Saturday, April 29, 2017

Checkboxes Chapter Five

It’s shaping up to be a regular Tuesday again.  No problem.  Midway through the morning, however, there’s an announcement over the school intercoms.  I listen closely, hoping that it’s nothing bad, “Hello, everyone!  We have a nice announcement for today,” The headmaster speaks, her voice sweet.  She sounds much too young to be in charge of a school like this, and nobody’s actually seen her face.  All we know about her is her last name.  Headmistress Kira, “We’ve got two transfer students arriving!  Both third years who our talent scouts have known about for years, but who just became able to attend.  Kyoko Shirato is no longer so busy that she needs to be home-schooled, and Victoria Jean has just moved to Japan from France.  I hope that you welcome your new classmates with open arms!”

The intercom buzzes out, and I’m relieved to hear that it’s just transfer students.  I’ve even heard of Kyoko before, but most people in Japan have.  She’s an idol known for her sharp, mature appeal, referred to by most as ‘The Bossy Idol, Kyoko-chan’.  She’s been on the pop charts a few times, and I guess that she really is a talented singer to be scouted for this school…

Kyoko Shirato is more of an obstacle to us.  She can cause suffering to others with a habit of hyper-fixating on people.  Not an issue in itself, but she doesn’t quite get along with the concept of boundaries either.  We need to get somebody else fixated on her to cancel out two threats.

How am I supposed to do that?

It’s not as hard as you might think.  The real problem here is that both of these transfer students can make things tougher on Sakazaki Yuu.  That girl.  Very hard to keep her alive, between the doctor and these two.

Well, I’m up for the challenge, I guess.  But first, I do have to finish classes for the day.  Or at least, for the morning.  Usually I forget to bring lunch and just work through it, but Amai asked me to meet her for lunch out in the courtyard today, so I actually leave the classroom during lunch block for the first time since I’ve returned to school.  I wander out there, then spot her sitting on a bench.  I walk up behind her and lean over the back of the bench, “Good afternoon, Amai-chan!”

“Box-tan!” She greets me, then stands up and turns around, “I wasn’t sure if you’d actually come meet me,” Amai chuckles a bit, holding both hands over her mouth, “I was worried the reason you always stayed in class during lunch was because you needed the extra time to catch up on your work…”

“No, the only reason I do that is because I just forget to bring lunch, and I don’t feel like going all the way to the cafeteria to take something from the hot case when I can just wait to eat till after school,” I shrug, then slump my shoulders and pout a bit, “Uh, I just realized that probably isn’t super healthy for me to be doing now that I lost so much weight while I was in the hospital…”

“Well then, you’re in luck!” Her chuckle turns into one sharp cackle, then she reaches into her bag and holds out a sandwich wrapped in plastic, “I made a bunch of extras of this new sandwich idea I had!  I’m giving them out to people and I thought, well, if anyone should try it, it should be my childhood friend who’s hopelessly in love with me!”

“Oh, thank you!” I nod and take the sandwich, unwrapping it, “So what’s in it?”

“It’s a simple one!  Marinated beef, fried egg, and some bean sprouts on a toasted roll,” Amai explains, “I’m sure somebody else has made it before, but I haven’t and I want to know if it’s something I should put on the board for Oishi Cafe!”

“Right,” I nod, then take a bite of the sandwich.  I don’t know if it’s that the combination is actually good, or if just anything that Amai makes tastes like food for the Gods, but it really is great, “Ah, it’s amazing!”

“Well, obviously it’s going to taste good,” Amai scoffs, turning away, “But do you think people would actually order it?”

“I don’t know,” I shrug, “I mean, it’s Oishi cafe.  People know that anything they buy from there is going to be great.  Oh, speaking of… Are you planning to take over the one out near Tokyo, or make a new one around here?”

“It would be good for the business model to get more of an audience from another part of Japan, of course,” Amai waves her hand again, “But then like, my parents can’t retire!  I’m an only child, and there’s nobody else we could trust to run it.  Nobody else.  In the world.  Because what if they ended up being bad at following the recipes?  Or became vegan and started making gross substitutions?  It’s a terrifying prospect!”

