Saturday, March 25, 2017

Yokaishiteru! Chapter Four

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<------First Chapter

Mishio was on top of the stairwell hutch of the roof, her previous hiding spot, but now she was kneeling rather than lying stomach-down.  This was the first time she’d actually caught the view from up here, since she’d always just been hiding from the school idols.  It was nice, being on the highest point of the school, with the wind rustling through her hair.  Well, as nice as she could fathom.  She was learning pleasantness, as she worked with Yokaishiteru, but it still felt like a foreign emotion at this point.

“Oujouno-senpaiii!” Kamui called out from where she stood on the roof, hands cupped around her mouth, up at Mishio, “How long have you been up there?  Lunch just started!”

“Hmm…” Mishio tapped her chin with a finger, “I think… I don’t have a watch, but I think I’ve been up here since second period?  I spent first period hanging out with Watanabe-chan and Yuu-chan in the dumpster…  Close quarters…”

“So that’s why Watanabe-chan wasn’t in math class…” Kamui noted, then dropped her hands back to her sides with a nervous chuckle, “You know, it reflects badly on the club to have so many truants!”

“Nah, that’s wrong,” Kyoko spoke up from behind Kamui, arms crossed and hip cocked, “Nobody gives a damn about truancy at this school, and if you cared about our image as an idol group you’d have to start by kicking out Watanabe, then also kicking out Tosaka-san and Oujouno-san.  So obviously, that’s not a factor, so attendance of class shouldn’t be either-”

“Let me guess, Shirato-senpai, you skipped classes today too?” Kamui questioned as she turned around to look.

“I-I didn’t!” Kyoko whipped her head around to look away.

“She did,” Sakazaki noted as she also arrived on the roof, holding onto the doorframe as she went, “I went to second period, and she wasn’t there!”

“Oh, Sakazaki-chan!” Kyoko dropped the attitude and clasped her hands together, “You noticed?”

“No,” Sakazaki lied.

“Hey, Saka-tamaaaa,” Momoko greeted as she also arrived on the roof, wrapping her arms around Sakazaki’s waist, “I missed youuu~  It’s only been two class periods since we ditched in the dumpster but I missed you~”

“Oh, cut the crap,” Kyoko scoffed, “You’re not that lovey-dovey.”

“Do you not see me?  Hugging my girlfriend?” Momoko asked.

“Yeah, Shirato-san,” Sakazaki, of course, took Momoko’s side because she had absolutely no interest in Kyoko Shirato.

“Hey!  No fighting!” Kamui interrupted, puffing out her cheeks, “We’re all friends here!”

“Kamui-chan is right!” Honoka arrived on the roof as well, followed by two students that Kamui hadn’t ever met, “We’re friends!  Arguing about relationships isn’t what’s important right now.  What’s important is… Why have most of us decided to eat lunch on the roof?”

“Uh…” Kamui froze, then laughed sheepishly, “Well, I decided to because after practicing up here so often, the roof is the best!  It’s a fun place for me, full of great memories and stuff!”

“I guess it’s the same for me…” Sakazaki agreed, and Momoko nodded as well.

“I have no concept of the passage of time and I don’t even have a lunch I’ve just been sitting here for hours,” Mishio gave her reason.

“Well, that’s close enough!” Kamui grinned, pointing at Mishio, “If you were a normal person, I’m sure you’d have the same reason as the rest of us!”

“Yes, that does seem likely,” Mishio agreed with a nod.

“So, Honoka-chan!” Kamui turned to her, “Who are your friends?  I don’t think we’ve met!”

Akane Fujishiro
“Oh right!” Honoka nodded, then gestured to the two of them, “These are my girlfriends, Akane and Ryouma!”

“Hello,” The green-haired one stepped forward and waved, “My name’s Akane Fujishiro.  Thanks for looking after Honoka-chan!  She’s been trying for a long time to make a school idol group, but Ryoumacchi and I just couldn’t do it… So I made you all some cookies, but I don’t think you’ll like them very much,” Akane held out a box which was filled with… Charcoal briquettes? “They got a little bit burnt.”

“That’s more than a little bit…” The blue haired one noted, then introduced herself as well, “I’m Ryouma Kobayashi.  I’m very glad you’re helping my lover out!” She struck a pose and winked, “So you have my thanks as well!  I hope this pose is on level with burnt cookies as a thank you!”

