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The very many passions of youth, without a doubt.
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Bright and eager. Like a model student.
That was the undesireable comparison that came about from the raising of my hand.
"Right, you there," the teacher picked me. She wrinkled her nose a little as she did, moving her glasses further down her nose. Suika mocked both her and me by miming the gesture of fixing one's glasses by using a single finger. With her middle finger. A classy manouever by her.
I would have retaliated but when the teacher picked another student she got up in a rush. Not before stating that 'it was unbecoming of an honor student to fight with their lab partner' and flipping me off again. Boy was she pissed. Probably thought that I was too good for her again. Or that I was messing around. Whatever it was it wasn't doing me any favors.
The actual work wasn't too bad. Take a few bunsen burners, tubes and flasks back into the storage closet. Wipe the tables and be done with it. Just a few minutes out of the day. A few minutes that were all too fleeting in the right company.
"Shouldn't you be out hitting on girls instead of doing something actually responsible?" Reimu asked, portraying me as a bad caricature of a man.
"It's a change of pace," I avoided answering. "Can't have you being the only volunteer either."
"I'm touched by your concern for my wellbeing," she said sardonically. Reimu knew better than to expect me to act just out of the goodness of my heart. The recent scenes in class probably also bothered her as much as it did certain other individuals close to me. They weren't getting a mention even in my thoguhts. It would only serve to validate their judgmental stares and comments.
"Don't mention it," once again I ignored her tone. "Listen, uh, I know this might sound a little weird but could you keep me company for a little while after we're done here?"
"I should have known," she frowned.
"I'm not trying to pick you up or anything, promise," I did a gesture that meant 'cross my heart and hope to die' in order to transmit my sincerity more effectively. "I've just had a lot happen to me and a lot of people want a lot of things from me. All I need is someone to shield me for a little bit before I go home.."
"Even if I wanted to, which I don't," Reimu emphasized that bit, "I can't keep you out of trouble. I have student body meetings to go to after this.."
"Can't I come with?" I asked, desperate at the prospect of dealing with surly girls.
Reimu laughed. I had said something that was amusing to her inadvertedly. "Are you really saying that you'd sit through meetings that mostly consist of going through the minutes of the previous meeting and then patiently listening to people talk about broken lockers and upcoming food drives?"
"I guess not," I confessed with a sigh. It had been worth a shot.
"Well, you could always join an afterschool club to get away from it all."
"Nuh-uh," I shook my head, "I'd rather shave my head bald and eat all of the hair before getting roped into some boring timesink."
"Suit yourself," she shrugged.
"What if I come rescue you from the meeting. Then we could spend some time together, right?" I proposed a plan, "I could come in and tell them that there's a phone call from your mother or that you're needed at a club for whatever for a moment. Then you come back a few minutes later and tell them that you need to go, things have escalated."
It was foolproof. Which is why Reimu rejected it out of hand. "I take my duties seriously. They may not be fun but they need to be done nonetheless."
"Bo-ring? I shook my head once again. "Come on, you can say that you were kidnapped by me if it helps with the explanations. I don't mind being the bad guy."
"Well maybe you should!" Reimu shouted all of a sudden. The rise in volume caught her off guard as well as she promptly apologized. "You shouldn't let yourself be stereotyped into these negative roles," she told me. "How do you ever hope to be taken seriously if you don't take anyone else seriously."
"I do take people seriously. I take you seriously," I told her. "Sorry, guess I shouldn't fool around when it comes to things you care about.."
"It's fine," she said with a shrug, "just promise me to occasionally care about less frivolous things. I wouldn't mind if you helped me out like this some other time for more legitimate reasons." Though her back was turned to me as she said it, I was sure there was a smile on her lips. There just had to be one.
Reimu left for her meeting amicably enough, wishing me good luck with my problems. Not that I expected her to really mean it or anything but it was still nice to hear. Left me considerably more satisfied than I thought I would be.
As for my problem: I just had to waste more time until I was sure that the coast was clear and I could go home. The classroom and the gate were likely under guard. And problem was that any of my normal hangout spots were likely to be checked first. I needed to go somewhere unusual. Somewhere I wasn't seen very often or at all.
The choice seemed very obvious. I didn't have to think about it twice.
The library was just a small, but stealthy walk away. Hiding in plain sight wasn't my strong suit. The crowds of departing students had left so there were no real ways of blending in under the scrutiny of a searching eye. Still, to my fortune, there didn't seem to be anyone around. I was able to make it to the library without being detected.
I sat by an empty table in a corner, grabbing the first thing that I found off a shelf. I propped up the book and pretended I was reading it while I observed the room around me. Outside of myself, there was only a few people, underclassmates mostly. Generally, few people hung out in the library after school outside of exam season. The ones who stayed usually had no club activities and nothing going on in their lives. That much was obvious.
As luck would have it, excitement lurked about even in the supposedly dull library. I could hear a voice trying its best to keep its volume adequetely hushed. That, obviously, had diminishing returns the quieter a room was. With no one else making any noise, the words were still easily audible.