“Well, what if you taught an apprentice from scratch?  Somebody with no cooking skill to begin with, so all the cooking they did was based on yours?” I offer, then take another bite of the sandwich.  It’s kind of pretentious of her to be thinking this way, but I do think that she has the right to be.  I’m sure that most people would find it rude… Although the thing is, she grew up around and learning to make some of the best food in Japan.  Before opening Oishi cafe, both her parents were renowned gourmet chefs… Of course she’d be proud of that.

“Look, to do that I’d have to like, adopt a kid.  Everyone over the age of three has got some ideas about cooking, usually all awful ones,” Amai groaned, “And who wants to deal with a child?  Ugh.  Maybe I should just locate some fully-grown adult who has never so much as boiled water before.  Do those exist?  They must exist.”

“Ummm,” I hold a finger to my chin and look up at the sky, “I’ve heard there are people who don’t know how to do anything in a kitchen except work the rice cooker, and live on convenience store food.  For all sorts of different reasons… At least one of them might want to learn to cook.”

“Well, then I must set out on a quest,” She holds her fist in front of herself, smirking, “Operating a rice cooker cannot even be considered cooking, as my discipline involves no rice cookers.  I will find one of these pathetic NEETs, and turn them into a force to be reckoned with under my ruthless tutelage!”

“How will you find them?” I ask, stepping forward again, “I don’t think there’s any sort of ‘Rent-a-NEET’ site or anything like that…”

“Are you kidding?  What are you, an idiot?  NEETs are easy to find!  The difficult part is finding a NEET who isn’t a lolicon,” She rolled her eyes with a scowl, “I mean, are you for real?  NEETs are all over forums and art sites, the real hard part is that the defining feature is usually their pathetic kinks, and I don’t want anyone like that!”

“Uh,” I chuckle, looking away, “I didn’t know that.  That doesn’t really seem like something which would be common knowledge…”

“In this day and age, everything is common knowledge!” Amai shrugs, and I shake my head.

“I really don’t think that’s the case, Amai-chan.”

“It’s got to be common knowledge.  I mean, how else would I know about it, right?” She protests, and her voice actually gives me the impression that she is upset about the argument, so I decide not to press any further.

“Okay, I guess I’m just not well-versed enough,” I wave my hands in front of myself, then change the topic, “But, are you sure you need a NEET?  All I know about cooking I learned from you in cooking club last year, so aren’t I already on track to be your apprentice?”

“What?  No way.  Even if you could do it, there’s the little matter that there’s no way you could stand being away from me for as long as would be necessary to run stores across the country from each other!  There’s no way a NEET would get attached to me.  Or, well, no way I’d give a damn if a NEET got attached to me, yeah?” Amai sighs, holding a hand to her forehead, “Honestly, Box-tan, you’re being stupider than usual today!”

“Yeah, I guess I am,” I nod and laugh a bit, “I didn’t think about that!  If I ended up doing that for you, we’d have to stop being best friends and just be business partners.  I’d really hate that.”

“I know you would, so don’t get any more silly ideas like that!  I don’t want to be responsible for any of your shitty self-loathing, okay?” She turns away, hands on her hips, “By the way, if you’re still hungry, there’s some more sweets in my bag.  Go on and stuff your face, you know, because you’ve been skipping meals like some sort of idiot.”

“Last I checked, I don’t tend to be very self-loathing…” I protest as I go digging in her bag for the aforementioned sweets, and come up with some baked mochi.

“You would quickly become that way were you to estrange yourself from me in a moment of especially poor judgement,” She explains, but then her aggressive tone drops a notch, “Right?”

“Oh yes, of course!  Silly me,” I chuckle, biting into a piece of mochi, “Anyone would hate themself if they became separated from somebody important to them, and it was their own fault and own decision to do so… You know, I really hope that nobody at this school has experienced that.  What if somebody accepted an invitation here at the expense of remaining with someone precious?”

