Okay first of all, Ribbon will never screenshot the LINE stickers LMAO.

August 1, 2016.

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