“I must be, you seem to be in my dreams,” And I replied half-heartedly.
I knew that the game was up. Seemed that lately it had become into something of a morning routine. Not that I minded, though I'm sure she felt differently about having to deal with me.
“Are you sure it isn't a nightmare?” A steady and unemotional voice. Alarm bells went off in my head.
I lifted my head from the desk and cleared from the danger zone just in the nick of time. A rolled up folder made a swell little thunk where my head had been only moments ago.
“Good morning, Ms. Mima,” I greeted the assailant with my trademarked winning smile, “What a fine morning it is, isn't it? You look lovely today, as always.”
“I won't miss tomorrow,” She ignored my greeting and rolled her eyes. A few classmates sniggered at the exchange. They could rot in hell. Nobody had bothered to warn me.
I looked to my left, ignored Ms. Mima's morning announcements as usual. The same loving smile as always met my gaze. My bubbly blonde neighbor and self-proclaimed fiancée was always happy to see me. It had only been a couple of days since she transferred in and, since then, all hell had broken loose. Not only did she suddenly throw my reputation into the gutter (rumors that I had otherwise ruined her for marriage came from the jealous boys) but it also cramped my independence. She tried to tag along to everything I did.
I felt like sighing.
Shifting my gaze to the right, I saw the other main source of trouble in my life. She sat only two desks over, one row ahead. Being the model student that she was, her eyes were firmly focused on what the teacher had to say. No doubt that she shot me a disparaging look while I was sleeping though. It was bad enough that she kept waking me up in the mornings but she also insisted on making sure that I stayed awake during most classes. Maybe I needed to ditch the blondes in my life.
“You sure like to live life on the edge, bro,” Came a whisper from the seat behind mine. I waved my hand in a silent gesture, telling Suika to sod off. I wasn't in the mood. But she didn't get the hint, “If you want to ditch later, I have something interesting to show you.”
“Sure, whatever,” I whispered back non-committedly.
The bell signaling the end of homeroom rang. With her usual flippancy, Ms. Mima left the room without waiting for us to bow. Well, it was why she was so popular amongst the guys. That devil-may-care attitude made us fantasize about her private life. Personally, I thought that she spent her off-duty time playing games and avoiding work but the theories varied wildly. A member of a gang was a commonly-held belief. Maybe they just liked to imagine her in leather.
Oh, something unusual happened that morning. The vice-principal came into our classroom with an announcement, “Ms. Kamishirasawa is ill today and we unfortunately don't have a replacement, so first period will be study hall.”
Jackpot. I could just sleep without worry.
Except that even when I closed my eyes, I could feel two sets of eyes boring into my skull. The two blondes. They stared for very different reasons.
 Ditch morning classes with Suika
 Tough it out
Hey, welcome to yet another highschool slice-of-life story. See >>/forest/25090 for an introduction to this story (25106 to a lesser extent). While a lot of that was purposefully made over-the-top and cheesy because it was a story within a story, this story will be a bit less purposefully exaggerated/cliched since it's now its own alternate universe. Still, the idea is to have a lighthearted story that doesn't take itself too seriously and delivers fun. Hopefully it'll get you to smile along the way as well.
Updates will be short(er) and fast, hopefully reaching a few per day. For this first update the wait will be a bit longer (about half a day +- a few hours) and then we'll start trying to work out an organic schedule.
There's one more thing: when voting please include something besides the vote. Could be a reason for your vote, something that you found interesting or liked, something about a character or really just about anything story/touhou-related. See >>/forest/25117 for reasoning behind the decision. A lot of you already do this for a lot of stories on the site, so there shouldn't be a problem. But otherwise I won't be counting the vote.
Lastly: Sorry for the unimpressive first post, but things will pick up fast. Enjoy!
Didn’t read your other story, not familiar with your work, decided to pick this up because it’s just starting.
You have a systematic grammar error, a capital letter after a comma at the end of direct speech.
> “You sure like to live life on the edge, bro,” Came a whisper from the seat behind mine.
Should be either a single sentence with no additional capitalization required:
>“You sure like to live life on the edge, bro,” came a whisper from the seat behind mine.
Or two sentences, broken up by a full stop and with word reorder:
>“You sure like to live life on the edge, bro.” A whisper came from the seat behind mine.
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I took a look around the classroom. I probably could copy someone's homework or something but then I'd be stuck here. The feeling of uncomfortable tension was too high a price to pay, though.
“Yeah, let's just split,” I discretely told Suika as I stretched back on my chair. The real problem was getting out of the classroom without arousing suspicion. I signaled furtively with my hand that I would go first.
I got up, ignoring the fact that Marisa was still staring at me. Since it was a study hall, most of the class was quietly revising notes or reading from the textbook. Some people, though, had pooled their resources (and desks) and formed small groups to help each other out with the more difficult problems. I just walked up to the door casually, hoping that no one would make a fuss.
Not that I expected to get away without being stopped. The class rep noticed. Her internal sensors were nearly impossible to invade. She asked with feigned concern, “Is there anything wrong?”
“Just answering the call of nature, Reimu.”
“I don't believe you for a second,” she saw through me immediately.
“What, do you want to come to the bathroom with me then?” I raised the ante, “I don't mind, but rumors might start up about us, y'know?”
“You should know better than to bait me. Just go,” she sighed, “but get back before the end of the period if it's not too much trouble.”
I smiled and nodded. The temptation of adding “a model student like me wouldn't stray” was great but I exercised enough restraint to simply walk out.
Enjoying my newfound freedom, I walked leisurely towards the bathroom only to overshoot and make a beeline for our usual meeting spot. The eastern stairwell was too far away from most classrooms to be used by students or staff except when going to the old gym building. It also went up all the way to the roof and, since the door to the roof was always locked, there was a spot where we could avoid attention from both teachers and our fellow pupils.
I only had to wait about five minutes for Suika to show up. It must have been obvious to the rep what was going on but she probably didn't care enough to stop her.
“So, what's this about having something to show me?”
“Cutting right to the chase, eh?” There was a mischievous twinkle in her eye. A promising sign. She reached into her oversized jacket and rummaged through the pockets. “Check it out,” she held out a key for me to inspect.
“What's it for?”
“Making our lives a lot more awesome.”
Without missing a beat, she tilted her head at the door.
“See for yourself.”
I took the key from her and shoved it into the door's keyhole. It fit. More importantly, it turned. Suika had hit the jackpot. I turned the handle and opened the door to the ultimate blowoff spot. It was beautiful. A clear, blue sky as far as the eye could see. Not a cloud in sight. There were benches and other spots to chill and space out. The view of town was also pretty neat. It was a crime to keep a place like this under key. But the reason why it was off-limits was pretty obvious: The low railing that surrounded the edge of the building was not up to code for a school. After a freak accident a few years back at a another school they had decided to simply lock away the roof.
“I love you,” I patted her on the back in our usual fashion. I had to ask, “How did you manage to get the key?”
“Swiped it from the teacher's lounge when I was being chewed out by Yuugi last week.”
“Won't they notice the key is gone?”
“Nah, I planned ahead and put a useless copy of one of my house keys as a replacement.”
“You small, clever bastard,” I smiled at her. That was pretty smart.
“Keep the key, I already made a copy for my own use.”
It was beyond great. I lay down on a bench with my face staring up into the sky. The warm daylight lulled me into a state of relaxation. It felt like I was marring the moment by talking, but I owed it to my resourceful buddy not to ignore her. She was lying on the next bench over, spacing out as well.
 Start up about the latest school rumors and gossip
 Talk about town at night
It's been long enough so writing again now. I really do mean the fast updates part.
>>44448 Supposed to be a full stop there. I just give things a quick scan before posting. And it's just a coincidence I haven't used 'said'. I'm not avoiding it or anything. See the post in /forest/ that this is based off. Or any of the other things I've written.
“Something on your mind?” she asked. No beating around the bush with her.
“Just wondering if you've heard anything interesting about school lately,” I sad.
“It's not like you to be interested in gossip.”
“I like being prepared,” I told her. I shifted around on the bench until I was positioned in a way that naturally let my head face her. She did the same.
“It's pretty obvious what the big topic is right now.”
“Yeah? What is everyone talking about?” I had been too busy with new developments to pay attention to idle talk.
“You,” she said as if it was the most natural thing in the world. She explained, “The transfer student's outburst has really made the rounds around school. Opinion is split among the girls – half of them think it's romantic and the other half think that you've done something awful to the poor girl and that's why she has to marry you. The boys started that rumor, apparently. But you shouldn't be surprised that they hate your guys already.”
That kind of hurt. I wasn't the most sociable guy but I tried to get along with my classmates by taking it easy. I wasn't first pick at the football pitch but I wasn't last either as a result. I wasn't sure about what changed. They had always given me crap about Alice but those were just jokes. They couldn't seriously hate me.
“Hey, don't look at me,” Suika said with a grin, “I'm still your friend.”
“Good to know. Did they say why they didn't like me?”
“They can't deal with the fact that you've got yourself a harem.”
“It's anything but that, trust me.”
I stood up and leaned up against the railing. The school was on a gently-sloping hill; To one side the roads led to the town center and businesses and on the other it led to a more residential area. For off in the background, passing through homes and forest were the mountains. In the opposite side, somewhere just beyond town there was a big lake which was pretty popular in the summer. I could make out some of the islands there from the rooftop. A springtime breeze carried fresh air across the roof, refreshing me.
It was a great view. Good enough to keep me from sighing.
Truthfully, I was normally shot down for dates. Some of the guys who were jealous probably had more experience with women than I did. It was hard to get past small talk even when I used my best lines. I turned around and leaned my back on the railing, my arms grabbing onto either side of the metal. My thoughts must have been written all over my face because Suika laughed.
Well, at least I still had one good friend.
“I'm thinking of starting a betting pool.” She joked, “I might make myself a cool fortune by getting people to bet with whom you're going to end up. My money is on no one.”
“Go die in a fire,” I sneered at her with fake contempt. With friends like her, I didn't need jealous enemies.
Besides my own situation being so popular, there were a few other tidbits she shared with me. Class B had also gotten a new transfer student and she was already turning heads. She was also a shrine maiden. I wondered if that meant that Reimu's family had competition now. The Hakurei were pretty famous and I couldn't see how anyone could hope to displace them. Well, by the sound of it, she was cute enough to check out. Not that my (ex) male friends would have told me, those bastards. And after we swore that pact as brothers to share all of our smut if another guy asked. Honor really meant nothing to our generation.
Well, back to more productive thoughts.
Alongside the shrine maiden there was also a new teacher. Taught home economics. Very endowed. Also possibly worth checking out. I made a mental note of not skipping class if we have her. Come to think of it, most of our teachers were well-proportioned. The female ones, that is. I generally fell asleep whenever a guy was teaching.
Other miscellaneous items of information included the rumors about a new sandwich at the cafeteria, couples coming to school after hours and new equipment for the gymnastics team. The last bit was of some interest. Anything involving girls in leotards usually was. But before my imagination could run too wild the bell signaling the end of the second period rang. It was break time. Halfway to lunch.
I didn't want to return to class but I was bored of staring up at nothing.
 Sneak out of school and head into town
 Read novels in the library
There wasn't any need for me to try to convince her to go. Suika was all too glad to leave school and go into town. It was pretty easy to skip out too. The main gate was locked but there was a rear gate which was easy to hop. All it took was some careful navigating down the stairs and a courtyard or two, under the line of sight of anyone who might be looking out the window. A detour behind the equipment shed and a healthy bypassing of the janitor's shack and we were home free. Easy enough for experienced truants like ourselves.
“Do you really have to put those on every time?” I asked her with a sigh. She had put on her prized possession on – a pair of sleek and manly sunglasses that made her look (at least in her mind) like a badass.
“I'm bad to the bone,” she quipped, self-satisfied grin on her face.
I let it go. Part of being friends with someone was knowing when to simply shut up.
We walked along the back roads towards town. It was important to avoid the main roads; More than one happy-go-lucky truant had run into a teacher coming or going to a convenience store and gotten hell because of it. We were a bit conspicuous in our school uniforms but no one usually made a fuss. Suika was a bit unapproachable, I had to admit. She kept a pretty thick chain wrapped around her wrist with a charm on one end. It was a fashion statement, I think. I'd never seen her use it as a weapon. Honestly, I didn't want to see her use it. Seeing her go at it once was enough for a single lifetime.
“It's kinda early to be drinking,” she said.
“Rare of you to say that.”
“No, not like that. I meant that the bars are still closed.”
“s'alright,” I shrugged, “I don't really feel like getting pissed anyways.”
“Got any cash?”