“I dunno, I don’t think that’d happen.  After all, when all four of us were still close and stuff, we all got invited here, right?  And I think it’s probably because we were all friends!  I mean, Kato-senpai isn’t quite the type to end up here on her own, right?  Of all four of us, she always had it together the most.  Nothing super bad has happened to her.”

“Nothing super bad happened to me, either!” I nod, “But I always thought I was here because I’m connected to one of the school’s sponsors, not because their talent scouts had any idea who was friends with who…”

“I mean, they gotta know that.  This school can dig up problems that you never even told a single living soul about,” Amai shrugs, then sits down on the bench again and puts her hands between her knees, looking up at the sky, “So maybe they know who’s your friends, and maybe they can even know when friends oughta separate anyway.  I bet they brought the four of us here so we could have a crutch to stand on, till we found our own friends.  We were friends yeah, because we were all weirdos.  Now that we’re at a school for weirdos, it makes sense we’d end up apart…”

“I don’t want to end up apart,” I sigh and sit down next to her, “Hiromi-tan is doing okay now, she likes being with Tori-san.  And I guess Sayuri-chan is good friends with the student council president, but I don’t think I could have anybody as important to me as you are, even if I get to know every single person at this school.”

“Wow, Box-chan, that’s super gay,” Amai pouts, leaning against me, “But I guess you’re the only best friend for me, too.  Sayaka-chan and Osaka-kun, they’re nice girls and I’m glad we can get along.  They have tough skin!  But, it’s different than you.  I suppose.”

“Thanks,” I nod with another small laugh, “I’m just glad you can have other friends, with that sharp tongue of yours!  And it’s really funny that a first-year like Shinku-chan got so attached to you, right?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” She agrees, then grins, “She’s shorter than me, and I bet that’s the only time in my life I’ll actually be called oneesan!  No stranger, not even a little kid, is gonna look at me and think, yeah, that tall child is older than me.”

“I’ll call you Oneesan, if you want,” I joke, jostling her shoulder.

“That would be weird!” She shakes her head and laughs, “You’re weird, Box-chan!”

“I know,” I lean back and clasp my hands in my lap, “Class is starting up again in a minute… But I’ll see you later!  I have some stuff I need to do today, but maybe tomorrow we can hang out?”

“If you insist!” Amai agrees, standing back up and raising a hand as she starts to walk off, “Seeya.”


When class is over, it’s time to meet the third year transfer student!

Not quite.  You need to bring somebody with you to greet her.  Go to the first floor bathrooms.

Ayano Ueda
Hm?  Okay.  I grab my bag and go out the door to the nearest bathroom.  The club rooms are on this floor, as is class 2-2, since the class was established to accomodate a higher student enrollment for the year and takes place in an extra room which serves different purposes over the years depending on what’s needed.  In the bathroom is a girl sitting on top of one of the sinks, swinging her legs a bit as she draws on a pad of paper with headphones on.

That’s her.  Ayano Ueda.

Ayano, huh?  I remember that Sayaka mentioned her, and also that Fucko told me at that time that I couldn’t meet her until the transfer students arrived.  I guess that warning has come to fruition… I approach her and wait till she happens to look up and see me, at which point she pulls off the headphones and looks at me, “Hello.  Can I help you?”

“Umm…” I’m not sure what Fucko expected me to say here, but I decide to just wing it and tell the truth, “I was wondering if you could come with me to meet the new transfer students?”

“Oh!” Somehow, this makes sense to her, and I see her face light up, “How did you hear?  I was out of class this morning, so I didn’t hear the names of the transfers.  If you’ll be with me, then you can introduce me without it being obvious that I missed the announcement.  That’s so nice of you,” She chuckles, standing up, then looks me over, “Hey, you’re Hako-senpai, right?  The one who was absent all last semester?”

“Yep, that’s me!  I guess I’ve ended up sort of infamous for that, but I swear I wasn’t cutting class!  I really was sick,” I laugh a bit as well as I start leaving to go up to the second floor and find the transfer students, “How about you?  Why’d you miss the announcement?”

