Saturday, February 25, 2017

Yokaishiteru! Chapter Three

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Momoko stayed in the group.

The idea of the PVs was scrapped for the time being, though.  After what had happened, they decided not to post any of the promotional clips until Momoko was able to make hers, as she insisted she needed to do.  Unfortunately, Box Hako had filled the role of ‘guidance counselor’ at Korekara, so Momoko had nobody to tell her what to do.  She decided the best thing to do was just keep trying, and eventually she’d be able to stand before a camera without panicking.

With that sorted out, idol activities continued as usual.  The five current members practiced on the roof every day, and gradually improved their coordination and melody.  It was two weeks and three days after the PV debacle that Izuna remembered something that had happened the day Kamui invited her to join Yokaishiteru.  During a break from practice, she leaned back against the roof’s fence and related her memory, “You know… There’s a third year, who hides behind the wall there and watches the practices.”

“Really?” Kamui asked, then turned on her heel to look that direction, “Where I found you that day, right…?  Was she there then?”

“When practice was over, she climbed up on top of the roof for the stairwell and lay down on her stomach to hide from you,” Izuna explained, “I didn’t realize what she was doing until it was too late to avoid you, of course, but I’d bet that she’s still there.  I think she may have been watching because… She wants to be a school idol.”

“Well,” Momoko pressed her hands together and smiled, “If that’s the case, then shouldn’t we invite her to join us?  If she’s too shy to ask, then it’s best if we go to her, right…?”

“I suppose so,” Sakazaki nodded, stretching her arms out above her head before she walked over towards that wall at a brisk pace, and managed to see the girl as she was climbing up to the roof area, and grabbed her ankle, “Going somewhere, mon amie?”

“...” The girl turned and looked down at Sakazaki with a blank expression, no tone whatsoever in her voice, “Oh, so you’ve caught me, Yuu-chan… It figures you would be the one,” She started to climb back down, so Sakazaki released her ankle and waited for her to straighten out her clothes and stand up straight, “It’s nice to meet you, officially.  I am Mishio Oujouno.”

“Erm… Who are you?” Sakazaki asked, tilting her head to the side, “You look familiar, in a way, but I’m sure we haven’t met…”

“Huh?  Of course you’ve met,” Kamui made a face as she walked up to them, “If you’re both third years, then you’re in the same class, right?”

“That would be the case, if either of us attended class on a regular basis,” Mishio’s head fell forward a bit, as if she’d given up on supporting it, chin dipping towards her neck as if she were nothing more than a ragdoll, “As it is, neither of us do.  Very few people know me.  But I know Sakazaki Yuu.  Anyway,” She turns away and looks out over the roof, “If I look familiar, maybe you’ve seen me without realizing it.”

“Huh?” Honoka approached now, raising her eyebrows, “Oujouno-senpai?  I’ve never even heard of you… At least with Yuu-senpai, I’d heard myths about her existence, but you…”

“I keep a low profile,” She looked at Honoka for a moment, gave a slow blink, then stepped closer to Sakazaki.  She was a full head shorter than her, so she looked up and beyond those yellow glasses to make eye contact from under her chin, “You are fascinating, Yuu-chan.”

“...What?” She questioned, taking a step backwards, “Oujouno-san, you’re getting a little close there… Ahaha…  I’m not much one for personal space myself, but it’s a bit distressing coming from you, somehow, though we’ve just met…”

“I’m distressing?” Mishio questioned, still betraying no emotion whatsoever, “Well, I can understand that.  It’s fine.”

“You’ve…” Momoko stepped forward now, eyes drooping closed as she moved, “Been watching us for a while now, haven’t you…” Her words trailed off as she fell asleep where she stood, and Sakazaki moved to catch her so she wouldn’t get a concussion.

“Hm?” Mishio turned to her, then nodded, “That’s right.  I’ve been spying on you.  Mostly, I’ve been watching Yuu-chan, but you’re all impressive,” She held a finger to her own chin, but her expression didn’t change, “You’re going to ask me if I want to be a school idol, aren’t you?  The answer is yes.  However, I don’t think you’d want me.  I don’t have any charm points.”