“Yeah, a little.” Enough for a movie or food. Not enough for anything else.
At this time of day there were only housewives about. Too early for businessmen to go out for lunch and too late for fishmongers to still be around. The lack of things to do made it a bit boring but the lack of crowds compensated it. We walked down one of the main streets, just kind of windowshopping and chatting a little. That is, until we reached the arcade.
“Might as well, right?” Suika put it plainly. I nodded in assent.
The usual gamut of games were available for play. Suika went straight to the racing sim, getting a firm grip on the bike's handlebars. She was pretty good, too. It was fun to watch her play, especially when someone tried to challenge her. We had to stop going to the arcade across town because she became too famous and no one would try their luck against her. Stupid reason? Yeah. We weren't the type to stick around any one place for too long anyways. On my part, it kept Alice from finding out where I hung out and I guess Suika just liked going to new places.
“Come on, you pansy!” she taunted her hapless opponent as she cleared the hairpin with style. Poor dude was completely outclassed. Still he at least was trying his hardest and was keeping his cool despite the provocation from the schoolgirl. He lost, naturally. I gave him a sympathetic shrug after he got off the machine. A five second difference was pretty bad. Suika was still out for blood. She turned to me, “Fancy a go?”
“It's a forgone conclusion. I don't get into fights I can't win.”
“Scared of getting your ass whipped by a girl?”
“Come on now, you know you won't provoke me.”
“I'll buy you lunch if you win.”
“...and I'll have to buy you lunch if you win, right? No thanks.”
“You're too sharp, sometimes,” she laughed. Anyone could have seen that one coming.
“There's a crowd forming by the cabinet over there, probably someone on a streak,” I changed the subject.
Taking the hint, she dismounted and came with me. Sure enough, we witnessed a trio of luckless players get beaten by the player on the other side of the cabinet. No one else stepped forward. I could see that Suika wanted to step in, she loved a challenge. The problem was, she wasn't very good at that type of competitive bullet hell game. I was. I didn't know if I could win. The challengers had all be intermediaries or advanced players. Their opponent hadn't had the chance to use all of his skill against them.
 Let Suika play
 Insert coin
>>44465 Sorry, started writing a while ago.
And thus we provide our awesome truancy buddy with a proper preview of how the Winning Person is playing. Our quarter (50 yen? Whatever, I don't know Japanese coin values) is an acceptable sacrifice for this.
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I placed my hand on Suika's shoulder. She was about to go for the challenge. I stopped her, stating simply, “I've got this.”
Coin in slot, press start. Select my main, Here Comes A New Challenger. The music starts and most of my screen contains my character scrolling vertically up. My opponent is separated by a small divide so I can keep an eye on him. The first row of enemies appears. I wait to chain them all up with the second wave. Bullets start appearing on my screen, lazily coming down towards the bottom. Not even close to a threat. Oh, a charge attack by the enemy. More bullets enter the screen, following the character's style. It's not a problem to dodge while still shooting at the enemy.
We're both undamaged.
Another low-level charge attack. It gets harder to maneuver around the screen – there's a lot going on. I clear part of the screen with an attack of my own. Level 3 followed by a level 2 just when he thinks he's in the clear. First blood, half health. No time to gloat, soon after a storm of bullets hits me as well. Three-quarters of health gone. So focused that I forget my surroundings, giving the bullet patterns my undivided attention. Palm gets sweaty. Not a problem. My foot taps along in sync with the music, a stupid smile on my lips. Another annoying level 2. Manage to dodge. I wait, bide my time, call in a level 4. Lasers fill my opponent’s screen, attacking from behind as irregularly-shaped bullets criss-cross. Another hit, one more and he's down.
The appearance of that annoying bullet spam character fills the screen with colorful hazards. It's because we've been at it for so long. I'm hit again, knocked down to my last legs. A barrage of level 2s by both sides, we're both having a lot of close calls. A bullet is certain to hit me. I have to bomb. I'm at a disadvantage. He's likely about to unleash a level 4, I barely have a level 2. I go for it. Trapped in a corner, with almost certain death awaiting, the opponent dies first.
I won the match, just barely.
“Good going, that was intense,” Suika whistled, sounding impressed. She hit me on the back, admitting, “I don't think I could have played as well as that.”
A rare concession on her behalf. I flashed her an assertive smile. I boasted, “it's rare to meet someone else around my skill level.”
I had to follow up a statement like that with a show of sportsmanship. Otherwise I'd get punched for sounding like a dick. Our friendship was a very physical one, to put it lightly.
I went around the cabinet to meet my opponent. It was a bit of a surprise. I greeted her cordially, “that was a fun match, I didn't expect someone else from the school to be here.”
The girl was, indeed, wearing the same colors as me. I hadn't seen her before, but I would have guessed that she was in the same year as me. Slim, nice legs and a pretty cute face. She wasn't half bad, actually. The long hair was also a nice, it looked like she took care of it pretty well. There was something about her that struck me as familiar but I was sure that I would have remembered her if we had met before.
She wore a pair of headphones as well. I wasn't sure if she had heard me the first time so I tried again.
“No, yes, it was fun...” she said in a rather reluctant tone. Maybe 'wary' was a better descriptor. She seemed flighty, unsure of what exactly I wanted. Sheesh, I normally didn't strike out until after we had talked a little more.
“Got a name?” I asked her. And I offered my own, “I'm Arc, soon to be senior, class C.”
“Oh...” it was like she suddenly remembered social convention, “my name is Reisen I'm also second year, class A.”
“So, you play a lot? You're pretty good.”
“Ah, yes, well in my free time.” She added bashfully, “you're not half-bad yourself.”
“If you'll excuse me then...”
“There's no need to go,” I told her. I looked around for Suika. She had vanished into thin air. Probably in a harebrained attempt to help me out. I couldn't blame her for being considerate. So I focused on the fidgeting girl, “do you want to grab a bite to eat?”
“Um, no. Thank you.”
“Come now, it's rare to meet someone who is as good at that game as me, think of it as a little celebration.”
“It's not that. I'm just-” her gaze lowered as if embarrased, “skipping school because I had a study hall instead of a class. I should get back before soon.”
“I see...” I thought for a minute. I understood how it was. I asked her, “could it be that this is the first time you've ever skipped school?”
“Is it that obvious?”
“Yeah, I guess it is. You look too sweet to be playing hooky like I am.”
“Oh, no, I'm not that great or anything!”
I laughed, “Don't worry about it, I think it's ok to dedicate yourself to school as well. It's just up to every person to make their own choices.”
“That sounds very grown up, somehow.”
“You obviously don't know me well enough then,” I chuckled. There was one thing that she hadn't factored in. I reminded her, “It's going to be lunch next at school, anyways. There's no point in going back now. You could easily just come back for afternoon classes.”
“You're right,” she smiled at the realization. But she still refused me, adding, “I usually the have lunch I bring from home with friends. It would worry them if I didn't show up.”
“I guess there's no winning this one,” I let out an exaggerated sigh.
“Well, maybe next time then? I come here on the weekends after my chores are done.”
“It's a promise then.”
Hope springs eternal, or something. The encounter wasn't a complete loss. Not bad, me.
There was no trace of Suika anywhere in the arcade. I decided it was time to move on.
 Take in a few more of the town's sights
 Head back for lunch at school
Obeying my stomach (and respecting my wallet), I chose to head on back to school. Morning classes were going to be done with by the time I got back. The best part was that I didn't really have to worry about being marked as absent. Most teachers didn't care and the ones that did, like Ms. Mima, would prefer to punish me by making me answer a lot of questions in front of the class. I could deal with that. It was a byproduct of the general attitude of the school; The students were encouraged in their own way to branch out like they pleased. Maybe it was because a lot of students were rich and their parents ended up getting tutors anyways.
I passed a few stores on my way back. Bookshops, apparel shops and places that specialized in accessories. Places where I could buy gifts, if I needed to. There were a couple of less-mainstream shops that offered all sorts of things in the side streets too. Even the odd fortune teller or two. Not to mention karaoke bars, pubs and... seedier places where the women dressed up as bunnygirls and offered “premium” services. Highly exciting stuff.
It was a pain in the ass to sneak back in. Climbing fences from the outside was harder than from the inside. The gates were usually open around midday but they were under watch by the staff. It'd be stupid to just waltz in and attract attention to myself. I'd prefer to save a chewing out for some other time. Instead, I climbed a tree. Almost got my uniform caught on a tree branch. But I got over the fence, no problem.
After that, it was just a matter of loitering until lunchtime. I used to have packed lunches made for me when I was younger. Then one day out of the blue Auntie decides to stop making them. “You should be more resourceful now that you're a man. If you want a packed lunch, get your sweetheart to make you one” she had said with a playful laugh. Not so funny when you're hungry. I would know. My tight budget also kept me from buying the more expensive breads or meals too. On top of all that, I didn't like her meddling in my love life. It was bad enough to see her get along with Alice in the mornings, worse still to tell me later to “buy her something pretty so she feels special.”
But the bell was about to ring and those kind of thoughts could wait. I needed a food acquisition strategy.
 Scrape wallet for coins to use at cafeteria
 Mooch off classmates
I've forgotten to mention a few things about the story. There's no formal stat system in place but, partially because it's an homage to 90s galge and partially because it's easy to structure flags around them, there are noticeable opportunity costs by selecting certain kinds of choices. Like, missing a lot of class will change some outcomes/scenes at school for example. Mostly influences who you meet and when. Doing a variety of things at first will keep your options open for a while. You're encouraged to explore. Money is also 'finite' and deciding to spend it too often changes options later on. There'll be a separate budget apart from 'story money' for very specific things like gifts and special events. That'll be introduced and managed later. Lastly, when there's a tie I usually flip a coin in my stories unless it's a super duper hyper-important choice.
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The best thing about being out of class before the bell was that there was no line at the cafeteria. One could simply walk up and take his pick of whatever striked his fancy. Not that I had much choice available to me. I could afford pretty much anything but I was mindful of my total balance. So a simple flavored bread and juice was good enough. It'd tide me over until after school.
I stayed in a corner by myself until the bell rang and the deluge of students filled the cafeteria. Suika wasn't around to talk to and it wasn't like anyone else really talked to me. When I had finished I simply got up and left. Because I had skipped classes I wasn't tired, so I decided against going up to the roof for a nap. Wandering around and soaking up a little of that student life was probably the way to go.
Friends talked in the hallways and walked about in groups. Outside, by the field, the boys played football while others lazily relaxed under the shade of the old trees. The library was probably full of students as well; The more studious brand of pupil took the time to get work done on assignments or simply to read up on any subject.
There was an interesting sight in the corner of one of the courtyards. A small congregation of boys whispering loudly in a hormone-induced frenzy. I could guess what was going on, but got closer anyways. Boredom was a bitch.
“...seems a bit pricey,” one boy said.
“It's a quality shot and you know it,” the cunning saleswoman reeled him in, “I dare you to take a better picture.”
“No, it's great and all,” he continued, “but that's most of my allowance right there.”
“A man needs to have his treasures. You can't put a price on happiness.”
Perhaps not, but she certainly had. I shook my head, knowing how the exchange was going to end already. The guy had already bought the picture in his head – he just needed to hear someone else say that he needed it. Sure enough he bought it, and got a second one to boot. A few other boys made their picks from the inventory and were 'lucky' enough to get a second image half off. What a shrewd woman.
Once the crowd had dispersed I came up to the shameless profiteer. Looked like she had sold out. Again. “When are you going to develop a sense of basic decency?” I asked her.
“How rude, I'm plenty decent,” she said and stuck out her tongue at me.
“Yeah, selling slightly compromising pictures of girls to horny boys sure takes a lot of character. You're nothing but a two-bit paparazzi.”
“Like you're one to talk.”
“Hey, the pictures I take are a labor of love. You're just looking to make a quick buck.”
“You know the money goes to the club, it's for a good cause,” she said with a shrug. She changed the subject, “don't you want to join the photography club?”
“Told you before, I'm not into the whole club thing. I like my free time, “ I refused her. Aya had been trying to recruit me since first year, ever since she saw me taking a few landscape images by the park. Then she tried to blackmail me when she found out that I was just getting a hang of my camera in order to take pictures of girls. Joke was on her, I only took images of willing subjects. Though sometimes they only found out that they wanted to be in the picture after I took it.
“Are you sure?” A dirty smile appeared on her lips. She tried to entice me, “Have you seen the new girl in B? She's a real knock-out. I've got some pictures of her that are too hot to sell. But I'd be willing to show you if you joined. She happens to live near me, and I can see into her house with my equipment.”
“You're the devil.”
“I like getting what I want.”
