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Spring of Youth, more like.

Previous >>45372
Blurbs: www.touhou-project.com/others/theater

Good fences make good neighbors, so the expression goes. In our neighborhood we didn't have fences. The houses were often close enough to make them pointless. A small decorative stone wall occasionally separated some lots but mostly in the older homes. Well, despite the forced intimacy we were pretty good neighbors. It was about two meters between my house and Alice's. Moreover, our rooms directly faced each other. So, if we felt like it, we could pop open the windows and have a chat at any time.

She had been the girl next door for about ten years. Part of my life whether I liked it or not. Auntie got on well with Alice's mother too, so every so often we'd go somewhere together like on New Year's to the temple or to a restaurant like when I got accepted to the school. That level of acquaintance and intimacy led to us being the most natural of neighbors. Practically speaking, it meant that whenever one of us were out we could count on the other to check on the house. That meant we each had keys to each others homes.

I got the key to Alice's home from the cupboard in the kitchen. It had a cutesy key chain in the shape of a little red devil. Apparently I was damned if I did. I was okay with that.

Stealth was important. I tried not to make too much noise as I tried the key on her front door. Not the exaggeratedly creepy stalker or burglar kind – I didn't want the neighbors to think I was breaking in or anything. I was just trying not to wake anyone up. That would ruin the surprise. Though on the other hand, it wouldn't be too bad if I ran into Alice's mom still in her nightgown. I had always assumed it was one of those mature semi-transparent types too. Exposed the curves and teased the viewer with what really was beneath the soft fabric. Now that would be a great way to start the day. Hell, it would make my year.

Pushing aside indecent thoughts about hopelessly demure and pouty mature women, I ventured in quietly. The curtains were still drawn on the first floor. That was a sign that no one had gotten up yet. Took off my shoes and took the stairs. I did a remarkably good job at avoiding the creaky parts of the stairs as I went on up. I hadn't been to Alice's room in years but I was sure that it was too the left at the end of the hall. Hers was the room closest to mine on the opposite side. There was a heart-shaped nameplate stuck to the door. “Alice's room ♥” removed all doubt that I was in the right place.

Carefully, cautious as to not make the slightest of noises, I turned the doorknob and slowly pushed the door open. My heart was beating faster and I thought that maybe it would give me away. The room was darker than the hallway and it was hard to see inside. My eyes slowly adjusted to the lack of light. The scattered morning rays that made it through the window helped me make sense of the layout. Next to the door was a large wardrobe wand next to that a floor mirror. A desk was by the window and a shelf full of books. But that wasn't important. What was important was the bed that was up against a corner of the room. The darkened mound on top suggested that it was still occupied.

I creeped up to the bed. It was impressive at how quietly I managed it. Like a serial killer in a horror movie or a ninja in a video game. The target was in her bed. Peacefully sleeping too. With a careless look on her face like she hadn't a worry in the world. How annoying. I could only imagine that I was the same in the mornings. And yet she had the gall to disturb me. Had she no heart? A crime against nature like that was enough to make me want to cry. So there was no need for mercy.

...or so I told myself. Truth be told, her sleeping face was... something. Not unpleasant, I think I wanted to admit. I watched her for a bit. Her neck and shoulders were exposed, her sheets no doubt had moved during the night to about chest level and stayed there. She certainly was a girl. Well, I knew that. But I hadn't really pictured her wearing something like a teddy to bed. Especially one with such delicate straps and lacey trimmings.

I was beginning to waver.

That simply would not do.

In the spirit of compromise, I answered my reservations by waking her gently. At least gentler than I originally had planned to. I shook her, calling to her with “wakey wakey~ time to get up, Alice.”

My moment of vengeance fizzled away due to my lack of stomach. But it was fine. She opened up her eyes, a look of confusion on her face. I stopped shaking her and she sat up, looking around blankly like she thought she was in a dream.

“Hey there sleepyhead, it's time to get up. Rise and shine, another day of fun and adventure awaits.”

“Mmm... Arc?” she asked with some confusion, “why are you here? How did you get in?” And, realizing that she was in her nightwear, she reddened, and protested weakly, “quit looking at me already!”

“You weren't complaining when you were asleep,” I shrugged with a provocative smirk.

“Creep!” She clutched at her sheets, trying to hide herself from me. My response was a natural and dirty-sounding “har har har”. Alice looked just about ready to toss her pillow at me in anger. Experience told me that it was time to up the ante.

[] “Don't get too full of yourself, anybody else would do a better job pulling off that look.”
[] “And what's wrong with thinking that you look cute right now?”
[X] “And what's wrong with thinking that you look cute right now?”

Needle a bit, but not too harshly. The reactions are the real prize.
[x] “And what's wrong with thinking that you look cute right now?”
Stun her with charms and then leave...hopefully.
[x] “Don't get too full of yourself, anybody else would do a better job pulling off that look.”

Yeah, the reactions are the best prize. Like seeing her angry face. Then complimenting her when she least expects it~
[X] “And what's wrong with thinking that you look cute right now?”

yeah, sounds about right
[X] “And what's wrong with thinking that you look cute right now?”

I would say it's not that it sounds about right, it is right.
[X] “And what's wrong with thinking that you look cute right now?”

Well this story does remind me of some archaic VNs I've read about on hardcore gaming.

I'm voting this because well it's honest and her reaction is sure to be just as cute.
[X] “And what's wrong with thinking that you look cute right now?”

>remind me of some archaic VNs

How far back are we talking; pre-2000?
A line like that had to be delivered properly. With conviction and apparent honesty. That meant a sly smile and an endearing wink were in order too. I stared right into her deep, blue eyes as I said it. Like I was just looking at my face in a mirror. Like it was no big deal at all. That way I could convince even myself that I really didn't mean anything else by it.

And, of course, it was necessary to clinch the sentiment with the perfect followup, “you're lucky that I'm a gentleman. If it was anyone else, who knows what would happen?”

Alice's face displayed a changing gamut of emotions. In order: surprise, abashment, uncertainty, surprise again, more uncertainty, a deeper and doe-like embarrassment, discomfort and finally a more measured and composed stoic front. It was easy to tell that she was just trying to act cool because of how even her ears were still a vibrant shade of red.

I learned something new about her. I didn't usually treat her as if she was just a girl. I could almost see that she had her good qualities too... almost. Not that I would tell her for real, otherwise god knows what sort of mistaken impression she'd get. “Come on,” I told her a little more seriously, “although it would be kinda nice to do this all day, I really just came to wake you up.”

“...like this all day?” she repeated quietly to herself. Like it wasn't an offensive notion. Ugh, did I dig my own grave?

“I'm just going... to step outside for a moment so you can get changed,” I said. I couldn't help but add a cheeky, “unless you want me to stay, that is.”

“Uhm, no... there's... school, yes, we shouldn't be wasting so much time in the morning,” she replied with misplaced vigor. Perhaps her mind was still fast in dreamland.

“Cool, I'll just be borrowing Shanghai for a bit so I'm not all alone out there,” I grabbed the doll from her place on the shelf and left the room. Part of the reason I grabbed her was because it kept her guessing as to what I was actually thinking. Mostly it was because she was irresistably adorable. That long blond hair, that smart little handsewn dress of hers and cute little accessories. They were really the work of a genius.

Not that I'd tell Alice that. She'd get full of herself and her talent. Or, worse yet, make fun of me for seriously liking her dolls.

“Still, you're a good girl,” I said to the doll, “you at least deserve to know the truth. You're special.” If magic were a real thing I'd use it to breathe life into her. She deserved it.

“It's earlier than I thought it was,” Alice said as she emerged from her bedroom. She was in her uniform, impeccably attired as usual. All traces of the sleepy, confused and gushing girl were gone from her face. “If you don't mind I want to have breakfast before we go.”

So I indulged her. I put the doll back and waited for her downstairs. Watched as she made herself toast.

I just had to ask, “Is your mom in?”

“No, she's away on business again.”

“Damn, and here I thought I might get a chance to see her in her natural state...”

“Why are you so difficult?” she sighed like a world weary veteran.

“I like to think that I'm a pretty simple and straightfoward guy. Don't know what you're talking about.”

“And yet you decided to show up really early today without any warning. Something you've never done before,” she grumbled and scowled as she put jam on a piece of bread. Scary.

I would have none of it. “Was it really that much of a bother? I thought you of all people would be happy to see me get up early and take the initiative for once.”

“I'd like to believe you but I know better than to fall for that. Why did you suddenly decide to bother me in the morning? You may be simple but you're not being straightfoward.”

[] Just wanted to see Alice smile
[] Payback for all the rough morning starts
Too many games/VNs that inspire me and the style of the story to list concisely and dryly. You're probably just better off bringing up the subject on IRC much easier to talk about without it seeming like like I'm filling up the thread with superfluous nonsense.
[x] Just wanted to see Alice smile

She won't believe him.
[] Just wanted to see Alice smile

Here Alice, accept this excuse.
[x] Payback for all the rough morning starts
This is exactly what he was thinking and how he really is. There's no getting around that.
[] Just wanted to see Alice smile
[X] Just wanted to see Alice smile

If Arc wanted revenged for all those early morning wake ups she's done there are better ways to go about it.
[x] Just wanted to see Alice smile

this would help keep Alice off guard.
[x] Just wanted to see Alice smile.

I there's one thing I can say I love about the story it's how much I enjoy all the different characters.

Could've always gone the classic shaving-cream-in-hand route.
[x] Just wanted to see Alice smile.

Gonna pull this card every time. No matter what.

So many updates! I can barely keep up since I can't vote at work.
Yeah should and will write, just being lazy and hungry. Plan to fix both and getting to it soon.
>"'...like this all day?' she repeated quietly to herself. Like it wasn't an offensive notion. Ugh, did I dig my own grave?"

haha wow, I think our charm is a bit too effective. I like this Alice a lot, though.
Jesus Christ I missed voting for 2 updates! How does this keep happening?

[X] Just wanted to see Alice smile
“You wouldn't believe me if I told you,” I feigned apprehension. All the better to draw her in. Sure chances were that she'd see through the act. Alice knew me well enough to tell. But that wasn't the point. Getting her to bite was more important than the stand alone appeal of the bait.

“Just try me,” she replied predictably enough. It wouldn't help her to act like her usual unimpressed self. Whether she realized it or not she had been off-balance all morning. I was the one dictating the tempo.

“Alright then,” I made sure to capture her gaze by offering direct eye contact. She found it hard to look away. “I wanted to come over and show you that I'm capable of being proactive. In short, I wanted to you recognize that and smile. It's nice to see you happy.”

“...I'm already happy enough when we walk to school,” she said with an unguarded smile. “You don't need to show off to me. I already know what you're really like.”

Somehow, for some reason, my words backfired. I was the one feeling a little flustered, a little hot under the collar. I wasn't able to keep looking right at her for fear of letting something I didn't mean to show. Really, it was stupid to get worked up because of something that Alice said. So I just moved the conversation along, “you better concentrate on finishing your breakfast. It'd be a shame to run late after all of this effort.”

“Ah, yes,” she agreed. It seemed to me like she had something else she had wanted to say but thought it better to keep to herself. Alice finished her breakfast quietly while I pretended to look out the window and watch how the neighborhood woke up and started its day. When she was done, we left and walked to school without much of a rush. Despite my warning, there was still plenty of time before even the first bell rang. I couldn't think of anything to say to her so we were silent most of the way.

Well, whatever. It was a peaceful morning by any criteria.

We were among the first to arrive. It took a while for the rest of the class to stream in. When Suika arrived, she made a very unfortunate comment, “you both look really at ease today. Did the married couple finally kiss and make up?”

“...shut up,” I said half-heartedly, aware that a stronger denial would just get her really started. She shrugged, not noticing how Alice cast her gaze downwards, as if embarrassed.

Marisa was late, arriving a minute before homeroom began. She was out of breath too, like she had been running. I was going to ask her what was up but our lovably crabby homeroom teacher arrived and started the school day.

School was still boring and lectures barely kept me awake. The only reason I didn't take a nap was that I was buoyed by thoughts about things I wanted and needed to do. An active mind is not a sleepy mind. When the first break rolled around I decided to go for a bit of a walk. Just to ease up on the thinking a little.

[] Pass by the infirmary
[] See if there's anything interesting about the first years
Filler choice is filler but allows for a better transition later on.
[x] Pass by the infirmary.

It'd be a crime to pass up an opportunity at seeing the good doctor once again. The fact she's good for advice is just a bonus.
Nice deflection, Alice. I kinda want to ask Marisa what was bothering her more than either of these choices...

[x] See if there's anything interesting about the first years

Eirin's a pretty good guaranteed encounter, but I'm not about to vote against a first year random encounter for her.
[x] See if there's anything interesting about the first years

Could be fun finding out and maybe useful knowing in the long run.
[X] See if there's anything interesting about the first years

I'm ok with filler.
Whelp I guess this is enough to go on for now. So update soon for anyone still around.
The school divided its different-year students by floor. The homerooms and classrooms of the first years were on the ground floor, the second years on the second floor and the third years (predictably enough) on the third floor. In the different wings of the floors there were labs and more specialized classrooms but for the most part there was little reason for the average student to leave the floor where his homeroom was. Sports was outside, and the student council office was on the third floor (as the president was always a third year) and the teacher lounge was stuck on the ground floor. The nurse was also on the ground floor, near the covered walkway that led to the track and the cafeteria was on the opposite wing of the building, across a large courtyard which students idled in during breaks.

I went to the first floor, finding that I stood out more than I cared to. Maybe it was my sunny disposition (my default half-scowl kept me from being hassled too much) or the fact that I was obviously older than the rest of the people in the corridor. It was kind of neat that I was given such wide berth and that people stepped out of the way for me.

I hadn't much reason to come down to the first year classrooms since I didn't really know anyone there. I had heard about some of the more attractive (or interesting) girls but that was only because boys will be boys. Our grade liked to make lists and draw up tiers for any and all females within sight, sometimes viciously debating the merits and faults of all the candidates. More than once a fistfight had broken out between factions who held deep-seated beliefs about girls they had never talked to and worshipped from afar. A bit too much for me. I liked to talk to as many cute girls as possible, which tended to draw the ire (and in my opinion, envy) of much of the male student body.

I smiled as I spotted one of the girls that aroused such intense feelings of devotion from the guys. She was sitting in her class (I-A), sitting silently with a content little smile. Short blond hair with a ponytail affixed to her left side, she was the very image of a cute little sister type character. Too bad I wasn't interested in little sisters in that sort of way, I found them annoying. Sure, I accepted that I was biased because of my experience with my cousin but I just couldn’t bring myself to think of someone like the younger Scarlet in romantic terms. That was probably a good thing, lest I invite danger. Daggers in my back from overzealous fans wasn't my idea of fun. Not to mention that I was just as likely to be harmed by those who disliked her. Yeah, classroom politics were scary.

Those anti-fans were sometimes fans of the other popular girl in I-A. Sitting surrounded by a few friends from other classes, the other blonde was chatting away happily during the break. I didn't see the appeal in her anyways. Sure the ribbon was cute and she was supposedly cheerful, but I didn't think her anything special. Just as well because just being seen talking to her might ignite a powder keg. Her friends were worth noting. They formed a first year clique that was distinctive enough. They often did brash, boneheaded things. Their leader, the plainspoken girl who was busy talking like there was no tomorrow, was often seen in talking to teachers about her latest inappropriate behavior. She needed to learn from the likes of me and Suika and play it smart. Still, Cirno seemed too infantile for most guys to care about. To her left was a quieter girl, one whose only real distinction was playing football with the guys. That won her points, but I thought her too boyish. One time I talked to her she seemed to be at a loss for words.

There were a few more members but they weren't really that interesting either. One was in the glee club, another was a fairly quiet and reserved girl. Normal enough. I left the classroom and took a quick look around the other classes. There was no one I really knew about, or cared to know about. There was a trio of friends in I-B. Noisy girls that reminded me of small woodland creatures. They were playing one of those games where you wrote something on a piece of paper, folded it, and then tried to divine the future using random chance. The one with the drill hair caught my eye but they seemed to be too childish for me to be interested in them.

Even I thought my judgment a little harsh. It almost appeared that I prefered older, mature women. The truth was that I wasn't very set about one type over another so long as they weren't annoying. Everyone had their own brand of appeal and charm.

I saw the cheerleader I met the other day. She was as peppy as always. I felt that she'd come up and talk to me if she noticed that I was there, so I kept out of her line of sight. Aya's junior was also somewhere around. If the shameless student reporter were to be believed, she had a thing for me. Even though we had never met nor spoken. The truth was probably that she was screwing with the poor girl and was hoping that I made her feel awkward for some reason. Devious and I'd have no part in it.

There were a few other girls the boys liked in I-D. There was all sort of wild speculation about a girl there. The younger sister of a class rep in my grade, she was quiet and unassuming. Some claimed that her eyes were two beautiful pearls, lustering with the reflected pain deep within her soul. Her tears were the tears of time itself, etc. A bunch of hooey from a group of socially awkward dweebs who couldn't work up the courage to ask her out.

The bell rang, signalling the end of my little excursion.

I got back to class only to find that the next period was study hall. What a waste of time.

[] Ditch the class
[] Chat people up
more filler choice necessitated by post length
[x] Chat people up

Wriggle plays football? Or did you mean soccer?
He meant football, yank.