“Ehhh?” Kamui walked up to Mishio, who was of a similar height to her, “Oujouno-senpai!  That can’t be true, I think you’re cute!  I want you to join Yokaishiteru!”

“That’s impossible,” She crossed her arms, “I don’t know how to be cute like all of you.  Watanabe-chan is a stunning amalgam of traits that men find desirable… Nanako-san fits the image of a perfect Japanese wife… You’re a catgirl… Tosaka-san is a huge attraction for lesbians,” She uncrosses her arms, waves a hand in the air and closes her eyes, “Not to mention Yuu-chan, of course.  A charming focal point, with her heritage and flirtations, and her body, she’s a hallmark of beauty.  I don’t have anything like that to contribute.”

“I don’t care about that!” Kamui reached out and clasped Mishio’s hands, leaving her to open her eyes again to a grinning underclassman in her face, “Oujouno-senpai!  You’re forgetting about westerners!  You’re an archetype that appeals to American teens, all the time!  They love characters who are edgy and somewhat frightening!”

“So you think I’m scary too, you just think that being scary can be a charm point…” Mishio’s flat look turned to a glare.  So she could form expressions.  At least one, anyway, “I think that you’re mistaken.  I’d just ruin your reputation.  If I was to join… I would work hard, of course, but the only thing I’m really good at is sewing.  Anyway, I'm sure that you already have somebody making costumes.”

“We don’t!” Kamui insisted, “Please, senpai!  If you’re sad, then that’s why you should join us!  I made Yokaishiteru so we could all become good friends,” She nodded her head, leaning even closer to Mishio’s face, “I’d really like to see what you look like when you’re smiling, you know!”

“Well,” Mishio shrugged, then looked over Kamui’s shoulder at Sakazaki, “If Yuu-chan would like me to join, then I’d do it.”

“By all means do, mon cherie!” Sakazaki called over, still holding Momoko up, “Idol groups flourish the more members they attain!  The group can remedy any failure on the part of an individual!  It doesn’t matter if somebody as strange as you joins, it will still strengthen us in general!”

“That’s a good point…” Mishio nodded, “And I’ve been watching you for so long, I know all your choreography, and the songs that you’re using, so I suppose that I couldn’t cause too much harm when we get down to it.”

“Of course!” Kamui nodded, then let go of Mishio’s hands and spread her arms out wide with a small twirl, “Welcome to Yokaishiteru, Oujouno-senpai!”


“Kyoko-chan…” Ayano mumbled, kicking her legs as she sat on her desk, “I wonder.  Why is it… That you haven’t joined those idols yet?  Didn’t you want to get back into that scene, now that Misaki-kun gave you his blessing?” She looked up at the ceiling, over at the wall, anywhere but at Kyoko, “You quit so you wouldn’t call attention to his accident, didn’t you?  He told you that it was fine though.  I even asked them to let you join if you wanted.”

Kyoko Shirato
“I guess,” Kyoko looked at Ayano and flipped her hair over her shoulder, “That I just don’t want to associate myself with such obvious amateurs.  That first year… She thinks that being an idol is like it is on television.  What an idiot.”

“Hm, I wonder,” Ayano mumbled, “Maybe, Kyoko-chan, but I think there’s a different reason.  Nobody wants to sign you on as a solo idol anymore, you and I both know that.  That group is your best shot, but…” Finally, she looked at Kyoko, fluorescent room lights glinting off of her glasses, “Could it be because of that girl?  Because that girl is one of them?”

“O-Of course n-”

“You don’t want me to kill her,” Ayano cut her off with a cold voice, now making direct eye contact.  Kyoko seemed afraid, and her hand started to shake, “You’re worried, that if you start spending time with her, if I see you with her too much, if I see the way that you look at her… That I’ll kill her, so I can keep you all to myself.  Isn’t that right?”  Kyoko didn’t answer, so she just looked away again, “That’s a phobia, you know.  I’m still taking my medicine.  Killing somebody… Isn’t something which I’m usually capable of, you know.”