And wasn't that the truth? She was completely ruthless. Plus, her voyeuristic techniques were really advanced. It paid not to make an enemy of her. But I was not that desperate for a panty shot or whatever it was she had to offer. I firmly refused, “You won't get me no matter how much you ask. I'm a free spirit. Not going to chain myself to a club.”
“Tsk, fine.” It seemed that she didn't care enough to press it further. Lucky me. “I think my junior has a crush on you so it wouldn't kill you to pop in every now and again, even if you don't want to join.”
“I'll keep that in mind. Good luck with the business, Aya,” I let her go and got on the move. She had reminded me to do something important.
 Check out the new girl
 A traditionalist prefers to spend quality time with the original miko
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I ran into Reimu just as she was leaving the classroom. She furrowed her brow upon seeing me. Always an encouraging sign from a girl.
“Fair class rep,” I hammed it up, “it's been an eternity since we last met. What have the fates brought into your life since then?”
“A lying n'eer-do-well, for starters,” she replied.
“You wound me,” I said with a smile. “And all I wanted was to make you feel comfortable around me. What can I do to impress you?”
“Try not ditching school.”
“Circumstances beyond my control, I'm afraid.” I shook my head. Her disposition was anything but sunny. Like I was getting in her way. So I astutely suggested, “mind if I escort you to wherever you're going?”
“I don't think you'd listen if I said no.”
“Sorry, it's in my nature to stay close to pretty girls,” I shrugged.
She shrugged in return, probably thinking me hopeless. A good thing for me. I got to walk with her while chatting a little. Despite our differences on how to behave at school, I really did kind of like her. Not just because she was a looker. But she also because she was a nice person, albeit one that shouldered her responsibilities a little too well. It would be nice if she cut loose every once in a while. Walked life like I did. Maybe that was too much to ask. Yet I hoped to one day convince her to see things my way, if only for a little time.
“So where did you go?” Reimu asked something a little surprising.
“Into town,” I answered truthfully, “I really didn't feel like classes. The day was too nice.”
“You need to be a little more mindful of the people who care about you,” She said.
“Oh, you were worried about me?”
“Hardly,” she retorted, “those two girls looked miserable that you weren't there.”
“I can't be expected to give up my desires because of other people's expectations.”
“That's a little hypocritical.” She shook her head. But it wasn't so much as a reprimand as it was a simple observation. In fact, she seemed a little amused at my answer. I wondered if acting a little more maturely would get her to open up more. There was something in her eyes when I talked to her, a sort of barrier. It felt that no matter how hard I tried, I wasn't getting to see the real Reimu. I was sure that there was a fun-loving girl behind that facade.
“You know, you're welcome to come with me any time. That is if you promise not to rat me out later.”
“Hmm... that's an offer more tempting than I'd like to admit,” she chuckled. We stopped. We had arrived at the teacher's lounge. She refused in her own way, “but I think that I'd rather focus on my studies properly first.”
“Well, the offer is always open,” I stated with a hopeful smile. I wondered if she thought that I could do naught but come on strongly. She kept her distance from me usually but I didn't know if it was because she was unsure of how to deal with me or afraid of what might happen if she associated with me.
“There's one more thing that you should know.”
“Oh? What's that?”
“I”ve been nominated for student council.”
“Congratulations. I think it'd suit you. President, right?”
“So it would seem.”
“You've got my vote for sure,” I let her know.
“Yeah...” she trailed off, like she had something else to say on the subject. She dropped it, instead telling me that she had to go, “the teachers called for me, I shouldn't keep them waiting.”
“Alright, see you later.”
“Don't skip again,” she said before she went in, “and don't forget you're still on duty this week.”
“Yeah, yeah, I won't.”
Bossy as always. Out of necessity rather than nature, I thought. Not that I could prove it. She wouldn't let me see behind the mask of class rep very often.
There was only a little time before the bell signaled the end of lunch period. On thursdays we had PE after lunch.
 Get changed right away
 Go back to class to be a little sociable first
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A classroom was normally cleared out so we could change. Because break wasn't over, I just went to the bathroom to swap into my gym clothes. It was just a normal PE uniform complete with shorts and a t-shirt but it tended to have a strong impact on people's behavior. Basically, some people loved running around and others dreaded the prospect of having to exert themselves. I fell into the middle category of not really caring. It was fun to play a game with my classmates but I was ok with just running too.
There was normally a lot of banter while we changed and it was a perfect time to catch up with people. A lot could be learned about all sorts of things. Like who was into whom and upcoming school events. Boys will be boys, so there were a lot of stupid jokes thrown into the mix. An important bonding experience nonetheless.
No one was around to bond with outside the gym. I waited for a while, sitting in the shade while the time passed on slowly. For my troubles I encountered the person who probably looked forward to PE the most.
“Yo, Arc, here and changed already? That's the kind of spirit I like to see!”
“Yo, yourself, Yuugi,” I greeted the PE teacher with an apathetic head motion. There was no need to be formal around her. She didn't care for protocol, using nicknames at will and also insisted that everyone call her by her first name. I don't know if she did it to make her more approachable but the truth is that most students, especially the girls, found it a bit hard to deal with. We were taught to be polite to our teachers and elders, after all.
“Come now, it's a nice day, show a little more enthusiasm.” she said with her arms akimbo. It wouldn't be hard to mistake her for just another student, to be honest. Sure she was tall and a bit intimidating but she wore a PE uniform just like us most of the time. The fact that she was also alumni and only a few years older further blurred the perception. There were rumors about her when we entered the school, but most people chose to ignore the unsavory gossip. No way a hardass delinquent would get a teaching job they thought. I was more willing to believe it.
“Running a lot today?” I asked.
“As much as you want. Running raises the fighting spirit.”
“Suika isn't here, Yuugi, I think you'll have to lead us on the jog.” Those two had a history. They were like family and loved to compete against one another. I normally got dragged into it as a judge, sometimes also pressed as a unwilling competitor. Sure, it was tolerable when it was video games but it quickly became exhausting when it was something quirky like an eating contest or karaoke. My ears still hurt from her rendition of Lum's Love Song.
“I'd probably do it even if that brat was here,” she spoke the truth. If there was one thing that was certain about her, it was that she truly loved her job. She'd encourage us to push ourselves. It was easy to use that to my advantage. She started laughing all of a sudden.
“It's you – you've got that look in your eye, like you want a piece of me. Do you feel lucky, punk? Is that it?”
“You really do know how to sniff out a challenge,” I replied with admiration. She'd picked up on my thoughts just by the way I was looking at her. “Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do think I want to take you on today.”
“Ahaha, that's it!” she sounded absolutely pleased, “let your burning spirit out! Being hotblooded is the only way to live.”
“Let's make things interesting,” I said with a smirk. No way she could resist my offer, “If I win I get to take breaks from PE whenever I feel like it this year.”
“Bold as always. And what if I win?”
“Well, I hear that most of the sports clubs don't have managers this year. They were mostly seniors and they're too busy with entrance exams. I'll step in.”
“Sounds fair. The principal was giving me lip about how we would have to disband a club or two otherwise.”
It was hardly fair. I was getting the better deal. But it was in her nature to think that she would always win. And if she didn't, she at least enjoyed herself like crazy.
The bell signaling the end of lunch rang.
“Alright then, before class starts proper we'll settle this.”
I was confident that I could beat her. It was just a matter of exploiting her weaknesses. She had amazing strength and endurance but I wasn't sure about her dexterity and agility.
 Intense dash around the track
 One-on-one basketball match
You may have noticed that I've been sticking to ~3 hour waits between writing except for the longer gap once per day. It's possible for me to do more, more often if there are enough votes before that time. Just encouragement to check often.
I'm going to nip this one right in the bud: This is not GH and I'm not its author. Let that be the last of that. It's bad enough that people make a point to dredge up that story at every opportunity. There's no need to derail yet another story with pointless speculation and paranoia. I've been writing and reading stuff on the site for over 4 years now and I'm telling you that there comes a point where you simply just need to let go. Otherwise we'll never get anywhere. Please try to enjoy the story for what it is and what actually happens.
>>44552 >Shame a Yuugi route's probably not feasible.
Why wouldn't it be? It's definitely possible to get romantically involved with most of the characters though it's not necessarily in the static 'route' manner you see in a lot of the stories on the site nor in 'modern' VNs. ie: I have no plans for making the plot focus on only one character and his/her circumstances. To further clarify, it won't be a KEY/Visual Art's type affair (like how Ayu was a route in Kanon or Kotomi in Clannad) but more akin to the old stuff by Parsley and ELF (structurally, not necessarily thematically). To top it all off, not everyone is looking for a 'forever after' sort of relationship to begin with. Well, you'll see eventually what I mean.
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Class was put on hold. When it became evident what was going on, an amused buzz spread among the students. “Good luck”, “Hang in there” and other words of encouragement were directed at me. Naturally, as was her way, Yuugi didn't bother to tell the class to warm up in the meanwhile. She cordially invited them to sit around the court and watch our little duel. Of course they were happy about that – it was an excuse to laze around and to witness the teacher's undeniable skill.
“First one to fifteen points wins. Alternate starting possession between point scoring,” I explained to Yuugi while dribbling the ball gently in the court. She nodded. I passed her the ball, saying, “ladies first.”
I knew she wouldn't like that. Still she took it silently and began to dribble. I watched her, waiting for her to make the first move. It didn't take her long. A lightning breakout to the left, one that I barely had time to block before she reversed course. I kept up but found it difficult to predict what she would do next. She managed to score by a wild shot from an oblique angle. Impressive.
It wasn't in my plans to let her walk all over me. As soon as we began again, I dribbled wide, away from the inner lines. I found that was harder for her to block me because I was slightly faster when maneuvering. I let a shot fly from afar. It sunk in, almost clean enough to swish. A bit of luck mixed with confidence with projectiles.
That little display absolutely delighted Yuugi. She continued to play with a grin. We went at it for several rounds, each scoring and sometimes preventing the other from scoring. It wasn't that impressive of a match, to the trained eye, but my fellow students seemed to love it. I knew that most of them were rooting for our teacher but it was fun to the occasional shy shout of “fight Arc!”
At one point I got elbowed pretty hard by Yuugi as she played an aggressive defense. Unintentional. But I got even through an equally unintentional body slam only a minute later. It underscored just how committed we were to playing. Sweat completely drenched my head and made my shirt stick to my body. Discomfort only made Yuugi seem even more alive and into the match. That crazy woman.
Her insanity won the day. At a 13-11 advantage for me, she managed to score, steal and defend until she won. Not a bad comeback I had to admit while huffing a little out of breath. The crowd seemed pleased. I stuck my hand out to concede, “good game. Nice going there.”
“Not bad for a lazy little sod,” she fired back, “it really was a good game.”
An obligatory slap on the back followed. Like with Suika, I was sure that it would leave a mark for the rest of the day.
She then addressed the rest of the class, “Alright you lazy gits, you've just seen a display of true spirit. You should follow your classmate's example and give it your all. Three laps around the track, on the double!”
A collective groan came from the assembled students. That was one extra lap more than usual. Sorry guys.
“We can talk about your promise some other time,” Yuugi said to me. She seemed to be in a great mood, offering me a luxury only rarely meted out as a reward, “you're off the hook today. I'd tell you to go to the nurse's office because of that little scrape you had earlier, but you seem like the type to shrug off dismemberment. Well, you'd have to be to keep up with me,” she clearly amused herself, laughing heartily. A perfectly boisterous and honest laugh from deep inside.
“Alright, thanks.” I wiped off my sweat with a towel she chucked at me. It was hard to dislike her sincere ways. As a result, I couldn't let her be the only one to show off, “let's have a rematch some other time. I'm sure I can beat you if I try harder.”
Her response, naturally, was more pure and honest laughter.
 Get changed and leave
 Stop by the nurse's office
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It was probably a good idea to at least get my knee looked at. It didn't hurt much but it was bleeding a little. In the heat of the moment it was easy to ignore pain but things could get worse as my body returned to normal. Adrenaline had a way of masking how tired you really were.
I passed by the track with a smile on my face, waving at my passing classmates. Some of them waved back - a sign that I wasn't a complete pariah. Still others glared at me, jealous of my exemption. I didn't feel like antagonizing them further. The nurse's office was on the first floor, tucked by in a small side corridor. It was usually a peaceful little corner of the school, perfect for taking a nap if you could somehow convince the nurse to let you stay. I hadn't been around since the last physical.
“Excuse me,” I said after giving the door a small knock. A reply telling me to come in was immediate. The nurse sat at her desk, a freshly brewed cup of tea next to her in a “#1Nurse” mug given to her by last year's graduating class. She took a sip from her mug, set down her paperwork and swiveled around to face me.