“I think it outranks burnt cookies a little,” Mishio noted from her roof-upon-a-roof, “It’s a very cute pose.  Why wouldn’t you become a school idol?  That’s a cuter pose than anyone here but Yuu-chan could possibly pull off.”

“Oh, well,” Ryouma dropped the pose and her smile turned bitter, sad, “The thing is, I love to perform… I think it’s great.  But I couldn’t ever be part of something that intends to exist for a long time, I can’t have anybody counting on me.  I work at a maid cafe, which lets me act and be cute without the chance of letting anybody down.”

Ryouma Kobayashi
“Why would you be so worried about disappointing people…?” Kamui asked, her voice pathetic and full of concern, then she stepped closer and looked at Ryouma’s eyes, “Wait… Oh, no.  Kobayashi-chan, are you half-demon…?”           

“What does that have to do with anything?” Kyoko questioned, wrinkling her nose, “And uh… How exactly did you manage to land two cute girls, Tosaka?”

“Half-demons…” Ryouma sighed, “Have a huge immunodeficiency.  Same-Hakase is helping me combat it, but my time here is definitely limited… The three of us are childhood friends, so we decided that we’d all date while we could.  Then, once I was gone, Honoka-chan and Akane-tan would get married.”

“That’s really sad,” Mishio noted in a monotone, “At least I think it is.  So my mom’s helping you?”

“What?” Ryouma questioned, turning to look up at her.

“Nothing.  Carry on,” Mishio shrugged.

“Honestly, I think it’s very romantic…” Sakazaki said, directed at Honoka, “Hold onto love while you can, mon cherie.  It’s a wonderful thing, and I always pale to hear when people decide not to date because of a situation like this.  Everyone really deserves to know how it feels to be in love before they die… Oh, is that insensitive of me to say?”

“Not at all,” Ryouma shook her head, “I’ve long since come to terms with it.”

“I understand the feeling,” Momoko piped up, “When I was being held captive, I was really scared that I would end up dead before I ever got to experience love!”

“Good God you are petty,” Izuna muttered under her breath.

“Anyway, we’re just really glad that Honoka-chan finally found a school idol group,” Ryouma spoke again, clutching her hands to her chest, “You all seem a bit… unorthodox, but I’m sure Honoka-chan can carry you all the way to winning the LL!”

“Her?  Carry us?  Wow, you are sorely mistaken,” Kyoko scoffed and wandered away from the conversation.

“Sorry!  Shirato-senpai is rude!” Kamui gave a sheepish smile as she said this, waving her hands in front of herself, “Really, though, she and Honoka-chan are the only members who have any sort of experience, and Shirato-senpai is out of practice, so she’s the one who’s mistaken thinking that Honoka-chan isn’t the best member we’ve got!”

“I’d drink to that,” Sakazaki agreed, “If I were old enough to drink.”

“We drank sake illegally in your dumpster just this morning, Yuu-chan,” Mishio noted, leaning forward to dangle her arms off of the stairwell roof, “Even Watanabe-chan had some.  That’s even more illegal because she’s a first year.  She’s not even close to drinking within the law.”

“Oujouno-san!” Sakazaki chided her, "Tori-chan doesn't need to know about that incident of delinquency!

“It was fun,” Momoko added in her two cents, then closed her eyes and… fell onto the floor.

“Is she okay?” Akane questioned, tilting her head to the side and poking at Momoko with her foot.

“Oh yeah, just narcoleptic,” Honoka explained, “She falls asleep all of the time.  It would be a problem, but somehow it seems that it’s an attractive trait to many of our potential fanbase.”

“Oh yes, absolutely,” Akane nodded, “Narcolepsy is a kink which is rapidly growing in popularity.  You’d think it would be weird to have somebody fall asleep in the middle of sex, but there are a number of people who actually find the helplessness attractive,” With this in mind, the rest of the group turned to look at Sakazaki, ready to kinkshame.

“Hey, don’t look at me like that!” Sakazaki waved her hands in front of herself, “I’m the one who rescued her from the people with narcolepsy kinks, I swear!  Our relationship isn’t even sexual, since she’s still recovering.”

