In the Morning, I'll Say Hello - Chapter 30

"In the Morning, I'll Say Hello" is a yuri comic I wrote. I can't draw, so I'm publishing the scripts here. I hope you enjoy.

"In the Morning, I'll Say Hello" - by Jaime Lustig

Chapter 30
"Competition - Part 2"

National math competition finals. We see the other competitors registering. People are coming into the main competition hall. There are chairs for spectators and family along the side walls with the main seating and tables for competitors in the cnter. The judges tables are up front. There are also people who will act as monitors milling around making sure the competitors haven't brought anything with them.

Yuka is sound asleep on Suzu’s lap. Eriko is sitting nervously with her elbows in her lap and her head in her hands, her hair falling loose over it all. Aiko is sitting regally and coolly, reading a book. Suzu brushes the bangs off Yuka's face.

Suzu: “’s time to wake up.”

Yuka stirs, and looks up with big sleepy eyes at Suzu. She sits up, her face is still flushed and she’s got a few hair fly-aways and a cowlick or two (bedhead). Aiko looks at Yuka's messed up hair and stifles a laugh. Yuka gives her a cross look, touches her hair and realizes, then laughs too but also starts coughing.

                Sound effects: "Cough, cough."

Eriko (to herself): “Dammit, she really looks cute when she wakes up.”

Eriko starts blushing at the thought and looks back down to her lap. The judges enter the room. They walk up to their spots and a hush falls over the space.

Judge 1: “Welcome to the XXth annual high school mathematics championship. We are joined today by the best students from across Japan in a full day, three round competition. Before we start, we would like to honor last year’s winner, Isei Yoshikawa-san.”

Isei stands and bows to the applauding crowd.

Judge 1: “Now, will the competitors please take your seats and we will begin the first round.”

Scenes of the competitors calculating using the soroban in round 1 (ed. note: the soroban is for manual calculation like the western abacus and frequently used in competition). They’re all focused and their fingers moving on the soroban at incredible speed working through the calculations.

Yuka is sweating, flush, and woozy, but she keeps shaking it off and going back to work, toughing it out. She coughs periodically. She looks really sick. Every now and again Isei sneaks a look at her.

Yuka, Suzu, Aiko, and Eriko are sitting on the sidelines after the first round. Yuka looks pretty worn out.

Aiko: “You were amazing, Yuka. I’m sure you did well.”

Suzu: “Yuka, you should eat something, you need your strength.”

Yuka is lays down on Suzu’s lap again.

Aiko: “I think they’re about to post the scores from the first round.”

Above the judges table is the leaderboard. The leaderboard shows Isei at the top, a few other people in between, and Yuka at 5th place.

Isei’s parents walk by where the girls are sitting, with him following behind them. His dad gives a triumphant/superior look out from the side of his eyes at the girls sitting there, and looks back forward as he finishes passing them. Isei stops by Yuka, who looks up and manages a weak smile. Isei blushes slightly, but then pivots from shyness to an air of confidence.

Isei: “Kiyoura-san. What’s with that score?”

Eriko looks so angry at this comment.

Eriko (to herself): “Hold it together, don't cause a scene.”

Aiko: “Lay off, she’s sick.”

Isei: “Sick or not, she’s here.”

Aiko: “Don’t worry about her. She’ll be fine.”

Isei: “Good! I was hoping for a rematch of last year.”

Aiko: “You’ll get your rematch, she’s only just begun.”

Isei: “Do you always talk for her?”

Aiko: “How dare you?!”

Yuka sits up and puts an arm on Aiko with a weak smile and a nod 'no. (like "let it go"). Yuka starts coughing.

                Sound effects: "cough, cough."

Aiko: “Let me get you something to drink.”

Aiko leaves, brushing by Isei on her way.

Isei: “Kiyoura-san, you better make it to the finals. Otherwise my victory won’t be worth it.”

Isei smiles at her with brilliant, sparkling confidence. Yuka blushes as he walks off. Eriko notices his look at Yuka.

Eriko: (to herself): “That’s the second time she’s blushed at him. Does she like him? Does she like boys? Stupid Eriko! Of course she does, she’s normal, not like you. I’m the only one who feels this way. All those moments between us were just my imagination.”

Eriko looks away from Yuka, gets up and leaves.

Suzu: “Eriko-chan, where are you going?”

Eriko: “Nowhere.” 