“How may I help you?” she asked.
“I scraped me knee earlier. Figure I should have the wound disinfected.”
“Sit down on the examination table,” she ordered. I did as she asked while she grabbed a few things from her drawer. “This may sting a little,” she warned me as she dipped a cotton swab in a reddish liquid. I flinched a little as she leaned forward and rubbed the antiseptic on the wound. It wasn't too bad. I stared at her braid while she tended to the wound, trying to imagine how long it took her to braid it after a bath. She applied a bandage deftly. It covered the laceration without restricting my movements. She announced, “all done.”
“I'm a little surprised to see you here, actually.”
“Why's that? I get hurt like this all the time.”
“You're the type of person who just grins and bears any injury until they can't move.”
“Maybe I was a little bored too,” I told her.
“Unlikely,” she crossed her arms as if trying to decide what to make of me. The feeling was mutual. A young, talented and, frankly, incredibly pretty doctor playing nurse at the school was just a little bit odd. She was plenty popular among both sexes too – albeit for different reasons. The girls liked her because she seemed mature and I knew that a lot of them turned to her for advice. The boys liked her because she looked sophisticated and could really pull off the skirt plus black stockings combo. We commonly assumed she also had a garter belt under that and unimaginably erotic lingerie. Whenever we got physicals our blood pressure would be higher than normal.
“I don't have much to do. I was let out of PE for having a warrior's spirit or something.”
“Alright, I can see that happening. Hoshiguma is eccentric enough.”
“That's a nice way of putting it,” I chuckled.
“Well, it's been a while since you were last here,” she reminded me. I knew where the conversation was heading.
I tried to change the subject, “I told you, I fell down a flight of stairs. Tricky bastards. Now I remember to move one foot before the other.”
“Still won't admit it?” she was unfazed, “it doesn't matter. I'm not here to judge you. No matter how many fights you get yourself into.” The subject turned from the past and onto the present, “if you ever want to talk, I'm here. A lot of students find it comforting to confide in me.”
“I have the feeling that the counselor doesn't like that fact one bit.”
“She can just deal with it,” she smiled. A little self-satisfaction softened her expression. “Would you like a cup of tea?” she offered from a nearby flask and grabbed a plastic cup for me.
I took the tea gratefully. I knew that she had set it up so that I felt like talking. It didn't really matter. I didn't have anything better to do. Taking a page from the girls' book wasn't too bad. So I decided to ask her about the ever-relevant subject of love.
“Hm, you'd have no idea how many times students have asked me for relationship or love advice,” she mused with a mysterious twinkle in her eye. I took a sip from the tea as she talked, “not many boys ask me about love, but a few have asked me out on dates. The bolder ones, anyways.”
“Somehow I get the feeling that I'm disappointing you by not asking,” I looked her straight in the eye. She stared back, not at all made uncomfortable by my intense stare. What clarity. They were like crystal balls – refracting light in a strange and captivating way. A little intimidating too, I had to admit. Which is why I already knew how I was going to end that thought, “I know that there's no point in me asking anyways. I'm sure that I'm your type, but I'm definitely not mature enough. Yet.”
“Succinct, realistic, use of humility without overstating it and underlined with confidence. My, my, you might be my type after all,” she teased.
“I think we better leave those prospects until such a time I feel we're on more equal footing. Let's be honest, I'm definitely not there yet.”
“It can pay off to watch a seedling,” she said, “if you take care of it, it'll grow into a mighty tree.”
“I'd be flattered to be on your watch list,” I really meant it. Nothing bad could come from getting attention from her. “Still, I'd appreciate it if you could maybe give me some general advice. Most people have considerably narrower perspectives regarding me.”
“What is there to say? Be yourself, don't try too hard and be mindful of sensibilities. Not everyone likes a guy who comes off strong. Sometimes it pays off to be patient and first make someone comfortable around you. Other times it'll be like a bolt of lightning and so you have to move fast and hard. You'll know it if that's the case though. Hard to not notice.”
“I get the feeling you're not a believer in love at first sight.”
“Was it that obvious?” she let out a positively rich chuckle. A bit throaty and completely charming. She held her mug to her lips for a while, collecting her thoughts. She continued to speak after taking a sip, “you can develop strong feelings for someone in a very short span of time, but even then it's prudent to try to build a stable foundation. What good is a true love that only lasts a day? You see it all the time with highschool or college sweethearts. They're brought together by the circumstances and delude themselves into believing that it'll be forever. They drift apart because they don't have a true connection on a more basic level.”
“How romantic,” I couldn't help but be a little sarcastic. “I'd almost think you were speaking from experience.”
“Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. A lady shouldn't dwell on her past too much, it's unseemly,” she said with an enigmatic smile, adding, “you've got a lot to learn but that's a good thing. Making your own mistakes is the best way to grow as a person. It's a lesson I wish more people would take to heart.” Her expression darkened for a moment. But then it was back to its usual relaxed and authoritative state. Another mystery. One that I could not be privy to.
“Well, I try. I find that people are a bit flighty and perhaps intimidated by the prospect of starting something up.”
“You're young and there are plenty of girls who would be happy with you. I'm sure of that. Call it a woman's intuition,” she winked. The minx! I was certain that she was reviving the earlier part of our talk and using herself as an example. Or at least letting me think that was the case. She was good. Perhaps too good to be wasting her time talking to insecure and lovestruck girls about this sort of thing.
“I feel that you want to tell me something else.”
“I can't breach the trust that the students put in me.”
“Except in insinuating that at least one has talked to you about me already.”
“Who knows? I sure do talk to a lot of students. Many girls. Some from your class, some from the other classes. These maidens are so full of life, it really is beautiful.”
Now there's a hook in a conversation if I ever heard one.
 “And what would these maidens be looking for exactly?”
 Change the subject to what more worldy women look for
>>44581 She grows to be pretty important in his life as the stories go on. But the relationships here aren't strictly from DEFT (nor Glass Half Empty). "Inspired by" to a certain extent but definitely separate.
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“While I can't deny being interested in the contents of maidenly hearts, I think I'm more interested in something else right now.” I paused for a moment. No surprise registered on her face. Truly unflappable. I continued, “I'd like to know what real women who have been in the real world look for in a lover.”
“And why do I suspect that you wish to hear my own personal preferences?”
“Whatever could have given you that idea?” I shrugged like the thought had never crossed my mind. “I just want to know how to endear myself to someone more worldly.”
“I may as well just indulge you,” she rolled her eyes at my euphemistic reasoning. I couldn't blame her. I needed better lines. She elaborated nonetheless, “someone serious will look for someone compatible. Someone that's reliable, empathetic and, perhaps most important, will keep her warm on cold winter nights. It's easy to be banal and state that the physical part of the relationship needs to be entirely satisfying but a physical connection is indeed indispensible. Bodies intertwined not only out of lust, but mutual need and a more intellectual desire – there's nothing quite like it. You give and take, perform and receive and appreciate a positive disposition in a partner.”
“Is that love, then?”
“You can call it that, sure,” she began to play with the end of her braid with her fingers, the well cared for strands appearing flexible and sporting a healthy sheen. I wondered how much she was borrowing from her own experience and how much came from reasoned derivation. It was impossible to tell. Yet images of her being in a relationship which demanded both body and soul seemed incredibly plausible.
“Whatever it's called, it requires a certain sensitivity and much sensibility?” I inquired.
“Yes, though perhaps not in the poetic sense. You don't need to lay your soul bare. An understanding of just how different but, paradoxically enough, similar we are as people is important. Empathy – yes, that's it. You need to be able to understand how and why others feel like they do. “ She smiled, adding with levity, “being good at sex also goes a long way.”
“I suppose so,” I sank a little into thought. I got what she meant, I thought. But those attributes weren't easy to assess. You found out about them when you needed them. Otherwise you'd fail. That wasn't quite it either, but I couldn't think of a more elegant way of putting it. She was telling me that lust and other superficial concerns would get me only so far. “I think I have it,” I told her in a hushed whisper, “be certain of what I want and never fear what would happen in order for me to get it.”
“I can't contradict that. It's a good starting point,” she let go of her braid and stared at me intently. It made me feel a little small and vulnerable. Her confidence level was an order of magnitude higher in the least. “You'll understand that just by living how you can make the most of any situation. If you were serious about me, I would be forced to at least consider you seriously. If only for a moment and only to myself. But even then you'd be able to tell. Experience would allow you to pick up on it.”
“Ah, the wonders of human understanding,” I shook my head. There was nothing else I could say to her. I was too green to be deep and I was only too aware of my own limits. Still, I had a newfound respect for her. She was fascinating. The boys of the school were wrong: her undergarments were less important than her heart.
“Would you like some more tea?” she offered, noticing my empty cup.
“No thank you, I've already drunk more than my fill here.”
She giggled, that mysterious twinkle in her eye sparkling with a twinge of mischievousness, “I daresay that you can be quite charming even when you're not really trying.”
“Not Ms. Yagokoro? Rather bold of you, don't you think? What happened to knowing your limits?”
“Oh, but I know my limits. And I know that you can't really have heartfelt talks with someone if you're too formal with them. To show your heart you have to act like you really want to and hopefully that'll make the other person do the same.”
“Charming indeed,” a broad smile formed on her lips. She was not half-bad herself when it came to charm. It felt like the emotion was genuine enough. She sounded a little impressed, “it sounds like you understood more of what I was trying to say than I thought possible.”
“Now you're just trying to make me feel embarrassed.”
The bell rang, signalling the end of classes for the day.
“You better not call me that in front of other people,” she warned, “I am a professional and have a reputation to maintain.”
“Then I'll make sure to see you often in private so I can say your name as many times as I want.”
“You never stop, do you?” She laughed again. For a while the rich sound of her voice remained at the forefront of my memories. It was hard to forget how special it made me feel. A private little joke between adult and wannabe adult. Not a bad portend for the future.
I changed back to my normal clothes. I wanted to head back home for a bath. I ran a mental checklist to see if I wasn't missing anything. It had been a pretty eventful day.
 Go home
 Clean the classroom
This update brought to you by insomnia and a coinflip because of a tie.
Honestly this is just because I'd prefer to see who's in the classroom vs. who's at home or on the way home... Provided we do meet someone in either choice, anyway. But still, like the other guy said. Good to be responsible.
After the last bell of the day rang, most people scrambled to leave the classrooms as quickly as possible. A lot of them belong to an afterschool club, like a sports club or any of the many cultural clubs. Others, myself included, left school and went home or into town. We were the smartest of the bunch. When on duty, saps like me had to stay behind for a while and clean our homerooms. Not too hard of a job; Taking out the trash, sweeping up any dust and straightening out the desks were the usual tasks.
II-C was pretty much empty when I came around. Only a single person remained at her desk, a pile of notebooks sprawled in front of her. A pang of guilt hit me.
“Were you waiting for me?” I asked.
“No, that's not it,” she shook her head convivially. She explained what she was doing with a smile, “I was getting my homework done for tomorrow. It's easier to work here.”
Though I felt a bit relieved to hear her explanation, it still bothered me a little at how happy she was to see me. I'd pretty much ignored her all day, after all. “I'm going to tidy up the class, so please excuse me.”
I got to work, ever sensitive to whether or not I was being watched. It seemed that she really was planning to get her work done. The only times that she looked at me was when I stopped and stared at her for too long. She would show me a bright smile and return to work almost immediately. It jolted me back into action as well. I was done rather quickly even though I hadn't been assigned a partner. The trash was the last remaining thing to do and I took it down to the special area near the back of the school.
When I returned to get my bookbag, I found that she was done with her work as well. “That was really fast,” I remarked, a little impressed. When I bothered to do my homework it took a few hours. I recognized that it was due mainly to the amount of breaks and distractions that occupied it but that's the way it was in the modern world. Actually sitting down and doing anything for protracted periods of time was a real challenge.
“It's not so hard when you concentrate. Though you made my thoughts stray once or twice...” she fidgeted a little, clutching her bag close to her chest.
“I'm sorry if I distracted you, I didn't mean to.”
“No, it's ok,” she shook her head, “I think I distracted you a little too. I should have gone to the library instead.”
“It's fine. All's well that ends well.” While the sky hadn't yet transformed itself into that customary late afternoon show of intense reds and streaks of orange, it had been some time since school ended. Most of the afternoon simply gone. It would start getting dark soon. “It's time to go home,” I told her. She nodded.
We walked together to the gates. Neither of us said anything.