“Right…” Ryouma mumbled, stroking her own chin, “Watanabe-chan only just got here this term because… It was towards the end of middle school that she got kidnapped, and…” She froze, then looked over her shoulder to watch Izuna, eyes wide in shock, “How are the two of you working together now?  After what happened, I would think you’d be dead to her…”

“I am,” Izuna looked away, adjusting her scarf, “Dead to her, I mean.  Our cooperation functions on the condition that we pretend this is the first time we’ve met each other… Which, I guess, is better than having her avoid me altogether.  I just wish things could be like they were before…”

“Nanako-san,” Honoka frowned, folding her hands in front of myself, “I don’t claim to know what happened, of course, but Ryoucchi does, and if she’s shocked that you can still get along, then something serious must have happened.  Take what you can get.”

“Ugh…” Izuna curled her lip and turned away.

“Hey, everyone…” Kamui stepped forward, holding her hands to her chest, “Do you think, maybe… The reason that Ryuunosuke-senpai and Narahashi-senpai won’t join us is because we don’t get along very well?”

“That can’t possibly be it,” Kyoko joined the conversation again, “It’s because we aren’t good enough, and they don’t want to be dragged down!  It’s a matter of skill, not something so silly as our bonds with each other.”

“But… aren’t our bonds the most important part of being a school idol group?” Kamui questioned, looking up at Kyoko, wide-eyed, “That’s what marks the difference, isn’t it?  You can be more skilled, more polished than a group with strong bonds, and still lose to them, because being an idol is all about sharing those emotions onstage!”

“Being an idol is all about showing the audience a false woman, an untouchable, unreachable, perfected fantasy girl.  That’s what the word means.  An idol is a worshipped item, and that’s what pop idols are too,” Kyoko shot back, “It’s not like on TV, Tori-chan.  I’m the one who has experience in the industry, I know what I’m talking about.”

“Well…” Kamui pressed a finger to her lips, pouting, “How about we tackle both problems at the same time…?”

“What do you mean?” Honoka asked, turning to look at her.

“There are LL qualifiers every week until the preliminaries begin in March, right?” Kamui questioned, “And we can enter as many as we want until then, too.  So… what if we made this upcoming week crunch week??  If we did a camp to improve our abilities as much as possible, then enter the qualifier on Sunday?  We can all sleepover together every night, and then we’ll improve our skill and our friendships at the same time.  And if we get through the qualifier, then that will prove us worthy, right?”

“I guess so,” Kyoko relented, putting a hand on her hip, “So you really want to get serious now, huh?  About time.  One question though… You’ve been staying with members of the occult club.  Sakazaki lives in a dumpster… And I mean, I don’t know where anyone else is living, but I can’t imagine that it’s contusive to basically living together for a week.  Now… In order to reach a point of having a shot at the qualifiers, we will have to be truants.  Practicing instead of going to class.  Now, the teachers are always fine with this sort of thing, but you were just chewing us out for it…”

“Well, skipping to practice is different!” Kamui leaned forward, puffing out her cheeks, “And I’m sure we can find some place!  Uh… maybe an inn!  If we pooled our money?”

“I’m afraid I can’t be of any help, as I’m just in a dorm,” Mishio noted, then glanced at Momoko, “As are Watanabe-chan and Nanako-chan, if I’m remembering right.  Since a sponsor of the school are the ones who rescued Watanabe-chan from her predicament, she was offered housing despite showing up unannounced.  I know this due to my own connection with the sponsor.”

“I’m in a dorm, too,” Honoka added, “So none of us have access to a space big enough for your idea, Kamui-chan… And I don’t know about money, since I don’t know how many of us have part time jobs.  I don’t, not really anyway.  I have a sponsor for my weightlifting who pays for my needs like food and toiletries, but I think I’d get in trouble for charging even a portion of the inn fare to them here.”

“That’s the same sort of deal with my job.  They handle all my needs here, but an inn retreat would definitely get me written up, maybe even reassigned to some totally lame mission after graduation…” Sakazaki noted, and she said it so casually that nobody thought it strange that she mentioned a mission.

“I don’t have a job,” Izuna answered, “My parents, like you guys, give me an allowance for food and such,” She nudged Momoko with her foot, and she blinked awake, “Momok- I mean, Watanabe-chan.  Do you have an income source?”