“Oh, I sometimes get sick as a side effect of the medicine I take, and have to miss a couple classes,” She explains, adjusting her bag.  It’s not a standard bookbag, but a backpack in the shape of a bunny.  It’s white, with red eyes, “It’s no big deal, anyway.”

“Your backpack’s cute,” I note, taking the first step of the stairs, “Where did you get it?”

“Oh, I got it in Harajuku when I was a little kid.  It was way too big for me then, but I loved it a lot, so my dad bought it for me,” She explains, “I guess it’s kind of childish to still be using in high school, but I guess it’s kind of important to me now.  I don’t like going places without it… That’s weird, right?”
“You know, I won’t say it isn’t, but everyone at this school is weird,” I shrug, “So it isn’t something which matters.  There are stranger things than bunny backpacks,” I stop in the hall as I see the unfamiliar students standing by the third year classroom, talking to the remnants of what I’m sure were a swarm of people looking to meet them.  I walk up, “Hello!  I’m Box Hako, and this is Ayano Ueda.  It’s nice to meet you both-”

“W-what?” Ayano stutters as she looks at them, then takes a step forward into Kyoko’s personal space and gives her a shocked look, “Are you… Are you Kyoko-chan?  Or just a doppelganger?”

Kyoko Shirato
“Oh?” She questions, then tosses her hair over her shoulder and smirks, “A doppelganger?  No way.  I’m the real deal!  But you know, I’m not in the business anymore, so that’s senpai to you.  You are a first year, right?  You’re tiny.”

“I am a first year,” Ayano nods, then puffs out her cheeks and looks away, “I may be small-boned, but I’m not that short!  And anyway, my doctor says I’ve stopped growing, so my size is no real indicator of my age…”

“Even still, you’ve got to look more mature than that when you get older.  It’s common sense to assume that you won’t look like a middle schooler your entire life,” Kyoko waves a hand in the air, then gestures to the other transfer student, “Anyway, talk to Jean-san if you want.  I’m going to go get settled into my room.”

“Hello,” Victoria gives a dainty wave, and we both turn to her, “It’s quite nice to meet you!  I am Victoria Jean.  I’m a rain spirit known as a Zashiki-warashi-”

“No you’re not,” Ayano gives her a deadpan look and shakes her head, “You’re not Japanese, so that’s not possible.”

Victoria Jean
“I would think there’s other reasons that isn’t possible…” I add in with a shaky laugh.

“Right, there’s other reasons,” Ayano nods, “I mean, everyone knows that demons have red eyes when in this world.  If you were in the business of announcing yourself as one, there’s no way you’d wear contacts like that.”

“I-I’ve never heard of such a thing!” Victoria protests, holding her hands out in front of herself, “Anyway, it’s the truth, it really is!”

“...No,” Ayano sticks to her guns, “I’m not even interested in the occult and I know that.  Anyway, let’s talk about something else.  How about Kyoko-senpai?  I must have it.”

“Have… what?  Kyoko-senpai?” I question, “I don’t think Kyoko-senpai is an ‘it’.”

“No, not Kyoko-senpai!  Her heart!  Senpai’s heart!” Ayano explains, stretching out her back to stand on her toes, “She’s always been my favorite idol, and now she’s my senpai?  I really can’t believe how lucky I am!  There’s no way I can’t take advantage of such a spectacular opportunity being dropped in my lap…”

“I’m not sure if you’re Shirato-san’s type, Ueda-chan,” Victoria notes, leaning down.  She’s taller than Ayano and I are, too, “Last I heard, she likes people more like… Yuu-san!  Somebody who’s beautiful and mature, and not at all childish.”

“Sounds more like Yuu-senpai is your type,” Ayano mumbles, “And last I checked she was none of those things!  She’s crude and unrefined, not good at spying at all, and easy to get upskirt photos of!  Who wants a girl like that?  Me, I’m polite and very good at spying!”