Aiko is walking back with a drink for Yuka. Eriko is coming down the hall with a dark vibe around her (like a cloud over her head). She doesn’t even notice Aiko as she walks past her.

Aiko (To herself): “Now she's ignoring me? Where’s she going, anyway?”

Aiko comes back in to the main hall and sits with Suzu and Yuka waiting for the next round to start.

Aiko (to Yuka): “Here, drink this. You need your energy.”

Yuka takes a few tentative sips and hands it back. Their fingers graze each other’s as they pass the drink. Aiko blushes at the touch.

Suzu: “I need to go to the restroom."

Suzu (to herself): "You two probably want a few minutes alone anyway.”

Suzu leaves.

Aiko: “Yuka, I'm not good at this. That day at school....I said some awful things to you.”

Yuka takes Aiko’s hand in hers. She presses it against her heart. Aiko blushes more.

                Aiko (to herself): "How do you do this to me?"

Aiko: “Can you really forgive me?”

Yuka nods 'yes' and smiles with loving eyes.

Aiko: “Even if I can’t support this thing with her?"

Yuka nods solemnly then wraps Aiko’s arms around her body, making Aiko give her a hug. Yuka leans in closer and closes her eyes while laying against Aiko.

Aiko (to herself): “Her little heart is beating so fast. She’s so warm. It’s just her fever, right?”

Sound effects: "Ba-dump, ba-dump"

Aiko: “I'm not okay with...her...but I won’t leave you either. Is that enough?”

Yuka looks up at her with tears in her eyes, and lets out a radiant little smile.

Meanwhile, Suzu walks towards the bathroom. There are some loud noises coming through the door, just then a trashcan comes flying out the door and into the wall by Suzu. She cautiously peeks into the bathroom. There is Eriko, a complete mess, sobbing, heaving with expended angry energy, having torn the bathroom apart. The mirror is broken, her hand is bleeding. She looks over at Suzu with a powerful (but aware) look halfway between complete sorrow and anger, more like extreme helplessness. She quickly turns away from Suzu and tries to hide her bleeding hand.

Suzu: “Come here, let’s get that washed up and find a first aid kit.”

Suzu gingerly takes Eriko’s hand, turns it over in hers, then runs it under water. The blood dilutes and runs into the sink and down the drain.

Suzu: “Do you want to talk about it?”

Eriko: “No.”

Suzu: “I see what Aiko-chan’s been worried about.”

Eriko: “She should worry.”

Suzu: “Has Yuka seen this side of you before?”

Eriko: “Yes.”

Suzu: “Well, then that’s that, isn’t it?”

Eriko: “Wha...what do you mean?”

Suzu: “If she’s seen you like this and still accepts you..."

Suzu (to herself): "Well, hopefully there’s nothing worse lurking in there.”

Eriko (to herself) “Accepted me?”

Eriko: "She's...she's amazing...that way."

Suzu smiles in appreciation of this.

                Suzu: "I know. She really is."

Eriko: "Maybe...maybe she's just being nice...and she really doesn't want to...and...and...I feel...and...I don’t want to hurt her...”

Tears begin streaming down Eriko's face. She's so distraught about her complex feelings for Yuka and her own unknown history. Suzu takes her and embraces her while Eriko continues to cry.

Suzu: “Shhhh, It’s okay, I know you don’t, I know you don’t. Let’s get that hand bandaged.”

Back in the main hall.

Aiko: “Where’s Suzu? The second round is about to start.”

Just then Suzu and Eriko walk in. Eriko is flushed and hiding her hands behind her back. She sits down somewhat cautiously and doesn’t make eye contact with Aiko or Yuka.

Aiko (to Eriko): “What took you so long?”

Just then the judges come back in.

Judge: “Contestants, please take your seats for the second round of the national championship. As a reminder of the rules, the top three competitors after this round will advance to the finals. This round will be a free-response test on advanced computational problems. No calculation devices are permitted. The time allotted will be one hour. Spectators are asked to keep silent during the competition. Competitors, as you finish your exam, please stay in your seat, raise your hand, and the answer sheet will be collected. At that time you may leave the floor and wait for the combined results of rounds one and two to be announced.”

Yuka looks up at Suzu, Suzu gives her a big peace sign with the wink.

Suzu: “Good luck!”