“Income source…?” She questioned, then sat up and rubbed her eyes, “Nothing that gives me pocket cash.  The group that rescued me gives me some money as reparations, but all my extra money goes toward clothes, since my family got rid of all my stuff after I disappeared.”

“I have a job,” Mishio mumbled, fidgeting with her hands, “I work at a fabric store downtown, the owner’s a Korekara Alum, and she’s really nice.  My pay is good, but not good enough to pay for a stay at an inn for seven of us all on my own.”

“My parents only pay for my necessities to live here because they think if I graduate from such a prestigious school, I’ll be able to get a job as a Doctor or a CEO or something good like that,” Kyoko flipped her hair over her shoulder, “If I even brought up the idea of giving me money for an idol training camp, then they’d probably cut me off in full.”

“I’d think your family would be impressed by something like being a popular idol…” Kamui frowned at the thought that somebody could actually be disappointed in success, were it the wrong kind of success, “But I understand… People don’t always make sense,” She looked away, “I haven’t been able to find work, since I don’t seem to have any applicable skills…”

“No applicable skills?” Ryouma joined in again, “Tori-chan, why don’t you apply to work at a maid cafe?  The one I work at in Nagasaki is always looking for more people,” She paused, “But… I guess that doesn’t help you get any money fast.  I’d help, but all of my money goes towards taking care of my father…”

“And my brother won’t let me get a job till I’m an adult,” Akane added in, “He’s very protective of me, and a lot of jobs that hire teenaged girls involve letting older men ogle…”

“You know what this calls for?” Sakazaki asked, raising a finger in the air, and everyone else just nodded.


“Inbo-saaaaaaaan!” Sakazaki burst into the room for the video game club once more, as soon as school was out later that afternoon, and Shizuka looked up, irate.

“What do you want this time?” She questioned, fingers still moving on her keyboard, “Make it snappy, I’m trying to do a zero-deaths run of Borderlands 2.”

“We want to go to an inn somewhere with a lot of space so we can do a week of hardcore practice for the LL qualifiers,” Sakazaki explained.

“So you want money again.  Look, I’d only pay for that if I was going with you, and the only inn anywhere nearby that’d suit your needs doesn’t have a wi-fi connection, therefore, not something I would be interested in.  I’m not running a charity, I won’t do something which inconveniences me without benefiting me in some way,”

“Oh no…” Kamui dipped her head and frowned, tapping her fingers together, “I understand, Inbo-san, but… Without a boot camp like this, we’ll probably just have one shot at the qualifiers, the final week…  And I don’t know if we’d get more members then…”

“Look, that’s…” She sighed, looking back to her screen and furrowing her brow, “I want you to succeed, I really do, but if I paid for your trip and didn’t go too, let’s be completely honest for one second.  I’d feel left out.  Totally left out.  I’m not your sugar mama.”

“You’re younger than most of us,” Honoka noted tactlessly.

“Doesn’t change a thing!” She turned her nose up as she clicked to make a shot with her corrosive sniper rifle, getting a headshot on the enemy that got it close enough to death that the corrosion killed it before it could reach her character, “I am not an ATM!”

“If feeling left out is the problem,” Izuna thought aloud, “Then why don’t you just join?  You’ve got a huge following online with your gaming, right?  So you could transition to being an idol pretty easily, yes?”

“Well, I’m already practically in idol in the gaming community.  Everyone in the video game club is a big name in some portion of it;  Talk about important girl gamers in Japan, I’d say 95% of them attended or are currently attending Korekara,” Shizuka noted, fingers flying as she got into a group fight in her game, “However, if I was to join your idol group, my gamer cred would drop in certain circles, and so would my skills, since I’d have less time to practice, and gross motor doesn’t help fine motor.  I’d lose my APM record.”

“I have no idea what any of that meant!” Kamui exclaimed, “But I think I understand what you mean… so what should we do?  Do you have any advice…?”

“...If the retreat really is so important to you, and you don’t mind an unorthodox method to get access to an inn to practice at,” Shizuka paused as she had to focus on the game for a moment, then resumed, “Umi Uchiha might be able to help you.”

“I-Isn’t she the most combat-ready member of No Boys?” Izuna questioned, frowning, “I don’t want to ask her to stand up an inn for us or anything like that...”