 Walk Marisa home
 Leave alone
>>44595 see >>44604 Yeah, I stated it in the first post along with reasons for it. A long a complicated history behind it as well. I don't bring it up every time because it just feels like I'm rubbing it in. Not my intention, just meant to enrich the story and sort out people who just jump on for a particular choice against the regular readers.
“I'll walk you home,” I told her as we reached the gates.
She didn't react in a way that I expected. A frown formed on her face momentarily. Marisa looked around, as if looking for something before answering, “I live really somewhere far away. I'd be making you go out of your way by a lot.”
“That's fine,” I said, “I don't have much to do anyways.”
“Are you sure?” She looked flighty like before, fidgeting with her bookbag. “I don't want to inconvenience you or anything.”
“Not a problem.”
Though she continued to look uneasy eventually she relented and let me walk with her. She headed in the opposite direction of my home, off in a direction halfway between the center and the green outskirts of town.
“I didn't know that there were homes off in that direction,” I commented.
“New developments, yeah,” she said quietly. The mood was strange, to say the least. But then, all of a suddenm her energy level spiked. It took my by surprise. “You were great today in gym class!” she smiled brightly at me. It was as if the previous awkwardness never happened. She continued, “I'm amazed that you're so good at basketball. You've got really nice moves.”
“I'm not that good,” I shrugged, “besides, I lost didn't I?”
“Yeah, but that PE teacher was like a pro. I don't think many people could have done so well against her. I was cheering for you with all of my heart. I even got some of the other girls to join in.”
“Ahaha, really?” I guess that explained why I heard cheering during the match. It was a lovely gesture on her behalf. “I don't know what to say other than thank you.”
“Don't mention it! I was happy to root for you.”
“Most people would be embarrassed to make a fuss,” I said.
“Most people aren't me,” she winked at me. Then she laughed, scratching her head, “that sounded too corny, right?”
“Not as bad as some of the things that I say, so don't worry about it.”
“This town has really changed,” she changed the subject again, looking out towards the city center. We were on a hill near the private girls academy so we had a good view of the town. The day was ending slowly, the sun was beginning to dip behind the mountains, and in the distance the first streetlamps came to life.
“Really? It feels about the same.”
“That's because you live here,” she told me, “I haven't been here in years. It's much noisier and busier than ever.”
“I guess that might be true. There are parts of town that are open 24/7.”
“Yeah, but they're for adults only.”
“How would you know about that?”
“Just a hunch about your tastes,” she stuck out her tongue playfully.
“Were you always this energetic? I can't remember.” My comment caused her to stop in her tracks. “Sorry,” I found myself apologizing, “I didn't mean to sound callous.” She might have been sensitive about the subject of our past.
“No, it's not that,” she shook her head calmly. “You were always a bit of a jerk, even when we were kids. A lot of it was because you were expected to act tough even at that young age. But you were also really nice and kind. To me especially. And to your aunt. I'm really happy that you're living with her now, she really loves you.” With a nostalgic smile that transported me ten years into the past, she concluded, “ I'm really glad that you haven't changed too much.”
She placed a hand on the side of my face and stroked my cheek with a gentle, almost motherly, smile. In a sudden move, she stood on her tiptoes and leaned in close to me. Like a small bird pecking at the ground for a worm, she kissed me quickly on the cheek. And like a small bird, she was quick to dart away. I had no time to react before she was already running away from me.
“This is far enough! Thanks for walking me home!” she waved without looking back. I started after her but gave up when she turned a corner and disappeared.
What a troublesome girl. I couldn't tell what she was thinking. Or what she would do next. As I rubbed my cheek where her lips had touched me I couldn't help but feel that maybe that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
I got back home just as the sun set. Auntie wasn't back from work yet. I drew myself a bath upstairs and quietly washed myself. I ended up making dinner, leaving a few covered leftovers out for my hardworking guardian. I sat down in my room and started on my homework, giving up almost immediately. Marisa's example had gotten to me a little but not enough to make me change my ways so radically. I read comics and played games for a while. Before I knew it, it was past nine. It seemed that Auntie had arrived because I heard the sound of the TV downstairs.
The lack of devil's advocates disappoint me. But I'm mostly saying that because I like being one myself. Just keep in mind, for future reference, that I never make one choice less interesting than the other. They're all there for a reason. Glad you guys are enjoying yourselves, however.
Grabbing a jacket, I left my room as quietly as I could. I made my way down the stairs, mindful of not running into Auntie. Once down on the ground floor it was simple to skirt around the living room and towards the back. Out a window, put my shoes on and away I went. The crisp night air felt good as I walked down towards town, a lone figure in the street in a boring residential neighborhood.
It had been some time since I had gone out by myself. Usually I paired up with Suika. Those nights had a pretty set routine too. Eating cheap beef bowl or fast food, going out and getting wasted on cheap liquor (sometimes boosted from her home) and talking crap in a desolate park somewhere until the sun came up. Wandering the streets randomly sometimes factored in, if we got kicked out of a food joint or were harassed by policemen.
The appetizing smell of fried food came from the mobile stalls that were setting up in order to cater to the late-hour salaryman crowd. More respectable stores had long since closed by the time I arrived. Off in the back streets and towards the waterside another kind of business and trade was just beginning to wake up. Neon signs flickered on to life. Promises about all sorts of services and catering to all types of interests abounded. Seedy-looking guys stood by some of the establishments, more often than not clad in the traditional uniform of the pervert: a nondescript trench coat.
I passed by a club that seemed extremely lively. Tinted windows were a sure sign of quality. The sound of jazz was coming from the inside. Fliers promised one-of-a-kind service. A bouncer stood outside the door, tall and wearing brand-name knockoff sunglasses. He talked to me, “at Cloud 9 we offer only the best for our customers. Come on in and relax after your hard day of work. Our lovely ladies are a treat to look at and are great company. Won't you come in and leave your worries at the door?”
I had to admit, that was a good sales pitch. And heck, a bouncer was practically inviting me in. That sort of thing didn't happen very often.
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The music became much louder as soon as the door was opened for me. It threatened to overwhelm my aural perception and numb all of my other senses as a result. It wasn't enough for me to overlook the acrid smell of smoke that seemed to be everywhere, filling my lungs with what felt like soot and probably irritating my eyes a little. I was greeted by a lean woman in a festive green... dress. It was flashy, full of shiny items sown onto the textile and covered only the area of her upper chest. Her exposed midriff was framed on the lower end by something that was a cross between short shorts and a bikini bottom. Needless to say she wore a pair of matching green high heels and accessorized her pantyhose.
“Welcome to Cloud 9, sugar,” she greeted me with a smile. Her makeup was as bold as her outfit. Bright lipstick and carefully applied eyeliner and mascara hid any obvious imperfections at a casual glance. “Party of one?” she asked, adding with a wink, “not a problem if you're alone, honey, one of our girls will make your evening enjoyable.”
She led me to a large central room with a bar on one side and a small stage in the center. A couple of musicians played the loud music that drowned out most other noise in the club. They were pretty alright, actually - riffing off of each other and improvising as they went along. A few patrons sat in the bar but most were sequestered away in the booths that lined the sides of the room. They were private little corners, with considerably less lighting than the rest of the club. Shadowy figures had drinks and talked while scantly-clad women bussed food and refreshments to the table. Occasionally one of the girls sat down in the booth as well, smiling and laughing at private conversation.
“Someone will be with you along shortly,” I was left at one of the more remote booths, away from the band where I could hear myself think a little.
It was only a minute before someone came up to my table. Like some of the other girls in the club, she was dressed in a rather unique getup. High heels, fishnet stockings and a tight one-piece that emphasized some of her more feminine attributes. Namely her thighs, breasts (and by extension her décolletage due to the low cut) and her shapely posterior. A few ornamental accessories were like the icing on the cake; On her arms she had oversized cuffs, around her neck a bowtie, on her head a pair of oversized white rabbit ears and, on her rear, a puffy rabbit's tail.
She sat down next to me and introduced herself, “I'm Angel, pleased to meet you.”
“Likewise, is it always like this here?”
“Some nights are busier than others. Say, you're a fresh face, aren't you? I'd remember you if you were a regular.”
“Yeah, it's my first time here.”
“You're kind of young-looking too.”
“I make up for it in maturity of spirit,” I joked.
“Not bad, sweetheart. You're sharper than most of the customers I get. I like that.” She leaned in closer, using her cleavage, err “feminine wiles” to her advantage, “say, won't you buy a girl a drink? I'm thirsty.”
That's how it worked in these clubs, I realized. I couldn't say no otherwise a scary-looking man with organized crime connections would teach me a lesson in the back alley.
“How about a beer?” Those couldn't be too expensive, I thought.
“Hmm, usually I'm treated to something a little nicer,” she pouted like a good actress, “they say that champagne makes my smile look even more beautiful.”
“I'm sure it does,” I smiled at her, “but let's get to know each other a little before we go off and celebrate like that.”
“Aright, fine, next round then,” she got up and blew me a kiss, promising me to be right back. I leaned back, wondering what the hell I was even doing anymore in such a smoky, obviously adult-oriented place. Having a beer with someone who obviously was only interested in me because it was her job wasn't my idea of fun.
“Angel,” I said when she came back with the beers, “it's been lovely to meet you but I think that it's best we part ways.”
“Come on now, you don't mean that~”
“I really do, this place isn't for me.”
Her expression soured immediately. Her voice, melodic and feminine, hardened to a more disparaging tone, “listen kid, I don't know what your deal is but I'm trying to make a living here. I get paid more the longer you're here and the more you spend.”
“Sorry, I'm just not loaded enough to afford an evening of buying you drinks.”
“You better have the dough for these drinks,” she threatened, “they've already been poured and if you don't pay there'll be trouble.”
“I'll cover those, don't worry,” I reached into my wallet. I took out a few notes. She shook her head. Not enough, her message went. What was considered enough was most of my money. I only had a single coin left, only good for maybe a game at the arcade.
Still, it let me leave the club without further incident. At least the woman was sympathetic, “come back when you've got more money, I'll have a treat for you then. Until next time, kid.” Her smile looked a lot less artificial the last time around.
I felt a little cheated. But that was life. Easy come, easy go. Without any money I didn't really have much else I could do. I returned home late. The whole neighborhood was asleep. I snuck up to my room and turned on the lights. I noticed a stack of papers on my desk that wasn't there before. I feared that I had been discovered by Auntie but then I realized that they were assignment printouts from the classes that I skipped.
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Since there was a gap between our homes, it was impossible to knock with my hand. I had to use a stick I kept around for this specific task. I opened my window and leaned out. Three light taps, only loud enough for someone to hear if they're in the room. I waited a moment silently. I saw movement in the other room.
The curtains slid open and she opened the window.
“g'evening,” I greeted her casually, “thanks for the printouts.”
“You're... welcome,” she suppressed a yawn.
“Hm, did I wake you? Sorry, I saw the light and thought you were up.”
“No, you didn't,” she denied it, “I was just working on something here.”
I didn't buy it. “Don't tell me you were waiting for me to come back?” I pressed her.
“Hah, as if!” she shook her head wearily, but firmly. Without engaging me further on the subject, she directed the conversation elsewhere, “you look terrible. More than usual, anyways.”
“That bad, huh?” I guess all the noise and smoke had taken more out of me than I realized. “Yeah, I didn't have a very good night,” I admitted.
“It could have been worse,” she said.
“How so?” Being broke was pretty bad. In the end I didn't even get to drink either.
“Your Auntie could have noticed that you were gone. When I came to bring over the printouts she said that she had been about to check up on you to thank you for dinner. When I came back down I told her you had already turned in for the night.”
“Wow, you covered for me, I'm impressed.”
“I don't approve of you going heaven-knows-where by yourself in the middle of the night,” she wrinkled her brow as she chided me. “But, you know, there's no point in making that sweet woman you live with worry any more than she does.”
“Well, whatever your reason, I owe you one.” I ignored the sermonizing. I appreciated her lying to Auntie, I tried to avoid being a burden to her as much as possible. It was sweet of her to cover for me even if she condemned me in the same breath.
“Can't you try to avoid getting into trouble for a while? It wouldn't kill you.”
“Sorry but trouble is my middle name.” My line made her frown. I sighed and defended myself, “hey, it's not like I purposefully get myself into jams. Nor that I enjoy being in trouble.”
“You could at least try to be a bit considerate of other people. Leaving class like that was too obvious.”
“Well, I have you to keep me in check, right? Good ol' Alice to remind me not to play around too much.” I joked.
“That's not fair,” she looked a little downcast. “It's not like I enjoy being strict or making you do things. If I don't help you out, then who will?”
“Listen, I know that it's not that simple...”