But yeah, she was infamous in Touhou Soccer, so it's a safe bet he was talking about that.
[X] Ditch the class

Not missing anything unless Arc gets dragged into doing something else.
americano football

oh and
[x]Chat people up
[x] Chat people up

Lot of telling going on here.
[x] Chat people up
[x]Chat people up.

This is why we came down, why not dive in head-first? After that mild admonition by the author, no option is too extreme.

In other news, your update schedule seems to directly coincide with my work and sleep schedule. I'll try to vote whenever possible.
There's no obvious benefit to waiting a day or more before writing it seems. Guess I'll keep the speed to 'check often'.

That's fine, just check when you can and vote if you can. I write when I have time/peace of mind. Sorry but timezones are a bitch and I sleep and have stuff to do too

Oh and this is a faux-Japanese high school setting. American football is played in only a few countries. You should be able to solve this.
“What did you have to do this morning anyhow?” I started to chat with Suika, “it's pretty rare for you to get up for anything.”

“Eh, you know, stuff,” she replied lethargically.

“Embarrassing stuff? That you would be ashamed of if your pal here learned about?” I reached a little.

“Nah, just boring stuff,” she cradled her head with her hands, elbows on the desk. It looked like she was about to collapse and slump onto the desk. “You wouldn't want to hear about it.”

“Try me.”

“I had to post a few documents and drop off a letter too. Legal stuff about my apartment and whatever.”

“Oh, that is kinda boring.”

“See? Told'ya.” If she was half as bored as she looked then it was a miracle that she was still awake. I'd have dozed off to escape reality.

“What about you,” I turned over to my left, to Marisa, “you were almost late this morning, is there a story behind that?”

“Um,” she looked up from her book, sounding a bit unsure of what I was talking about, “a story?”

“Yeah, you were out of breath and almost late, did something happen?”

“Oh, no, not really.” She carefully bookmarked the page she was on and put away her book. Marisa explained, sounding a bit embarrassed to tell the story, “My alarm failed to wake me up so I had to run all the way of school. That's all.”

“Huh, you're a heavy sleeper then? I didn't figure you for the type. That's something we have in common.”

“Ah, no, I'm not anything like that. There was just a lot of noise late last night and I couldn't fall asleep.”

“Neighbors throwing a party or something? You know you can always complain to the police if they're too loud late at night.”

“Um, no, it wasn't anything like that,” she struggled to find the words.

I prodded, sensing that there was something juicy behind her reluctance, “yeah, so what was it? Drunk people, that's kind of annoying. Especially if they're the type that won't shut up like Suika here.”

I ignored Suika's half-hearted “hey!” since I knew it was coming.

“Uh, well,” Marisa finally seemed to have decided that there was no point in trying to hide what kept her up. She sighed, like it was a burden imposed by her karma. “There was a couple next door and I could hear them being intimate. They were at it like animals in heat.”

“Scandalous!” I burst out with laughter. There was something about Marisa's way of putting it that tickled my funny bone.

“It's not that funny. I live in an apartment and the walls are thin. I could hear every single thing clearly.”

I was about to try my luck and tease her by asking her to repeat some of those things she overheard. But, as luck would have it, figure standing in the doorway caught my eye. My heart sank – I knew that she had come for me. There was no getting out of it either. We made eye contact and I got my confirmation. That big smile couldn't be interpreted in any other way.

“I've got to go, sorry,” I left my bewildered desk neighbors. Suika might have said something after noticing why I was getting up but I couldn't make out what it was over her yawning. I was silent, letting her lead me away from the classroom and towards her office. Once we were actually walking, and out of earshot of the class, I complained, “what is it this time?”

“Is that any way to talk to your friends?” Yuyuko let out a giggle, like I had just said the darnedest thing.

“I don't recall you being my friend. Puppet master and co-conspirator more like.”

“No need to get short with me, our understanding is a mutual one,” she reminded me. Of course she conveniently forgot to mention that she was the one with all the power in the relationship. If she wanted to she could make my school life much more unpleasant.

But whatever, I was in a forgiving mood. I let it slide.

Once we got to her office, we got down to brass tacks right away. Or so it seemed at first. Big Sis had a way of directing the conversation and driving it forward as she pleased.

“I've managed to arrange for something that'll help you along. But first, do you still have the things that I gave you?”

“You mean the keys?”

“Yes, and what about the prophylactics?” there was... concern in her eyes as she asked, “have you had the chance to use them?”

“Not that it's really your business, but no I haven't,” I replied dryly. My sex life wasn't a subject I wanted to discuss with her. Big sis or not she wasn't entitled to dig around.

“Don't look at me like that,” Yuyuko looked hurt. And she tried to guilt me, adding, “I'm just concerned about your health and future. I was prepared to give you more protection if you needed it. I know how young men can be. It's not cool to care about diseases and pregnancy... but as your counselor I want you to know that your future is at stake.”

“Are we quite done with the sex ed here?” I rolled my eyes.

“Just about,” she smiled, looking as jovial as ever, “I just want to drive the point home that you can talk to me about anything and I'll always try to help you out. I may not look like it but I'm a licensed therapist too.”

“Yeah, and I'll bet that you'd even give me hands on education using your body out of the goodness of your heart too,” I mocked her.

“It... would be a violation of the code of ethics,” she said like that was the only major obstacle. I had to admit, she had the concerned counselor routine down pat.

“Anyways, why are the keys and condoms important?” I tried to return to the original point.

“I was just checking how you were doing,” she said with a saintly smile. Compassion and empathy abounded. Straight out of a religious painting.

“...what did you arrange for me then?” I tried something else.

“A private room on campus.”

“Cool, I can take naps there and ditch class when I want then?”

“No,” she furrowed her brow, “nothing like that. Those are naughty things that I don't approve of you doing.” Sure, she might not approve but she was willing to look the other way if I helped her out. That was the understanding. Still, she explained that the room wasn't for that, “I just meant that this room will be a private haven where you can really cut through entanglements and get right to it.”

“Get to what?”

“Helping the team out, you know, the thing you promised to do.”

“I'm not seeing how.”

She sighed, much to my amusement. It proved she wasn't as thick-skinned as she might like to appear. Yuyuko told me what she was planning, “You can have the room for as long as you need today to talk and work out a solution with whomever you think would be appropriate. I can summon a student at will and have them wait for you there and lock you in together. Since you have the key you can leave whenever you're done. And no one will come by and disturb you.”

“Wow that sounds creepy,” I raised an eyebrow. “So you're going to put me in a locked room with a girl for as long as I want, where no one will bother us so I can do as I like. Is that right?”

“You make it sound so dirty,” she laughed. “It's just meant to speed things along since students sometimes have a hard time being honest when they're in public or with their peers. This is just giving you a chance to examine the problem from a different angle without outside interference. You'll be in your own little world.”

...in my own little world with a weird vibe in the air, a schoolgirl and a few condoms in my pocket. There's absolutely nothing potentially disastrous about that. I didn't know if it was a setup of sorts or she really trusted me to do the right thing. Or maybe the message was that I should produce results, no matter the method.

“...right, and when am I doing this?”

“How about right now?” she said like it was no big deal. “Everything has been prepared. I just have to call in the other student and we'll be all set.”

“What if I don't want to?”

“Don't be silly!” she laughed it off, “this is a great plan. Besides, you'll be able to leave whenever you want to since you have that key. Just think of it as a unique opportunity. So who do you want me to call up?”

There was no way out of it besides passing out or sudden death. Unfortunately the anemia option wasn't something freely available to me. So I had to go along with it. There was some consolation to be found in the fact that I didn't have to do as she pleased once there.

[] Kaenbyou
[] Reiuji
Wait, Rin doesn't have any social problems, why would we need to lock her up with him?

[x] Reuji
[x] Kaenbyou

This sounds fun. Yuyuko has good plans.
Rin will tell us stuff about Reiuji by virtue of actually being capable of talking around Arc. Either one will be productive. Pick whoever you like more. Me, I'd rather be locked up with the girl who isn't terrified by Arc's presence.
[x] Reuji
I doubt we need to lock Rin in a room to get anything out of her
How about learning why Utsuho is like this? Rin was evasive when he asked.

I'd be lying if I said that was my primary motivation though. I just want to be locked up with a flirty not-catgirl. I doubt Arc would approve of that reason.
I agree with you, based on Reuji's reaction from earlier, getting alone with Rin will help Arc identify the problem much more quickly and efficiently. Yeah, that's right. Totally my only motivation~

[x] Kaenbyou
[x] Reuji

I'd think she'd say more if Rin wasn't doing everything for her and I don't think Rin'd reveal anything just by being locked in the same room.
Sigh. I do hope Utsuho isn't a rape victim or anything along those lines, for her sake.
I really don't think that's the issue. Reread the last part with her in it.

Locking Arc and Reuji in a room together could very well traumatize the poor girl. It'd be better to grill Rin for intel before formulating and executing a plan.
I find no fault in your statement. Forcing our way through have never worked in this writefag's stories.

[x] Kaenbyou
>>46395 here.

Don't get me wrong, the other method might indeed work. I'm torn between both choices though, I do see the Reiuji option working quite well if Arc can pull it off. This choice seems entirely constructed to bypass the usual barriers. Arc could indeed pull Rin aside and ask her what the deal with Reiuji is. He wouldn't need to use a perfect situation like this for that.

Hell, as I'm reasoning through this, I'm rethinking my vote already. I think Arc should use the situation to his advantage. And since this story is more about simply having fun, I don't think the worst case scenario would kick in just yet. It really seems to me that Yuyuko crafted this situation especially for Reiuji.

[x] Reiuji

(changing vote)
[x] Reuji
>Arc could indeed pull Rin aside and ask her what the deal with Reiuji is. He wouldn't need to use a perfect situation like this for that.
He could. Yet he doesn't. Arc's laziness is why Yuyuko forced him into this situation.

I'd argue more, but those grapes are probably sour anyway.
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Sorry there's likely to be no update here for at least half a day. Maybe I'll find some time and energy before that but it's not looking good. It's mostly outside my control. After that though, I should be clear through the weekend. Vote open until such a time since I don't have time to start writing now anyways, I'm busy writing something else.

You might want to think ahead to one or two choices ahead and see how it might go in either scenario. What can you expect to accomplish with either in a locked room? It's reasonable enough to extrapolate behavior seen thus far and then hedge on different diplomatic strategies.
You don't think Orin taking charge of everything doesn't stifle her sense of independence?
Where the hell did you get this idea from? Seriously.
Not the guy you're talking to, but...
Well, Orin does everything for her, from what I can tell, so she doesn't have to come out and do anything on her own.
She can afford to stay as she currently is (which, you know, we don't want), because in a very real way, things are working out for her.
So, yeah, I think I'm going to go with Reiuji.
It'll be the best shot we've got at reaching her, and we need to start somewhere.

[X] Reiuji

Now, for another thing...
We've basically gotten our own private room, from Yuyuko?
And it won't cost us any money to use it?
This little deal is starting to get better and better.
Getting a place to hang out could be handy.
I've already got someone in mind I'd like Arc to meet, so this will be fun.
Thanks for this!
Besides from what we've seen and the implication that Okuu's only doing the competitive stuff because Orin got her to.

It might be possible that Orin was doing something she shouldn't (alone or with another person) and got herself hurt and to cover it up she gets her shy trusting friend to win.
[X] Reiuji

She's the one with the problem right? Can't hurt to have a little chat with her.
>Well, Orin does everything for her, from what I can tell, so she doesn't have to come out and do anything on her own.
Except she doesn't? Their interactions consist of Utsuho using Rin as scenery, Rin making no more than token attempts to dissuade Arc away from talking to Utsuho, and running after Utsuho when she flees. How are you getting does everything for her from that? Rin isn't being overprotective; she's just being a good friend.

I'm still not sure what people expect to accomplish locked in a room with a mute we know next to nothing about. Whatever.
if Rin's following her vibe then why is she so shy then? It's usually the assertive ones that lead, not the shy ones.
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She's not necessarily shy. She's scared of men. That can be caused by shyness according to wiki-chan, and I really hope it is. The alternatives aren't fun.
I just find it suspicious how Okuu's basically replacing Orin in gymnastics for no known outside reason. For all we know, Orin's expected to bring home some medal and she's having Okuu do it for her.
You're absolutely right to find that suspicious. We don't know why it happened. Immediately thinking Rin is somehow the villain in this situation is a big assumption with nothing to back it up, however.
>according to wiki-chan

Please don't tell me you're seriously trying to use that as a source. Your point's generally correct, but really?

And anyway, their interactions seem to me like Okuu is genuinely shy (and/or scared of men, for several possible reasons, like >>46397), and Orin's usually willing to indulge her in that because she'd be uncomfortable otherwise. Orin also seems to realize that that's not healthy for Okuu in the long run, and is thus willing to let her talk to Arc.

Not sure what to make of the gymnastics replacement, though, and that makes it a bit tempting to talk with Orin. Still, if it's something like Okuu feeling guilty about relying on Orin so much, or otherwise being guilted into doing it while still being uncomfortable, she might want someone to open up to about it other than Orin.

...Or it could make her even less willing to talk, due to being an additional source of discomfort, but it's at least worth a try I think. We need to get more knowledge about this girl, and if we don't screw things up too badly here we can probably still get information out of Orin later.
The room was in the old school annex, where most clubrooms had been originally. It was an older building, the original schoolhouse from my understanding. Three floors and straight and narrow corridors, making everything feel cramped. There was no real reason for students to come by but a few teachers still had their offices or workspaces in some of the old classrooms. The building felt completely abandoned altogether. The sparse furnishings and yellowing walls really made it feel like an out of place relic on an otherwise pristine campus.

Yuyuko bade me to wait in an adjacent room. It was an archive room judging by how many filing cabinets had been stuffed into the space. I sat on a pile of boxes and waited patiently. Ten minutes later there were footsteps in the hallway and I heard a door open. And then close.

“She's all yours,” Yuyuko appeared at the door, “go in and I'll lock up behind you.”

“Feels like you have something you want to say to me,” I guessed. The fact that she wasn't showing off her usual exaggeratedly cheerful smile caused my suspicion.

“It's just your imagination,” she said, and brought back the smile. Deflecting further scrutiny like always. I gave up.

I opened the door. It was a small room, big enough for a simple table and a few folding chairs and not much else. There was a window but it was caked in a layer of dirt that filtered out most of the sunlight. It was the type that was pushed outwards to open too, but it looked like it wouldn't budge from age. Reiuji sat in one of the chairs,near the window. She didn't look up as I came in, minding a piece of paper in front of her.

I took a seat opposite her. There was a click from the door, indicating that it had been locked behind me. The ball was in my court, so to speak.

I observed her silently. Long dark hair that wasn't arranged in any sort of special way save for the (relatively) small ponytail which reached the middle of the back of her head. Fair complexion, pale but healthy-looking. She looked like a normal girl. Her eyes were focused on the paper in front of her but she there was no trace of apprehension or anxiety in her eyes. Concentrating on the questions, she looked like any other student doing a test. She didn't give off an aura of being particularly fragile either. When I first tried to talk to her, it felt like she was ready to wither away if it meant getting away from me. I wondered what would happen if I reached out and touched her. Would she finally speak? React with disgust or show a wholly unexpected emotion? It wasn't something that was a good opening move, at any rate.

The form she was reading was a vocational exam. The type that guidance counselors gave out to students so that they could think about their futures. Exactly the kind of stuff I didn't care to think about. Part of me had expected my first conversation with Yuyuko to be about my future. Normal boring student-advisor talk that would have made me want to skip school just to get out of discussing it.

“You don't really have to do that test if you don't want to,” I spoke up, figuring that silence wouldn't get me anywhere. At once, she tensed up, her body stiffened and her eyes darted uncomfortably from the paper and towards me. Not that she made eye contact, she kept her gaze low enough to avoid looking at my face but high enough to confirm that I really was there. “Sorry if I startled you but I'd really like to talk to you for a while.”

I paused, waiting for a reply that I was sure wouldn't come. “That test was just an excuse to get you alone with me for a while, so that we can talk,” I told her. I didn't know how if I was doing a good job at sounding non-threatening. At my worst I came off like a real piece of work and at my best I was still trouble. “In case you don't remember who I am, I'm Arc, your team manager. I spoke for a while with your friend, Kaenybou.”

Still nothing.

“Well, I'd like to help you out if you're having any sort of trouble. I may not look like it, but I'm pretty good at solving problems.” That was a lie. I prefered to run away from problems and take a nap than to do something about it. She didn't have to know about that. It was true enough that I was trying to help her. “I'm don't want to force you to do anything you're not comfortable doing but surely talking a little to me can't hurt? It doesn't have to be about the team either. You could tell me about school or yourself a little. I haven't even heard you tell me your name.”

Yeah, I'd have better luck getting a reply from the wall by the looks of it.

“I can sit here all day,” I said. “Not about to give up until we make some progress.”

Felt like I might eat those words. Reiuji sat silently, looking passive but uncomfortable. I had no idea where to start. It wasn't like I was a professional therapist, just a pushy moron.

[] Promise that she can leave as soon as she speaks
[] Try to get a reaction by more direct means
[x] Try to get a reaction by more direct means

I have doubts if the other choice would work or not.
[x] Try to get a reaction by more direct means

Let's bust open this dam. The tears must flow!