Aiko squeezes Yuka's hand which has been clasped between hers for a while now. They make confident, reconciled eyes at each other. Yuka then looks over at Eriko who is still looking over her right shoulder away from the action. Yuka goes to take her hand, but notices the bandages on it, looks up questioningly at Eriko. Eriko turns to meet her eyes. They both blush, Yuka smiles, and Yuka scampers off.

Suzu: “Well, she looks a little more refreshed than she did this morning.”

Aiko: “She’s got to pull through; we can’t let that jerk win two years in a row.”

Suzu: “Why does he rile you up so much?”

Aiko (to herself): “hmmm, why exactly...?”

Aiko just remembers back to last year:
Aiko is walking around a corner when she sees Isei and his mother and father talking.

Father: “How can you be in second place to that girl?”

Mother: “She’s nothing, just some country girl who can’t even speak!”

Father: “This round is your chance. You just need to buzz in first each time. I spoke to the judges and they agreed that she would need to write her answer before buzzing in so as not to have any extra calculation time while she’s writing. If you can buzz in before she’s finished writing she’ll never have a chance to answer.”

Aiko is furious and turns away in disgust and leaves.

Isei: “But that’s not fair! That’s not how I want to win.”

His mother slaps him.

Mother: “What have we been preparing you for? Why have we been sending you to those elite schools and those tutoring sessions? To let you lay down just when you have the chance to pounce?”

Father: “Any son of mine will go for the throat. That’s how I got this far and that’s what you will do.”
[Flashback ends]

Back to the present.

Aiko (to Suzu): “I guess I just want something wonderful for her and I don’t want anyone to get in the way of it.”

Suzu briefly looks over at Eriko, sitting there sulking and shy, and uncertain.

Suzu: “Hmmm, something wonderful for her...”

The competitors are sitting, tests are being passed out.

Judge: “Competitors, you may start on my mark....begin!”

Scenes of the students computing the test, complex geometry, pre-calculus, calculus, etc...(but no calculators, all on paper) Yuka is working hard, Isei is working hard. Yuka is beginning to sweat, it drips on her paper. Her eye sight is getting blurry. She shakes her head and gets back to it. She coughs. Students are finishing all around her, putting their arms up. Isei is the first to finish. She’s still going. The time keeps getting closer to the end. The desks are emptying, only a few students left. She’s sweating, flushed, coughing.

Judge: “Competitors, this is your five minute warning.”

The problems keep blurring, she’s looking really sick, Eriko, Aiko and Suzu are looking on worriedly.

Suzu: “Will she finish in time?”

Aiko: “She’s not looking good right now.”

Eriko’s head is down, almost like she’s praying.

Eriko (to herself): “Please...please...”

Yuka turns the last page over, and her head hits the desk with a thud, but her little arm goes up in the air. A proctor comes around to pick up her paper. Suzu comes over to help carry her off. As she's being carried, she opens her eyes and looks up at Suzu.

Suzu: “You finished it! You did it Yuka!”

They’re sitting outside the main hall now in the main lobby, other competitors are milling around, Aiko is fanning Yuka. Her head is on Suzu’s lap.

Suzu: “How are you feeling now Yuka?”

Yuka nods and smiles.

Aiko: “That’s good, you really had us worried.”

Eriko looks over at her, their eyes meet, and she looks away hastily.

The judges post an update to the leaderboard. There is a rush of people over to see it. Most come away crying, being consoled by family. One young lady is smiling and being congratulated.

Suzu: “Alright, let’s see how you did, come on.”

The two walk over to the leaderboard. Next to them is Isei and his family. There are a few layers of people between them and the board so they can’t see yet.

Isei (to Yuka): “I didn’t think you were going to finish in time. Planning on leaving me alone in the finals?”

Yuka blushes and demurs a bit, then nods her head 'no.'

They get up to the front. There’s Isei’s name in second place. His father turns and storms off. His mom grabs him by the arm and drags him away. Yuka looks concerned at this and turns to look up at Suzu for help for Isei.

Suzu: “Yuka, look!”

There’s Yuka’s name on top of the leaderboard, having climbed from 5th place at the last round to first place going into the finals, one spot above Isei.

She has a horrified look on her face at this and turns and runs off.

Suzu: “Yuka!?”

Aiko: “I’ll go....”

But Eriko is already running after her leaving a stunned Suzu and Aiko behind, staring at each other in disbelief. Aiko is about to turn and go, but Suzu just puts a hand on her arm.

Aiko: “This is the second time Yuka’s run and I’ve been held back.”