"I'm sorry for inconveniencing you," it went on, "but I just had to tell you how I felt. My heart feels like it's going to explode if I don't get it all out now. Seeing you, as you are now, so beautiful and pure. Aand lovely. It's all a guy could ever ask for really." The drivel went on for a few more sentences. I chose to filter it out until it became juicy again. "The truth is," the voice finally reached its central point, "I love you. There I said it. Would you please go out with me?"
A heart-throbbing confession scene in a library. Very exciting stuff. It was enough of a distraction to make me put down my book and prick up my ears.
No reply was immediately forthcoming. That wasn't a very good sign for love. I snuck my way closer to the action to better hear what was going on.
"I'm happy that you like me," the girl replied. From my cautious glimpses around the corner, I couldn't identify who she was. The back of a head and straight, back-length hair wasn't exactly much to go on. "I don't know how to say this to you. I don't mind seeing you but-"
"Oh?!" The other voice, an excited guy from another class (II-A maybe) cut in. "I knew you'd return my feelings! Hahaha," he laughed like a complete tool, "thank you Kochiya, I'll try to make you the happiest girl in world!"
There was probably more that was going to be said by the excitable fool but he had gotten a little too loud. A single, powerful, '?shush!" came from somewhere in the library and cut the whole scene short. The guy bowed several times instead, walking away from Kochiya with a look of pure happiness.
The girl stood there for a few moments, as if thinking through what had just happened. I must have made some sort of noise because she turned suddenly and immediately made eye contact. Not bad, I'd say, I could understand why the idiot from earlier had confessed his love. Fair skin, clear eyes that drew you to a cute nose and immaculate lips. She looked like she absolutely belonged in a school uniform too. Not many people could pull off that combination of youth, liveliness and look of delicate simplicity.
It would be rude to simply walk away. So I approached her.
"Sorry about that," I said, keeping my voice down. "I couldn't help but overhear." There was nothing to be gained by lying.
"It's alright," she said with a faint smile. Reminded me of a freshly blossomed flower. "I don't mind if you saw. Everyone here is so friendly anyways."
"Oh," I made a mental connection, "you're the new student everyone was talking about a few weeks ago. I hadn't seen you."
"I guess I am," she nodded, "Sanae Kochiya, pleased to meet you."
"The name's Arc," I told her. "You seem to be fitting in just fine."
"Happily enough," she nodded again. There was a certain... almost naive-like way she spoke that automatically endeared herself to me. Another reason why the other guy confessed to her, probably. "I've spoken to a lot of nice people but haven't really made any friends yet. It probably takes a bit longer for that to happen, right?"
"Yeah..."I let my reply drift off a little. I hadn't seen her with the other girls. Though truth be told, I hadn't seen much of the other girls for various reasons. All I had to go on were rumors but, looking at her, I couldn't really make sense of them. Still, I was curious about her. And curiosity was best served by being incisive. It was time to experiment a little.
That's why I simply stepped up my game. I was going to be direct. "I know that we just met, but I think I love you too. I hope that's not a problem." With well-practiced smoothness, I told her the heart-stopping line that had popped into my mind. With the utmost sobriety I uttered the words every teenage girl wanted to hear from her dream man.
She was at a loss for words. No one ever expected to hear a confession not five minutes after the previous one. Especially from a complete stranger. I had to admit, I was highly pleased with myself. Underneath my steely, but dreamy, exterior lay the beginnings of a self-satisfied smile.
"It's alright, you don't have to give me an answer now," I said with a disarming smile. "I just had to get that off of my chest."
"No, it's okay," she shook her head, looking worked up and serious. "You seem like a very nice person but I think that this is going too fast, we just met. Would it be okay if we got to know each other a little first before we took that step?"
"You words, as justified as they may be, wound me to the very depths of my soul,," I replied with dramatic flair, "unrequited love is truly horrible."
"Oh, I didn't mean to hurt you," she looked authentically concerned, a frown developing on her fair face.
"No, it's alright, I was a fool to put it out there. I think I'm going to drop out of school now, I can no longer live with the shame!" Hammed it up to another level. It was the right thing to do given the circumstances. It was too amusing to see her react in a genuine and pure way to my words.
"You don't have to do that!" she said with some alarm. Another 'shush' came from somewhere in the library, which caused her to lower her voice in a panic. "If you want we can spend some time together and see how things develop. I'm sorry, but I'm just not used to how boys are here. They're all so straightforward and direct, they don't give me a chance to talk things calmly."
"Spending even but an instant with you would be the equivalent to heaven," I said. "It's fine if you take your time, some things in life cannot be rushed." The truth was that I was having a bit of a hard time with how seriously she was taking things. She had the best of intentions. Me? Not so much. "I'm really sorry for inconveniencing you but if you want to just be friends for now, I suppose I'll just have to deal with it."
"Thank you," she said with a nod. "I don't mean to trample on your feelings. It's just that I don't really know anyone here yet and it'd be nice to start small.."
"Would you like to grab a bite to eat then? We can talk. That's small," I suggested. Sensitivity regarding her situation didn't mean that I had to stop being aggressive. All I had to do was be a little more subtle.
"I can't right now, sorry," she looked genuinely sorry. Almost to the point of tears. I had to admit that her innocence was more endearing than annoying. At least for the moment.
"Oh, that's okay, we can take a rain check," I forced a smile, hoping to look genuine.