>seriously trying to use that as a source
Seriously repeating the information found there with a caveat, yes. Citing it as a source of authority, no.
[X] Promise that she can leave as soon as she speaks

Direct means has a really nasty connotation that I don't think works well, here. It's not like we have a pressing time limit - we can ease her into talking with us. It'll make things easier in the long run as well.
that's assuming she doesn't toss out some stuff just to get out sooner.

Anything would be progress at this point. Nobody said we have to solve this in one day
Even if she does, that's kind of the point. Building up trust slowly.

How are we planning to lock her in a room the second, third, and fourth times? She isn't stupid. ... I hope she isn't stupid.
It's meant to simply mean something more literal. Talking at her, commenting about her, trying to get her attention somehow. Without playing the card that promises she can just go. Sorry, the choices aren't always worded optimally and I try to avoid being overly verbose with them. At any rate, on the pervert/good-hearted scale, Arc is more of a lovable rogue than a dirty sleazebag.

Well damn...I'm changing my vote then.

[x] Try to get a reaction by more direct means
Okay, that's reasonable then.

[x] Try to get a reaction by more direct means

I can't help but think that the other option would lead to her telling us something relatively short and inconsequential.
hey, he came on to Tenshi pretty fast beforehand

all right I'll change my vote, because I don't want to let her off the hook that easy
[x] Try to get a reaction by more direct means
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Writing now(ish). Fun times galore.
“...” I felt like sighing. I was way over my head and had no safety line to fall back on.`Still, it was better to put on a poor show than no show at all. So I told myself. Reiuji was catatonic or outright disinterested at best. I said my piece, “You're the rising star of the team, the hopes of the school rest with you. As manager I have to make sure that any problems you might have are dealt with. And more than that, as a classmate, I worry if someone is having a poor time at school.” That was the technical truth. I cared because Yuyuko forced me to care.

“I'm not sure why you won't talk to me, but there surely can't be anything wrong with talking to a classmate?” I asked. Didn't expect an answer, so I continued the monologue, “Somehow I doubt that the problem is me. I mean, I'm a good-for-nothing shady-looking guy, sure, but I get the feeling that you wouldn't talk to just anyone. Yeah, you're probably thinking, 'wow this guy is annoying, won't he shut up?' but yeah, I'm not going to. You see,” I explained in the bluntest of ways, “I'm an idiot but also stubborn. If I actually begin to follow through on something, I tend to keep at it.” Sorry, Tenshi. But she didn't have to know about you.

“So if you want to get out of this, talk to me. I'm not asking you to confide in me or anything, but I don't think it's too much to allow me to try to be your friend. My motives are pure, cross my heart and hope to die. You don't want me making assumptions,” I threatened playfully, “I'll just assume that we're already friends and treat you like a friend. Being a friend is a big deal to me. I'll stick up for you if you're ever in trouble. I'm somewhat handy in a fight. And I can deal with all sorts of punks. There's another friend of mine, see, her name is Suika. Yeah, I know, it's unexpected that a bad boy like me would have female friends, but it's true I swear. Anyways, she's tough as nails. She'll also back you up if there's ever trouble. With the two of us on your side, you could take over the world if you wanted to.”

Not so much as a stir from her. The offer was good too. We really would go to hell and back for someone we promised to help out. Part of the unwritten code we lived by and all that. I was in a groove so there was no reason to stop. I started voicing those assumptions, “you're friends with Kaenbyou so I assume that you're can make good buddies if you want to. Just a matter of willpower. Or maybe letting down the barriers. Trusting others a little. You seem pretty and talented enough to catch lots of people's attention. Surely you've gotten used to that. Maybe you even have your own fan club. I don't really pay attention to the gossip of the boys if I can help it. But I bet you do. What's not to like about the star of the rhythmic gymnastics team? I might take a survey just to confirm my suspicions. But I'm sure I'm right.”

“Hey,” I snapped my finger, like I had gotten a really good idea. An act, of course. But I was ramping up my boldness. So I presented her with an offer, “this room is pretty bad huh? How about we go out an sit in the courtyard for a bit? Fresh air and sunlight are great.” Then, trying to sweeten the deal and play to my strengths, I added, “if you wanted we could even... call it a day. Leave school. I know a discrete way out and the counselor would cover for us.”

“Sound good?” I asked. Yeah, I'd have gotten a better reaction from a plant. “I'm not going to force you but I'm assuming that you think it's a good idea. Unless you say no,” I paused, waiting to see if she said anything, “alright, it's settled then.”

I stood up. Naturally, since she was unresponsive I had to do something to coax her along. So I tapped her on the shoulder. That of all things provoked a reaction. Like she had suddenly realized that I was there, she looked up at me, her eyes showing intense emotion. It was a vivacious flash of intensity, a stark contrast to the frustrating slack, almost glossed-over stare. She violently shrugged my hand off. Reiuji bolted from her chair like lightning, backing away towards the wall with impressive speed. Then, she just stood there, looking like she would rather melt into the wall than be in the same room as me.

Her gaze once more fell downwards, avoiding eye contact. See no evil, hear no evil... and I was the evil. I could only mumble a weak apology as a result. The startled young girl was a pathetic sight. She breathed uneasily - unevenly and loudly. Her arms were crossed in front of her chest, hugging her own shoulders on either side. Even then I didn't get a single peep from her.

[] Cut her loose
[] Try a little bit more
[x] Cut her loose

I don't want to read any more of Arc's trying and I really don't want to read about Utsuho crying or screaming. This isn't a total loss. Rin might tell us something now that we've tripped a flag by freaking Utsuho out.

>Sorry, Tenshi. But she didn't have to know about you.
[x] Try a little bit more
That line was the most subtle attempt at railroading I've ever read. Props.
I've got a terrible feeling that there's something bad going on with utsuho
well we came this far might as well burn all the bridges

[X] Try a little bit more
In my opionion, this chick looks like she has some form of psychosis disorder. She needs medication, not Arc's misguided sympathy. We need to back off for now.

[X] Cut her lose
Well, this is a hard choice, but...
[x] Cut her loose

At this point, I think showing her that we're not going to try and hurt her (or whatever she's assuming) is the better way to go. Also, we have something more tangible to ask Orin about.
Sorry, I meant to have an update for this a few hours ago but a series of things have prevented me from writing as much as I'd like. Just checking in to say that I don't really have much of an ETA and hopefully things will sort themselves over the next day. Well, maybe it kind of works as a dramatic pause.

Honestly not trying to here.
[x] Try a little bit more

it's 50-50 as far as we can tell.
Have you called the vote or.."

Anyway, [x] Try a little bit more
Because I think that not giving up can sometimes work. Hopefully. Maybe?

Life doesn't work the same way as your Saturday morning cartoons.

[X] Cut her lose
[X] Cut her lose

Enough is enough, we've gotten what we needed. No need to traumatize her even more. This isn't a matter of perseverance. What matters here is the approach. Next up is Kaenbyou.
[x] Try a little bit more

A good detective doesnt give up on his case! But a bad one also doesnt... hmmm.
Because giving up at the first chance is the road to a successful life.

Grow up.
Alright, finally got things back on track. Writing and updating soon.

Chill, guys . You can disagree with someone without being a patronizing ass.
“Alright,” I said, “we're done here. I'll unlock the door and you can leave. I really didn't mean to upset you. I hope you'll talk to me sometime. Sorry again.”

What was there left to say? I could have pressed harder but I wasn't really sure where that would lead. It might prove to be destructive. But that was the nice way of putting it. Truth be told, I was a bit afraid of what would happen. There was something obviously wrong with her and she probably needed the help of a professional. Then again, it was convenient to tell myself that.

At any rate, I did as I said I would. I unlocked the door. Then, assuming that she wouldn't move so long as I was there, I left the room. Holed myself up in the adjacent room, sitting in the dark amid dusty boxes and filing cabinets. I waited a quarter of an hour alone, losing myself to idle thoughts. It was easier to lose myself under the wide open sky, easier to dodge the inconvenient echoes of real world problems. The mute girl was all I could think about despite my best efforts to pretend that I didn't really care about what had happened.

After all, I told myself, just trying was good enough to please the scheming counselor. I couldn't be held accountable for how my fellow students behaved.

I finally left the storage room when I was certain that Reiuji had left. The room was empty, and I locked up behind me. Time to get out of the old building.

“Hold up,” Yuyoko intercepted me in the corridor. Should have expected her to be skulking around. The usual cheer was gone from her face. Sobriety reigned in her words, “I take it that it didn't go well?”

“No. She wouldn't speak to me,” I reported, “I was trying to make her comfortable and touched her shoulder without thinking. She reacted poorly and I decided that pushing her further was not wise.”

“I see. Not a surprising result, regretably.”

I took the opportunity to ask her outright, “Just was is wrong with Reiuji? That wasn't normal behavior for a well-adjusted person.”

“Something... which I can't talk to you about.”

How did she expect me to do anything if I was kept in the dark? “That's bull-” I began to protest.

“Hold up!” she snapped sternly. It was commanding enough to tell me that she was serious. Acting like the adult she pretended not to be usually. But she didn't take the next step and chastise me. Instead, she calmly explained why she couldn't say anything more, “It's confidential personal information. And I can't share that with just anyone without the consent of the student and their guardians. I am a professional and am bound to ethical standards.”

“Right, right,” I said with a sigh. There were legal liabilities as well, no doubt. So she couldn't tell me anything about Reiuji nor anyone else.

“...I believe you can help, which is why I've asked you to cooperate with me,” she said quietly. Her faith in me might have been misplaced but I begrudgingly appreciated what she was trying to do. I was the tool with which she thought she had the best chance of helping a student with. It was just up to me to figure out how I was supposed to do that.

I felt a little like a blind man at a shootout. There was a good chance of hurting myself or others by just stumbling about. But there wasn't a credible alternative either.

“You should go back to class,” Yuyuko said with a light shrug. It once again felt like she had something else to say to me. I understood, however, that it probably was something that she couldn't tell me. She had her hands tied. “I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to skip class,” she added, saying something a staff member shouldn't say to a student. Maybe it was an attempt to earn my sympathy. Well, I'd take it under advisement.

There was probably something else that I could get out of her.

[] “What about about me makes me useful for helping her out?”
[] “Who else can help me help her?”
[] “What about about me makes me useful for helping her out?”

Learning the source of her confidence sounds useful. She certainly thinks we can do it.
[] Give up on this.

Yuyuko should be doing her own damn job. Why should our character do all this? He's just a kid.
[x] Give up on all of Yuyuko's tasks, regardless of her threats.

Failure after failure. He should just call it quits.
[X] “What about about me makes me useful for helping her out?”

I'm curious to see why the heck Yuyuko thinks we can actually help these people. They seem to have some serious issues buried, how does she think a total stranger can somehow undo that?

Also, I vehemently disagree with any vote for giving up. Though I doubt that they even count...
[X] “What about about me makes me useful for helping her out?”

It'd be interesting to see what Yuyuko sees in our protagonist. He'd want some answers at this point and this choice does not mean that he won't quit after he asks this.
[X] “What about about me makes me useful for helping her out

One of the main reason for reading a CYoA is the self-gratification obtained from helping the MC actually accomplish something. It's kinda frustrating that we just seem to be going in circles with all the girls we meet, and not making any progress at all.
[x] “What about about me makes me useful for helping her out?”

Might as well try it.
Writing now.

Not all gratification has to be instant. Nor can you expect troubled students to instantly warm up to prying strangers under the best of circumstances. Besides, it's disingenuous to say that things aren't progressing with any of the characters met. Interactions with Alice, Marisa, Suika, Reimu, Reisen, Yuugi, Eirin, Yuuka and even Rin have been anything but frustrating (or so I would hope). I'm sure I'm missing someone there. Point is: don't get too hung up if things don't go as you'd like some of the time. Overall things tend to work out.
“I think that you already know the answer to that,” she answered.

“Humor me anyways.”

“You're not easily intimidated and are comfortable with ignoring rules,” she elaborated. Almost sounded like I was the protagonist of a cop movie. The maverick that gets things done even if he has to bash heads with the commissioner. “Besides, you're not staff. Students feel more comfortable interacting with their peers.”

“And there's nothing more to it?”

“You're available. It's not like you'd be studying hard or worrying about the homecoming dance otherwise.”

“Wow, is that something that you should say? It's a bit cynical. If I didn't know any better, I'd suspect that you're not entirely committed to the welfare of your students,” I said sarcastically. Really no other appropriate reaction.

“Life is about picking and choosing your battles. I could waste time and energy trying to get you to change your ways or I could enlist you to help me to everyone's benefit.” She smiled slyly, “I'm certain that you'll benefit in the end as well.”

“Oh joy, I'm a convenient puppet chosen just because he's there. But I shouldn't worry, I'll be redeemed in the end too.”

“I also trust that you'll do the right thing,” she said with a serious look.

“And how do you know that? I could have done something awful to that poor girl and no one would be the wiser.”

“You wouldn't have.” Yuyuko shook her head. “I trust my intuition about people and I know that you'll come through in the end. Even if you try to act like you hate everything I ask you to do.”

“How optimistic. You forget that you can't force me. I can walk away at any time and the worst you can do is make it so I can't sleep in class or skip school. I can deal with a year of strictness.”

“You're right that I can't force you,” her smiled returned. “but you know, Big Sis knows all about you. I don't know all of the particulars of what happened before you joined us but there's enough in your file to give me a good idea. You can act as tough as you like, but I know you're a good kid deep down.”

“Tch,” I clicked my tongue. I shouldn't have been surprised that she knew about my past. “That's all ancient history,” I said with a sardonic smile, “the thing about young people is that they're unpredictable.”

“Oh, I know,” she chuckled. Her sunny optimism was annoying. Yuyuko wasn't about to let up. She teased me, “a nice young man like you really is at his best helping others. And you will, because it feels nice. The path isn't obvious but you'll get there. I know it in my heart that you will.”

That was enough from her. I waved her away with an annoyed flick of my wrist. Putting my hands in my pockets, slouching and with a scary scowl on my face I turned away and started to walked back to class. To add insult to injury, Yuyuko laughed and warmly said goodbye.

I got back at the start of lunch. Students were filing out of the class in the rush to get to the cafeteria before they ran out of the good stuff. I wasn't very hungry so instead so I simply sat at my desk. Suika was gone, likely had rushed out as soon as the bell rang. Alice probably could tell that my mood was less than good and didn't bother me. She sat with Reimu and Marisa, having their packed lunches like always.

An unexpected arrival stormed into the classroom, coming straight for me. I could guess why she had come by how absolutely livid she looked. The displeased expression with the narrow, focused eyes and the clenched fist were dead giveaways.

“Yo, here to chew me out?” I asked casually.

“What the hell is your problem?!” Kaenbyou began cordially enough. “You're the lowest of the low!”

That was enough to get the attention of the classroom's busybodies. An angry girl from another class giving me a piece of her mind wasn't a common sight.

“Listen, I can explain, it was an honest mistake...”

“Where do you get off touching girls whenever you feel like it anyways!?” she exclaimed, loud enough to turn heads. Not good. I was going to be a pariah with the way things were going. “And to think that I thought you were kind of cute! You're nothing but an insensitive jackass!”

“Whoah now,” I tried to keep my cool. If I got hot and bothered in front of the class it'd be even worse. And I had to ignore the revelation that she had thought I was kinda cute too. “Listen, I'm sure that you don't want everyone here to overhear what I have to say,” I dropped my voice to a whisper, “about your friend. Calm down and let's talk elsewhere.”

“...fine, but I'll warn you, if you try to worm your way out of it with petty excuses, I'm going to do my best to make your life a living hell.”

“Alright, I'll try not to disappoint,” I got up and led the way, ignoring the nasty stares from some of my classmates. I didn't even want to see the icy cold stare Alice was sure to be shooting at me. For someone who was so upset with me, Kaenbyou was surprisingly meek until we were all alone. I supposed that she was sensitive after all about her friend. The roof once again was my little private area. After the incident with the girls I had been making sure to lock it whenever I left. “We're all alone, won't you give me a chance to explain?”

“Go ahead. This better be good. Utsuho was in tears, I can't forgive you easily, you bastard.”

“Listen, I don't know what she told you but I just tapped her on the shoulder. I didn't do anything else. She reacted badly and I apologized. I just wanted to take her to the courtyard for some fresh air.”

“That doesn't matter! And if you had done any worse, I would have killed you in front of all of you classmates,” she still sounded angry. “Why the hell did you lock her in a room with you?”

“I was just trying to help her. I'm worried about her and the team. I was trying to open up to me.”

“If that's the case then you're unimaginably stupid! Who in their right mind would open up to someone who locked them together in a room in an abandoned building?”

“Yeah, that part does sound dodgy when put in perspective,” I admitted, “but my intentions were good. Just ask Reiuji, I wasn't hitting on her or anything.”

“If you had been...”

“Yeah, I'd be dead, got it,” I interrupted her. “Listen, I don't know what her problem is but I really am just trying to help.”

“If you really care, then stay away from her,” she shot back, still agitated.

“It's obvious that she has some sort of problem and I'm not sure if ignoring it will help.”

“It's not a problem you have to concern yourself with. I'll believe you just this once, but if you ever bother her again you'll have to deal with me.” She wasn't kidding by the sound of it either. Kaenbyou might have looked like a harmless schoolgirl normally but there was a fierce intensity in her eyes that told me that I really didn't want to cross her.