“Who are you getting your intel from, the doctor?” I can’t help but deadpan, “I can’t think of anybody else who would tell you that Yuu-senpai is bad at spying…”

“Yeah!” She nods with a sweet smile, “Everyone says she’s scary, but they’re wrong!  Same-Hakase is my legal guardian, and a very good cook.  Oh, and I guess that she’s a pretty great doctor too!”

“Huh…” I nod, then blink a few times, “Legal guardian?  But, you mentioned your dad earlier…”

“Oh, I know this one!” Victoria raises her hand high in the air and puts the other on her hip, “Your dad died, right?”

“Huh?” She freezes, and I glare at Victoria for the utter lack of tact she just exhibited.  Ayano speaks again with a small smile still on her face, but she looks sad even so, “Yes, that’s right… I’m sorry, I should be going.  I make a lot of mistakes, and I’d rather not have them unearthed by total strangers, okay?” She turns to me, “But, you’re nice, senpai.  I wouldn’t mind if you talked to me again,” With this, she gives a short nod of respect then runs off, back down the stairs.

“Mon dieu, what’s her problem?” Victoria asks, speaking the same strange language as Sakazaki.  Apparently it’s French, “Sensitive.  Not to mention, she implied that I was interested in my sister-”

“Half-sister, Victoria,” Sakazaki walks up behind her, having stepped out of… Not a classroom.  A maintenance closet?  Why?  Was she eavesdropping? “You’re not my sister.  You’re my half-sister, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to even call you that.”

“S-Sakazaki!  Where did you come from?” Victoria jumps, turning around and protesting, face flush red, “Did you hear that brat dare to imply that we were incestuous?”

“I don’t think she knew you were related…” I defend Ayano, raising a finger in the air, “I don’t think anyone did… I mean, even the people who know that Yuu-senpai exists wouldn’t know she had a sister, or that the sister was you just because you’re also French.”

“Of course the sister’s me!  French people in Japan is like, super uncommon, right?” She twirls some of her hair.

“Not… Really,” Sakazaki shakes her head, “I mean, not so much that somebody could assume that we’re related just based on where we’re from.  Besides, I’m half-Japanese,” Sakazaki explains, crossing her arms, “The French heritage I have is just a leveraging tool to make girls fall in love with me!” She stares at Victoria for a few more seconds, then turns around, “I don’t want to look at you anymore.  Adieu.”

“...Is it a hobby of yours to make people storm off?” I ask Victoria.  Now I am the one with no tact; Oh, how the turntables.

“No way!” She shakes her head and pouts, “I didn’t even do anything to make Sakazaki-nee run away, all I did was exist… I guess that’s how it always is with her though.”

“What do you mean?” I tilt my head.  Victoria seems the type to openly rant about her problems.

“I mean that she’s always hated me, and it’s not because of anything I did,” She rolls her eyes, “It’s just because of my stupid mom!  Our dad cheated on her mom with mine, and so I was born at the same time as her full-sister.  And like, this wasn’t a problem, our moms were friends and everything.  Then that baby got kidnapped, and for some reason she’s convinced that it’s because of my mom!  And hates me!  Isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard?”

“Sounds like a soap opera,” I blink a few times in confusion, trying to sort through the meaning of what she just told me, “But I guess… I understand?  Yuu-senpai probably hates that she doesn’t have the sister she was expecting.  I bet that… you could get along, if the other baby wasn’t kidnapped.  She’s projecting grief on you… I think.  I’m no therapist.”

“Like I don’t already know that’s why,” Victoria rolls her eyes, “I just wish it wasn’t, because if there was some other reason then maybe I could get her to stop!  She’s really cool after all, a super cool big sister…”

“Wait.  How are you in the same grade?” I realize this is weird.

“Oh, I skipped a grade because I’m super gifted and all!” Her frustration vanishes and is replaced by a smug grin, “So I’m your senpai just because I’m so smart.  That’s how I know Japanese so well, you know.  I can speak four languages, and two of them, I taught myself.  Then I hit middle school math.  And that’s why I’m only one grade ahead and not a bunch.  Math sucks.  Also history, and science, and basically I’m not good at advanced schoolwork.  I’m a genius for practical use.”