"I just have things to do at the shrine," she explained. But then divine inspiration struck, "but you can come along and meet my guardians if you like. They keep telling me that I should make friends no matter what."
"Uh, your parents?" I asked a little incredulously. That was usually a red flag for someone who hadn't even been an acquaintance for ten minutes.
"Well, they're kind of like big sisters actually," she said with a smile, furthering my confusion. "You don't have to be shy! They'll love you, I just know it!"
Another, final and definitive 'shuuuuuush!" shut us up right there and then. It was clear that we were no longer welcome at the library. Kochiya looked at me expectantly, like a puppy who had just made a new friend. Those wide, sauce-like upturned eyes stabbed into me. I had to turn my mind into steel if I wanted to do anything but agree with her.
It was ultimately too much, too quickly to go home with her. We walked together part of the way and she told me a little about herself. She lived at a shrine at the edge of town (in the middle of nowhere by the sound of it). Her father had been the head priest but had passed away a few years back and ever since she had been raised by two women who were like older sisters to her. My curiosity was piqued but I knew I'd have plenty of time to learn more about her. She considered me a friend, just like that without even so much thinking that I was the dishonest and shameless flirt that I really was. I didn't mind, she was perfectly nice company. If she wanted to take it slow, I was fine with that too.
Eventually we parted ways somewhere near the last station on the far side of the residential area. I walked on by myself slowly, enjoying the crisp afternoon air.
I found some time to get lost in my own thoughts. Walking back alone from school gave me the excuse I needed to reflect on what had been going on in my life recently.
My life had been changed dramatically. In the blink of an eye, too. Despite my best efforts, the counselor had gotten me to reach out to people and to try to improve their lives. Her good nature and polite smile hid a fiendishly clever and manipulative woman. It wasn't really that much of a burden but I was clueless as to how to best go about it sometimes. I had tried getting close to people who wanted to distance themselves from others as much as possible. Tenshi, in other words. That was a mixed bag of results. Felt like I was close to something, all I needed was another crack at it. She was still out there and I occasionally thought about her. Despite what Big Sis might think I wasn't able to focus on the next thing and forget everything else. I just knew there would be another opportunity. I hadn't redeemed that coupon for our date in vain.
With my other case things were developing in a different direction. Kaenbyou was receptive to my playful insinuations and banter. She put up a strong front but I felt that things were on the right track. I didn't get pummeled for talking about the color of her panties, for starters. Always an encouraging sign. She was also the only way I had of reaching Reiuji. The withdrawn gymnast was my main objective, after all. I was supposed to help her with her problem and that would earn my the eternal thanks of Big Sis. Things would start to get more serious in the coming days and I wasn't exactly sure how they'd turn out. There was no use in worrying about it just yet but after my less-than-stellar first attempt I was ready to be a little more cautious.
I stopped at a vending machine and got a can of coffee. The afternoon was coming to an end, people were starting to go home from work. The rush from town to the residential area made me think about my experiences in town. My abortive attempt at reaching enlightenment through religion with a pious schoolgirl. Then there was meeting a girl from a hostess club outside of work hours and being caught in the crossfire in an ongoing argument she was in. There was also karaoke with classmates, eating ramen at a cart with Suika and, of course, having a blast playing at the arcade. I was still genuinely surprised at that one, I wouldn't have thought that a cheerleader would spend her free time playing games. I had to follow that loose end up for sure. Not to mention that I'd love to meet the enigmatic blonde that was at the bar. I hadn't expected things to get so hot and heavy so fast....
The can flew neatly into the trashcan. Three points for me.
I carried on walking. School was more interesting than it had ever been before. Unrestricted access to the rooftop meant that I could skip class whenever I felt like it and take a nap. Or have a private meeting with someone. I just had to watch out for the occasional fellow student that came to do something forbidden and didn't know that I was there. The last pair had left a bit of a mess on the rooftop. Sure, I had gotten to watch them but it wasn't exactly comfortable to hide from them. If I had been found out hell would be raised. Last thing I needed was a pair of girls with a grudge against me. I tried to always make a good impression on people from new transfer students to our class president and resident hard-worker, Reimu. She didn't think much of me but I always tried my best to make her smile.
My home came into view. By extension, so did Alice's. I thought about her. She was serious and quick to scold but also helpful when I needed it the most. A little too helpful sometimes. After the fight with Suika she had maybe invaded my privacy a little too much. I wasn't sure what to make about the girly and embarrassed Alice I saw that night. Nor, really, did I really know what was up with my other supposed childhood friend, Marisa. She was open about how she supposedly felt but at the same time kept her distance. It was strange behavior.
Well, all that thinking really was getting me nowhere. I slipped upstairs to my room right away, turning off my brain and turning on a game console. Auntie came in late and stayed downstairs. By the time she came upstairs I was already in bed, staring at the ceiling with the lights off. My eyelids felt heavy. It was early but I was too tired to stay awake for much longer.
"Hm?" I heard a noise at the door. I craned my head upwards to see what had caused it. "Why are you here?" I asked the silent shadow. It didn't make sense... how did they get in? Geh, couldn't think properly, I just wanted to lay back and rest... I'd just tell her to come back... later....