“I kind of have to,” I sighed. Those words weren't going to smooth things over with her, I felt.

Sure enough, she looked even angrier. “And why do you have to? Don't you like being a man? Surely keeping out of other people's business is worth keeping your manhood intact.”

That was a painful threat. Enough to make me shiver a little.

[] Helping someone through serious problems is the right thing to do
[] It's an obligation imposed by someone else
She called us out in the middle of a room full of students - and the way she phrased it...
This is going to be awkward.
I'm kind of looking forward to seeing the fun that will happen from that!

Well, might as well try and salvage something out of this, see if we can avoid having everything blow up in our face.
Let's try and get her on our side.

(Also, kind of rude to be insulted like that, all things considered. We really should work on it)

[X] Helping someone through serious problems is the right thing to do

Yuyuko is right; we are a pretty decent fellow (we've had the option of being pretty mean before, but we've never really gone fully focused on that).
Let's try and make her understand that.
Maybe even get a little hint of what is going on with the poor girl..."
[x] Helping someone through serious problems is the right thing to do

I still think Orin's the root of the problem.

there's a difference between feeling making some progress and feeling like hitting a brick wall EVERY SINGLE TIME. And so far I don't feel any progress being made while I feel the brick wall enough times to get a imprint of it on my face.
Cool, missed an inconsequential vote and the choice I wanted didn't get a single vote. It's almost like I didn't miss it at all.
>And to think that I thought you were kind of cute!
Sure, rub it in. grumble why can't people always vote for what I want grumble

[x] It's an obligation imposed by someone else

Orin seems to think Arc thinks he's a hot shit manly man, and picking the goody-two shoes it's the right thing to do option would only reinforce that notion.
She might react more favorably if he admits he's being forced into it and that the idea would never have occurred to him otherwise. Even if he is warming up to this helping people thing.

And this option is honest. We're going to ask her to be honest with us, aren't we? We can't get anything out of her without responding in kind.
[X] It's an obligation imposed by someone else

She talks to Rin right? All we have to do is have Suika call her and pretend to be Rin.

Work smarter, not harder Gentlemen.
Been long enough, so writing time.

I can't forcibly change how you feel, just point out that the vast majority of events in the story are at odds with what you're saying. If you're smacking your head against a wall it's because you want to. For heaven's sake the first post in this thread alone proves you wrong.

I wouldn't treat a story where every other choice leads to flirting or bromance as serious business, but maybe that's just me. Relax already, if something wasn't ultimately meant to be enjoyable it wouldn't be in the story. Sometimes buildup is necessary.
Brick walls are the norm with this author. The sooner you get used to them, the sooner you can start avoiding them. I will say that I'm done treating this story lightheartedly. Now it has to be serious business, shame.

[X] Helping someone through serious problems is the right thing to do.

This wasn't unforeseen. The problem with Reiuji is pretty serious, and there goes our only other source of information on the topic.

>> “Listen, I don't know what her problem is but I really am just trying to help.”

After this line, the other option seems a bit disingenuous. He's trying to help ... because it's an obligation imposed by someone else. It's close to the truth, but not quite. And it won't help. If it were true, he'd actually just give up with the excuse that someone threatened him with bodily harm. Taking the "white knight" road is regrettable, but it's the only path where I see even a modicum of success. Assuming we don't choose wrong and suddenly collapse our house of cards like last time.
>>Relax already, if something wasn't ultimately meant to be enjoyable it wouldn't be in the story. Sometimes buildup is necessary.

I'm sorry, I just can't take it easy. I can think of two particular arcs that seemed especially troublesome. If we had taken it a bit more seriously, they probably would have played out more in Arc's favor, or at least seemed more enjoyable. It doesn't help that we just got needled as a reminder of that Tenshi arc. It's frustrating. I don't want to let that happen again.
It's true that these arcs (haha, Arc) have been uneasy, but at least some of the blame for that lies with our choices. I can't help thinking that we picked some particularly uneasy ones when dealing with Tenshi and now Utsuho.
Dude. Half empty vs half full there. Think of it this way: Arc took her out on a date, got her to accept to a certain extent that he was interested romantically in her, kissed her, didn't get murdered by a doting father (indirectly giving his blessing to the relationship in a way) and generally wormed a way into her life in a ridiculously short amount of time. Plus got her to open up and talk about what she believed in. Got into a fight, you say? So what? People fight all the time and sometimes conflict is a catalyst for change and mutual understanding. Not standing up to Yuyuko regarding her can be seen as a tactical withdrawal as well. Not only does distance make the heart grow fonder but time allows for reflection. Y'know perspective for when you do get back at it.

So yeah, I'm sure that it could have gone better, but almost everything always can. Accomplishing a lot in a short time is not a bad outcome by any definition.
“In the end, I'd like to believe that if I were in a pinch, someone would help me. Even if it's just my best friend helping out.” I said with a shrug, like it was no big deal. Only natural, right? I wanted to say more but Yuyuko's words from earlier prevented me from getting too preachy. I didn't want to prove her right. “I'm just doing the right thing by trying to help, I won't apologize for it.”

“It's none of your business and you should lay off,” Kaenbyou rejected the premise of my argument, “no matter how good your intentions are.”

“Ok, fine, let's say I agree that I shouldn't help. Is anyone else helping her? Perhaps you?”

“Of course I'm helping her, I'm her friend!” She barked, sounding offended that I would even consider doubting the fact.

“So you're helping her. I'll assume it's because you care about her.” Not an unreasonable assumption. They were friends, after all. “Can you, however, look me in the eye and say that you'll be able to work things out by yourselves?”

“...” Kaenbyou said nothing. It was hard to answer something like that with confidence.

That was how I could justify my meddling, “if you can't do it by yourselves, isn't it natural to accept the help of others? I'm not saying that I can and will help her, but I am willing to try. Even if it's by doing something modest like helping her create an environment where she can think for herself.”

“It doesn't matter!” she exclaimed, changing the direction of the conversation from the uncomfortably reasonable direction I had taken it. She brought things back to what had happened, remind me, “even if you want to help and have every reason to, if she doesn't want your help then you shouldn't get involved.”

“She doesn't know me. Today was about getting her to give me a chance. She didn't even talk to me, but if she did I think that it'd be a good start.”

“She won't talk to you, she wants nothing to do with you.”

“Can't I at least know why? What have I done to her that is so bad, anyways?” That was the burning question on my mind. Getting rejected with a clear reason was one thing. Being treated like I had been was just terrible.

“It's not what you've done,” she shook her head, “it's who you are. She can't possibly begin to trust you anytime soon.”

“Can't you help with that?”

“No,” she said quietly. There was a tinge of regret in her words, like she wished that that weren't the case. “She wouldn't talk to you even if I begged her to. Nor most of the people at school for that matter.”

“What happened to her?” I asked, knowing that I wouldn't get the answer that I wanted. I could only imagine that the truth wasn't too nice.

“It's just something unpleasant that happened in the past, when we were in middle school. She hasn't gotten over it even though I've tried to help her.” A frown formed on her face and I could see that it was something that frustrated her. Her anger was still there but it wasn't directed at me. The resentment that peered beyond her eyes was reserved for someone or something far away. I began to understand her strong emotions for her friend. Whatever had happened, Kaenbyou had been there for Reiuji for all those years.

“How is she ever going to be able to perform at competitions if she's so uncomfortable with strangers?”

“I'm not sure she'll be able to...” she admitted bitterly. She realized how destructive her friend's attitude was.

“So what's the point of her even trying?”

“She's doing it for me. Because I got hurt she's doing what I can't do. Even though I insisted that she didn't have to bother...”

The power of friendship at work? It seemed like it but I was still missing too many details to pin it on something that simple. The exact reason for her insular nature and their codependence wasn't confirmed but it was obvious that it was a deep bond. And it wasn't all that clear whether or not the bond was a healthy one either.

“What should I do as the manager of the team? I have to do something about it if one of the members is incapable of competing,” I told her. It was, in fact, the pretext for me joining the team in the first place.

“Just bar her from competing. It'll be better that way,” so she said with what appeared to be a heavy heart. There was no trace of pleasure or levity about her face nor her words. A shame because her charm was more evident when she wasn't dour and serious.

“If she wants to compete though, I don't have much right to decide otherwise.”

“Sure you do. If she can't even deal with you, she can't deal with the pressure of total strangers watching and judging her.”

“Aren't you supposed to be on her side?”

“I'm trying to protect her. I'm acting in her best interests. She wants to pretend that a competition is anything like training by ourselves.”

I was being put in a tough spot. What she was saying made sense but it wasn't entirely fair either. Reiuji couldn't be expected to perform well if she had issues with being with people. Still, I protested, “It's a decision she ultimately has to take for herself. We have no one else to represent us and so I can't simply prevent her from doing something unilaterally. The teachers won't side with me if she contradicts me.”

“Won't you tell her the truth? That if she can't handle even just you being around, someone who cares about her performance, she surely couldn't handle an assembly of strangers.” Kaenbyou sighed, bringing the conversation back to my desire to help, “if you really want to help her out then come with me after school to the gym and back me up when I say she can't compete. As the manager.”

“That's avoiding the real problem entirely,” I pointed out.

“I may not be able to help her get better any time soon but I can at least avoid making things worse,” she lamented.

[] Reiuji can't compete
[] Reiuji needs to decide for herself
[x] Reiuji can't compete

I want to work with Rin. This is a step toward helping her help her friend.
[x] Reiuji needs to decide for herself

They should try to make her understand why it is impossible, but the choice should be hers.
[x] Reiuji needs to decide for herself

holy fuck, progress.
[x] Reiuji needs to decide for herself

If she thinks she can do it, then let her try.
If she was physically injured and begging to perform, would you give the same answer? Why is this different?
Man, calm down.
I for one don't really like Tenshi (I'd really prefer to go with one of the other girls), but it's not like we did all that horribly with her, really.

Anyway, back to the story.
...You know, I am not sure what the right option is, here.
Her best friend seems to think this wouldn't work out, but if she never even tries, there'd be no way forward, far as I can see.
I'd say we let her decide, she can't just have people keep making decisions for her.

[X] Reiuji needs to decide for herself
>at least some of the blame for that lies with our choices. I
Sure, if you consider 'some' as 'little to none'

The writer is making the classic mistake of thinking that what is obvious to him, is obvious to the rest. It isn't, so, unless we can learn how to think like someone whom we haven't met before, we'll keep making random guesses.
Update in a bit, need to take care of some things first.

Jesus, stop being such a pill. If you're going to complain about the story or me at least have the decency to back up your statements. The choices are always things the protagonist would do and never binary good or bad choices. Go ahead, bring up examples of something that you assume is obvious to me but not to the readers. I want to take you seriously but so far you're just whining without backing yourself up. I can't respond to something that vague and use it to improve things.
Hard to say as after that date she stopped coming to school. Now I'm really dreading failing this quest as we're making progress for once.
Read >>46467 again and have a little faith that these dinky little two-choice splits will eventually lead us to a happy ending.

Just trying to convey my frustrations so you're aware. >>46467 This really puts it into perspective. I still have several complaints, but I'll squelch em for now, what's past is past.

x] Reiuji needs to decide for herself

Seems like the choice that'll take us where we want to go. Good show.
“Well, then you're no help at all!” she reacted strongly to the suggestion that Reiuji had to decide what was right. The frustration in her voice was palpable. For a moment I thought she was going to hit me, she glared at me like I had killed her parents. She was the lively type, like I had thought. I barely knew her but I could tell that she wore her heart on her sleeve.

“I can't force her to quit something she wants to do.”

“Oh, how convenient, but you can force her to talk to you, right?” She shook her head. With a sigh, she added, “I'll just have to help her like I always do. Though you're just wrong, you're not really a part of this anyways. She doesn't care about you and there's nothing you can do. If you won't work with me then that's your limit.”

“I'm not giving up, I'm still going to try to help her.” Because it was the right thing to do. So I had told Kaenbyou. So I had told myself.

“There's nothing you can do. She won't listen to you and she'll try harder to avoid you after the stunt you pulled earlier today.” After reminding me that I wasn't exactly in Reiuji's good graces, she warned me, “thinking of forcing things, forcing yourself on her would be the worst thing you could do. And if you did, I really would have to kill you.”

That was all she had to say to me. It was like we had traded places. With a “well, whatever” she shrugged and said something about having wasted too much of her lunchtime.

“Oh no you don't,” I stopped her dead in her tracks by grabbing her arm. “If you get away then I'll truly be lost about what I should do.”

“Being forceful with me isn't going to accomplish anything either,” she rolled her eyes.

“Staying away definitely isn't going to help, so I might as well keep you in the picture.”

“Girls don't like clingy guys,” she brushed me off, “if you're going to insist on doing things your way at least have the decency to lie in your bed after you've made it.”

“Well, what else can I do?” I asked her, “if you were in my position, what would you do?”

“I wouldn't be in your position,” she replied with a grin, “because I'm not a jackass. Now let go already.”

“Not until I've found a way that we can work together.”

“What, are you stupid?” Kaenbyou wrinkled her nose a little, looking annoyed. She once again emphasized that we were on separate paths, “you're not going to help me convince her that she should stop being stubborn. There is nothing else we can do together.”

“Put in a good word for me. Introduce me to her, I don't know.” I was grasping at straws.

“Not even if you locked me in a room with you,” she raised a judgmental eyebrow. Obviously she was still pissed off at me. “She doesn't want anything to do with you and I'm not going to jeapordize our friendship because of your stubborn streak.”

“Well then, I guess I have no choice...” I let go of her arm. “I'm not about to let you off the hook that easily,” I informed her. It felt like somehow I had lost all of my self-respect just dealing with her but that didn't really matter anymore. There were no witnesses, which was the important part. I'd otherwise never live it down. “There'll be no problem with me caring and hanging around if you give me a chance to be more than just a pushy and obsessed idiot.”

“...what the hell are you talking about?”

[] “Friendship“
[] “Love”
I'll never mind readers communicating what they see as problems or frustrations. I'll always do my best to address them, by changing things or making more posts like >>46467. I'm not infallible and am pretty open minded. But you have to be specific about what you're complaining about. I can't do anything about are posts that just boil down stuff like to "you've screwed us over" - knowing how is the important bit. It'd be rare indeed for us not to be incapable of seeing each other eye to eye. This is part of why I insist on comments after all!

Then stop forcing the character to play this whole armchair psychologist thing. It's just going to cause frustration.
[x] “Love”

Fuck yeah, either option is good! I was worried she'd storm off and we'd have no foothold, but Arc is having none of that nonsense.

For you, maybe. I'm finding Yuyuko forcing herself on Arc enjoyable, and the conflict keeps things interesting. Try to chill out a little.
I dont think choosing 'love' would be a good option, as it's pretty obvious anything to do with 'love' is the last thing Okuu wants, what with being raped and all. One step at a time.

[x] Friendship
[X] “Friendship"

Whoa bro, where the heck did love come from?
[x] Love

Resistance is useless. Go big or go home.
It's somewhat ambiguous, but I think this choice is about Rin. He's not about to let Rin off the hook; he's asking Rin if she will let him be more. He's glad there are no witnesses because he might be about to confess. To Rin. The person he is talking to right now.

And even if it is Okuu, we've been assured repeatedly that there are no bad options.
Don't act as if you were speaking for anywhere with you, if you don't like it, make a vote against it. It has been done before.
In case it wasn't clear: the choice refers to Rin. And hanging out with her.

No insight into the mind needed. This isn't supposed to be a puzzle or safe combination, unlocked by right choices. It's supposed to just be something that happens in the in the life of the protagonist. Like skipping class, hanging out with friends, hitting on girls and pulling pranks. The last few choices have freely determined that you care about it so it'll be the main subplot for now.
[x] “Friendship"

Too soon for love in this case, though if it was Reisen asking....
[x] Friendship

oh boy, I like this development
[x] “Friendship“

Beacause he barely knows her
Hey,I just wanted to say that I have an incredibly packed schedule and will likely only be able to update much later (6-7 hours from now at the earliest). Sorry, I know it's annoying to have an irregular update speed. And so is having little status posts like these. But I feel a little guilty at the prospect that someone might be eagerly waiting otherwise.

You're interpreting it more seriously than it should be. The protagonist is a shameless flirt and it's not like he's asking Rin to go steady. Someone else should be pointing this out (otherwise you might me think me biased towards characters/choices) but Arc has confessed his love to Tenshi in a similar vein and flirted rather intensely with Eirin.
I also think going for "Love" with Orin would just piss her off more. And last time I checked, she's pretty angry as it is.
I don't know what story you've been reading, but it isn't this one. The day Arc's advances are met with anger are the day he's met a tsundere.
Either choice carries that risk. She's said she's done with Arc. So you have nothing to lose there. Worry more about how you'd like to treat Orin.

...and now I'm gone for a few hours. Have fun.
[X] “Love”

I'd like to see Arc try flirting with Orin in this specific situation. To me, "Friendship" is the more viable option, but...well, if this is going to change the tone of any interactions in the future, I'd like to leave the possibility of romance in.
[x] “Friendship“

He might be a flirt, but he's not dumb. Fear the blonde-haired teammate who knows where you live.
Why not try the "love" option? Arc is in high school, he isn't getting married any time soon. This doesn't mean he's tied to Orin by a chain around the neck. Wouldn't it be more fun to try this out?
The best reason, and the one I believe most people here are using, is lack of romantic interest toward Rin. Understandable, even if I'm not very fond of them at the moment.
Is this really the time for casual flirting? I mean...this is kind of a serious situation going on, and as the team manager, MC should at least attempt to deal with this in a mature manor.