“My goodness, look at the time,” she looked at her wall clock, “I'm incredibly sleepy too. I better turn in now if I have any chance of getting up in the morning.” She forced a smile, “If I can't get up how am I supposed to get you to school on time?”
“Alright. Good night, Alice...” I took the hint. Even if I hadn't she would have just closed the window on me. She wished me a good night in return and closed her window and drew her curtains. Sitting at my desk for a while, I waited until the light on her side went out. I let out a sigh and closed my window. I was too tired to think, I told myself. I tossed myself onto the best and forced my eyes shut. Sleep came late and ended much too early.
Two days later I still wasn't feeling up to snuff. It was a saturday, and a half day at school, but I couldn't get my enthusiasm for the weekend going. I stayed in class but snoozed through most of social studies. Just when the bell rang and I thought I was finally free, an announcement came through the PA system. I was to go to the counselor's office right away. I looked at the class rep with a raised eyebrow, she shrugged, telling me that she knew nothing about it. So it was a personal issue instead of a problem in class.
So, I see we've got an announcement asking him to come. It's over the PA system. Must be pretty urgent, right? It's mysterious, isn't it? Well, what would happen if he ignored this summons? That's a mystery too.
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Suika held a hand next to her head, closed her eyes, tilted her head and flopped out her tongue like a hanged man would. The little shit. I left the class with an unenthusiastic slouch. What a pain. I had never met the guidance counselor before either. All I had heard was that she was new and kind of stupid. Since I was pretty good at weaseling my way out of problems with the teachers I wasn't considered a problem student – as far as my permanent record was concerned. That's all those types cared about anyways. If a student's grades were alright and if he kept his nose out of trouble and was lucky enough to have a quiet family life he wouldn't be fawned over by some sycophantic counselor pretending to be his friend.
I knocked on the counselor's door. Hearing a reply, I went on in.
“You're here faster than I expected, and I sent someone to go fetch you too,” a woman with an affable smile greeted me. She pointed to the chairs in front of her desk, “please, have a seat. Just give me a moment.”
She was looking at a dossier in front of her. My record, no doubt. I sized her up. Shoulder-length hair with no type of ornaments or accessories, a pretty young-looking face and clothes that were on the more informal end of proper work attire. A fresh graduate from university, no doubt. Still idealistic, trying to help young people find their way in life. Come to think about it, Eirin seemed to be much more popular with students seeking out advice.
“So, I hear you have a nickname?” she put the file down.
“That's right. Everyone calls me Arc.”
“It doesn't appear in your file, you know. Could you tell me how you got it?”
“But you don't want to?” she laughed, “Well, it's ok. Do you mind if I call you Arc then?”
“Go ahead, you're the adult here.”
“Oh my,” she said with a smile, “I think we've gotten off to a poor start here. You're not here because you're in trouble. There's no need to be hostile.”
“Then why am I here?” I asked.
“We have to finish our introductions first before we get to that. My name is Yuyuko Saigyouji and, as you might have guessed by the sign on the door, I'm the guidance counselor.”
“Pleased to meet you Ms. Saigyouji,” I said with faux enthusiasm.
“Yuyuko will be fine. I'm young enough to be your older sister, after all,” she said like it was an actual joke. I didn't find it funny.
“Alright then big sis Yuyuko,” I said sarcastically, “why am I in your office? Surely you have better things to do than introduce yourself to random students.”
“Yes, I definitely do, silly,” she giggled. Not getting or just ignoring my sarcasm. “I called you here because I think you're anything but the average student. I hear you like to do things that are sometimes unconventional and go to places that you're not allowed to as a student.”
“If this is about the club the other night...”
“Oh my, you were at a naughty club the other night?” she placed her hands on her cheeks as if embarrassed by the thought. “You shouldn't do things like that, Arc. It's not allowed and Big Sis will start to worry about your future.” Apparently, she had actually liked the moniker. Or, as a creeping suspicion began to arise, she was far slyer than I gave her credit for. She shook her head, “but no, it's not about your naughty extracurricular activities. Though a little birdie told me that you have been to certain off-limits areas in the school too. I like to take naps under the warm sun as well, it feels good.”
So she knew about the roof. How? Only Suika and I would know and she'd sooner bite her tongue and choke on her blood than blab to an authority figure.
“So I take it you need something from me?”
“That I do. You see, I think you're a really nice kid from what your classmates say about you. A few of the boys are bitter but that's their problem for not being studs like you.” No sense of camaraderie from the guys, as usual. She continued to talk, explaining my merits, “what's really great about you is that you like to think outside the box. In short, you're creative. Getting yourself out of trouble and finding ways around rules and over fences... it takes a great degree of willpower and imagination. So I'd like you to help me out a little.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Oh, a few errands. Mostly help the health of the student body,” she waved her hand like it was a trivial thing.”
“Then why don't you do it yourself?”
“Because I'm a grown up, dear,” she said it like it was the most logical thing in the world. A quaint and inoffensive smile masked just how logical she was about it, “I can't very well interact with you peers like you do. They still see me as someone 'beyond', someone who isn't one of them. It's much easier to get someone your age to open up or to listen to reason when it's someone else like them that they're dealing with. The fact that you're a little naughty will help you. Students with problems usually don't like being talked at to by someone who is squeaky-clean.”
“What's in it for me if I help you out?”
“Nothing too great really, just Big Sis' goodwill. And the benefits that come with having a a grown up in my position be your friend. Teachers tend to be more willing to overlook the odd unexplained day off or sightings at places where no good student should be in town when you're my friend. I can convince them that it's for the greater good easily.”
“And what if I don't want to help you?”
“That would make me real sad. I might have to tell the staff to keep an eye out for an at-risk student in their classes. We couldn't have someone as vulnerable as you be ignored when we can provide help and proper guidance. Naturally, we'd also have to look into rumors that truants are using the back gate to skip class and using the roof for smoke breaks and other forbidden things.”
“You really care about the students, don't you?” I smiled bitterly.
“Yes, but I won't force you to help me if you don't want to. I'm sure that you'll be an upstanding student until you graduate anyways.”
We can always tell her to fuck off if she starts asking overly annoying tasks. It would feel good to throw the offer back in her face, but I just can't see Arc enjoying that very much when he loses so much freedom.
“You know, I'm really glad that we could reach an understanding,” she nodded with satisfaction.
“Just glad that I can help you with your job,” I stated dryly. Well, at least I was getting something out of it. A more zealous person in her position would have already made my school life impossible to maintain. I was clearly a shining example of how the ends justify the means.
“Now that we've gotten all that sorted out, maybe I should tell you what it is I want to do first. Before that, though,” she opened a drawer on her desk and took out a small envelope, “here's a couple of things that might prove useful to you.”
I took the envelope and examined the contents. A card with her mobile phone number, a voucher good for an hour's rental of a boat on the lake, a key and a pair of condoms. Those elements could all be combined for a very bold assumption. It was something I couldn't resist asking, even if I already knew it wasn't like that. “Are you propositioning me?”
“Hm, it sure seems like it, huh?” she laughed jovially, uttering a joke of her own, “don't worry, you're cute enough but you're not my type.” She explained what the items were for, “I'm encouraging you to figure out creative solutions to these problems. If you need to contact me, you have my number. I'll be available at any hour if you're in a bind. The lake is a nice place to be and you'll find that people tend to relax when on a lovely little boat ride. You should be careful with that key,” she warned, “it'll open most doors in the school so you can get in after hours if necessary. I'm going to trust you not to abuse the privilege. Otherwise it'll be both our butts on the sling.”
“You're forgetting something,” I reminded her.
“Oh, those. They weren't my idea. The nurse insisted on prophylactics. She said that you're the type of person to rush into something without being prepared. As your counselor I can tell you that you shouldn't do anything naughty in school or while wearing our uniform but we realistically can't control our students behavior completely.” Yuyuko added with a wink, “young people are in the prime of their lives after all.”
“Gee, I'll have to thank Eirin then,” I felt like sighing. What did she take me for?
“'Eirin', huh? How interesting...”
“I feel like you're misunderstanding something here.”
“Don't worry, I believe that love should be free. Social stigma and taboo are unimportant.”
“You definitely are misunderstanding.”
“Anyways, moving on,” she finally got to brass tacks, “the first student I want you to help out is in your grade. She transferred in at the beginning of the year. Are you familiar with Hinanawi from class B?”
“I can't say that I am.” I remembered most of the names of the girls in my grade. But I couldn't recall anyone by that name. Then again, I didn't really mingle with anyone from outside my class on a regular basis.
“Well, she's a nice girl. But it seems that she's having a bit of a hard time.” Yuyuko explained her circumstances, “she came from the all-girls school with good grades but since she got here her academic performance has just been degrading. I don't think she's made any friends here as well. From what I hear she keeps mostly to herself.”
“So what do you want me to do about it?”
“See if you can't figure out if there's something that's keeping her from integrating here. I've talked to her a couple of times but she keeps others at bay with a curtain of politeness. There's no telling what she's really feeling inside.”
“That's kind of open-ended,” I complained. There was no guarantee she would open up to me and, even if she did, that I could do anything about her difficulties at school. There wasn't any metric for success for my work either.
“I'll consider your intervention a success if you help her make at least one friend. That's a good first step to fitting in somewhere, right? Though if you accomplish something really noticeable I'll have to just reward you with something extra special.”
So good luck – you'll need it. Those were the words that were missing from our little talk. But well, I was finally free to do as I liked.
I stopped by II-B. A few students were still in the classroom, idling even though the weekend had finally arrived. People were strange. I asked around about the girl.
“Hinanawi? She left a few minutes ago, I think.” That was the most concrete answer I got. Thank you, I guess, Classmate C. A and B were too busy gossiping to help me out. Sheesh, no one in her class cared for her. The troublesome counselor had been right on the mark. I might as well have been talking about the cafeteria lady with the level of interest they showed.
Figuring that I might still be able to catch her before she left school. I dashed to he front gate. The problem was that I had no idea what she looked like. I probably should have asked for a picture or at very least a description. A stroke of desperation genius gave me an idea. I started scanning through the crowd of students for anyone who was walking alone.
“Hinanawi?” I asked some nearby girl. It would have been convenient to get it right the first time, but chance was against me. A lot of people walked by themselves and a surprising number of them were lost in thought or looked distant. That completely screwed with my assumption that she was the only dour-looking loner rambling about aimlessly.
Oh, I was moron. I took out my phone and dialed the number on the card given to me earlier. “Tenshi has long hair, with bangs. She's cute in her own way too. You know, I'm really glad that you decided to dive so earnestly into-” I cut the call short. Long hair with bangs really didn't narrow things down very much. Tenshi, huh? Her parents had poor taste. They certainly lacked divine inspiration. But well, learning her given name was kind of an important thing that I had been missing.
I wasn't getting any closer to finding her. Time for something more desperate. Throwing caution to the wind, I let out a loud shout of “Tenshi!” hoping someone would respond. Sure enough, people stared at me, but I had expected that. It was the girl who refused to turn around, flinching slightly, that I was interested in.
“Hinanawi, right?” I asked her as I caught up. She definitely noticed me walking by her side but she ignored me. “Come on, I know it's you,” I said. “Don't give me a hard time please. I just want to talk a little.”
“I don't know you,” she said quietly. We were now walking on the streets and away from school. She wasn't half-bad, I decided as I took a good look at her. Delicate features and a nice, graceful, gait that betrayed her upbringing. You could take the young girl away from her posh academy but you couldn't take the posh academy away from the young girl. Could stand to benefit from a smile on her face, however.
“We can change that by talking a little, no one is born with knowledge of other people.”
“Please just leave me alone.”
“But I have something important to tell you.” I bluffed, “if you hear me out and don't like what you hear I promise to leave you alone.”
“Fine," she stopped. “Just what is it that you have to say to me, person I can't remember ever meeting before?”
She put me on the spot and I didn't know what to say that wouldn't get me simply blown off.
 The school is concerned about her
 Lie and confess undying love for her
I have my doubts about how well she'd take a confession as I think she would either blow it off or accept it too well. One has to wonder if trying to get through that harsh possibly tsun shell is worth the dere inside.
Just a heads up that I rather you not do write-ins/subvotes unless I ask for them explicitly. If you feel that you must then it's not the end of the world, since I'll try to work it in if it's plausible/makes sense/is not against the wish of the majority. But I also usually try to take the intent and feelings expressed in the comments and integrate them anyways. So that's one advantage of expressing yourself.
>>44713 Good to hear. I was worried that it wasn't going to work. My original choice for counselor was more serious and was prone to lecturing. A bit boring for a subplot.