Right, we had a previous engagement. We had something we had to do right then. Just the two of us... in the privacy of home.
Yeah... I was set to meet...
First choice is a fanservice choice that serves both as an apology and a way that we can get back into the groove of things. This has minimal impact on the plot and is more of a treat. Choose wisely, though! The flavor of the treat will be rather different depending on your choice.
>>49296 I'll remember that when one of your favorite characters get overlooked for the umpteenth time. Though at least with them, they never got over looked due to their fans going "oooh! Shiny!" (Shiny being one of the popular crowd)
Alright. Calling it here. Expect something very soon.
A few remaining pieces of housekeeping: If you're fuzzy on the finer points of the story, do reread. I know I will since I forgot a couple of details (kinda more of a big deal for me not to remember than you, I guess). This brief summary was just broad strokes. Luckily the story is pretty short.
Also you may want to see >>/blue/17195 with a calmer explanation of what went down and why.
Lastly, is me using a name/trip something most of you want? Just say something next vote about it.
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Yeah, it was her. We'd made a promise...
I stared at the mirror. Even though it was a little grimy from age and poorly illuminated it still reflected enough of the world below it. Brown shag carpeting, a hint of the black and white tile of the bathroom, ancient wooden nightstand and - most importantly - a large bed right in the middle. Complete with satin sheets, for that extra touch of class. Every movement and rustle caused a faint shimmer to be reflected in the mirror. And just earlier there had been plenty of shimmers, streaks of light even. There wasn't much movement anymore. The material lay inert, draped over a pair of bodies haphazardly.
The one whose reflection stared back directly was me. Jovial. Perhaps even carefree. That was how I would describe my general appearance. There was plenty of reason for that. And it wasn't just the boyish good looks or confident eyes that I was blessed with. A lot of good fortune concentrated in one person, to be sure.
The reason I was particularly satisfied lay next to me.
Svelte, delicate and wholesome. The girl who gripped my outstretched hand softly was quite the looker. And also happened to be as naked as I was. More importantly, the two facts had a very direct link. I watched her breathe a little through her reflection, admiring the rise and fall of her completely exposed chest. There was something poetic about how her long strands of lilac hair had found their way onto the contours of her breasts. They seemed to frame the beautiful pair like a fine molding, embellishing her natural assets further. The mounds themselves still looked every bit as soft as they had felt in my hands moments earlier and the cute pink nipples still looked as delightfully teasable as they had been before. They weren't the most sizable I had ever seen but they had been a blast to interact with. Like they were designed to be played with, much like certain balls in sports were designed to be held comfortable with the hand.
"You must think I'm a lewd girl," she said with a sigh.
"That wasn't lewd, that was magic," I told her, squeezing her hand. I looked away from the mirror and into her face. Her thin nose and large, intense, eyes were still as captivating as ever. They were the kind of eyes that a man might find himself losing all of his logical thoughts if he stared too hard, desire and instinct overpowering him. Her lips trembled a little, much like they had when we first came into the room. It had taken a few bold attacks on them to still their quaking. But then again it seemed that every time I stilled a part of her, another vibrated or shook with anticipation and desire. I has spent the better part of an hour dealing out intense and dedicated care to every part of her that called out.
"But we haven't known each other for that long," she closed her eyes, looking conflicted.
"It doesn't matter, what's important is that we both felt something there. That's enough," I said, ever the salesman. "You felt good, didn't you?"
"The best I've felt in my life," she answered bashfully, kinda but not fully averting her eyes from me. I could see that she had had an awakening and try as she might, she could not deny that part of herself anymore. "I thought I had died and gone to heaven."
"I'm sure I'm already in heaven," I said. "After all, I had the chance to be with you.."
"I wouldn't have expected such sweet talk from someone so good at Valgeron," she giggled, "you've made my life at the arcade so exciting these past few days. It's rare to find a good opponent."
"I'm honored," I said with a smile. "Let me remind you that we're 6-8 in your favor."
"That doesn't matter," she lost some of her unassuming nature when she talked about games. It was charming to see her come out of her shell. Only because I was certain that not many people got to see her behave that way. "It's all about having fun.."
"We sure had fun," I laughed. I didn't mind losing more matches than winning if it was with her. She was right. It was hard to find a good opponent. "I hope I haven't gotten you in too much trouble with this.."
She smiled sweetly. It was her turn to reassure me. "I sometimes stop after school at the arcade when I don't have too many chores. They won't miss me at home for another hour at least.."
"I meant about skipping class in the first place," I clarified what I meant. She may have not been thinking about the consequences at the moment but I wasn't about to ruin the life of a nice and demure girl like her. If need be I would talk to... my overbearing counselor at school and get her off the hook. It would only cost me a little in the grand scale of things.
"It'll be fine," she insisted. She stuck out her tongue playfully, "sometimes schoolgirls are known to be a bit rebellious and cut class.."
I couldn't resist. I closed the gap between us in an instant, kissing her by surprise. With all the practice we had done recently, it didn't come as a shock to her anymore. She immediately got into it, rolling over me and repositioning herself on top. "And to think that you were reluctant to kiss me at first," I joked once she pulled back.