“But jealousy is,” Kyoko shot back, glaring at her now with the fear gone, “Ayano-chan, who’s to say… That you don’t get jealous and stop taking them?”

“I don’t think I will, Kyoko-chan,” She crossed her legs and closed her eyes, “Get jealous, that is.  I think of you being with her, and it doesn’t scare me… At all.  Not like it used to,” She sighed, “And I guess, it was never like the thought of somebody stealing Ruka-chan away from me?  When we started this, I knew that you’re attracted to maturity, and I’m too childish.  I could never really… Be the kind of object you go for,” She opened her eyes again and gave Kyoko a soft look, “I’m not like you, Kyoko-chan.  When my love is not requited, it will fade.”

“...We’re not good people, Ayano-chan,” Kyoko sighed, rubbing her palm against her neck as she closed her eyes, “So when it comes down to it, what’s the harm in sticking together?  Just because you’re cute instead of sexy, it’s not like I could get anyone else.  Do you think you could?”

“Well, obviously not.  Nobody wants to be around me, since Haruhi-chan let them know who I was,” Ayano mumbled, eyes blank, “Box-sama understood us, didn’t she, Kyoko-chan?  She didn’t care about the things we’ve done, she didn’t care that we’re like this.  She was our friend, though.  Understanding, that’s what friends do.  Would two people as awful as us be better off as friends, do you think?  Maybe I’m just bad at love, but I don’t like being a relationship where I don’t feel jealous at all.  Even if you did that to her…”

“If that’s the case, then maybe you’re right,” Kyoko opened her eyes again and looked at the ceiling, “What I wanted from you was to be wanted.  If that’s not the case anymore, our relationship doesn’t have a leg to stand on, and we’re better off supporting each other as friends.  That’s fine by me, of course, assuming that you still don’t mind me being me if you aren’t in love with me anymore.”

“I do want to be your friend, Kyoko-chan,” Ayano tilted her head to the side and looked her in the eyes with a cold chill that went right through her, “After all.  I know you only do those things because you really love them.  It’s their own faults that they can’t love you back, if it hurts them.”

“Whatever happened to the middle school girl who wrote ‘shitty lolicon’ on a chalkboard next to a teacher’s corpse?” Kyoko questioned with a chuckle, holding one hand to her lips, but then frowned, “Ah, I see.  Yet another thing The American changed about you, is that right?”

“Of course,” Ayano nodded, kicking her feet again as she looked forward once more, “He really loved me, and that’s why he did it.  I can’t blame him for the fact I didn’t love him back.  If I did, then it wouldn’t have hurt me.”

As her words hung in the air, Kyoko left the room, and as the door slid closed behind her the scent of her shampoo was left behind while Ayano sat there, staring at the wall and wondering if the paintings that hung there could just swallow her up already; She was tired of trying to get a handle on what love meant.  Before she knew it, the door opened again, and somebody walked up to stand beside her.  She turned to see who it was.

“Ueda-chan,” One of her fellow first years stood there, scarf held close to her face.  She didn’t even look at Ayano, “I saw Shirato-senpai leaving the room.  Are you alright?  I’ve heard stories of how she can be…”

“She’d never do that to me.  She doesn’t love me, after all,” Ayano whispered, holding her hands to her chest, “I told a lie again, Yamaguchi-chan.  It hurts…” She tapped her own skin in between her collarbones, “Right here, and everything else is empty.”

Sayaka Shinku
“It’s Shinku when somebody could overhear, remember?” Sayaka glared at her, “Or Sayaka, if you want.  I think we’re close enough by now.  What was the lie that you told?”

“I said that my love for her faded. It's still there, I just understand she won't feel the same, and I don't feel jealous like I did when I was in love before,” Ayano answered, turning to watch the reds in Sayaka’s outfit.  Despite the color being a staple of the uniform, some people did wear it more than others, “And I claimed to know why it was, that Dawson... Maybe I did get hurt because I didn’t love him back, but… Maybe I only think that way because he told me so much that love was the reason why.  Love… it’s a strange thing, don’t you think?  I was in love once.  In love, because she loved me too, and then she died, and ever since everything else seems like a pollution of love.”