I understand the "all choices eventually lead to happy" mantra that the author would have us believe, but at the same time Arc still needs to find some sort of balance between his immature and mature sides.
>at the same time Arc still needs to find some sort of balance between his immature and mature sides.
He doesn't, and that's not what this vote entails.
[X] “Love”

Show Okuu we can be trusted by dating Rin and not being destructive like Okuu thinks strangers are.
[x] “Friendship“

This really doesn't seem like a good time to be talking about love.
File 134471928757.jpg - (384.67KB, 920x900 , hermits do a lot of thinking.jpg) [iqdb]
It's been clear to me that we haven't been on the same page for a while now. Despite having me outright state what kind of story this is, its influences and the expectations that should be held there's still a dissonance in the reader base I feel. At least judging by what some of you guys are saying in the comments. So why am I bringing it up now? Simple - I'd still like to fix the schism instead of slowly losing hope (and motivation).

After thinking about it and sleeping on it I think that it would be for the best if I don't take this as a simple up or down vote. Mostly because it's not meant to be a polarizing choice nor about priorities (in dealing with Okuu) nor a referendum about personality as some of the comments seem to indicate that you're treating it. It's unfair to sideline characters because of a narrow majority in any case. It leads to the kind of splits that I've made fun of within this very story. I'm not sure that that means for the next update since I need to think about it a bit more. But when I do, I'll get to writing.

If it's not clear just what I intend with the story - just ask and I'll repeat myself as clearly as I can. I'm not going to blather on in this post because I don't like being preachy if I can avoid it (and no one is asking). It basically boils down to that you should take it easy anyways. This isn't a quest with very defined goals or strict positives and negatives.
I think maybe one of the reasons people are hesitant in being too forward, is because they might think that if we go with a specific girl (let's call her Girl X) as someone to be very forward with, and they vote along that way, this story won't have many moments with the characters they consider their favorites, as it'll focus on Girl X more than anything else from that point on.

You've got a knack for writing some very nice scenes
Which, in this case, might mean people would want to see you write more of the characters they like

(I'm just throwing it out there.
I'm probably wrong, it's just a theory)

Still, the point that it'd be unfair to sideline characters just because of a narrow majority from any given vote - yeah, that's good, there's lots of character you're writing that I'd want to read more about.

(Also, given there's been some stuff now...
Maybe make a post in this thread could be helpful, to keep us all on the same page here
Or add it to the blurb or something.)

I probably am not expressing myself very decently, so I apologize for that...
At the very least, I agree with this and feel the same way. While it would be unreasonable to ask the writer to somehow get all the Touhous into this fic, I would like to see as many as possible.
I honestly don't care where you go with this story, as its enjoyable to read nonetheless. Lets just have fun with this thiiiiiing
This. I care, but I know I'm going to get something worthwhile either way. Just write something.
“It doesn't really matter now, does it?” I played it as smooth as I physically could. That mischievous twinkle in my eye that gave me that irresistable 'bad boy' vibe was carefully cultivated. Lots of hours in front of the mirror practicing winking. Or maybe not. I wasn't that vain. It still required a level of self-confidence that I at least pretended to have. “Point is, I want to be close to you. It seems like a nice idea. Being around you feels good.”

“Is that supposed to make me swoon?” she asked, sounding not at all impressed. I could see through her bluff well enough.

“Are you seriously going to tell me that you don't at least find me interesting, worthy of keeping around?”

“That's not really the question now,” Kaenbyou hesitated in giving me a straight answer.

“Well, you're worried about your friend, I get that. But it's alright to think a little about what you want and what you feel.”

“Forget it, you're a weird jerk and you're wasting my time.” With a tug of her arm, she tried to shake me loose. It wasn't time to let go just yet.

“I think you mean to say that I'm an intriguing jerk,” I corrected her with a smile. “Deep down I know that you agree.”

“Wow, you really are full of yourself, aren't you? And to think that I might have agreed to go out on a date if you had just asked before.” so came the bombshell. Followed by another. With wryness ill-befitting a girl her age she added, “too bad we're past that point and I know what you're really like.”

I laughed. It was the natural thing to do. Kaenbyou looked at me with confusion in her eyes, not understanding why I found what she said funny. I explained how I operated, “something like that isn't a discouragement to me. It's a challenge. Practically encouragement too. You'll need to try harder if you think that'll put me off.” I let go of her. “You can go back to class and try to carry on with your day as normal. I know you'll be unable to stop thinking about me. I hope to see both you and your friend at practice today. But if I don't, I'll understand. Remember that we're on the same team.”

While looking annoyed at my presumptuousness she didn't really bother to fight me on what I said. Kaenbyou tried to act relieved at finally being able to leave me behind, not bothering to even turn back to say goodbye. That was fine, I decided. There was a limit to how much I could push her in a single day, anyhow.

“So you've been watching us this whole time?” I asked the figure watching from the shadows of the stairwell. “Good job at hiding, I didn't notice you until now.”

“I was bored,” Suika emerged. “Saw you in the hallway. Said to myself, 'Arc and an angry girl, this is going to be fun.' - and it turns out that I was right. You're a real bastard, you know.”

“Some friend you are, calling me a bastard. Couldn't you side with me for once? If you overheard, you know I'm doing the right thing.”

“Yeah, forcing yourself on some poor girl with real problems and then hitting on her best friend, sure sounds like the right thing.”

“So judgmental,” I shook my head, “whatever happened to the devil-may-care Suika that I knew?”

“I'm just calling them like I see'em.”

“Yeah, I do that as well. And I'm calling that I see an annoying eavesdropping midget trying to act all high and mighty.”

“Hey man, screw you,” she flipped me off, “I don't have to take that from you.”

“Don't start crap with me then.”

“Forget this – forget you,” she grumbled. “You're not worth it.”

[] Let it go
[] Suika needs to finish what she starts
[x] Let it go

We already screwed up once already, we don't need any brigdes burning.

What vote won exactly?
[X] Let it go
[X] Visit the clinic. You need to lie down for a while.

Timeout. Cool off. We're no good to anyone after all the shit we've just been through. Regroup and rethink our strategy, possibly get some advice from Eirin. I don't think Arc is ready to face anyone else in his class yet.
>This story's readers

Choose one as if they did think we'd have avoided these two blow ups.
[x] Suika needs to finish what she starts

Arc is too worth it. I don't want to let her walk away after saying something like that.

You got a lot of nerve trying to stir up trouble with a post like that.

[X] Suika needs to finish what she starts
trolling isn't very good form

[X] Suika needs to finish what she starts
[X] Let it go
[X] Visit the clinic. You need to lie down for a while.

this seems like a decent idea
Alright. Writing nowish.
“Yeah, no,” I wasn't about to let her rag on me and then just walk away. “If you have something to say to me, you say it to my face. Honestly and plainly, like always. This passive, occasional sniping crap is what girls do,” I said with clear contempt. If there was something that was bound to rile Suika up was being told that she was acting like a common air-headed petty girl.

Her eyes narrowed, an obvious sign of her taking the bait. “A wannabe playboy who says what he thinks other people want to hear is talking me down?” she scoffed, “that's rich.”

“Well you can keep calling me names or you can prove me wrong. Be straight. Otherwise I'm just going to assume it's that time of the month and even you aren't exempt from being a bitch.”

If looks could kill, her murderous glare would have cut me into seventeen pieces of meat. Yeah, I wasn't really censoring myself. But I was pissed off too.

“If you're looking for a fight, you've got one, you bastard,” she said it seriously enough. Like I was the enemy. Her voice was gravely and abrasive and her fists were tightly clenched. If I had been standing closer to her, she might have hit me already.

“I'll take you on,” I said, “don't think that I'm intimidated by you.” My own knuckles lined up as I clenched my fist. “I won't go easy on you even if you are a girl.”

She grinned, speaking through her teeth, “looks like you've forgotten how you got beat up last time you tried.”

“Are you going to keep blabbing or are you actually going to come at me?”

There wasn't any more time for words. She came out swinging straight for my face with speed and nimbleness. I dodged left, letting her stumble past me. It was just a temporary solution. She spun back around, aiming at my stomach. When she hit me it was like I'd been struck by a blow. The force of the blow was enough to throw me off balance. Not that I let the favor go unpunished, scoring a hit to her side with a well-thrown punch. The height difference made it difficult to be as accurate as I would have liked but it really wasn't a fight about well-placed blows. Things were going too fast, too chaotically for us to have any sense of strategy or style.

In a way, it was the most earnest exchange we had had in quite some time. We both felt our respective anger and frustration through the hits and tumbles we each took. There was no ambiguity about it. And neither side wanted to concede easily. Even after clear blows that would leave marks or cause us to wince in pain. But that was bearable. There was a childish sense of stubbornness about it. All that mattered was making the other person hurt more. And things kept getting rougher with punches being followed by kicks or even attempts at throws.

It was only when the biting started that we both decided to call it quits. A silent, mutual agreement.

I leaned up against the fence, out of breath. Suika sat down, looking at her now unclenched and bloodied fists. I spat out a mouthful of bloody saliva. For a long time we stayed like that, silent and almost contemplative.

“I guess I'll be taking the rest of the day off,” I said quietly. There was a high probability that I looked like crap. Suika certainly looked like crap, after all. Dirt all over her blouse and tips here and there. Probably as many bruises under her clothes as there were under mine. Dealing with teachers was a pain and I didn't want the class to start talking about me or my ripped and dirtied uniform.

“If you can still manage to walk away,” she mumbled.

“After that one punch I'm surprised I'm still alive. Real nice.”

“That hit to my ribs wasn't half-bad either,” she looked up with a smirk, “it almost hurt a little.”

“Guess I was wrong about thinking you had gone soft. You still can hold your own,” I conceded. The burning sensation on my cheek told me that it was going to swell up before too long.

“That makes two of us. You can still manage not to entirely embarrass yourself if you really try,” she fired back. Pride was truly a wonderful thing. “Still, this crap about you and these girls, it doesn't sit right with me.”

“Yeah, me neither. I'm not even sure why I'm bothering, but it feels like the right thing to do,” I said, trying to recover from the lightheadedness.

“Don't get involved with other people's problems, it's not worth it,” she growled. “Would you have liked it if other people had gotten involved with your stuff?”

“That's the past,” I said, hoping she'd drop it, “this is different. I'm being asked to.”

“Just say 'no'. Easy.”

“I'll take it under advisement. I'm in too deep right now.”

“Yeah, this is the part of you that I don't like. If you forget where you came from you'll lose your way and mess up even harder,” she said as she made the effort to stand up. Wobbly legs, same as me. “Let's go,” she said, “we don't belong here. They wouldn't understand if they saw us. Last thing I need is people thinking that we had some sort of lover's quarrel. It'd disgust me if your playboy reputation affected me.”

Not many people would think it had been a lover's quarrel because of all injuries and bloodied faces. But I didn't contradict her.

[] Go with Suika
[] Stay in school and lie down in the infirmary
[x] Stay in school and lie down in the infirmary.

R&R with Eirin. No complaints here.
[X] Go with Suika

They did kinda make a big deal about not wanting to go back to the school.
[x] Go with Suika

It just seems right to walk (or limp in this case) home with a friend after beating the shit out of each other. Besides it doesn't seem like him to make a habit of going to the nurse's office.
[X] Go with Suika

No point in going against the flow, only hoping it doesn't end up another disaster.
[x] Go with Suika

Hobbling with Suika to some unknown location. Yeah! I can't imagine Auntie would approve.
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The road to the rear of the school ran parallel to a river. It was a lazy stream, truth be told. The water barely flowed along. Most of its was accounted for nearer to its source, used for farming and drinking. Still, the banks were steep and concrete, meant to contain the water in case of rain or flood. But just by looking at how much of the bottom was dry earth it was almost impossible to imagine the river ever swelling.

It was a residential area. In the middle of the day there wasn't much going on. No one to stop and wonder why two students were shambling along the road in ragged-looking uniforms, looking like they had just been gored by a stampede of bulls. That was probably a good thing.

When we reached a bridge outside of sight of the school, Suika dropped down to the river using a flight of stairs. She picked a spot just under the bridge, where the shadow and sunlight met, and sat down. I sat down as well, taking note that there was nothing to take note of. Pretty much what I would have imagined the underside of a bridge to be like. There was the constant soft babbling of water, in the distance the sounds of civilization and not much else. No trash or homeless either.

Suika reached into her breast pocket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes. I watched as she popped one out and put it to her lips. She then pointed the box at me, offering me a smoke.

I declined. “Didn't know you smoked,” I said.

“I don't really,” she said, the cigarette moving up and down with every word she spoke, “just part of the image I'm expected to have.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Being a badass. People expect you to look tough and sound tough. It's not easy when you're small and female. Tobacco makes people think that you're the real deal.”

“I wouldn't worry about that, you're plenty tough. You proved it just earlier too,” I told her.

“That may be, but it comforts me to at least pretend it's obvious,” she leaned back and stared back at the underside of the bridge.

“Guess you do have a point though,” I thought about it. People judged others by how they looked and assumed that they would behave a certain way. “Though you shouldn't smoke if you can help it. You won't have healthy babies you know.”

“Like I care about that!” she nearly spat out the cigarette. And scowled at me. Didn't miss the chance to make fun of me either, “looks like I might have hit you in the head a little too hard, you're talking crap again.”

“A bit touchy, huh? Fine, I can take a hint,” I rolled my eyes, “though I would have thought someone who cares that much about their hair would at least think of their general health.”

“The hell are you talking about?”

“Well, your hair is almost as long as you are tall,” I pointed out, “I thought that the stereotype for female badasses was the short, almost manly, haircut.”

“That has nothing to do with anything,” she was getting worked up again. “I swear you can be so stupid sometimes, I don't even know why I put up with you. I ought to kick your ass again.”

She really couldn't bring herself to admit that it wasn't a one-sided fight at all. Once again I had to be the bigger person.

That didn't mean that I couldn't get a shot in though, “Let's not waste any more time fighting. Done that enough for a day. We can talk about you and your princess-like hair some other day.”

“You suck as a friend.”

“I just don't want to keep on fighting, we've survived worse anyhow,” I reminded her.

“This stuff that you've gotten yourself into is different...” Suika said with an annoyed grunt. It was obvious that she didn't approve. “You should have nothing to do with it. It doesn't concern you and it especially doesn't concern me.”

“Yeah, you're probably right. I'm sticking by my decision though.”

“Don't expect me to bail you out if things get too rough. Or if you want a shoulder to cry on.”

“I'd never give you the pleasure of seeing me in tears,” I sneered at her suggestion. Being that open about things was just an excuse to get my ass kicked.

“I've warned you. That's all I can do as a friend,” Suika acted like she was some sort of font of wisdom. Like she knew what was coming. It was annoying. “Forget all this stupid stuff and just go back to not giving a toss about anything.”

“What kind of man would I be if I just gave up or backed down?” I asked only half-seriously.

“Yeah, guess you'd be even more worthless than dirt.”

A moment of awkward silence passed between us. Neither of seemed to be able to say anything, like it was hard to find any common ground. That was something that I couldn't remember having ever happened before. Without making much of a fuss, she lit up her cigarette with a lighter she took out from the same pocket. Suika didn't take a puff, leaving the now-smoking object idly resting between her lips. The acrid smoke wafted up about as lazily as the water flowed downstream.

[] write-in choice
Just a chance to say whatever to a friend. No need for something long-winded I can take things from comments and attitudes. Remember that I also just pick what works best/is the most entertaining with write-ins choices. Number of votes only matter if there's two good but fundamentally opposed choices in these cases.
[x] So how's your bet going?
File 134547903684.jpg - (312.91KB, 800x549 , 12bc5a9be43a37a6b31bab826e84eb86.jpg) [iqdb]
[x] Thank you for always being here for me

It's a bit cheesy, but also appropriate, I think. She's the true definition of a bro and could be a good partner for him in the future.
What I'm trying to explain in this overdone line, is that she seems to always care about him and wants Arc to say true to himself. While this isn't totally selfless, it's something that anyone can appreciate. Rock on, Suika~
[x] Thank you for always being here for me

The best relationships don't start from trying to impress the other, where you put on your best or even a fake persona for that disturbingly short outing known as a "date", but where the two of you see the worst in each other on a day to day basis and still accept it.

Take care of your bros. And if they fit your sexual preferences, well, maybe ask them out sometime. You might be surprised.
[x] Thanks for kicking me around earlier. I needed someone to knock some sense into me before I started doing anything else that was stupid and pointless. I kinda needed that.
[x] I need a drink. You want one?

There's your common ground. Let's get wasted.
[X] You're more important to me than any of those head cases I'm being forced to deal with.
-[X] You know I'm not going to change my mind, so why not help me out a bit? We've always had eachother's back in the past.