"That's only because I didn't know if I'd like it," she giggled, "rest assure that I've come to see the light." Pressing her body against mine caused all sorts of things to happen inside of me. The smooth feeling of her skin against mine was exhilarating. The view as I looked down towards the end of my bed was simply remarkable. "Oh, does this mean that you're ready for another round?"
"You're trying to kill me, aren't you?" I chuckled as I played around with the hair that pooled onto my chest.
"I'm just trying to go for the high score," she whispered directly into my ear, eventually stopping to kiss it. "We still have some time left for this room, let's make good use of it.."
Before I could say anything else, she had already decided to take the lead. She held a small piece of plastic wrapper in her hand. It was the third one I was going to use in the afternoon. All of my protection would be used up before long. She ripped it open and smiled at me. It was a smile that let me know that she would take the lead this time. Quite a reversal from the shy girl with whom I had to be overly active only an hour before.
"Reisen?" I stopped her before she went too fast.
"What's the matter?" she asked, her hand dancing around my reinvigorated crotch.
"Well, it's a little embarrassing, but...."I had to retain some measure of control. I told her what I wanted her to try out.
"With my breasts?" she asked, sounding more curious than anything else.
"Yeah, if you don't mind, just before we get to the main course again..."
"Say no more," she giggled in the way only a seasoned seductress could. She was evolving by leaps and bounds as we went along. I began to suspect that she would be the expert and I the neophyte by the time we were done. "I'm going to try my best, tell me if it feels good, m'kay?"
"Maybe I should ring the front desk and tell them we need the room for longer," I told myself as she got to work. On second thought, that could wait. She was giving it her all and it would be rude not to enjoy the ride.
"After this, I'm going to call home and tell them that I'll be along later tonight," she mumbled in response, "it seems like I've found a better way to spend the rest of the day."
I couldn't argue with her conclusion. From where I lay, it was the best way to spend a weekday afternoon.
It was warm. So very, very warm. I wanted to stay like that forever. I'd die a happy man. That background noise was annoying but bearable. All I had to do was focus. Focus on just enjoying. On just being. Yeah, that was good. I could be warm and quiet and feel good forever.
"-up already!" someone wanted to make it end. I groaned but that only encouraged her more. "I know you can hear me. How much longer are you going to make me wait?"
"Five more minutes," I replied by reflex.
"We're going to be late, just get up already," she said, sounding annoyed. I knew what came next. The shaking. The relentlessly firm shaking. There was no withstanding that. It would rouse any man from slumber.
"I was having a nice dream!" I groaned. I gripped the pillow harder, hoping that it'd tether me to the dreamworld.
"Yeah with that creepy smile on your face I know exactly what kind of dream you were having.."
"I have a very active imagination, I can't help it!" I finally opened my eyes, giving up. "You're truly the enemy of men everywhere!."
"And you're the enemy of women everywhere," Alice said with the usual tone she used when I said something stupid.
"Oh lighten up," I fired back, fuming at being yanked back into reality. "I'll get ready, just give me a minute.."
I was going to be as slow as I could be when I saw the time. She was right, I did oversleep quite a bit. I got dressed without incident and met her again at the front door.
"Well, at least it's a fine day," I said, looking at the clear sky.
"...let's just go," she wasn't exactly in the best of moods. I could understand why.
 "Would it help if I told you that I wouldn't mind if you showed up in my dreams from time to time?"
 "Say, know anything about that cheerleader in II-A. The one who likes games??
[X]??Say, know anything about that cheerleader in II-A. The one who likes games?"
For my part, I'd much prefer if you had your name up, Teruyo. Makes your posts just a bit easier to follow, and at least somewhat ensures that people won't get confused if someone tries to post in your name.
Considering that Alice just woke Arc from the best dream of his life, I daresay he'd be more concerned about Reisen.; this would get in a dig at Alice too, in the 'I don't think about you at all~" tease.
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"Come on, don't be like that," I tried to reach out to her. She was walking a few paces ahead, looking straight ahead. Had not time to suffer any fools, or so her body language told me. "Hey, I know," a brilliant idea popped into my mind. "Would it help if I told you that I wouldn't mind if you showed up in my dreams from time to time?"
"I mean, of course, you couldn't nag me or anything. But I don't think it would be too bad. Might even be fun," I said. I could see it now. Arc and his next door neighbor having another nice home cooked meal. Not too exciting but delicious. She was a good cook. And she knew what my favorites were to boot.
"If you like my cooking so much, all you have to do is ask and I'll gladly make something," Alice said. Apparently I was voicing my thoughts out loud. Oops. "It seems that all you think about is food and girls," she sounded like she didn't approve.
"Worrying yourself over the dream I had?' I ventured a guess.
"No, not especially," she said with a shrug. It was amazing how she could project that cold indifference of hers in a thousand and one different ways. "I don't care about whatever bimbo, or group of bimbos," she paused to add, knowing me all too well, "you were dreaming about.."
"Even if that bimbo was a certain difficult but lovable girl next door?"
"...oh for cryin' out loud!" I gave myself over to despair. Unflappable, that's what she was. I sat down on a nearby fence railing, brooding on my failure.
"I'm going to leave you behind, you know," she said before rounding a corner. How cruel. How very, very cruel.
I caught up to her again, slinking behind her like a sad puppy. Demoralized and crushed, woe betide losers like me.