How do you figure? She's talking to a random stranger that's popped out of the blue. Surely you can't expect to size someone up in just an instant. That's kind of the guy who was complaining about Marisa and Alice without even interacting with them first.
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“The truth is,” I gulped hard, trying get rid of the unpleasant feeling of a lump in my throat, “that I love you. I've admired you from afar for a while now and decided that today was the day that I let my feelings be known.”
That was hard to say. It was one thing to joke around but it felt strange to say it to someone who I really wasn't trying to pick up.
“Oh, you don't say,” she looked at me with uncertainty. “Why?”
“What do you mean why?”
“Why do you love me?” She asked.
“Love doesn't need a reason.” I hoped that the old standby would work.
“Moreover, we've never talked. How do you know you like what I'm really like and not just some idealized version of me?”
Ugh. She had me there. Luckily I was able to parrot a line I had read somewhere, “The only thing necessary for love to bloom is a measure of hope.” That didn't sound half-bad, actually. Emboldened, I tried to really land it, “I'm sure you're even lovelier than I could possibly ever hope for.”
“But I don't love you back, you know,” she stated with a bit of confusion on her face. “I didn't even know you existed until now.”
“You must have seen me in the hallways once or twice...” I mumbled, not sure what to do next. Oh, I knew what to say, “I was playing against the PE teacher the other day. Surely you must have seen that?”
“I wasn't paying attention, I was sitting in a corner by myself.”
That's kind of sad. I felt a little sorry for her,
I laughed a bit nervously, “well then, I suppose I should tell you my name. I'm Arc. From class II-C.”
“Well met,” she nodded. “So what now?”
“I'm not sure.”
“Don't you want to show your passion somehow? That's how courtship usually works. A poem, a song or a hot kiss or something.”
“Do you want me to kiss you?” The conversation had clearly crossed into the realm of the surreal at some point. I wasn't sure exactly when. Talking about romance when it technically involved me in such a detached manner was just too weird. “I mean, I don't want to force myself on you or anything.”
“Excess desire is harmful for the soul,” she said, as if to herself, “learning how to control oneself only comes from truly understanding extremes.”
“That's... good to know.” I found myself really nervous around her. “Well, if you don't mind...” I leaned in awkwardly as if to kiss her. She didn't seem to mind at all, closing her eyes with almost choreographed obedience as demanded by my action. Trying to forget about everything else, I focused on her. Her delicate features like that cute nose and her soft-looking lips. I didn't know if it was my imagination or not but I could swear I heard her soft breathing over the sounds of the city. Oh, she was wearing some sort of lip gloss. Maybe it was flavored. It was a shiny little coat that made me think of her lips like ripening fruit almost ready for the harvest.
I kissed her quickly. She opened her eyes, a look of understandable confusion on her face
“Why did you do that?” She asked.
“Like I said, I didn't want to force myself on you. You said that you don't love me back. It would be wrong of me to kiss a girl who didn't like me.” That sounded incredibly pathetic. The truth was that I choked. Instead of kissing her on the lips, I had instead planted a kiss on her forehead. So, yes, I was on the same level as a friend of the family or an older cousin. Sure, I got a whiff of her hair and it was lovely – the pleasant smell of a peach-scented shampoo. But it didn't make up for the fact that I couldn't go ahead and take the plunge. I was oddly intimidated.
“Well... ok,” she accepted my explanations while holding obvious reservations about it. “What will you do now?”
“Hopefully get to know you better. That is, if you'll give me the chance.”
“You can't come home with me,” she stated, like I was some sort of stray puppy. It wasn't an entirely unreasonable assumption from her perspective. “Papa doesn't want me associating with boys. He would be none to thrilled to meet you. He might even beat you.”
“That's fine.” I doubt that any boy would ask to go meet the parents so soon after declaring their love in any case. Especially if there was a chance of a beating.
“Then should I pretend that you never spoke to me?” She added what sounded to me like a non-sequitur, “In order to purify one's soul it's important to let go of the parts of the past that weigh one down.”
I was weighing her down? No, that wasn't important.
“Listen, I'd like it if we could continue to talk. Maybe you'd start to see things differently.”
“You mean, come to love you?” She seemed a bit skeptical at the prospect. Truthfully, I was too.
“Hope springs eternal, it's part of being human,” I said.
“I'm not sure how that would happen.”
“Don't worry about it. I'm the guy so I'm supposed to worry about small details like that.” Or major details, as the case was. I was flying by the seat of my pants to be honest.
 A lakeside date is the perfect way to move things along.
 Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Give her some space.
[x] A lakeside date is the perfect way to move things along.
We should try to work in the good parts of regular life into things as to perhaps help open her up. Sure it'd be using up valuable resources, but it's oddly fitting they're used to do the task that they're paid for.
Now to win her route. Lets see what we know about her.
- Came from an all girl's school (Most likely religious.)Obtained from Yuyuko.
- Loner. Obtained from Yuyuko
- Controlling dad. Obtained from Tenshi
- very self controlled.
- Probably Naive on outside affairs.
“I have a pretty busy schedule,” she said. “If I don't get home soon, I'll be scolded.”
“I didn't ask if you were busy,” I was a bit insistent. I had no other ideas. “I asked if you you wanted to go out on a date.”
“I can't say that I particularly want to.”
“Alright,” I felt like sighing, “do you particularly feel like going back home and doing your chores or whatever it is that you normally do?”
“No, it's boring,” she shook her head.
“Well then, I can guarantee that a date will be way more fun. So just say yes.”
“What happened to not wanting to force me?” I was beginning to see that she had a pesky habit of pointing out my (many) contradictions. Oh brother.
“That was that, a date is a whole different thing. Plus, it'll give us a chance to get to know each other better.”
Tenshi was unsure about what to do. She began to offer an argument against her skipping out on her scheduled events but I would have none of it. “It's a beautiful saturday,” I told her. The sun was bright in the sky, clouds lazily drifted around and birds chirped with springtime gaiety. I'd have no more of her foot dragging, Taking a page from the book of Alice, I grabbed her hand and started to lead her along. It felt kind of nice, I had to admit. She fell into step after a while and we walked side by side. To an outsider we really might have looked like a couple. The thought was plenty exciting.
I was a moron, I knew. I let myself become easily contented about things that I didn't want to do in the first place. Like help an unscrupulous guidance counselor out and lie to what seemed to be a perfectly nice, albeit a little weird, girl. Maybe the problem was that she was too shy. It was hard to make friends if you felt too awkward about talking to people.
“Where are we going?” she finally asked after we were well on our way.
“The lake,” I replied, “off for a little boat ride.”
“Do you usually take your dates to the lake?”
“What makes you think that I've taken other people out for dates at the lake?” I smiled at her, trying to act aloof.
“The way you act. You're very confident. It's been an hour since we met and you're taking me for a boat ride.”
“I just try to make the most of situations.” And that was mostly true. Though I didn't tell her that most of the things I did were for very selfish reasons. The less she knew about my real reasons for doing everything, the better.
Something about her behavior threw me off. She was assertive enough when talking to me and completely nonplussed when it came to physical contact. In short, she didn't behave like a bashful and overly modest maiden. Reserved, sure. But it felt more dignified than it was distant. Did she know how to deal with people, after all? Just chose not to bother?
I presented my voucher to the lady in charge of the rental boats. Of course she couldn't help but remark what a cute couple we were and how a bunch of kids like us reminded us of her and her man when they were our age. Nostalgia was a powerful emotion. It netted us the promise that “we could take a little longer in returning if we became too distracted while out in the water.”
We set off in our rowboat. I did the rowing. It wasn't very hard. The lake's waters were calm and a lazy breeze blew across the surface, relieving some of the discomfort of physical labor. Tenshi sat near the front of the boat, quietly gazing out at the parks and land behind us.
“You know, they say that there's a giant fish somewhere in this lake,” I tried to make smalltalk, “No one's ever caught it nor taken any pictures. So it might just be people making things up.” I frowned a little. She didn't really make much of it. I couldn't blame her. But I was trying my hardest. “Is there anything wrong?”
“I'm not sure,” she said.
“And why is that?”
“This is the first date I've been on with a guy. I don't know how it's usually supposed to be.”
“Ah. Well, are you enjoying being on the lake?” I asked.
“It's fine. A bit cooler than I expected it to be. The sun is shining so brightly today.”
“Well...” I stopped rowing, letting the boat drift. We were pretty far from the shore, completely alone and away from the realities of life in the city. Just a couple of students out on a date on a boat, unsupervised and all alone. Yup. All alone. Repeating that fact to myself made me once again wonder what the hell I had hoped to accomplish with all of this. Have her swooning before she even knew me for half a day? As if I'd help her fit in at school by making her develop feelings for me. That'd probably just make things worse. I wasn't really serious about her either. And, damn, that started me off in an annoying round of self-loathing.
“Well, what?” she asked. She stared at me blankly, as if expecting a stimulus from me to react.
 Ask about her family
 Ask about how she feels about school
>I was beginning to see that she had a pesky habit of pointing out my (many) contradictions.
And this is why I like her.
>I was a moron, I knew.
I guess this is one way to make wildly out of character votes in character. Good job on that!
“Shouldn't you ask about something a little more personal?” she raised an eyebrow. “I mean, you said that you wanted us to get to know each other better.” Once again, she ended up pointing out the difference between what I said and what I ended up doing. It was starting to get annoying. If I didn't know any better, she was rubbing it in, “I thought that knowing things like taste in music and books were the kind of things people talked about when learning about each other. I'm not sure school is an appropriate subject for a date.”
“I'm just working on what I know is out common ground,” I lied through my teeth. She was right that, as far as dates went, this was anything but typical. I wasn't sure how to behave with her. “Like, are you in any clubs? That's a question that says a lot about us as well.”
“I'm not in any clubs,” she said.
“Oh. Neither am I. Any reason why?”
“I do enough at home. There's no need for me to alter my schedule.”
“Mmm, sounds like you don't agree with that reason,” I said.
“It doesn't matter, really.” she said with a shrug. “I wouldn't know what club to join anyways.”
“Usually you join the club that interests you the most. Like, I used to be in the football club in middle school. Before that I was in the astronomy club.” It wasn’t like I was really into either of them. My friends just happened to be in them. And it was fun enough. It's not like a middle-schooler can be a good-for-nothing of the same category like I am now. For one, it's hard to get alcohol when you look so obviously underage. And it tasted icky. “What sort of thing interests you the most?”
“I play the violin, so I guess I could be in the music club,” she stated with palpable uncertainty.
“Do you enjoy playing the violin?”
“It's alright. I haven't really ever thought about wanting to play it or not wanting to play it.”
It was difficult to really get into her head. Everything she did seemed to be just because she was meant to. Getting to what she wanted to do was like trying to peel an onion layer by layer.
“Any sports then? I asked.
“I'm not the athletic kind. I was instructed in fencing for a while, but I stopped.”
“What about something like rhythmic gymnastics? You have a nice and slender body. I bet you'd be great at it.” Now there was a loaded statement. I let my own personal preferences creep into my suggestions. But, to be perfectly honest, who could blame me? Any guy who said he didn't enjoy girls in leotards prancing about doing elegant routines was clearly not into girls. Leotards were a miracle of the universe. I'd go watch the girls practicing in the gym more often if not for the fact that Alice also occasionally helped the teams out. Needless to say, I was usually ejected with extreme prejudice.
“I never thought about it... you certainly seem to like the idea, I think you might be drooling a little.”
Crap. So I was. I laughed nervously like it was supposed to be a gag. Hopefully she'd be none the wiser.
“But, no,” she said, “I don't think it's for me.
“I guess we're just the kind of people that don't need clubs.” I changed the subject, “you get on just fine with your studies, right?”
“I manage,” she frowned a little. Not the best choice of topic, apparently.
“Same as me then,” I went for a save, “See? We have a lot in common after all.”
'Somehow I don't think it's a good thing,” she shook her head. Yeah, it wasn't.
“Like me better now, though?”
“You're less of a stranger,” she answered elusively. “You can't expect the seed to become a flower in just a day.”
“Great,” I said, “I'll take that to mean that I'm definitely on the right track.”
That said, I think I needed to get her to loosen up a little.
 Ask about her taste in men
 Her three sizes and other personal information is more important
[x] Her three sizes and other personal information is more important
I'd be surprised if she had a taste in men, with how much she respects her father's opinion. Or perhaps she does have a taste, and knows that her father beats them from firsthand expeerience? I'm not voting for that, anyway.
There were witnesses when he was "confessing," right? The rumors and repercussions are going to be great. If this isn't dropped before we get there.