Oh ho ho! buttering her up, and then going in for the kill. I can be so devious sometimes.
You should know that you're nowhere as clever as you think you are.
The obvious came to mind. Obvious enough for normal people. Not for two stubborn and hopeless fools like us. So it was bound to be strange no matter how I put it. Looking at the city beyond the concrete slopes, I spoke to her, “hope you know that I appreciate you always being there. Helping me out. Even taking the time to get into a fight with me.”

I could feel her staring at me as I spoke. I didn't want to look at her face. There was an awkwardness, no embarrassment, that I felt she would pick up on immediately. But there was no avoiding it. The silence was getting to me so I turned to look at her.

Suika was scowling again.

“...what? I'm not trying to make fun of you or anything,” I told her.

“I think I really might have hurt you earlier,” she said, her expression hardening. “I didn't mean to cause any permanent damage.”

“I'm just telling you how I feel, there's nothing wrong with me,” I assured her with a wave of my hand.

“That's what I'm afraid I've caused – making you spout all this girly nonsense about feelings. Did I hit you in the junk or something?”

Underneath that scowl was a grimly mocking hardass. More proof that we were beyond all hope.

“Oh shut the hell up!” I shouted at her, annoyed. So much for a moment of genuine mutual understanding. She was putting me on. I grabbed the cigarette from her lips and angrily declared, “and if you're going to smoke, Ms. Delinquent, at least do it right!” I put the cigarette to my own mouth and took a drag. “Not a hard concept to understand,” I said as I blew out smoke. The taste of ash filled my mouth. It was the type of cigarette better left unsmoked – the cheap tobacco was like filling my lungs with acid.

“Oh, so you're not going soft,” she said with an impish smile. “Thought you were going to stamp it out and get air freshener from your purse.”

“Shut up, you ungrateful hardhead.”

“Gratitude and loyalty are things best shown through actions than words. You know how it is in your gut and that's all that matters.”

“Forget I said anything then.”

“I won't, you poor tortured sensitive soul,” she made fun of me. Didn't let up on the mocking, “I wuv you very much, sweetie. You're the best gal pal I could ever hope for.”

“Do you want to go again? I'll show you who's soft alright.”

“So hotheaded~” she laughed. “Come on, there's better things to do then to spend the time asking for a beat down.”

“Yeah, like what?”

“Like playing games and taking it easy.”

“Sounds good to me but...” I hadn't forgotten some of the other commitments I had. I wasn't going to go back to school or deal with the team for the day. I wasn't even sure if they would show up anyways. But there was still the matter of working off my debt with Auntie. That was something best taken care of sooner rather than later. “but yeah,” I continued, “I have annoying things to take care of as well. If I don't do it now I'll have to do it some other time.”

“Well, whatever. If it's another one of those those you've promised to do, I won't keep you. I may not like it but I can't force you to do anything. I've already given you a good enough thrashing,” Suika said with a shrug. She took the cigarette back from me, this time taking a proper drag from it. That was enough for her. She flicked it to the ground and put it out by stepping on it. Probably couldn't stand the awful quality either.

[] Be responsible
[] Work can wait
Neither are you, Mr. Sunshine.
[X] Work can wait
More Suika is always cool. Showing up to work covered in blood and bruises is stupid anyway.
Don't worry about that too much. If Arc feels he can deal with his Aunt in his present state, he probably can.
[x] Be responsible

Skiving off both school and work doesn't sit right with me. And we haven't seen Auntie in a while.
[X] Be responsible

Works for me~!
>Choose what to say
>Words are meaningless!

[x] Be responsible
Loving this Suika but... what good is our word if we don't keep it?
[X] Be responsible

keeping our word will open up the chance to get MORE cash later, if we need it, so we may as well go ahead with it now
[X]Be responsible.

Maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention to the updates, but I think Arc left out the part where Yuyuko basically forced his hand in terms of his becoming her lackey. His desire to help might be genuine now, but considering the fact that the pink-haired counselor has a pretty strong 'or else' option hanging over him I'd say that his shift in attitude has plenty to do with keeping her content enough to where she doesn't restrict his freedom.

If anything, Arc should have at least mentioned it to Suika. If you can't tell your bro what's going on, who can you tell?
[X] Be responsible

Arc should do some work so his aunt doesn't make his life harder.
Writing nowish. Let's see if we can maybe get a slighter faster update rate going.

Yeah, no mention of Yuyuko to anyone. Just hasn't come up or been appropriate, I guess. As affable as he tries to be with people, he's not very open.

You exaggerate, sir. Words clearly always have some impact even if you're given shit for saying them.
“See ya later, cupcake,” Suika said goodbye with a wink. She was off to somewhere in town, over the bridge and away from where I was going. God I hated her. Stuff like that made me question why I even bothered hanging out with her. She could be a real pain in the ass. But then again so could I. It was up for debate who in the relationship was the bad influence on the other. Maybe we both were. And we fed our shortcomings by just being together.

Yeah, I knew why I hung out with her after all. I waved goodbye. “Take care of yourself, princess, I see split ends from here.”

Before showing up to the store I swung by home. There was no point in letting Auntie see how I had damaged yet another uniform by being an idiot. I washed my face, noting that there was only a small cut on my cheek and only a slight bit of bruising. Most of the damage had come to my chest, naturally enough. It was harder for Suika to throw high punches – there was a considerable difference in height between us. Of course, if I ever pointed that out I'd be liable to start another fight. I got the dried spots of blood off my hands and face,

I switched into more casual clothes before leaving again. The store was just a twenty minute walk into town. It was on the edge of the residential sector. Well-located, actually. There was an evening rush as people walked back home from town and they were liable to pass by the store. An age-worn sign above the shop had my family name written in carefully-inked brush strokes as well as a more convivial doodle of an oni. The horned devil smirked and held up a bottle to its face. Cute but a little out of place in the modern world. The whole shop kind of seemed like that though. It had plenty of floorspace but was cramped – shelves with all sorts of liquors and wines were full to capacity wherever the eye drifted. The front entrance was a single-width door and the register was tucked away just by it. The place probably needed a good remodeling, it was practically a historical landmark with how stuffy it seemed.

There weren't many customers in at mid-afternoon usually. I only saw a housewife who was purchasing a bit of sake for cooking, in fact. She was chatting with Auntie at the checkout. Droning on more like it. I could see Auntie's polite, smiling visage but I knew that that was a well-practiced necessity. A salesman and manager needed to always be patient with customers. The woman was talking about her husband and how he had been out all night lately because he an up-and-coming star in the company. Whoremongering no doubt, but she probably didn't realize it.

All good things come to an end and the woman exhausted herself after a few more minutes. “My, time sure flies,” she said with no sense of irony before saying goodbye and finally leaving.

“I see things are as exciting as ever here,” I greeted Auntie with a joke, “who doesn't want to know more about her wonderful husband?”

“She's a newlywed, cut her some slack,” Auntie said with a smile, “she's intoxicated by her new lifestyle.”

“And hopefully she'll continue to get intoxicated once she becomes disillusioned with it. With our products, of course.”

“That's awful,” Auntie shook her head. “You shouldn't say things like that. Though you're probably right. I've met her type before.”

“Anyways, I came to do work. Earning my advance and all that.”

“Hm, admirable,” she said dryly, “it'd be more admirable if you weren't skipping school for it.”

“Something came up. But it's okay, I won't get in any trouble,” I told her. Yuyuko would probably cover if it became a thing.

“I assume it has something to do with the cut on your face,” she observed. Sharp as always. That's why I didn't try to hide it from her. She knew me too well. And it had happened in the past too. Under different circumstances, sure. But she had been a part of that messy part of my life. “There's no point in me giving you a dressing down because you won't listen anyways. I just hope that you know what you're doing.”

“It'll be fine,” I assured her, “it was just something stupid and small. I'm probably fitting in at school better than I have before.”

“If you say so,” she shrugged. “Get your apron out from back and get to it. Start up by sweeping out front.”

Things were peaceful. I did work, sweeping, restocking and taking inventory. The usual. More customers showed up as the workday ended. Office ladies, businessmen and the like mostly. Generally right after a weekend things were slower. I stayed on until evening, manning the register for a bit as Auntie took care of some paperwork.

“Alright, you can go,” Auntie said at about eight. “I'll stay until lockup time but I won't be needing your help.”

And that was that. One afternoon of work and some of that advance earned.

I got back home and fixed myself something quick for dinner. I didn't really have the energy to try anything very time-consuming. I went back to my room and tried to unwind, laying down on my bed

“Are you in?”

A knock on my door followed.

“Yeah, I'm in,” I replied. I recognized the voice as Alice's. It was unusual that she had just let herself in instead of trying to get my attention through the window. “What's up?”

“Are you busy?”

“I'm with two other girls now, so yes,” I joked. “Just come in already.”

Alice opened the door. I was staring up at the ceiling and avoided looking at her. I wasn't exactly in a chatty mood. It had been a very long day.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“Just peachy.”

“Are you sure?”

“What's with all the questions? I'm assuming that you want something from me.”

“No, nothing like that,” she said. “I got a phone call asking to check in on you. She seemed worried about you.”

“So she sent a girl to do a guardian's job, huh?” I mused. Auntie sure knew how to manipulate people. I felt sorry for Alice, she was caught in the crossfire. I turned my head to look at her. There was a first aid kit in her hand. No doubt because Auntie said I had been hurt. “I'm fine, just tired.”

“Did it happen today at school? I knew I should have stopped you from chasing after that loud-mouthed girl. Even if... you got upset at me.”

“Yes, but not like you imagine – wait what am I even saying?” I frowned, displeased with myself. It didn't concern Alice so I didn't have to tell her anything. It'd just complicate things.

“Well, I don't what happened then. But let me help you. I can dress your wounds properly.”

“I'm fine,” I told her. I could take it. It'd just concern her more if she saw me bruised. And that would be a pain. A bigger one than the soreness I felt. I didn't want her to worry, that was all. But she wasn't liable to just drop it, I knew well enough.

[] Things are just fine
[] Let her do as she pleases
[X] Let her do as she pleases

If we put her off it'll just make her more suspicious. Besides, who wouldn't want to be patched up by Alice?
[x] Let her do as she pleases

The whole "lone hero" bit while cool isn't very functional.
[X] Let her do as she pleases

I, for one, will not sit idly by while you guys lead Arc down the path of INFECTED WOUND END.
[X] Let her do as she pleases
[X] Go over the events of this past day and try to make sense of it all while Alice does her thing

Acting tough only gets so far. We've had a hell of a day so there is no possible downside to this.
“I know you're not going to go away unless I let you do whatever, so go ahead,” I let Alice go ahead. Although annoying, I knew she was trying to be helpful. And I wasn't in the mood to piss anyone else off. Happened too many times in a single day already.

She sat down on my bed and told me to sit up. The first aid kit contained the usual necessities - gauze, bandaids, disinfectants and the like. Alice took a cotton swab and dipped it in the reddish disinfectant. “This may sting a little,” she warned as she brought the swab to my cheek. And it did sting. A whole bunch. But I didn't allow it to show, keeping my poker face as best as I could. If she saw me wincing, it might prompt even more unwelcome concern. “Luckily you've only a scratch there,” she commented, calmly and steadily applying the swab.

“You've got surgeon's hands,” I told her. “delicate and precise. A real steady pulse.”

“I don't know about that. I do a lot of sewing so that probably helps,” she said modestly and without losing concentration. “No talking, it makes doing this more difficult.” I shut up and let her finish. When she was done she applied a bandaid. “Where else did you hurt yourself?” she asked.

“My hands, a little,” I said. No point in lying. She'd just check.

“Let me see...” she took my hand and examined it closely. “It doesn't look too bad. Mostly scratches and irritated skin.”

“Since when do you know how to treat wounds?” I spoke up, trying to make conversation. Watching her work silently was boring. She was good at it too. Working calmly, deftly and quickly.

“It's just something I picked up. I used to prick myself with needles or cut myself cooking a lot,” she told me. That was something hard to believe. Alice was anything but clumsy. Always well-dressed, timely and collected. Well, except when ti came to being annoyed with me. Then all bets were off. That was the annoying reality of it. They wouldn't joke about us being newlyweds if they knew her like I did.

She finished doing my arm and hands. Didn't even say anything about the big bite mark left there by a struggling Suika. Just applied an ointment and moved on. “Thanks, that wasn't as bad as I thought,” I said. “You didn't have to worry, you see?

“I'm not done yet,” she said. “I noticed when you sat up that you winced a little. Looks like your chest is also sore.”

“It's not a big deal,” I said with a shrug. “Nothing you can do about it. No cuts or anything.”

“Don't be silly. I've a cream I can apply to make it better.” She reached towards my shirt, trying to undo the buttons.

“I said I'm fine,” I told her, “I don't want to take off my shirt.”

“I'd leave a job half-finished. You said I could do whatever,” she reminded me.

“Yeah, but that was that, for a cut. This is this.”

“You're not making any sense,” she said with a raised eyebrow. “Stop being so difficult.”

“Geh! Fine!” I relented, nearly tearing off the buttons as I took my shirt off. If I made it into a bigger deal then it was then she'd just be even more annoying.

“...there's quite a few bruises here,” she said simply and took a tube of cream from the kit. Alice squeezed the tube a little and got the cream on her fingertips. Without any ceremony she then touched my chest, spreading the stuff across the bruised areas. I tried not to look at her, focusing instead on the uncomfortable soreness that I felt. That my face felt kind of hot was also not important. After all, the areas which she was rubbing also felt hot but that was because of the cream interacting with my skin and muscles. Surely that was a good enough explanation.

“I think that's enough,” I told her.

“No, not yet,” she replied. Like that wasn't bad enough, she added, “your chest is wider and firmer than I imagined it was. I have to massage it well to make sure the cream works.”

“That's enough Alice,” I insisted, “you've done a good enough job.” I gripped her hands and pulled them away from me. It was then that I noticed that I wasn't the only one feeling awkward about it. She avoided making eye contact with me, a tinge of red in her cheeks. “Thanks, you've really helped me out,” I said in a whisper, hoping that that was enough to convince her.

“...alright,” she conceded, wiping her hand clean with a tissue. I started to button up while she put away her things in the first aid kit. “Have you had dinner yet?”

“Yeah, I ate something.”

“Oh, well I left some leftovers downstairs anyways,” she said, sounding a bit disappointed.

“I'll just eat them tomorrow, don't worry,” I shrugged, “you know me. I always enjoy a free meal.”

“Fine, I'll leave you then,” she got up. “I hope that you'll feel better.”

“Ok, good night. I owe you one.”

“No, you don't,” she stopped at my door with an enigmatic smile. “I got to see you just a little bit vulnerable today, that's more than enough payment for this morning and this.”

She saw herself out. I lay in bed for a while, trying not to think too much about it.

Eventually I fell asleep and a brand new day began. A not very exciting day. I went to school with Alice, about as normal as always. Dealt with morning classes as best I could and enjoyed an average lunch. There was nothing scandalous like a pissed off girl yelling at me again nor a rooftop fight. Once afternoon classes were over, I headed to practice. I found that the two girls weren't there and so, before long, went to help with Auntie doing part time work. The day after was no better. It was the same cycle of eventlessness for a few days.

“-and you might find this useful,” Yuyuko finished. I ran into her in the hallway on Saturday where she pulled me out to one side to talk. She made an oblique reference to my fight with Suika. Something about hoping that I wasn't sore anymore. One again proving that there was little that she didn't hear about. She left me with a small index card after all those lovely pleasantries, excusing herself that she was late to a staff meeting.

I looked at the card. It was an address. Not just any address, either. It was the address of a girl in II-A, one Rin Kaenbyou. Obviously big sister thought that I should deal with her given what had happened when I was alone with Utsuho. What a pain. School was out and I had been looking forward to the weekend. That was her way of whipping me into action.

[] Show up alone
[] Take someone else along too
[X]Take someone else along too.

I'm kind of torn here. If Arc shows up alone, Rin might just slam the door in his face for being a jerk the last time the two talked, plus what happened with Utsuho. If we take someone with us, she might be more receptive to doing something that doesn't involve telling Arc to piss off, but given the way he acted before and his reputation, she might take it the wrong way.

I think the odds would be better if he took someone along. Somewhat.
[X] Take someone else along too

Works for me~!
[x] Show up alone

I don't give a shit about odds. I want him alone with Rin, so I pick that.
[X] Take someone else along too
-[X] Suika
Could have at least specified who we are going to bring along guys.
[X] Take someone else along too
- Reimu

Suika already said that she wouldn't get involved. Alice would be able to help, but she might be biased by her familiarity. We need someone who won't blab about this yet is trustworthy and caring.
bringing along reimu might make it seem more official or something i dunno

but I'd rather...
[x] Show up alone
[X] Take someone else along too
- Reimu

Probably the best choice for a plausible neutral party for this situation.
[X] Take someone else along too
- Reimu

Meh, why not.
[X] Take someone else along too
-[x] Alice

I think she would help as she can explain Arc's actions and I'd think she'd like to help the team out. And if we're trying to get Reimu's help, where are we going to get the money to pay her with? I highly doubt she'd help Arc with this freely (as it as largely brought on by him being a dumbass)
[x] Show up alone

Solo option is the strongest one for romancing the Rin. Bringing someone along just feels too safe and moves counter to what we're trying to do.
Who said anything about romancing Rin? It's more smoothing things over to help Okuu.
Was showing up at a girl's home unannounced and by myself too bold a plan? It was hard to say. My wits and charm probably could coast me through the encounter. Maybe even score me some points. There was time to test the boundary between being assertive and being a stalker later, if I chose to. Kaenbyou might be more pliable if confronted by a disinterested party.