Suzu: “Sometimes a girl needs to run.”

Yuka is running down the hallways, looking for Isei. She turns a corner and there they are.

Father: “...don’t you dare disgrace this family.”

Mother: “There’s no excuse after winning last year. You saw her in there. That girl can’t even hold her head up today.”

Father: “This round is your chance, you know she’s handicapped, just do like we told you last year. Buzz in first no matter what, even if you don’t have the answer, you can’t give her time to finish writing.”

Isei: “Can’t you see how amazing she is? That’s not how I want to win against her.”

Father: “It doesn’t matter how, but you WILL win.”

Isei: “But it’s not fair, it’s not her fault...”

Mother: “So what, are you going to give in to every cripple you see along the way in your life? What about your talent, what about your status and your looks, are you going to let them go to waste just because you have a soft heart?”

Isei: “That's not it, not all of it, it’s that I...”

Right then Eriko runs up behind Yuka in time to hear:

Father: “What? Spit it out already!”

Isei: “I...I can’t do that to someone I love!”

Mother: “Love!? Hahaha With who? That little runt? You don’t know what love is. You know who you are going to marry, it’s already been decided.”

Father: “We’re done here. We'll know soon whether he’s truly our son or not.”

The mother fiercely releases his arm, then the mother and father walk away, right past Yuka and Eriko, the parents give them a death stare.

Mother: “So you’re the little tramp that’s ruined our son? I don’t see what’s so special.”

Eriko is now in full-on killer mode and about to go off when Yuka runs into the room with Isei which snaps Eriko out of it.

Eriko: “Kiyoura!?”

The parents leave. Eriko watches as Yuka goes up to a crying Isei with his arm across his eyes. He doesn’t even see her there at first. She goes up and tugs on his shirt. He lowers his arm, through his bleary eyes he sees her. As his arm lowers, she just leans into him and gives him a huge hug, he starts blushing big time.

Eriko: (to herself): “Was that a confession? Did she just answer him? Is it impossible for me now? Of course it is, it was always impossible.”

Eriko turns and staggers away holding onto the wall. Aiko is about to pass her running down the hall in their direction. As Aiko gets near Eriko:

Aiko: “Arishima-san! Where’s Yuka, what’s happened?”

Eriko grabs Aiko and slams her into the wall holding both arms.

Eriko: “You made me think I had a chance!”

There is a terrified look in Aiko’s eyes. Eriko slams her again and lets go and walks off.

Aiko (to herself): “What was that? I really thought she might...”

Aiko straightens herself out and goes around the corner to see Isei and Yuka.

Isei: “ heard that?”

Yuka just nods yes.

Isei: “So, ummm, what do you think?”

Yuka bows her head solemnly.

Isei: “It’s a 'no,' huh? Well, I won’t stop trying, especially now that you know. I’m sorry about my parents though.”

She grabs his hand and smiles and holds it to her chest.

Isei: “Does that mean you forgive me?”

Aiko walks around the corner right then.

Aiko: “That’s exactly what it means. Now if you’ll excuse us, I think you both have better things to be doing right now.”

Isei looks pumped for the finals.

Isei: “Alright! It’s on!”

Yuka smiles back at him with a big rich smile and a fist pump.

Aiko, Yuka and Isei come back into the main space in front of the competition area where Suzu is waiting.

Suzu: “This is a strange group. Where’s Eriko-chan?”

Yuka looks around, Aiko is looking disinterested and affected.

Suzu: “Well, we can’t wait for her, they just called the finalists into the room. You both have to get going.”

Yuka tugs on Suzu’s shirt.

Suzu: “I know, I know, but she’ll just have to come in when she can.”

Yuka sighs, and slowly nods 'yes' (as in “I understand”).

In the main room there is now a long table with buzzers set up on it at the front of the room. The chairs for spectators are now in the middle of the room facing the new table and the judge’s podium is in front of the contestant table between their table and the spectator chairs.

Judge: “It is with great pleasure that I announce our three finalists. Currently in third place is Ruriko Takagawa-san. In second place is last year’s winner, Isei Yoshikawa-san. And in first place is last year’s runner up Yuka Kiyoura-san.”

The three walk to their spots as their names are announced to applause from the audience.

Judge: “For this final round, contestants will engage in a mental math speed competition. The first contestant to buzz in will be given an opportunity to answer. If they are not correct then the next contestant will be provided an opportunity to answer. As some of you may remember, there is no written computation allowed, however, Kiyoura-san will be allowed to write her answer down prior to ringing her buzzer due to her special needs. Contestants, are you ready?”