“Why not?” Kyoko shrugged, “It’s not like we have other options.”

“That’s not what I’m saying.  Sticking up an inn to get an entire week’s stay wouldn’t even work.  I’m telling you about her because her family owns the inn I was talking about, the one with no wi-fi.  All you’d have to do is convince her to convince her family to give you a week there for free,” Shizuka shrugged, “Which probably won’t work out, but you can’t say I didn’t try.”

“Thanks, Shizu-chan!” Sakazaki grinned, “We can always count on you!”

“Yeah, whatever,” Shizuka shrugged, “Don’t you ever call me that again, though, or you won’t even be able to count on me giving you the time of day.”

“Right on,” Sakazaki made finger pistols as she backed up out of the room.

“Uchiha-senpai,” Izuna was the one to approach this time, walking right up to her, “Hi, I’m Izuna Nanako, and these girls are my groupmates.  We make up the Korekara School Idol club, and we’re called Yokaishiteru.  We heard that your family owns an inn??”

Umi Uchiha
“An inn?” Umi questioned as she turned around, then crossed her arms and nodded with her eyes closed, “Yes, that’s right.  Who did you hear that from?  It’s not like I keep it a secret, but I don’t announce it either.”

“Inbo-san told us,” Sakazaki noted, then winked, “So, you think you could set us up?”

“If I do that again, then my family will once more accuse me of being a useless lesbian, falling to any pretty girl who tries to flirt to get me to drop the tab… That happens way too much when I go home and work the front desk over break,” She sighed and shook her head, “Plus, I know your flirting is empty, Yuu-senpai.  You’re in a committed monogamous relationship.”

“Well,” Kyoko gently pushed Sakazaki aside and stepped forward, tucking her hair back behind her ear with a coy smirk, “Uchiha-san, what if the flirting wasn’t just an empty flirt to get you to give us a room for free?  What if it led to empty activities to get you to give us a room for free?”

“Sh-Shirato-senpai!” Umi took a step backwards, pulling her mask up to cover her cheeks as well, “You must understand… It is very unprofessional of me to allow my feelings to throw away profits… Especially for seven people… A whole week…” She turned around and mumbled, “Well, maybe if it’s during our off-season.”

“Is this week during your off-season?” Mishio asked, “I bet it is.  By the way if you need it I can sweeten the deal.  I don’t feel emotions but I do have a hot body.  I think.”

“Oujouno-san, that’s unnecessary,” Kyoko turned to her, “I’m sure being with you would be like banging a dead fish,” She looked her up and down, “A hot fish, but still.”

“Look…” Umi turned back around and hid her face in her hands, “Neither of you need to do anything like that.  There aren’t any bookings at all for this week, so there’s no reason not to let you have the week… No need to bribe me, either.  Even my family will allow something like this if it’s last minute and nobody is there; they are kind people, who would prefer to put somebody up for free than to put nobody up,” She dipped her head with her hands clasped in front of herself, “And I do hope you will enjoy the amenities of the Uchiha Inn.”

She really did not seem like the delinquent she was known to be, but when she got a baton in her hands she turned into a completely different person.  Kyoko groaned and rolled her eyes, “No need to bribe you?  Come on.  You’re cute, I want to bribe you,” She then turned back around and held her hands in a pleading pose, facing towards Sakazaki, “Sakazaki-chan, this changes nothing, you’re still the top of my list!”

“I’d really prefer if it did change things,” Sakazaki rolled her eyes, then grabbed Momoko’s hand, “Fixate on somebody else for a change.”

“Same here Yuu-chan,” Mishio raised her hand, “Though I may offer my body to fulfill the goals of the group you are the only one with whom such acts would hold any meaning.”

“You too, Oujouno-senpai,” Momoko stuck her tongue out, “I know I said you could flirt up a tree, but this is a little too explicit for comfort!”

“Right, sorry,” Kyoko wrung her hands, then turned back to Umi, “So, what do you say?”

“Losing interest greatly,” Umi responded, glaring, “Just… go to the inn.  They’ll be expecting you tonight.  There’s a bus which leaves for the town an hour from now, and the place is within walking distance of the station.  I’ll call and let my parents know,” Umi reached into her skirt and pulled out her phone from the waistband.