Most of my classmates had already left when I got back to the classroom. No one really wanted to waste their weekend by idling around class. The class rep was dealing with the last of the week's writeups and en route to deliver them to the staff room. Busy as always, lost in her world of responsibility. I hardly had the time to just talk to her.

“What are you staring at?” Suika patted my shoulder as she was about to leave. “If I had to guess I'd say that you're thinking of doing something stupid again,” she said.

“If I told you, it'd just piss you off,” I said with only a minimum of bitterness in my words. A personal best.

“Well, what are friends for if not to put up with crap?” Answering her own rhetorical question, she added. “I guess also smacking sense into friends if need be.”

I felt like sighing. Against my better judgment I just told her what was going on. That I was visiting a girl's home and I wasn't too keen on going alone. It was a sensitive situation, after all.

“That's a first,” she teased, “I thought you were all about trying to be alone with girls. Or maybe you still are, and hope to have more than one at a time.”

“Really now, you're not helping,” I talked down to her. “If you're going to just make snide remarks then I have nothing else to say to you.”

“Fine, be that way. I'm just looking out for you,” she said with a shrug. “Don't come crying to me if you find that your investment comes to nothing in the end.”

With a cheerful “yeah, you have a nice sodding weekend too” I let her leave. She was a pain in the ass I didn't need. It's not like I didn't realize that she was at least somewhat right. It was the path I chose and that was what was worth focusing on.

I wasn't really left from a big selection to choose from. With Suika out of the picture there really was one person whom I knew would go gladly with me and another who would probably go along even she didn't quite understand what was going on. Anyone else I'd be imposing on too much, probably.

[] Ask Alice along
[] Ask Marisa along
[x] Ask Alice along

You have a choice between a down-to-earth childhood friend and a romantic sweetheart that could ruin it for you.

Yeah, no. Alice it is.
[x] Ask Marisa along

I do not mind the thought of a romantic entanglement with Marisa messing things up in the slightest.
i have no idea
i'd have preferred to go alone, but i guess we can settle for...
[x] Ask Marisa along
It's been long enough so writing now.

>a down-to-earth childhood friend and a romantic sweetheart

I honestly don't know which is Alice and which is Marisa there.
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We walked together at a leisurely pace. Marisa was all smiles and had been since I asked her if she'd do me the favor of coming along. Not that I was unhappy with her being so adamant in coming with me or anything, but I felt like I needed to impress upon her once again that this wasn't just random fancy. I told her once again, “I'm hoping that she'll be more open to talk and reason if there's someone else with me. People sometimes assume the worst of me.”

“I know, I remember,” she replied. “I understand. I just can't help but feel happy to be asked to go out with you. Even if it's for something like this.”

That was how she genuinely felt. There was no denying that that earnest smile was a reflection of her heart. I explained to her the situation on the way without getting too much into details. There was no reason for her to know my relationship with the counselor nor some of the things that had happened. What was important was imparting how I was trying to help the rhythmic gymnastics team and, in particular, Utsuho. For various reasons it was impossible to try to reason with her so it wa s necessary to deal with the person closest to her.

Unlike Suika, she immediately approved of my intentions. “I think it's great that you're trying to help her out,” she said with a lively thumbs up. “I don't know if I'll be of much help but I'll try my hardest for your sake.”

“Thanks, I really appreciate it,” I told her. Truthfully, I was just a tiny bit moved by how honestly she wanted to help me. Not that I'd admit that out loud. Instead I just flashed her a smile and shot her a playful wink, acknowledging that she had my back.

The address I was given was a fair distance walking, in an older part of town. There was a mixture or more traditional, stately homes and more humble homes and small businesses. When we arrived, I had to check multiple times that we had the right place. The nameplate in front had the right name but the first floor was a business. And not just any business.

“...a funeral home?” Marisa looked at me, as surprised as I was. It wasn't what either of us had expected. A sign on the storefront promised “a right fit for all your funerary needs” and another proudly proclaimed that they catered to the more esoteric religions as well. Even foreigners could be seen off in the way of their homeland thanks to them.

Sure enough, however, it was the right place. A sign on the side with an arrow pointed where the post was to be delivered for the residents. A small staircase on the side of the building climbed up to the second floor. We went up and I rang the doorbell. Kaenbyou, still in her uniform, got the door.

“What are you doing here?” she asked with a frown as soon as she saw it was me.

“I came for a visit. Maybe for a little talk if you're up for it.”

“How did you get this address? Have you been following me?”

“No, nothing like that. A little birdie told me.” And that little birdie also more or less forced my hand. It was a bit upsetting that her machinations made me seem like a stalker.

Just as it looked like she would slam the door on us, Marisa intervened, “Arc was telling me how nice a person you were. You see, I don't really have many friends at school and I'd like it if we got to know each other a little better. You know, we've done karaoke and could have really used more people to liven up the gathering...”

She went on like the friendliest person on the planet. It was something that only girls could ever master as well as Marisa had. If I had tried, it would have seemed like I was hitting on her. Marisa made it sound like she was actually interested in Kaenbyou and that her braids really were something special (her single braid didn't compare to her carefully-maintained dual braids). The most perplexing part was that the empty talk actually had an effect. Kaenbyou didn't seem likely to slam the door on us anymore.

“I suppose that you can come in for a while, I'll make us some tea,” she let us in. I got a reluctant look when she turned to me but no verbal complaints.

We were led to a cramped room off to the side of the entrance. It was a combination of a sitting room and a dinning room, with a single table dominating the space. The furnishings were otherwise sparse with the ambience almost having a zen vibe to it. The lone flower arrangement by the window was carefully enshrined.

“Good job getting us in,” I whispered to Marisa when we were alone, “you seem to be able to handle her better than I can.”

“You'd be fine on your own,” she whispered back, “she likes you after all.”

“Eh? How can you tell?” Was it a case of women's intuition? It was quite the leap to make from our short, strained exchange at the door.

“Because I like you. It's only natural for her to like you too.”

“...” I didn't know what to make of that. Was she making fun of me? Or saying that her sense of judgment was infallible? There was no way of telling what she was thinking in that head of hers. She sat across from me on the table, smiling placidly like she didn't have a care in the world.

“She'll probably listen to you even if she pretends not to, because she knows you're right,” Marisa made a bold statement without much in the way of evidence backing her up. I really didn't know if she was going out on a limb or if she really had sized Kaenbyou up during that brief exchange of theirs.

“I'm not too sure about that.”

“Trust me, I'm right,” she nodded. “Hm, mind if I ask you something?”

“Go ahead.”

“Is she one of the girls that you like?” her question was direct.

But I couldn't give a direct answer. I asked her in turn, “What do you mean by that?”

“Well, you like a lot of people, which is why you ask them out on dates and do stuff with them. Like that girl at the cafe. There's also Reimu and Alice. Maybe a bunch more. I just want to know if this girl is like them.”

There wasn't a change in her expression. I was confused. I thought that maybe she was asking because she was jealous or annoyed but that earnest smile of hers made me want to believe that it wasn't the case. Instead, the question seemed to be legitimate and there was no hidden meaning to it.

[] “I might like her.”
[] “I like you a lot better.”
[X] "I'm doing this to make up for my idiocy recently. It's not about liking her or not. It's about setting things straight in order to help someone who really needs it. There's more to me than just trying to flirt around with girls you know."

Because both provided answers are just loaded for Arc. Priorities gentlemen. We don't need another Tenshi-class failure.
[x] “I might like her.”

I really might. Marisa certainly isn't the sort of person to hold a grudge over this sort of thing. That said, I honestly don't care what wins here, Marisa is fine too~

No. Bad voter. Do not make write-ins like this.
I'm not entirely convinced we could have succeeded with Tenshi on our first try. Perhaps we'll get back to her later. I really hope we do, I've got a soft spot for Tenshi.
now, for some more personal bias...

[x] “I might like her.”
I agree with you...but, seeing how the author wasn't asking for Write-ins, I'll just go for the answer that's more neutral.

[x] “I might like her.”
[x] “I like you a lot better.”
[x] “I like you a lot better.”

It's my honest opinion as Rin's just too difficult, that and I wasn't the person with the 'bright' idea of trying to romance Rin. I doubt that will be the last stupid decision that wins.
[X] “I might like her.”

sure she might be difficult to get, but certainly not unobtainable like some of the other lost causes in this story.
[x] “I like you a lot better.”
[x] “I like you a lot better.”

Well I do.
[X] “I might like her.”

I just really cannot see this Marisa like that. Personality just really bugs me sometimes

Now Rin on the other hand? She's got some fire in her...

remember to add some arbitrary bullshit to your vote or it won't be counted.
right. My bad. I'd delete it, but apparently my password is wrong.
Not personally too fond of rin, and Marisa is fun. I like her more, so why not admit that?
My answer didn't seem to surprise her. With pursed lips she paused briefly, like she was thinking. “Yet another girl competing for your attention,” she said, “I guess that means more effort.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. Did she mean more effort for me or for her? The ambiguity of her line made me suspect that it could be either.

“Nothing really,” she beamed a confident smile. “Just thinking aloud a little.” I couldn't say whether or not that confidence was misplaced or misdirected. Marisa was assertive most of the time. That was easy to deal with and accept. It was when she vacillated that I wasn't sure what to make of her. Her adroit evasion of my questioning kept me guessing.

Kaenbyou returned to the room with a tray with cups and the tea. She set it down and poured for the three of us. Naturally, she sat on Marisa's side of the table, ignoring me a little. As if there were any doubt that she was annoyed with me. They talked – continuing the friendly rapport that they seemed to have been able to build up. Using the pretense that she really was looking to make new friends, Marisa chatted to Kaenbyou about all sorts of things. It wasn't exactly girly talk but it was alien enough to put me off.

By our second cup of tea, Marisa had been trying to include me in the conversation. Unfortunately, I was being given the cold shoulder by Kaenbyou so and chance of me and her talking fizzled under the deliberate silence on her behalf every time I said something.

“I'm really lucky to have Arc as a friend,” Marisa stated with as much subtlety as a steam shovel. She was turning the conversation towards me in an attempt to break the ice. “Being in a new school without knowing anyone is hard. I was really lucky to end up in a class with someone I knew. More than that, being able to have fun together. Isn't that right?” she asked me.

“...yeah,” I answered. It wasn't clear where she was going with that. Even in the best case scenario saying something like that would sound forced. Kaenbyou probably thought it some unspontaneous pre-rehearsed act we were trying to pull.

The inherent awkwardness didn't keep Marisa from continuing. She then added, with a smirk, “he's a really nice guy and you should give him a chance. Just because you disagree on something doesn't mean that you can't otherwise get on well. You should be friends. It's not as hard as you are making it out to be. You know I'm right. Both of you,” she finalized with a wink.

Kaenbyou did not look amused. Her good will from earlier seemed to have dissipated. She glared daggers at me, like it was my fault that Marisa was being so direct. That was just the way she was, I wanted to tell her. Not that she'd believe me. Well, it seemed like it was time to just speak my mind. Uncomfortable silence punctured by uneasy sips from tea cups wasn't exactly what I wanted to happen next.

[] Stress that Marisa is correct
[] The elephant in the room is Utsuho and her situation
[x] Stress that Marisa is correct

It does Arc no good to try to solve Utsuho's problem without at least reaching an understanding with Rin, hopefully we'll able to least start to smooth Arc's relation with Rin.
[x] Stress that Marisa is correct

Marisa bluntly thrusting her feelings forward to create an opening to help her friend. How like her. I want to move with those feelings for the moment~ I don't want to waste this gesture by bringing up something that could be brought up later.
[x] Stress that Marisa is correct.

Listen to the witch.
[X] Stress that Marisa is correct

As long as we secure a date with Rin, I'll be happy.
[x] Stress that Marisa is correct

I don't think trying to address the matter now would be a good idea without convincing Rin Marisa's telling the truth.

smooth? It's not easy enough without a bunch of bad choices being made, which is how we got into this mess.

...I'm not quite understanding what you're trying to say.
[x] Stress that Marisa is correct

Because, she, well, is.
I'm saying unless we convince Rin that what Marisa saying is true, attempting to bring up Okuu would end bad badly.
[x] Stress that Marisa is correct.

This is why Arc brought her along. Shrugging this off would be a terrible mistake.

I really do like this Marisa though. I was never really a fan of her character until this and your other story.
No update for now because it feels like I'd only be able to do even more filler. Sorry. Sometime within the day though, after getting some sleep. That's totally not the same excuse I have been giving myself every day this past week.

Marisa is a good girl. Glad you like her even though I'm not 100% on what other portrayal of her you specifically mean.
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Wish I had discovered this story earlier. This is definitely one of my favorite portrayals of AU Marisa. Not a over the top love child of Kamina and Kamina, or a genius magician, or a self absorbed jerk who drags MC on adventures or the many other trite characterizations.

You made Marisa a girl. Nothing more, nothing less. She has her issues. We have no idea whats going on at her home. Black-White has school work and friends and a life that seems, well, normal. Relatable. Your Marisa is so normal that she's human. And because she's so human, we can relate to her.

Exact same goes for Alice as well. Which is probably why the two are the most voted for characters in the thread so far.

Fucking Kudos. I've read thousands of books and fics and the concept of humanizing a character to feel real and relatable is a difficult one that even published authors fail at. You've accomplished something here. Be proud of your writing.

Now get back to work, Writefag
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“I'm not too bad a guy,” I said, covering my words with irreverence, “there's no reason we can't at least tolerate each other, if not outright get along.”

“Forcing this won't help things,” Kaenbyou replied with a roll of her eyes, being clear in her first direct reply to me.

“Yeah, but shutting me out isn't gonna help things either. I'm not like a weed that finds cracks to infiltrate into. Friendships don't start by having people ignore each other.”

“You know, if you're going to be difficult then I'm just going to try harder,” Marisa was not at all intimidated by Kaenbyou's display of resistance. Not that the red-haired girl cared, she continued to pout, withdrawing the tea cups from us. Clearly the message was that we should get out. Poor etiquette, at any rate.

“I think that we're done here, thank you for your visit,” Kaenbyou forced a smile, driving home her message.

I looked at Marisa, deferring to her lead. Her confident grin showed that she wasn't about to back down. In fact, the little twiddling of the fingers on the hand nearest to me was a sign for me to stay put. “I don't think we are,” she told Kaenbyou. There was a resoluteness to her words that made the other girl stop and look at her questioningly. “We're going to try harder,” she clarified.

“I'm not interested, however,” Kaenbyou forced that smile further, looking like maybe her whole face would crack. It seemed like she was none to please to be pushed by Marisa. She started to move away, as if to leave the tray back in the kitchen.

“Not so fast!” Marisa sprung up and intercepted her. Her speed stunned everyone present. Kaenbyou stood by dumbly as Marisa reached for the tray and took it herself. “We can leave the cleaning up for later,” she said as she placed the tray back down on the table.

“D-don't you think you're being rude?” Kaenbyou said, likely trying to gather her thoughts. Marisa's blitz had caught her off balance.

“I could ask you the same thing,” Marisa said with an almost too-innocent smile, like a kid trying too act angelic in front of grownups. “Don't you think that you should be a little more courteous to your guests?”

“What do you want me to say? I'm not about to change the way I feel suddenly just because of a few nice words.”

Marisa leaned in closer, forcing Kaenbyou to take a step back. She found herself up against the wall, with the blonde invading her personal space and cutting off her escape routes. Placing an arm on either side of her, Marisa kept Kaenbyou from being able to sidle away. “We're just trying to get along. Reach an understanding,” she mouthed the words slowly, smiling all of the while, “nothing wrong with wanting to make friends, now is there?”

“Umm... not really, I guess,” Kaenbyou shook her head uncomfortably, looking not uncertain of what she was supposed to do.

“Come on and get over here, Arc,” Marisa turned her head towards me. No idea what she was thinking. I got up and walked over to her.

“You don't think maybe you're going a little too far, Marisa? It probably won't help to be pushy.”

“Now, now, we're just getting a little more comfortable here. I'm not being pushy.”

“Listen, this is just how things are,” Kaenbyou said weakly, “...I don't think we'll make any progress anytime soon.”

“You like me, don't you?” Marisa asked with a grin.

“You're alright,” Kaenbyou was now starting to redden a little, like she was getting embarrassed.

“Then what about my friend Arc here, he's a swell guy, ain't he?”

“He's... alright too, I guess,” she said bashfully. It was like Marisa had put a spell on her. A powerful hex that lowered her defenses. “But he and I have our differences. I don't think I'm ready yet to move on.”

“Nonsense!” Marisa exclaimed. She grabbed my arm and substituted herself for me, so that my arms were the ones blocking Kaenbyou's escape. “Now you two should kiss and make up. Your beef isn't big enough to warrant all this bad blood.”

“What, are you crazy?” Kaenbyou squirmed, trying to get away. Marisa kept her in her place by holding her arms.

“Stop fussing, this is for the best.”

“Are you serious?” I asked Marisa, “this isn't something to joke about.”

Marisa whispered into my ears, so that she wouldn't be overheard, “Just do whatever you think is appropriate, she looks like she'll enjoy it either way. She's the type that's not honest with herself when pushed into a corner. Trust me,” she finalized with a wink.