“That’s a weird way to word it, but I guess that makes sense.  When you’re smart, but only if it’s knowledge that helps you do stuff and not just knowledge the teachers want you to have… Well, I bet you’ll do really well at this school.  The curriculum is really skeletal so we can focus on our individual talents.”
“Yes, I hope so too…” She nods, “Even though I’m in the third year class, I may actually repeat the year if all goes well.  My liason said that the school hopes to offer me a more pleasant environment, and if I enjoy it, then I can technically have another year of it rather than just a semester and a half.  But…” She sighs and laces her fingers together, “I’m still not sure if this place will be any better than my last school.”

“Have you thought about joining any of the clubs?” I ask, “I’m sure with two new transfer students, all the clubs are prepared to do the paperwork for a mid-year new member.”

“What clubs does this school have?” She questions, glancing away, “My last school, it just had sports, and drama club, and some art stuff.  None of it was really my type of thing.”

“Umm… We have a cooking club, music club, science club, occult club, video game club, student council, and a track team.  I think that’s all we’ve got, since we’re a small school, but it’s kind of interesting, right?  At least, a little?” I offer.

“Oh, that is…” She nods, still refusing to make eye contact.  Funny how she switches between moods so easily, though I guess I’m sort of the same way, even if mine is a bit limited to ‘manic’ and ‘not’, “Well, I wonder if the occult club might allow me to join.  I am a lonely rain spirit, after all, and I read a lot of books, including ones with occult themes…”

“I’m sure of all the clubs in the school, they’d be the most glad to get a new member,” I cross my arms, and she blushes again.

“Oh, well, then I think I’ll go and find somebody to see if I can.  Thanks for the information,” She drops her hands to her sides and walks away without even really saying bye, but I guess what she said is close enough.

Good work.  That’s not all you have to do today, though.  You need to become acquainted with another third year similar to Sakazaki Yuu, who even fewer people know exist.  She has very little presence and can be found, today, in the library.

With these instructions in mind, I make my way to the library.  Akane waves as I walk in; she’s in my class, and though considered the Library Aide, she’s pretty much the librarian.  I don’t even think there is an official librarian on staff.  I nod to her, then wander to the back of the room, where a student I’ve never seen before is sitting on the floor, reading a children’s book.  This must be her.  I crouch down, “Hey there.”

“Huh?” She looks up and blinks, slowly, then throws the book over my head without any sort of expression on her face, “Hi.  Now that I’ve discarded my other entertainment in favor of speaking to you, we’ve entered into a verbal contract, and you have to have at least a short conversation with me.  I don’t make the rules, that’s just how things are.”

“...I guess,” I shrug, not knowing what she could mean by this, “So is your exceptional talent, uh, lawyering?”

“No,” She answers, staring at me, “It’s nothing.  I am not exceptional.  I sew acceptably well.  I do most things on an abysmal to mediocre level.  I am at this school due to my heritage, and nothing else,” She stands up, so I do too, “Oh.  I was hoping to become taller than you and assert my dominance, like the alpha giraffe.  I’m sure there is no such thing as an alpha giraffe, but my knowledge of the animal kingdom is not sufficient enough to decide upon a species which uses height as a determining factor of status.”

Mishio Oujouno
“Oh, I can sit back down if it’s an issue,” I sit on the floor, and she looks down at me, her eyes glassy.

“Good,” She nods, still just staring, “Anyway.  My heritage is something I would prefer to keep to myself.  Just know that supposedly, I am destined to have great skill.  I do not believe this is the truth, given that I have not excelled at anything in my life aside from the slightly above average sewing ability.  What is your exceptional talent?  Oh, and your name, I suppose.  Mine is Mishio Oujouno.”