“Hold on, Uchiha-senpai,” Kamui stepped forward, “Thank you.  And… I have a kind of weird question for you.”

“I can answer a kind of weird question.  Can’t be much stranger than those two,” Umi shrugged.

“I was wondering what type of demon you are?” She gave the weird question with a tilt of her head so dramatic that it left her ponytail parallel to her neck.

“Huh, so you can tell,” Umi’s mouth wasn’t visible, but she was probably smirking, “Well, why don’t you ask my parents that question?  They love telling the story, so it would definitely get you on their good side.”

“Okay, I will!” Kamui nodded at top speed, grinning as she turned to her fellow idols, “Boot camp is go!  A week of training and bonding awaits!”


The girls arrived at the bus stop for the inn and piled off the bus with their bags, then looked up.  The inn was very close, sitting atop a hill which leveled out behind the building.  The area was forested in general, but right around the inn was cleared out.  Kamui immediately ran all the way up, then turned and held her arms out to her sides with a gigantic beaming grin, “This is amazing!  Look at the clearing!  It’s perfect to practice in!  Let’s start right away!”

“Tori-chan,” Sakazaki laughed as she made her way up towards the inn as well, followed by everyone else, “We can’t start right away.”

“But we should use all of the time we have!” Kamui insisted, then looked to Kyoko, “Right, Shirato-senpai?  That’s what we should do?”

Kamui Tori (Exercise Edition)
“Yes, but…” Kyoko looked away and chuckled a bit as well, “I guess you’re being a little too intense now.  We should at least check in first and drop off our bags before we jump right into practicing in their field, you know.”

“Oh, right,” Kamui puffed out her cheeks and nodded as she brought her arms back in and stopped her starfish posing, “That is a good point… Well, then let’s go inside first!”  She whirled and went in through the front door.

“Welcome, Kamui-chan and friends!” A short boy in a kimono greeted them as they got inside, waving both hands, “My name’s Sosuke!  Sosuke Uchiha!  My onee-chan said she was sending you here and I’m really happy to meet you!  Off-season is boring!”

“Hey there, Sosuke-kun!” Kamui crouched down with her hands on her knees, “We’re happy to meet you too!  How old are you?”

“I am,” He held up his fingers with the number, “Six years old!  I’m home-schooled so I can help out all the time.  Come meet my parents!” He turned around and ran down the hallway.  The members of Yokaishiteru swapped their shoes for slippers, then followed after him, and he’d led the way to a dining room with a large kotatsu, and the kitchen visible.  Sitting at the table were an older pair with kind smiles.

“Hello!” The woman waved, “I’m Akatsuki Uchiha, one of the owners of Uchiha inn.”

“And I’m Souichiro,” The man introduced himself as well, “Her husband, and the other owner.”

“You’re human,” Kamui noted, with a confused blink, “Both of you are human.  How do you have demon kids??”

“Oh, dearie, that’s a funny story,” Akatsuki chuckled, covering her mouth with one hand, “Souichiro, do you think you could start on dinner for our guests while they sit down, listen to me prattle on, and eat some mikan?”

“Of course,” Souichiro stood up, then held out a hand to Sosuke, “You wanna come help me out, kiddo?  You can mix the miso.”

“Yeah!!” Sosuke nodded as he followed his father over to the kitchenware.  As Kyoko sat down, she started peeling an orange right away, but the others didn’t grab any just yet.

“So, the stories of our children…” Akatsuki held a hand to her cheek, smiling, “Umi and Sosuke… Well, they may be Yokai, but they’re blessings from the Gods.  See, Souichiro and I are both infertile; there’s no way, even with the help of modern technology, that we could have children.  And being so far from any schools to send them to, we couldn’t adopt and continue running the inn, so we thought we were stuck…”

Akatsuki Uchiha
“But,” Akatsuki continued, “Umi, she’s a Shiro Uneri.  A dragon that forms when you keep using the same washcloth for too long… Well, that’s not something which happens very often, so it must have been a gift to us, that she did.  We raised her as our own, and we were overjoyed when she got invited to that school of yours.  As for Sosuke…” She turned to look at him, and chuckled, “I just can’t believe we were blessed twice.”

“They’re both Shiro Uneris?” Kamui asked, taking an orange of her own.