“First years don’t usually understand love,” Sayaka agreed with her, then sat down next to Ayano on the desk, “I definitely don’t.  Watanabe-chan understands comfort and betrayal, but not love.  Haruhi-chan, doesn’t even seem to understand friendship… There's a lot to think about. You can be in love and still be confused when thinking about what it could mean. It’s not something which you need to understand yet, so stop trying to think of everything in terms of what love is, and think in terms of what you feel,” She leaned against Ayano and sighed, “You and I, we aren’t really Tomuras.  We may be bred killers, but we don’t need to be taught to feel.  We’re… Bootleg Red Women.”

Ayano couldn’t help but chuckle at that, though it faded and her voice was still sad when she spoke, “If we take love out of the equation, then I feel like Dawson Packard tried very hard to destroy me and he nearly succeeded.  I feel like even if Kyoko-chan wanted, she couldn’t fix me because she’s still… Like him.  Except I was safe from her, because she didn’t… Want me.”

“What type of person do you think could fix you… Ayano-chan?” Sayaka asked, leaning into her just a bit more, “Could anyone?”

“I don’t know,” Ayano wrapped her hands around the cross necklace which she never took off.  One of three comfort items that she always kept on or near her person, “I thought that ssnad, over at the church… He’s my friend you know, he tries to help me and we don’t get anywhere, and I pray and pray and pray to God some more, that I could just stop being broken, even a little bit.  Tighten a screw, tape up a crack, but there’s nothing there.  Without Hikari… It seems I was just fated to fall apart,” Her voice was cracking now, and her eyes were watering.

“Do you think it would help if you became a school idol?”

“No.  Even without my reputation, I don’t want men staring at me like that,” Ayano held her hands to her face, “Why did one man ruin men for me?”

“It’s okay, Ayano-chan,” Sayaka reassured her, “Do you think it would help if you dated somebody who was nice to you and liked you, like Hikari did?”

“I don’t think any one person could be like her,” Ayano sighed, crossing her legs as she looked up at the ceiling, “Hikari was a unique sort of person, after all.”

“Why don’t you tell me about her?” Sayaka asked, closing her eyes.

“Maybe another time…” Ayano let out one more sigh as she relaxed.  Talking to Sayaka was always a good way for her to calm down; They were fellows in arms, afflicted with the same compulsion.  Ayano was not alone in the world, even if she resented the fact she was created to be this way.  She was a living weapon, but she was not the only one of her kind.


“What the hell are you doing!?” Kyoko shouted at the idols practicing on the roof, immediately abrasive within seconds of seeing their routine, “Good grief!  Didn’t anyone ever teach you to project?  Your voices are fine, but nobody’s gonna be able to hear you in any auditorium without top-notch acoustics!”

“Projecting…?” Kamui questioned, then got even more confused, “Wait a second, who are you!?”

“I am Kyoko Shirato!  You hear that? Ky-o-ko.  Doesn’t that tell you who I am?” She flipped her hair then stuck a hand on her hip, “I’m the spectacularly famed Boss Idol!  If I were in your group, my fans would flock from all over just to see me, and by association, you!”

“Oh, so it’s you!” Honoka clapped her hands together, “We were just wondering the other day, why you hadn’t come to us yet, and we figured it was because you didn’t want to work with amateurs… But if you’re here to whip us into shape, that would be great!”

“Of course!  Now, to project, you need to make sure you’re singing from your diaphragm!  Be loud, but don’t yell,” She instructed, pointing at them, “With that tip, go through your routine again and I’ll offer more critique when you’ve finished!” She was harsh and bossy, but everyone was glad to listen to her.  After all, she was the one who had experience with the idol industry.  After they went through the routine over again, she stomped her food, “Dreadful!  I see the problem…” She sighed and held a hand to her forehead, “This choreography, it’s too mature!  Only the third years look even vaguely passable doing these steps.  It isn’t a bad choreography, but you need to make sure your dance steps suit the people doing them.  What Oujouno-san can do without mistakes, and what’s captivatingly beautiful by Yuu-san, just makes me cringe with the rest of you.”