[] Kiss Kaenbyou on the lips
[] Just the cheek will do.
Thanks man that means a lot to me. Sorry for not updating.
[X] Just the cheek will do.

bahaha, yes, looks like Rin isn't quite as bold as she makes herself out to be.

I was hoping this story would update, I checked pretty much every day. Hooray!
I'm not sure what to vote in light of the "romance" vote winning instead of friendship in regards to Orin.
[x] Kiss Kaenbyou on the lips

Marisa is now the best character. I imagine she'll try a little harder herself if she sees Arc be this forward. Encouraging Marisa to be bolder and kissing Rin, this choice could not be more in my interests.

Don't play coy, you know what you must do.

[X] Kiss Kaenbyou on the lips
[] Kiss Kaenbyou on the lips

Finally! I was waiting for this, and it's finally here!
[x] Just the cheek will do.

I think this should be enough.
Kaenbyou stared at me with a curious mix of anxiety and expectation in her eyes. Her face, lightly freckled when I looked at it carefully, was tinged with a reddish glow of either exasperation or excitement. I wasn't sure which it was exactly. Maybe both. Perhaps Marisa had been on to something. It was a weird turn of events and it was only natural that I hesitated a little. Marisa let go of Kaenbyou's arms. She didn't try to wiggle away again, resigned to whatever it was that I decided to do.

I got a little closer. She closed her eyes and I felt her soft breath on my face. It tickled a little. I placed a hand on her shoulder. Felt like it was no decision at all, pressing my lips against hers. Even if it wasn't particularly ambitious (or long-lasting), it felt appropriate and intimate. A physical and intimate exchange.

“...tasted like tea, a little hot with a hint of sweetness,” Kaenbyou said as we drew apart. “Not what I expected... for my first kiss.”

“We're all closer together now, aren't we?” Marisa cut in, gently pushing me away to give Kaenbyou some space. “Surely there's no reason to be so hostile now?”

“No, I guess not,” Kaenbyou conceded. But there was still some moxie left in her. Again the redness of her face could be attributed to either sensitivity or irritation – or both. Recovering a little of her composure, she glared at me, “don't think that you'll be able to do that again whenever you feel like it. Got it?”

“Even if you really enjoyed it?” I teased, “I could have sworn you were about to swoon. A sudden case of the vapors, wouldn't you say Marisa?”

“I do declare,” Marisa chuckled, fanning her neck as if overwhelmed, “I nearly got the vapors myself.”

“The both of you are terrible!” Kaenbyou mewled. “What a daft pair!”

“Congrats,” I told her, “you've passed the litmus test. I think it's safe to say that we're compatible enough to be friends now. How about we celebrate with some more tea. Or kissing, since that's apparently close enough for you. I can use my tongue if you'd like. A plain smooch is a little lame, after all, totally middle school tier.”

That last line elicited a proportional response. An overwhelmed Kaenbyou punched me in the chest - not hard enough for it to seriously hurt or anything just hard enough to get me to stop. I took that as a sign of progress.

The tea was cold by the time we settled down again. So Kaenbyou brewed us another batch. Marisa gave me a huge thumbs up while she wasn't there, congratulating me for the successful mission. I had no idea what she really made of all of it.

Luckily, Kaenbyou asked what I was wondering when I came back, “aren't you supposed to be his fiancée?”

“Ayup, that I am,” Marisa said proudly. A bright smile blossomed on her face immediately.

“Then why would you encourage him to kiss other girls? Aren't you jealous?”

“Hmm... not really,” Marisa revealed, “I can't control who he likes so it's silly to get jealous.”

“But some thieving cat could steal him away!” Kaenbyou exclaimed, clearly more upset at the idea than Marisa was.

“If that happens...” Marisa paused, looking a little reserved as she contemplated the scenario. Still, she didn't entirely lose the smile, it just transformed into a more thoughtful and peaceful display of acceptance, “the point is that I can't force him to like me or love me. To bind him selfishly to me just like that,” she snapped her fingers, “out of the blue... it's a bit too much, don't you think? Arc has to like me for who I am and what I mean to him. Matters of the heart are funny like that.

“That doesn't mean that I'm just going to stand idly by!” she declared with a nice, healthy laugh. “I'll just try harder to make him like me too! I'm not about to lose just because he flirts with a few girls or goes out on a date with them. We're young, so it's normal for guys and girls our age to mess around. Still, I have a good idea of my end game. I know where I want to go.”

“Hmm, I don't know if you're really strong and bold or just naive and stupid...” Kaenbyou frowned, obviously deciding that she couldn't come around to see things the way Marisa did. Truth be told, I couldn't really decide if Marisa was that grounded and confident or just simply wishful. She exuded self-confidence most of the time but there were times where she was less than perfect. I knew I had something to do with that but I couldn't figure why. Was it a front for other people that crumbled when we were alone? If that was the case then she shouldn't have been so cheerful walking with me to see another girl.

A riddle wrapped in an enigma of apparent stubborn steadfastness.

“Well, it doesn't really matter, I can't really see into the future! No one can!” Marisa laughed again, like it was a good joke.

“What if you find out in the end that he doesn't want to settle down or can't chose between his options...?”

“Depends on the situation. I'd like to say that I'd selfishly want him all for myself but I don't know. I have a big heart. How could I not like someone else who seriously likes the guy I like? They do, after all, have really good taste!” With a mischievous turnaround, she made it about Kaenbyou again, “are you asking because you're interested in him?”

Kaenbyou laughed, a little uneasily, “ahaha, that's a good one. It's nothing like that. Though, like you said, no one can see into the future.”

“Oh, interesting reply. I might have a new rival,” Marisa said with a good natured wink,

“At any rate!” Kaenbyou cleared her throat. She looked at me, a mischievous glimmer of her own in her eyes. Seemed to indicate that she was about to have her revenge for my assault. “Let's see Arc here favor you with the same attention he gave to me... maybe a bit more since you're supposed to be promised to one another. Whaddya say there?” she smiled impishly as she talked to me, “wanna kiss Marisa? It's only fair.” Turning to the blonde, she asked of her, “you certainly wouldn't mind, would you?”

“Ah... not at all!” Marisa beamed, acting like it wouldn't make her uncomfortable at all. “I'm not about to pressure him though. He can do what he wants when he thinks it's appropriate,” she shrewdly added, giving me breathing space. Maybe deep down she was reluctant as well. A real enigma. Kaenbyou's baiting was probably just meant to upset me.

[] Double down and kiss Marisa
[] Fold
[X] Double down and kiss Marisa

[x] Double down and kiss Marisa

Yeah! I'd vote to kiss her on the walk back if that was an option, but bowing to Rin's demand is almost as good.
[] Fold

Sorry Marisa, but you're not my type. Go find someone else to marry.
[X] Double down and kiss Marisa

I have no idea if Marisa's just faking it, but I like the cut of her jib. Also I would like to applaud your writing good sir.
[x] Double down and kiss Marisa

Kisses for all!

... their effect might become too weak latter though, oh well.
[X] Double down and kiss Marisa
So, this is the fourth time in a row that my vote in a story is 'kiss her'

Is that a new record or something?
I don't know how much you like write-in votes, but...

[x] Straddle, turn the momentum back on her
- [x] Wait for Kaenbyou to make a move, then pounce.

I know how that is.

[x] Fold

Except this time I'm voting for not kissing. Yes, I want to keep Marisa friendzoned.
[x] Double down and kiss Marisa.

If it loses its efficacy Arc will just have to grind it until his skill is at a sufficiently high level.
[X] Triple down and kiss Kaenbyou's mom as well.

*Secret rout unlocked*
Let's try to go a little bit faster with the updates today to make up for the lack of them.

Generally don't accept them unless asked for. If it's appropriate, however, do use stuff people said in the comments. It's really easy to go off on a tangent in a plot-lite story like this so I avoid them. Have to say though, you should handle your maidens more gently. At least these ones.

On a more personal note, anyone who voted to kiss Rin and Marisa is a monster. The same kind of monster who would feel up Reisen while she was trying her hardest to win against a tough opponent in the arcade or badger Satori to don her infamous short shorts. Not to mention the incredibly lewd anatomy lessons from both Big Sis and the nurse you'd probably love. I bet you'd even do naughty things with Reimu in the student council room. Truly sickening.
“Looks like he's going to do it, he has that same look in his eyes as before,” Kaenbyou said with a chuckle.

Ignoring her provocations, I concentrated my gaze on Marisa. Her eyes met mine. “Are you ok with this?” I asked her with my eyes. She understood what I was trying to say and nodded quietly. In getting closer to her there was plenty of time for me to ask myself about what the hell I was doing. Somehow an errand meant to help a third girl and done with the best of intentions had morphed a completely different activity. I forced a kiss on a girl that I didn't know that well while supposedly being a guest in her home. And I was about to kiss a second, unrelated, girl while she watched. Maybe I was dead or dying – Suika had bashed my head in and this was all an elaborate delusion as my brain shut down.

Marisa's eyes convinced me that everything was really happening. They showed a sharp and quiet confidence that was difficult to dream up. Her liveliness – the way the tip of her nose crinkled a little as I got closer, the way her small lips were moistened and her eyelashes batted almost playfully – was overwhelmingly real. I was sure that we were both a little nervous. We didn't say anything but I wasn't as quick and decisive as I had been with Kaenbyou. Maybe because she was staring at us. We lingered for what felt a long time with our lips locked, the beat of my heart and a sensation of warmth the only things that I could pick up on.

“You're right Rin,” Marisa turned to Kaenbyou immediately after the kiss, she said with a laugh, “it did taste a little like tea.”

I regained some of the composure. Enough to joke around, “You weren't jealous by any chance?”

“Wouldn't you like to know! I'm not going to dignify that with an answer,” Kaenbyou scoffed.

“That's alright, I'll just assume that you were,” I said with a shrug.

Marisa cut in, “I know you two are having fun and everything now but I think I'm going to have to call it quits for today. I have to go to work soon. Otherwise I'll get skinned alive for being tardy.”

Her announcement meant that the visit was at an end. I didn't really have an excuse to impose on Kaenbyou further. She acted quickly, immediately doing the proper thing and thanking us both for the visit. The veneer of politeness served her well since there wasn't anything that I could say that wouldn't be met with a (justified) rebuke. Still, on the plus side, she didn't seem to push us out in a hurry either. With me, her words were still sharp but a bit less aggressive.

“I'll see you at school, friend,” I winked as a goodbye.

“Whatever,” she rolled her eyes and closed the door.

“I hope that I managed to help you some,” Marisa talked as we walked together. “Rin probably was a little overwhelmed by all that happened today.”

“I think anyone would be,” I said with a grin, “I didn't know you were that bold.”

“Sometimes being a little showy and direct produces good results,” she said with a smile. “She probably wasn't going to talk about her friend if you pushed her after all that happened. It'd be a sort of overload, I think. It was either showing her that she was just a girl like me or proving that her friend is like us. I think you've got a better situation for next week.”

“Mmm, you're really shrewd, you know. You're like an evil but cute witch, working your magic like that.”

“I'm glad you feel that you think I'm cute,” she said a little quieter. As she was, Marisa looked like the model of the ordinary young girl. Quick with a smile, fitting into her uniform like it was the most natural thing in the world and showing hints of being fashionable via the straps on her phone and the braid in her hair.

“Did you mean all that?” I asked, my tone more serious, “About how you see you and me?”

“...yes, yes I did. Of course I did,” she said with a nod. Earnest-sounding enough but for the initial pause.

“You're really something, huh? I don't think any other girl would think like you do,” I confessed.

“Does it bother you?”

“Not really, it's just not what I'd expect,” I told her. Anyone else who claimed to be betrothed to someone else would naturally be a little more... mindful of what the other person did.

[] If she cares it's alright for her to act a little jealous sometimes
[] Other girls probably would see her as a threat regardless
[X] If she cares it's alright for her to act a little jealous sometimes.

As long as no one's turning into a Yandere, being jealous can show how much you value another person - enough to get jealous over.
[x] Other girls probably would see her as a threat regardless

Even if she's faking her lack of jealousy for his benefit, I prefer it that way.
[x] Other girls probably would see her as a threat regardless

Most definitely. Now that I see the outcome of the votes, I do regret casting my vote for Alice.
[X] If she cares it's alright for her to act a little jealous sometimes.
Faking feelings... no. She means well (and, like it is shown here, she does well too) but she shouldn't have to force it.
[x] Other girls probably would see her as a threat regardless

Eh, whatever. I'd rather have her out of the way completely.
[x] Other girls probably would see her as a threat regardless

The other girls are already bothered by Marisa's normal/controlled behavior; it's best to not let her worse things anymore.
[x] Other girls probably would see her as a threat regardless

Her, Alice and Suika would be considered top threats in any real competition for Arc.
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[X] If she cares it's alright for her to act a little jealous sometimes.

This. I want Marisa to stand up for her claim on MC more. It fits her personality of being shy and demure but hiding some real strength beneath.

I think this the only story that's giving to a Yamato Nadeshiko or whatever TVTropes calls it vibe to Marisa instead of Gung ho tomboy who takes shit from no one. Oddly, Marisa still comes off as a tomboy at times yet somehow still feminine and now I'm confused.
No update right away since I've been feeling under the weather. Soon, hopefully not too long from now, I'll write. There'll be a new thread since we've hit autosage.

Please don't votespam. Not only won't I count your vote, but you'll end up getting banned. I don't want to start to have to scrutinize every vote in every one of my stories, it's bad enough to have to deal with that elsewhere. If you want a vote to go your way, present compelling arguments for your peers. People change their minds and their votes often enough.
[X] If she cares it's alright for her to act a little jealous sometimes.

To me these two votes don't really seem mutually exclusive. Maybe it's just me.
I believe that hybrid of personality is because this story seems to have individuals that have aspects of them show rather than walking cliches with arbitrary attempts at characterization. Not that the latter isn't entertaining at times, but it is really refreshing to have a childhood friend not follow the trend of being absurdly tsundere to the point of violence.
Amen to that.
And now I'm remembered to as why I rarely *buy* books anymore. I really, really, really, dislike the protags in mainstream fiction. You know what? I'm going to Barnes & Nobles and looking for some new authors. Lets see how many books I have to go through till I find one with a decent protag.
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I'm back.
And I somehow picked up a book on Python instead of a novel.

I'm curious to see what will happen if MC picks a girl and it's not Marisa. We've seen that it hurts her to see the protag with other girls, but she's willing to wait for him. How will she react if she loses? This Marisa is complex. I can just as easily see her breaking into tears over heart break to putting on a mask and pretending everything is okay and staying MC's best friend to out right gutsy anger.

Marisa: Smooth Criminal
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New thread >>46913

You can still be feminine and not take shit from anyone. The human heart is complex like that.

That's 'cuz they're not. Adding nuanced but not exclusive choices is what I prefer to do, it's just that it can lead to accusations of railroading if done too much. Generally though I like to avoid stark contrasts.

It's hard to see what the characters choose to do or say sometimes. Since I know some of what makes them tick I feel like calling them out on it, as weird as that may sound. Sometimes cliches are easier to deal with since there's less that you can get attached to.

I haven't bought a novel in years. I've recently started re-reading a lot of Hemingway though. Also, I really want to get through Marisa's story one way or another no matter how the rest of the story goes. It's worth telling. Personally though I'm not sure Arc would be happiest with her. Maybe with a harem comprised of Alice, Marisa, Reimu and supervised by Yuyuko. Reisen could join if Youmu was up to it. Maybe Of course Suika would also be just a sex friend, since she's not big on commitment. Not to mention the characters that haven't been introduced yet. They want in as well. I'm not sure how serious I'm being right now.
>Maybe with a harem

You now have my attention again.
>Also, I really want to get through Marisa's story one way or another no matter how the rest of the story goes. It's worth telling. Personally though I'm not sure Arc would be happiest with her

The story's in Marisa's Route? Or whatever the cloest thing to a traditional route there is. Like, already dating, or something?
Something like a route, kinda. Since this story is just a bunch of subplots strung together by the school year there'll be chances to focus on some characters over others. Just getting closer to a character deals with their story a little. You don't have to be romantically involved with Marisa to know what's with her but that'll probably be the case anyways (just a guess based on what I've seen).
>You don't have to be romantically involved with Marisa to know what's with her but that'll probably be the case anyways (just a guess based on what I've seen).

Really? But what about Tenshi, she hasn't appeared again? I was pretty sure Anon would be set to melt her heart and show her how to love again (so cheesy). Yes, I'm aware of how Anon pussied out and went for the second request, but I expected her to show up again, after all this time.

Also, sage on an autosage thread.
It wasn't so much pussying out but rather a strategic retreat (we didn't know it'd completely lock Arc out of things for a time at least)
I've said she'll appear again and she shall. Narrowly avoided meeting her recently, which is probably a good thing otherwise anon would rage at me. Time is a good thing here, trust me.

>we didn't know it'd completely lock Arc out of things for a time at least
Yuyoko had that whole conversation with Arc about moving on though and our plucky lad didn't really bother to defy her. What else could you expect but to move on?
>Time is a good thing here, trust me.

And time is something that's also different in this story. It's significantly faster than in the other stories, with a week going by after one or two updates. It's not a bad thing, though, and makes it more realistic, I think.

Thread Watcher x