Yoshikawa and Takagawa answer: “Yes.” Yuka nods.

Judge: “The first question is....”

We see Yuka writing her answer down but Isei buzzes in before she’s finished writing.

Judge: "Yoshikawa-san?"

Isei: “The answer is....”

Judge: “That is correct.”

Aiko (to Suzu): “It’s just like last year, there’s no way she can write it before he buzzes in. It’s just not fair!”

Judge: “The second question....”

Scenes of the various contestants buzzing in, all three get some right, even Yuka gets to hold up her written answers a few times. We see the scores periodically, the race is tight between them all. Yuka is getting more and more flush as her energy wanes, she’s coughing, her eye sight is blurring, she’s wobbling. They keep answering questions. Yuka keeps looking around, sees the empty seat where Eriko should be.

Suzu: “Where’s Eriko-chan? Yuka keeps looking for her.”

Aiko: “I don’t think she’s coming back.”

Suzu: “Do you know something?”

Aiko: “It’s not my job to keep track of her.”

Suzu: “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Aiko: “I didn’t want to upset Yuka before the finals.”

Suzu: “I hope you did the right thing.”

Judge: “With two questions remaining, Takagawa-san is in the lead, with Yoshikawa-san and Kiyoura-san one point behind. Should there be a tie at the end of the competition, there will be a single question tie-breaker. The next question is....”

Isei buzzes in.

Judge: "Yoshikawa-san?"

Isei: “The answer is.....”

Judge: “That is correct, Yoshikawa-san is now tied with Takagawa-san for the lead. Our final question is....”

Suzu: “Come on Yuka, you can do this!”

Yuka is flush, sweating, wobbly, but frantically writes, Isei sees her hand about to reach for the buzzer as he’s about to buzz in and slows himself down so that she can buzz in.

Judge: "Kiyoura-san?"

Yuka holds up her white-board.

Judge: “That’s correct Kiyoura-san. Ladies and Gentleman, we now have a three-way tie. We will have one final question to break the tie. Contestants are you ready? The final question is...”

Yuka starts frantically writing her answer but things start to go dark and she collapses. Isei runs over and catches her just as Takagawa buzzes in. The audience gasps.

Takagawa: “The answer is...”

Suzu and Aiko: “YUKA!”

They run up to where Isei is holding her.

Yuka is laying on Suzu’s lap with Aiko next to her in the lobby.

Suzu: “Are you feeling better?”

Yuka nods slowly and lightly, she’s pretty flush and sick looking.

Aiko: “Her fever is up again.”

Isei comes up to them.

Isei: “Will Kiyoura-san be okay?”

Suzu: “Yeah, it's just a cold. Thank you for what you did up there. I’m so sorry you lost because of us.”

Aiko: “I may have...misjudged you.”

Isei: “What do you mean?”

Aiko: “I heard what your parents said about her last year. I also remember you refusing to acknowledge her after it was over.”

Isei: “I’m sorry about them...I’m sorry I’m so weak...”

Aiko (to herself): “Weak?”

Aiko: “Being here now can’t be making them very happy.”

Isei: “Well, they aren’t speaking to me right now after what I did. But maybe that’s okay for a while. I’m just glad Kiyoura-san’s going to be okay. Will I see you next year?”

Yuka manages a little smile and a nod 'yes.'

Isei: “I’ll be waiting. Don’t forget my promise. I’m not going to give up!”

He walks away.

Suzu: “What was that about?”

Aiko and Yuka exchange a smile and laugh. Right then the necklace slips out of Yuka’s collar and she places a hand on it. She closes her eyes. Then opens them up and grasps at Suzu’s shirt.

Suzu: “I’m starting to get worried about Eriko-san too. Where could she be?”

Right then an employee of the conference center/hotel comes up to them.

Employee: “Excuse me, are you Suzu Kiyoura-san?”

Suzu: “Yes, that’s me.”

Employee: “I have a message for you. An Arishima-san stated that she left for home already. She didn’t want you to worry.”

Suzu: “Oh, I see...thank you.”

Yuka closes her eyes, turns her head into Suzu’s stomach and a tear forms as she buries her face.

We see a train going through the countryside. It's mostly empty. In it, alone, is Eriko sitting in the window seat staring out the window.

(to be continued...)

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