“Well…” Honoka thought, “I guess you’re right, I did kind of design this choreography with Yuu-senpai in mind, since she’s the center.  It never crossed my mind just how strange it looked for me or the first years to do it, but now that you say it…”

“This is where the importance of subunits comes in!” Kyoko glared and crossed her arms, looking away, “See, no matter who the center is, you need universal choreography for a large group.  Subunits are where that type of choreography can shine.  A mature choreography like that, you’d give to me, Yuu-san, and Oujouno-san.  Maybe Nanako-chan could pull it off, if you wanted to mix it up.  Nonetheless, it’s a crucial thing to consider when you’re a large group.  Subunits let specific charm points stand out more.”

“Well, there’s seven of us, so that can’t divide evenly…” Momoko mumbled, “But since you’re just joining us now, do you think that maybe more people will still be joining us?”

“Nobody asked you, Watanabe,” Kyoko snapped, but then turned her eyes forward again and gave an exhausted sigh, “She’s right, though.  Seven members can’t make good subunits… We need to be divisible by three, for maximum unit charm.  That means that we need to get two more girls to join, though I’m sure that won’t be a problem now that I’m here.  Anyone would want to work with me.  Why, I bet just my presence in Korekara’s school idol group will draw more girls to the school!”

“That doesn’t make sense, Shirato-senpai,” Izuna frowned, stepping in front of Momoko defensively, though Sakazaki had already gone to her side in a comforting way, “This school is invitation only.  Nobody applies here, it doesn’t matter if they want to go to Korekara, only people who are invited here can attend.  And I would appreciate if you weren’t so rude to Watanabe-chan.”

“Whatever,” Kyoko rolled her eyes, then turned around and looked up at the sky, “Well, if we’re lucky, then maybe those girls will see fit to join up with us.  Of course, we’d have to prove that we’re worthy of them!  So we need to get to work, your whole routine needs polishing, and there’s a complete revamp of the choreography for that song.  Of course, I’ll practice with you this time,” She tucked some of her hair back behind her ear, “So let’s get started.”

“What do you mean, those girls?” Kamui questioned, tilting her head to the side, “Shirato-senpai?”

“There’s a pair of girls who play piano and sing in the music room after school, but they’ve stopped lately,” Kyoko explained with a sigh, “Makoto Narahashi and Sachiko Ryuunosuke are two of the most musically talented girls in the school, and that’s what earned them their positions here.  However, neither of them are in the light music club, and their level is much too high, even for me.  Ryuunosuke-sama has legions of fans on the internet thanks to her cover songs…” Kyoko clenched her fist, “It’s so… Unfair…”

“You mean… Ryuunosuke-senpai, who’s in the occult club?” Kamui questioned, then her face broke into a hysterical grin, “Shirato-senpai, you must be mistaken!  There’s no way that she’d ever do something like that!”

“Well, doubt me if you want, it doesn’t change that we have a lot of work to do if we want anyone else to join us,” Kyoko snapped her fingers, then walked into the group, “So, come on.  We’ll get to work right away.”

With Kyoko’s help, the Korekara School Idol Club spent a fruitful afternoon practicing.  When they were finished, Momoko hung behind, and just as she hoped would happen, found herself approached by Kyoko, “What do you want, first year?”

“Well, not a lot.  I’d just like to tell you something that I already had to tell Oujouno-senpai,” Momoko giggled, then opened her eyes and gave Kyoko a hard stare, “Do you really think you could so easily steal Sakazaki-chan away from me, if I was able to get a flirt like her to commit in the first place…?”

“Of course I do,” Kyoko frowned, looking down her nose at Momoko, “A puny first year like you who probably won’t even let her make out with you?  I give it a month until she’s bored of you, so… I’m really just biding my time here.”