“No, actually,” Akatsuki shook her head, “Sosuke’s a Yama Oroshi.  That’s when a grater… Like for cheese?  Dulls its blades too much.  Another thing which doesn’t happen every time a grater goes dull, but… We’re just so lucky!”

“Oh, wow!” Kamui clapped her hands together, “That’s amazing!  Myself, I’m just from the demon world, so no fancy creation story for me!”

“You know, I’m curious…” Momoko leaned forward, stretching her arms across the kotatsu, “Make it quick before I fall asleep, but… Why are you and your sister different types of demons, in that case, Tori-chaaaan?”

“Huh?  Oh!” Kamui squared her shoulders and smiled, “See, demon types are sort of random.  It’s more magic than genetics, so there’s no way of knowing.  So on top of the ‘are you hoping for a girl or a boy’ question, there’s the ‘are you hoping for powerful or harmless’?  There’s a lot of that going on, like harmless demons want harmless kids, and powerful ones want powerful kids, because it’s hard to handle a force of destruction if you’re weak!  And… disappointing to parent something weak if you’re strong.”

“...Kamui-chan,” Honoka whispered, putting a hand on her shoulder.

“Well, that’s just awful.  If you have children, then you should be prepared for anything,” Akatsuki held her hands over her chest, “They’re such a blessing, but you need to be ready to care for a child who doesn’t meet your expectations.  One which is mentally ill, or gay, or transgender… And I guess in your case, a less-wanted power level? Don’t become a parent if you can’t give all your love and support to a child of any kind.”

“That’s really nice of you to think, but in the demon world… It’s most common to have a least favored child, and a most favored child,” Kamui shrugged as she now admitted this fact to the rest of her new friends, and hoped they wouldn’t think less of her for-

“This is good mikan,” Mishio hadn’t even been listening, focused on the snack.

“Agreed,” Kyoko nodded, then looked to Kamui, “That happens here, too, you know.  Parents shouldn’t be bad, but they are, all throughout the universe,” She swallowed, then closed her eyes, “At least the standard is to still have a favorite.  Mine are rather disappointed in both me and my brother.  It’s a shame…”

“My mom doesn’t know I’m her daughter,” Mishio spoke again, this time on topic.

“My parents didn’t even look for me when I went missing,” Momoko yawned between words, “They didn’t even correct the missing persons report that had Nanako-chan’s name on it…” With this, she fell asleep before anyone could ask what she meant by that.

“I see…” Akatsuki shook her head, “Poor dears.  Well, we really shouldn’t do this, but we still have a steady enough profit flow that it shouldn’t hurt… You girls are welcome here anytime you need,” She nodded, then looked over to the boys, “Sosuke!  How would you like to have more big sisters?”

Sosuke walked back over, and looked at the whole group before turning to his mother, “Gee, Mom!  How come I get to have eight onee-sans??”

“It’s because you’re so cute, Sosuke-kun!” Kyoko tilted her head to the side and held up both her hands as if she was waving, “Every Good Boy Deserves Fbeautiful-onee-sans!  Remember that if you ever need to read sheet music!”

“What’s a sheet music?  And what’s fbeautiful?” Sosuke asked, face now flat.  Children had a disturbing habit of switching visible emotions at a ridiculous rate; it was almost as unsettling as the fact that Mishio never seemed to show emotion in any way.

“Now, Sosuke,” Souichiro walked back over and grabbed his shoulders, “Shirato-nee’s just being silly.  Oh, right, Umi told us all your names, and enough of a description to put those names to faces.  We’re not mind readers or anything!”

“Oh my,” Sakazaki clasped her hands together, “I wonder what it was she said about me?”

“Oh, Yuu-san?” Shouichirou questioned, then smiled, “She said that you were a lovely ‘iyamegane’ from France!”

“I-Iyamegane!?” Sakazaki questioned, then pouted as she pushed her glasses up, “These are prescription, you know…”

“I don’t even want to know what she said about me, then,” Honoka made a face as she looked away from them.

“You?  Oh, Tosaka-san, she said that you’re the only sane one of the lot!” Souichiro chuckled, waving a hand, “And also that you’re probably the best idol, too, but I don’t want to pick favorites!  You all seem very nice.  Anyway, dinner’s ready!  When you’re done eating, we’ll take your bags to the group room and you can go out to practice in the clearing,” As Souichiro said this, Sosuke brought the food over and set it on the kotatsu.