"You're going to be like this all morning, aren't you?" She asked, betraying the fact that she must have had eyes on the back of her head.
"Would it have been so bad to humor me a little?"
"Like you wouldn't believe," came the acerbic reply. Kicking a man when he was down was not cool.
"Alright then!" I got fed up. "I'm going to dream of you alright! But like five bimbos as well! All really big-breasted! And then I'm going to do all sort of crazy stuff with them while you just sit there and are forced to watch! You won't like that, will you?"
"...you know that there are people staring, right?"
Oh, she was right. I was speaking loudly. A couple of freshmen behind us giggled. Nothing of value lost. I probably did want to keep it down the closer we got to school and the more classmates we encountered. "My point stands!" I whispered loudly, catching up to her and walking by her side. "Five bimbos. A lot of massage oil. Maybe they're all barefeet. I don't know." All signs of wild things that were to come.
"Oh shut up already," she sounded like she was getting fed up.
"I'd trade all of that if you were nice to me though."
"Fine, okay, I'd be honored to show up in your silly dreams. Happy?" she gave up in the most anticlimactic fashion imaginable.
"Really? Do you really mean that? You're not just saying that, right?"
"It's like I'm talking to an overgrown kid..."she grumbled. "Yes I mean it. You can even have me in your... extremely perverted situations if you like.."
I was about to say something but there had been an unexpected reversal of roles. Alice was the one who was a little too loud. A pair of classmates overheard her last line and were excitedly chatting amongst themselves.
"Um, no that's not what I meant," Alice tried to clarify.
"It's okay for a married couple to talk about those sorts of things!" one of the girls fired back, giggling.
"You go girl!" the other quipped.
Naturally there wasn't any reasoning with them. The more flustered Alice got, the more convinced the others were that she had been talking about our personal lives. Which would be amusing if it just affected her but I wasn't really looking forward to a whole day of teasing by everyone in the classroom again. Still, there was nothing I could say or do. I just let Alice burn herself out with excuses and explanations.
"Sorry about that," I apologized when the various groups (that had joined in at the sign of there being commotion) moved on. "I didn't mean to get other people involved in this.
"...it's okay," she said with a sigh. "I guess you can fantasize freely now.."
"I guess," I said after a moment of thought. We'd arrived at school.
 She is free to fantasize about me whenever she likes as well
 Spending time with her in real life might not be so bad either
[x] Spending time with her in real life might not be so bad either
The time for teasing and joking is over. There are many things that could happen if he were to tease her more about it. She could take it serious or he can score some points with her. The other option, asking to spend more time with her, does not sound so bad. It is not declarying undying love to.
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"You know," I started, knowing that I couldn't really make the situation any worse. "I wouldn't mind if we hung out a little more. Doesn't have to be just in dreams." People were going to talk no matter what. So it didn't really matter what we said or did together anymore.
"You need me to help you with something?" she asked, misinterpreting what I said.
"No, nothing," I shook my head. "I'm just saying that it'd be fine if, once in a while, we did something together. I don't know, take a walk or something."
"But we walk together almost every day," she said, sounding confused. Her eyes looked into mine, trying to figure out what it was that I really meant.
"I meant outside of going to school. You know, just to spend some time just the two of us. We could grab a bite to eat or something." I realized that I was being ambiguous with my language and meandering about. I couldn't really help it. It was a strange topic to broach with her. I didn't know how to phrase it so it was what I meant without it sounding weird.
"Oh," she finally seemed to have understood what I meant. So much for childhood friends understanding each other perfectly. "That sounds nice," she said with a natural smile. "I wouldn't mind at all. You know my schedule as well, so just ask whenever you feel like it.."
"Um, yeah," I found myself wanting to end the conversation, "ok, I will then. I just hope that you won't be out with your other friends or something. Like with Reimu that one time.."
"If you give me enough warning, that won't happen," she said, adding awkwardly, "I can always move plans around too."
"Right. We're, uh, set then." I forced a smile. "We should get to class before th bell rings."
"Yes," she said with a stiff nod, "lets."
Alice stopped me when I turned to go change my shoes. She grabbed my sleeve. "What's the matter?" I asked.
"Ah, well," she let go of me, "I just wanted to say that if you ever want dinner you're welcome to come over. I'll make something good.."
"Noted," I smiled more easily, since my stomach was picking my words for me, "I'll happily come over sometime soon.."
Alice smiled back, concluding our exchange on a better foot than it began.
That wasn't the only uneasy exchange I had before class began.
"Yo! I've been waiting for you!" Kaenbyou greeted me enthusiastically by the shoe lockers. "You're almost late to school too, I've been here for the last fifteen minutes.."
Alice was the one who didn't take too kindly to the fact she had been waiting for me and was talking so informally. She slipped away without bothering to say hi. If I asked her about it later she'd likely say that she didn't want to be late.
"Hey, what's up?" I asked Kaenbyou.
"Well, I wanted to talk to you about Okuu and how you should handle her later today during practice."
"You still want me to get her to quit, right? I think I won't take your advice," I said. I was trying to fix things, not sabotage them further. That Kaenbyou apparently had little to no faith in me and my abilities was of little consequence.