“Box Hako,” I introduce myself at her request, “My exceptional talent is making friends.  It’s not very useful in practical settings and life in general, and I’m not much good at anything else, so I can relate.  I am trying to befriend everyone in this school, though.  That includes you.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m in this school,” Mishio shakes her head, “No, not at all.  I’m nowhere, really, because I’m not invested in anything and nobody is invested in me.  Geographically, I’m here, and technically I am enrolled, but if I was to leave and go someplace else, it would mean nothing to me or anybody around me.  So, I am not here.”

“That’s a strange philosophy.  Not to mention, I’d think it would be a shame if you went somewhere else, and I’m sure that your liason would be too,” I shrug.  I don’t actually have a faculty liason, because my invitation was sent through the mail rather than delivered in person.  It seems they only send people to difficult students, but that’s the majority, so it’s safe to assume.

“My liason doesn’t care about me,” She finally looks away, “I didn’t even grow up in Japan, so I’m not sure why I got invited.  My family is in San Francisco.  My liason isn’t Japanese either, and works for one of the school’s sponsors, not the school itself.  I think I was picked to fill some sort of quota,” She sighs and steps to the window, pressing her forehead against it, “That’s the type of person I am, anyway.  An afterthought, more or less.  Not that I care.”

“You’re not an afterthought at all!” I insist, “I came and found you, right?  I’m trying to befriend everyone at school, and I haven’t even met them all yet, let alone made friends with them.  So you’re far from an afterthought kind of person, yeah?”

“Well, I can’t imagine that’s a common perception,” She shrugs.

“I’m not sure if it’s that you’re an afterthought, or that you just aren’t a thought to begin with.  I’m sure if more people noticed you then you’d be a more primary thought, but you don’t have a lot of presence.  I’m not sure how many people know you exist,” I explain.

“That’s a good point.  It probably doesn’t help matters that I almost never attend class.  Not that the teachers take attendance.  A sudden disappearance from class is notable, but a sudden appearance just isn’t anything at all if you don’t call attention to it.  Maybe I should yell a swear during class one day.  Do you think that would help?”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, though I guess it’s in line with what I just said…” I shake my head with another nervous chuckle, then stand up as I get an idea, “Hey, how about the student council?  If you’re involved with that, people will have to know you attend this school.  Everyone knows who the class president is, and the treasurer too.  I don’t know what other sort of positions exist, but I think you’re cute enough to make a good secretary!”

“I have poor hygiene,” She responds with another flat look, “And my looks when clean are about as standard as you can get, aside from my eyes.  Those are just odd.  I don’t believe I am cute, as you say.  Puppies are cute, not people.”

“People are cute too, and you are!  I’ll prove it to you, come on and let’s go ask Sakuya-senpai if she thinks you’d be a good fit for the position,” I grab her wrist and start walking in the direction of the council room, and she comes with me without anything resembling protest.

“Who is Sakuya?” She questions, using no honorific.  Right, she’s a third year, so she wouldn’t call her senpai.  I guess without knowledge of who Gin Sakuya is, she wouldn’t have any idea what honorific is best for her.

“Gin Sakuya.  She’s the class president, you know.  I guess if you really do skip often, you might not know that though.  Do you care if when we make your existence known to the school, the chronic truants still miss out?  Because if you want them to know you, then I guess it would have to be something more drastic,” We reach the room quickly, and I knock on the door.

“That isn’t necessary.  Neither is this,” She doesn’t seem to have any expression of emotion, which is weird, but I guess I’ll deal with it.  Even other people I’ve met who try to put up a front like this falter a bit, but her demeanor seems somehow genuine.

“Hello?” Sayuri opens the door, then sees us and raises her eyebrows, “Box-chan.  And who is this porcelain doll you’ve brought?”

“I have tripped on my own feet so many times that if I were a porcelain doll I surely would have shattered by now,” Mishio pulls her wrist out of my hand and steps more into view, “Hi.  I’m Mishio Oujouno.  I’m a third year and I’ve attended since I started high school, but nobody knows that I exist, so this silly kouhai of mine has decided I should join the student council.”