“Thanks for the meal!” The whole group managed to say it simultaneously, then started laughing at how in-sync they accidentally were.

“Well,” Akatsuki chuckled as well, “You girls must already be pretty good, if you’re acting like that even outside of choreographed routines.  Oh, I have an idea!” She raised a finger in the air, “In return for your free pass here, can we have free passes to any of your concerts?  Now, I’m not expecting you to be able to buy us tickets to LL events, but the ones that you put on yourselves?  It would be spectacular to see you perform.”

“That should be fine,” Izuna nodded, then tapped Momoko’s shoulder, noticing that she’d fallen asleep and bumped the bowl of rice which had just been set in front of her, knocking a few grains into her hair, “Watanabe-chan, come on.”

“Mph?” Kamui looked up, then swallowed her mouthful, “Oh yeah, totally!  We’ll make sure to invite you for free all the time~!  This food is so good, by the way…”

“Of course it is!” Sosuke hopped up and down next to the table, “My mom and dad got their recipes from the Oishi family!  Their cafe was voted the best in Tokyo for like ten whole years!”

“Oishi, huh?” Izuna asked, leaving Momoko alone to start eating her own food, “I think the heiress to that cafe is head of the cooking club at Korekara,” She took a bite, “Yeah, she definitely makes these recipes!  She’s usually pretty snobbish about her family recipes, though.  How did you get them anyway?”

“Well,” Akatsuki paused, looking up at the ceiling, “The Oishis said that as long as we kept them secret, we could use the recipes as thanks for our daughter saving the life of their future daughter-in-law during a school trip?  It was very strange and unexpected, and Umi doesn’t even know what they meant by it, but these recipes are wonderful and I’m glad to share them with our guests.”

“I’m so glad you can share them with us too!” Honoka offered between bites, then gave a sheepish smile, “In fact… Any way I could have seconds?”

“Here,” Mishio pushed most of her food except for the bowl of white rice over towards her, then looked back to Akatsuki and Souichiro, “Your cooking is amazing, from an objective standpoint, but I’m afraid that I have strict dietary needs which limit my consumption to bread without bits in it, white rice, unseasoned tofu, and gummy vitamins.”

“Strict dietary needs?” Momoko questioned, “I knew a guy who wouldn’t drink any unsealed beverage for fear of being poisoned… At least, I’m pretty sure he’s that way now…”

“Well, my strict dietary needs actually have a colloquial name.  Picky eating,” She shoved some rice into her mouth, “Those are the only things I really ate when I was a kid, and now if I try to eat anything else it’s too unfamiliar to my body and I get sick.”

“We can solve that,” Kyoko scoffed, then picked up a single peapod, “A diet like that has protein, but you need some vegetables…” She shoved the peapod into Mishio’s mouth, “Just one for now.  We’ll go slow to desensitize you.  One peapod won’t get you sick, right?”

Mishio spat it out, then just stared at Kyoko for a minute before realizing she should explain herself, “I’m not opposed to this idea, but I don’t want to risk it at a time like this.  If we get through this qualifier, maybe we can try it out between then and the preliminaries…”

“Without nutrients, Oujouno-senpai, you might pass out during practice…” Izuna leaned forward with a frown, “Or during the performance for qualifiers.  Are you sure it’ll be okay?”

“I’ve been fine for this long.  The problem won’t come to a point like that so suddenly, it’s a bigger risk for me to be exercising while trying to acclimate my stomach to something unfamiliar,” Mishio explained, then continued to stuff her face with incredibly plain white rice.

It wasn’t long before everyone was finished eating, and the Uchihas told them to get right outside and start practicing, to make the most of their time and work off the meal.  Souichiro went to move their bags, Sosuke did the dishes, and Akatsuki went out to turn on the outside lights so that the girls could see what they were doing.  Then, she watched, smiling, as one more serving of the meal sat on the counter, awaiting the arrival of a last-minute booking for a smaller room.

These school idols… As Akatsuki watched them practice, she couldn’t help but notice; maybe her only experience with performance was traditional dance, but in her eyes, they were so much better than they realized.

Next chapter ->

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