"Well, we don't really have time to discuss it now anyhow," she said. "Bell's about to go off." As she said her final words the bell did, indeed, ring. The students that were still loitering about on the ground floor all went into overdrive, scurrying off to their classrooms before their respective homeroom teachers got in. Kaenbyou was no exception, she waved goodbye to me, leaving the conversation up in the air.
I'd see her again sooner or later. At practice at the latest.
I made it to my seat before the teacher got in, ignoring the teasing from my fellow classmates. Suika still seemed to be teed off at me and didn't say a word when I sat down. Roll call proceeded as per usual. Save for one exception.
"Kirisame?" Ms. Mima asked as she looked at the empty seat. Looking around for a moment, she concluded, "absent? and continued down the list. Yeah, Marisa wasn't in. Something must have come up.
I survived the first couple of periods by laying low and ignoring what everyone had to say. Alice soldiered on as well, despite the inane questions from her giddy friends. That girl could be unreadable if she wanted, putting on a stoic front to the world. I wondered what went on in her mind briefly but soon decided that that was a mystery for the ages.
Felt like I was a little lost, I didn't quite know where to go and what to say. I needed to do something about that. When lunch came around I was ready to try something different.
 Nap on the roof, naturally enough
 Go ask the nurse for advice on girls
The hallways were chaotic as always. The prospect of food whipped the student body into a trance and those who ate at the cafeteria rushed towards the area as soon as the bell rang.
Things weren't that much better at the infirmary. The nurse was popular with students and girls would often stop by for advice. That meant that I would have to be patient and wait until the nurse was available again. I waited outside the door, watching as students entered and exited. Eirin was efficient at her job so any actual injuries or health complaints were dealt with expediently. Eventually, the core group of people in the nurse's office also left. The call of food was too strong to resist.
"Yo," I popped my head in as soon as the last student left. Two chairs had been moved and placed around the desk, probably for when they were chatting with Eirin. She still sat at her desk, a mountain of paperwork in front of her. "Have you missed me?"
"I've missed you as much as I've missed doing this paperwork," she replied naturally, showing a guarded but professional smile.
"Oh, ouch," I faked a wince, as if her words had really stung. "May this pest borrow you for your wise counsel for a few moments?" I bowed my head, looking supplicative, "I am otherwise lost without you.."
"Such a far cry from the boy who wished to be nothing but confident and sweep me off my feet," she laughed, correctly recalling our last conversation. "Come on in, close the door and grab a seat."
"Thank you, you're a real lifesaver," I said as I sat down on one of the empty chairs. I appreciated her choice of attire for the day. Though she wore the usual pristine clean white lab coat, underneath she wore a mid-length skirt and a jumper that could pass off as a thick blouse from the distance. "You've a great fashion sense too," I remarked, "if only more women dressed as smartly as you did... men would be happier.."
"Let's dispense with the pleasantries, shall we?" she suggested. "I have a lot of work to do and I sense that you aren't here to have a relaxed chat like the last time. I'm sure that it's my loss that I won't get to see you try to sweep me off my feet."
"I wouldn't dare to try until I felt I was worthy," I interjected. "and even then I don't think either of us is ready for that step. Like you said, it would require either party to make a serious effort.."
She smiled, glad that we had reached an understanding already. Putting the cap back on her pen, she tossed it onto the pile of papers on her desk. "Let us put aside your charms for now and cut right to it. You've come because you want to know something about another student? I shouldn't need to remind you that I can't divulge confidential information.."
"I'm not asking you to," I said. "What I'd like to do is just tell you a little about how I see the situation and ask your advice on how to proceed. Shouldn't be too much of a big deal, right?"
"That sounds acceptable," she said, coiling her long braided hair onto her lap instead of letting it touch the floor from the seat. "I cannot promise that I can lay bare the heart of others."
"That's fine. I should begin by telling you that my problem is with girls, not women." I got on just fine with women. Auntie, Eirin and women I met at a bar all seemed to enjoy my company. "Girls can be hard to read and they seem to be able to change dramatically from one moment to the other with no warning.."
"That's youth for you," Eirin laughed with a fully rich throaty laugh. It set her apart from the other women I knew, it made her seem venerable and wise. Like somehow she could see beyond the trifles of daily life and grasp the big picture. "I sure hope that you're not here to complain about fickle people."
"No, I have something more specific in mind.."
 Things with Suika have been getting out of hand more often lately.
 Trying to help people has led to so many mixed signals. What's the deal with that?
[X] Things with Suika have been getting out of hand more often lately.
People interpret signals anyway they want or assume to, regardless of the intentions of those who send them. Dealing with Suika at least is focusing on some one is is for the most part a great constant in Arc's life.
"So, let me get this straight." Eirin leaned back in her chair with hints of a smirk on her lips. Rather fetching for a woman like her, actually. Her chest stuck out as her shoulders drooped back. Needless to say, it was a pleasing development. "You're telling me that people aren't always appreciative of your efforts when you try to help them?" she asked, the smirk materializing unambiguously on her currant lipstick-colored lips. "I thought you were less naïve than that."