“I think you’re wrong,” Momoko gave a sweet smile, holding her hands to her chest.  The art of being passive-aggressive was one which she’d mastered quite some time ago, “Sakazaki-chan could have any girl she wanted, but she picked me, even knowing everything wrong with me.  I don’t think you stand a chance.  Oujouno-senpai was a bit more like her type, of course, but she’s well aware that she can pursue Sakazaki-chan as much as she likes, but won’t ever get her.”

“So you aren’t telling me to back off?” Kyoko questioned, now confused as to what Momoko’s motives were in this conversation.

“I don’t have to tell you to back off.  By all means, try, just don’t go thinking that you’ll succeed,” Momoko closed her eyes again and laughed, “I have complete trust in Sakazaki-chan!”

“So…” Kyoko looked away and held a hand to her chin in contemplation, “Oujouno-san is my competition to be next in line when you inevitably break up… Hm.  It seems I’ve acquired a rival.”

“It’s not that deep,” Momoko informed her.

“Stop acting like you’re better than me!” Kyoko slumped her shoulders, “Just you watch!  I’m going to achieve my goal!”

“Okay, let’s make a bet,” Momoko raised a finger in the air, “I think that being in Yokaishiteru will make you a better person.  If you’re still the same by the time I graduate, then… I’ll die.”

“What!?” Kyoko questioned, “Why would you go that far?”

“Well, you’d like it if I died, wouldn’t you?  And you see, there’s no way I could give up Sakazaki-chan while I was alive.  She’s my lifeline, after all,” Momoko explained, “But that’s only if you continue to be horrible.  I think, though… Being a school idol will change you for the better.  I’ll stake my life on it.”

“You’ve got a deal, Watanabe.”


Kamui’s living situation was an easy one; The different members of the occult club put her up in their homes as a pet cat, more or less.  She could catch small prey outside to feed herself, and needed very little space to sleep.  On occasion she’d take her human form for a short chat, but for the most part, she was a no-maintenance houseguest.  In this case, however, she definitely wanted to have a chat with her host of the week.

“Ryuunosuke-senpai,” Kamui questioned, lying on the floor underneath her desk; the warmth of the computer tower was very comfy, after all, “What sort of hobbies do you have, anyway?”

“I read, reread, and analyze the Chronicles of Barronak,” Sachiko answered immediately and truthfully; There was a fictional book series that she prescribed to as a sort of holy book, and she was reading it often.  Kamui thought she might be translating the English book into Japanese in order to further spread the word of Barronak.

“Well, I know that, but what else?  That can’t be the only thing that you like to do,” Kamui noted, “In fact, just disregard any and all occult activities, what do you do to relax, or for fun, on your own?  Do you play games?”

“Not often,” Sachiko shrugged, “Sometimes, if they’re free, but not often.  Servants of Barronak should be free from trivial mortal pleasures.”

“...Ryuunosuke-senpai,” Kamui began again, “Do you sing?”

“From time to time,” She answered, then closed her eyes and leaned back in the desk chair, “I record it, anyway.  The only person that I can sing in front of for real is the Aria Apostle…”

“That’s Narahashi-senpai, right?” Kamui asked, “But… I never took you for the shy type.”

“Of course you didn’t.  Barronak grants me strength to spread his word throughout the land!  However, should I try to speak of things other than his holiness… Chaos overtakes me and I find myself unable to speak,” She opened her eyes again, staring at the ceiling as she sounded out the next words in English, “Social Anxiety.”

“Well…” Kamui sighed, “That means that if you weren’t anxious, you would have joined Yokaishiteru, right?  Well, how can you know if you could perform in a group if you don’t try?  After all, the focus won’t be on you…”

“I am not ready to undertake such a trial…” Sachiko sighed, “But… It seems that you will be the next students of Korekara to fight against the ever-creeping chaos, so I am grateful to you.  Perhaps if Barronak witnesses your pursuits, I will be blessed with the confidence to stand beside you onstage.”

“Well then, I’ll be patiently awaiting that day, Ryuunosuke-senpai,” Kamui grinned, then transformed to her cat form once more and curled up in the warm air generated by Sachiko’s computer.  What a lovely evening.  The human world sure was nice~

Next Chapter --->

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