>>44786 How did you read my post and fail to read the one right above yours.
also I don't know where you guys are getting the idea that one option is more likely to rock the boat than the other, we already know Tenshi is nonplussed by physical contact so I don't see how asking her intimate details would be any different
“I really can't say,” she replied with no hesitation. “I missed the school physical and no one has bothered to measure me. Do you really care about that?”
“I guess I don't, really. It just seems like it's a useful fact to know. I mean, after all, guys want to know everything about the women they're dating.” The naughty bits, anyways. But I kept that to myself. I couldn't give her a reply like that when she was being so earnest.
“Well, I obviously know my bra size, but that's about it.”
“Want to play a game where I try to guess your cup size?”
“No thank you.”
A swing and a miss. When at first you don't succeed, try try again, “How about this? What color knickers are you wearing?”
“I don't remember. They're laid out by the maid and I'm not very good in the mornings. I'm only fully awake by the time I get to school.
A convenient answer. But I got the feeling that she wasn't lying. I racked my brains for something else to try. “Do you keep a diary?”
“I do not,” came the plain reply.
What other girly things could I ask her about? I could think of one or two things, but they were outright dirty. Maybe if we were in a love hotel and acting all embarrassed. Even then it would depend on how masochistic I was feeling. I felt my heart pump a little faster. It knew what got me going alright.
“Ok,” I started again, “do you have a doll collection then?”
“Not anymore, I gave them up when I turned 13. I do have a lot of dresses but that's only because Papa likes seeing me in different outfits. I don't really care for them.”
Lucky Papa, I thought. Living the dream by dressing up his cute daughter in all sorts of pretty dresses. I could see now why he'd beat up any potential suitor. In fact, I began to believe that maybe if he found out about today I might be in a world of pain.
We talked for a while about small stuff. I ended up learning a bit more about her daily life. She had only the best breakfasts and was pampered beyond belief. I was glad that it hadn't made her into one of those rich spoiled types otherwise I would have been shot down when I asked her out. She was strange but not haughty.
Our hour was up .I rowed us back to shore. It was time to call it a day. At our level of intimacy, anything else I proposed would just be one-sided. So I started to walk her home.
As far as dates went, it certainly wasn't a hot and heavy encounter. It was awkward and forced. But I could only blame myself for that. I tried my best but there was a barrier that I couldn't penetrate between us. She was more complex than I first gave her credit for. There was no easy way to appeal to her, no magic phrase or topic that would ingratiate myself to her. The truth was, we really were strangers. Expecting a hastily-arranged date to change everything at once was impossible.
That didn't mean that everything was bleak and hopeless. I had my foot in the door and, like she admitted, we weren't complete strangers now.
We walked back towards the residential district. There wasn't anything fun to do for free, so the usual date staple of taking a girl out for food was impossible.
“You're cute,” I said offhand as we walked along.
“I'd imagine that you think so, since you confessed your love.”
“It's not as straightforward as that. You could fall in love with someone for other reasons. Like their actions, their ideals and whatever.”
“I suppose,” she conceded.
“My point is: you're pretty. I just find it pretty great that I'm the one that's gotten to take you out to your first date. Even if it was a pretty poor date.”
“I'm not sure where you're going with this.”
“Neither am I, to be honest. I'm just glad that you're as nice of a girl as I imagined that you could be.”
Tenshi went quiet. Did I say something wrong? Getting complimented wasn't a bad thing, surely. I didn't want to force anything out of her so we walked quietly for a while. When we got closer to her place, she finally found the nerve to speak, “It's unfair for you to judge me so easily. I'm not as nice as you imagine. I have done bad things. Hurtful things. I still do things that are bad for me and others. You can't just decide all by your own what kind of person I am. It doesn't work that way.”
“Listen, I'm sure you're someone who deserves someone as straightforward as you are. I can't be that person. I'm sorry, I can't return your feelings. It'd be a lie to believe that I could so easily.” She stopped walking and turned to face me. Her eyes were red and her lips quivered, “Thank you for the date. I'm sorry that you wasted your time on me. If it's not too much trouble, please forget about me.”
“There's no reason to end things like this, we're just starting to get to know each other.” I placed a hand on one of her thin shoulders to try to reassure her, “I'm no saint myself. But I'm sure that it's not all bad. Given the trouble I often find myself I don't think I'm wasting my time here.”
“I can't explain any more, so please,” she begged me to let her go. “I'm just a fool and a liar at that. Just leave me alone. We'll both be better off.”
 “I was told that I should never kiss a fool...”
 “The truth is that I've been lying to you from the beginning.”
[x] “I was told that I should never kiss a fool...”
There we go. I'm pretty sure the coming clean option is going to win, meaning I don't feel bad about voting for this. Not that I'd mind if it somehow won. I really want to know what the fuck is up with her now.
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333x493 , White Knight.jpg) [iqdb]
[X] “The truth is that I've been lying to you from the beginning.”
-[X] But come clean with the reason why, that even though she may wish to be left alone, others worried for her well-being, even those she may not know of, are watching out for her.
If we don't feel the romance in earnest, then best drop that straight away.
But let her know that we still care, and that we'll be keeping in touch with her. This confession of the truth isn't the end of things, but merely the start.
[x] “The truth is that I've been lying to you from the beginning.”
-[x] But come clean with the reason why, that even though she may wish to be left alone, others worried for her well-being, even those she may not know of, are watching out for her.
I like this and believe >>44793 has it right. It's not really good for one to be so distant all the time.
Uttering a dangerously cheesy phrase, I did what I couldn't bring myself to do only scant hours ago. She offered token resistence, her hands weakly hitting me in the chest. But I saw the look in her eye and, more importantly, felt her body yield to my touch like warm butter.
I kissed her. A bold display of public affection between two students. She gave herself entirely to the moment, her lips welcoming my own with a pleasant softness. Her eyes closed and her hands stopped moving. It was as if I was completely draining her strength. I didn't want the moment to end. The discovery that her lip balm was indeed flavored sent reason flying out of my head. But all good things must come to an end and my impulsive act was no exception.
I ended it, pulling back slowly. I had no words so I relaxed the hand on her shoulder and gently stroked her long, smooth hair with my free hand.
“So you did force yourself on me in the end...” she uttered. “A kiss... something that happened after a date...”
“You shouldn't worry about life when you're on a date,” I told her, “it's enough to smile and have a good time.”
“If only that were true...” Tenshi let out a sigh. She had apparently collected herself, when compared to just a few moments earlier, but her message hadn't changed, “I can't meet your expectations. I'm really sorry about that. I think I enjoyed that kiss, but it doesn't change reality.”
“I don't go around just kissing everyone, you know.” Technically the truth. But a gentleman didn't go around talking about such things. “Can't you ease up a little and just forget about everything else? Even if you don't want anything more to do with me, surely you can find it within you to open up a little.”
“Sometimes we're born into roles that we have to play until the day we die,” she said. “Sometimes the only escape we get are the lies we tell ourselves. I already tell myself enough lies. I don't want to burden you with that.”
“You just don't get it,” I shook my head. She was missing the most fundamental of truths about human relationships. I explained it to her, “it's not a burden when it's someone you care about. Friends help friends. Lovers support each other. It's just the way things are and always have been.”
“Sharing a kiss doesn't make us lovers and there's no need to complicate things further on selfish whims,” she stubbornly argued. “I don't want to be open with you, I hardly have the courage to be open with myself. Please just move on and forget about me.”
And with that final appeal, she was off. There was nothing further that I could say that would stop her. Tenshi went back to her gated little world while I tried to make sense of what had happened. Too much, too quickly – that much was clear. I felt no sense of accomplishment from having kissed her. It was enjoyable for the both of us, I felt, but it hadn't made things work out the way I would have liked.
I couldn't get past the barriers she had set up. At best I could look through the small cracks and admire the tender girl behind it all.
I returned home, not really feeling like doing much else. I played games absentmindedly for the rest of the day and eventually went to bed without having come up with any good conclusions. It was time to back off for a while and regroup to fight another day.
The weekend ended too quickly. The school week also went by in a flash. Uneventful and unfulfilling. It was only the week after that I managed to kick myself to break away from the usual routine.
 Check in with the nurse
 Check in with the counselor
>>44807 So I can see more of her. I'm not looking forward to more Eirin flirting, to be honest. Hated those updates. But I'm open to the idea that she'll be better with a real topic to dispense advice on.
>>44809 I'm not against seeing Yuyuko, I'd rather do it when we have good news, not bad news. I hope she understands the task can't be done in a day... and that she'd accept what we learned (Tenshi feels as if she's locked in her life and feels guilty about some of things she's done)
>>44820 He pretend-confessed, took her on a date, and got her shields down. That's a significant accomplishment. Probably one that would have taken much longer than a week if we hadn't zerg rushed her.
“Just a moment.” After knocking, I waited while the nurse finished up with someone else. A young, waifish looking girl left opened the door and left not soon after. She avoided eye contact and walked away with short, brisk steps. An embarrassed underclassmate, no doubt having some sort of issue with her lady parts. Cute, but she didn't have to act awkward around me. I didn't care.
I went in after being given the all-clear. Eirin was chucking away a disposable examination tool into the rubbish.
“Eirin, how have you been?”
“About the same as always,” she replied lazily, “this job is the same almost every day.”
“Then I hope our little talk will shake things up a bit.”
“Let me guess,” she said as she sat down by her desk, crossing her legs, “you need more condoms already.”
“While flattering that you'd assume that, it's not why I'm here today,” I said with a casual shrug.
“Oh really now?” she acted like it was a huge surprise. “I suppose that I've had a mistaken impression of you all along then.”
“I came for advice. I believe you know all about the counselor's coercive little favors?”
“Sure, I put your name forward after all.” So that's how it was. It wasn't exactly a shock since it was obvious that an adult was the one who brought me to Yuyuko's attention. It was bound to happen one way or another. No reason for me to act outraged.
“Well, I'm having some trouble. I don't know how to proceed any further. She's keeping me at arm's length despite my best efforts.”
“What's the problem then? Surely you didn't expect her to open up after talking to her for a few hours, right? She's someone we're keeping an eye on precisely because she's hard to reach.”
“I got that.” But it was still a little above my head. Reaching out and opening her up... it would be nice if I knew that I was on the right track.
“People aren't combination locks,” Eirin saw my troubled expression and chided, “you can't expect to pop in a combination of words and actions and have them suddenly reveal their inner desires to you. I thought you knew better than to assume that the human heart was so simple and shallow that it could be understood without any effort.”
“Does that mean I should keep trying without minding how little I'm progressing? That's a little unrealistic.”
“Arc,” she shot me a stern look, “she isn't a puzzle. She's a human being. If you don't want to get to know her because it's inconvenient for you to try then you should just give up. Tell the guidance counselor that you don't care enough to do it. There's nothing worse than trying to help someone for purely egotistical reasons. This isn't about you, it's about her.”
She had a point but I still felt like I needed more actionable advice, “I want to help her, I just don't know how else to do it. She doesn't even want to see me.”
“Find out more about her. Ask the people that know her. Find out more about her schedule. Get other people to interact with her, see how she behaves.” Eirin gave a series of suggestions. All easier said than done.
“Couldn't you tell me a little more about her?”
“I can't breach our confidentiality,” she reminded me. “I will say that she's a perfectly lovely young lady, just one with perhaps a different world view than you or I. She doesn't see things like we do so it might not be smart to try to force her to see things your way.”
And that was my food for thought. Eirin didn't provide me with anything concrete but I couldn't fault her for it.
 Brazenly show up at Tenshi's home
 Introduce Tenshi to some dear friends
Since we decided to lie to her, we might has well try and help her get friends among the students, instead of just us.
Because mark my words, if we get too involved and then the lie come out, we'll fuck up, even more than we already have.
If Arc had come clean when he had the chance, introducing her to some dear friends would have worked really well. But Arc has already taken the first step onto the "brazen" route, and I think there is no turning back.
>>44848 Fair enough, but why not throw caution to the wind and show up at her home? If he can pull it off, it'll be awesome. And if he can't, it'll still be very entertaining. This girl has a certain worldview that seems to say that she and Arc live in two separate worlds. I don't know about you, but I'd like to shatter that preconception.
There is no "wrong" choice here. To me, it's either "go for the gold" or "try a new method of getting through to her". Either one is fine, but I'll always go with the audacious option every time.
>>44854 Agreed. I already voted for the stalking option. It's the fastest way to get a handle on her worldview, I think.
>>44849 We'll cross that bridge if we come to it. He isn't going to develop feelings for her overnight, no matter how impulsive he is. And.. well, I'd feel kinda bad for Alice, Marisa, and whoever else if he did, at least without giving them a fair shake.