Gin Sakuya
“Well, do you want to join the student council?” Gin steps forward as well, coming to stand next to Sayuri, “That’s the real question here, after all. Hako-san can get carried away from time to time, I've heard.”

“I don’t know.  I guess, if you don’t mind me leaving as soon as something marginally more interesting comes along,” She shrugs, “That’s not a good mindset, right?  So I guess you won’t want me.  Goodbye.”

“Wait!” Gin calls out, then pauses and stands up straight, “I mean, that’s fine.  We could use the extra help, only if for a little while.  Somebody to help with paperwork and the like, anyhow.  Nothing which is so important that it would cause a huge impact to the school if you were to quit…”

“In that case, okay.  It’s better than doing nothing.  I’ve already read every book in the school library.  Even the children’s ones which are for some reason in the high school library.  It isn’t that I’m a very fast reader or that I care what they say, it’s just something to do.  I like having something to keep busy with,” Mishio turns back around and steps past me into the office, “Thanks, I guess, Hako-san.”

“You’re welcome, I guess,” I shrug back, and she nods to me before closing the door.  That… Doesn’t seem like it was what I was supposed to do.

Actually, the best thing to do is to get Mishio to join the student council.  She’s easily convinced to join any club, but only the student council produces results.

I don’t understand Fucko, but nothing’s gone wrong yet, so I guess I must be doing something right by listening to it.

Anyway,  you can go home now, but before you go to sleep you should make contact with Momochan, okay?


BOX-U: Hello??
BOX-U: Uh, I don’t know what any of those words mean.  I want to talk to you.
MOMO: What do u want?
MOMO: Marvel isn’t here rn so it’s just the cheapy stuff……
BOX-U: Uh… You are Momo-chan, right?
MOMO: ??????????
MOMO: Where did you hear that nickname?
MOMO: Have you all started calling me that now?
BOX-U: I heard it from Sakazaki Yuu, at my high school!
BOX-U: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
MOMO: Oh, that’s great!  I was wondering why I didn’t recognize the UN.
MOMO: Turns out you’re a friend of Saka-tama’s…
MOMO: Well, any friend of hers is a friend of mine!
BOX-U: I’m Box Hako!  I’m a second year.
MOMO: Momoko Watanabe.  First year, I guess.  If I was in school.
BOX-U: ??? There’s a first year with that name at my school…
MOMO: Is there?
MOMO: What school do you go to?
BOX-U: Korekara Academy, in Nagasaki Prefecture.
BOX-U: Why?
MOMO: Oh, no reason!
MOMO: I guess it’s just a coincidence.  I mean…
MOMO: Momoko is a common name, and Watanabe isn’t a rare surname either.
MOMO: Figures there’d be at least one other Momoko Watanabe my age in all Japan!
BOX-U: I dunno.  Seems sorta weird.
MOMO: Haha, not at all.
MOMO: So what is school there like?  Do you go to your classes?  Do you like them?
BOX-U: I missed a lot of school :( it was upsetting!  So I do like it there.
BOX-U: I was in a coma.  What a pain.
MOMO: A coma ;OOOO ???
BOX-U: Yeah it was a real inconvenience.  Why the wink?
MOMO: Oops.  Force of habit.
MOMO: Anyway how is a coma an inconvenience?  That sounds like a real problem!
MOMO: I’m narcoleptic so I already sleep more than I’m awake…
MOMO: Comas are serious business!
BOX-U: I guess?  It didn’t seem like a big deal to me.  The time I lost was bad though…
BOX-U: All my friends aren’t friends with eachother anymore.
BOX-U: But now I’m trying my best to make friends with the whole school!
MOMO: Whoa!  What a difficult feat!
MOMO: Especially considering who’s at your school!
BOX-U: Oh, did Yuu-senpai tell you about her peers?
MOMO: No.  She skips too many classes to know the first thing about her peers.
MOMO: I just don’t think before I hit send.
BOX-U: So what’s that supposed to mean?
MOMO: Momoko Watanabe is not her real name…

[MOMO (116455599000233344442275844232111111111M) Disconnected.]

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