"I like to think I am," I said, shrugging my shoulders in an exaggerated fashion. I could see where she was coming from but I meant specifics. The girls I had tried to help tended to have very different reactions to what I did. Indifference and disgust were some of the better ones too. The hard part was dealing with the occasional approval that was mixed in with all of the other crap. "Maybe I'm just looking for advice on how to temper my expectations.."
"Doubtful," she concluded. "I'm not sure why you're here instead of dealing with your problems head on. You cannot expect third parties to know better."
She was right about that. There was no better way of dealing with people other than directly. "I seem to be here looking for consolation, I guess.."
"And naturally I would embrace you, tell you you are a good man and share a little private moment." Eirin chuckled, pegging me for precisely the kind of man that I could sometimes be.
"Please stop," I said with a smile, "my precious ego can't take any more bruising.."
"Well, I wouldn't want to deflate you completely, heaven knows how much blowing you'd need to function again." Not skipping a beat she looked into my face and preempted my thoughts, "Oh shut up.."
"Don't make it so easy then," I said with a shrug.
"The best advice I can give you is to just keep trying to help people. But only if they really need help. You need a discerning eye for that." Eirin seemed like she wanted to say something else but evidently thought better. She was likely aware that she wasn't being especially helpful but that was mostly my fault. There was no way to generalize what I was encountering.
"I need to know when to stop as well," I hazarded a guess at what she didn't say. "There's no point in being insistent when there's no chance of accomplishing anything."
"Part of being an adult is knowing your limits and knowing to pick your battles," she said a little too dryly - bitterly almost. If I didn't know better I would have asked if the school nurse had seen her share of frustrating disappointments. I did know better, however. "Your youth is an asset, you can be forgiven for mistakes more easily.."
"That reminds me..."I started to bring in specifics, "I never quite sure what to make of what my childhood friend-."
We were interrupted. There was a knock on the door. I hadn't expected our private conversation to last very long because it was lunchtime. The door slid open when Eirin replied. "Sorry but that's all the time I can spare," Eirin turned her attention to the new arrival. Understandably enough.
I took my leave. Or tried to. I couldn't believe my eyes.
Standing there was someone I hadn't seen in weeks. Still pretty, still youthful. Still ignoring the world around her. She looked horribly out of place in her surroundings. It couldn't be clearer that she didn't want to be there.
"Tenshi..."the name escaped my lips. Too many conflicting thoughts and emotions made my mind lock up. The end result was a pathetic mental paralysis.
"Looks like I'll need the room," Eirin picked up on the atmosphere immediately. "Come back some other time, Arc." Her order was enough to jostle me into action.
I passed by Tenshi. See didn't even bother to lift her gaze up to look at me. It was like I didn't even exist. No emotions registered on her face. I wanted to stop, wanted to say something but couldn't think of anything appropriate to say.
I closed the door behind me. And laughed. At myself and the inanity of the situation. I wasn't even sure what the appropriate reaction to seeing her should have been. So much for being confident and always having something to add to a situation. My persona was full of cracks and shortcomings. Well, worrying about it was not going to do me any good. Actions, not thinking got me what I needed.
I checked the time. There was still a little bit of time left before the bell rang.
 Time to bother the counselor for advice
 Grab food and keep off the radar until after school
There wasn't that much time left before classes began again. Big Sis was a way to cheat that little inconvenient truth. If I was with her it meant that I could have a legitimate excuse to be late to class. Assuming the teacher cared. Many just turned a willful blind eye to my absence. Too much of a hassle to deal with truants, the homeroom teacher was in charge. So went the logic. Cold but practical.
"Hey, it's me," I called out as I knocked on her door. It was ajar so I just pushed it open. I found something interesting on the other side.
"-alright, we'll talk later. Take care, I'll be thinking about you," Big Sis was wrapping up a phone call. A bit hurriedly, too. She smiled as she put the phone down with all of her natural-looking charm. "I wasn't expecting to see you, how have you been?"
"Alright," I told her, taking the liberty of closing the door behind me. "Came for a bit of a chat, that's cool with you, right?"
"Of course it is," she nodded, "you're welcome to your big sis anytime you like. What's troubling you today?"
"Who you'll be thinking about, for starters," I joked, trying to improve my own mood.
"That's a secret, I'm afraid," she said with that smokescreen of a smile, "we all have our own lives outside of work and school, after all.."
"Oh, so it was your boyfriend?" I teased. It wouldn't surprise me if she was seeing someone. She was by all metrics, fairly attractive. Wicked sense of humor and knack for manipulating others aside, she could qualify as a 'catch'.
"Classified information," she insisted, not at all betraying her true feelings with that mask of polite affability. "I can tell that you're here to ask your big sis all about love, isn't that right?"
"..."She wasn't exactly off the mark. I must have tipped her off by bringing up the subject of lovers first. Big Sis was deceptively sharp. I wasn't about to let her know just how close she was to my thoughts. "Big Sis would show me if I asked though, right? A hands on demonstration for a poor, confused boy going through a turbulent period of his life."
"How very naughty," she giggled, "I see you're still not too bad at misdirecting questions about yourself."
"You're not too shabby at it either," I said. I knew that I would never hear anything about her personal life unless she wanted to make a point of me knowing. "I am looking for advice, you're right about that. Nothing too exciting, I just wanted a different perspective on a few things.."
"If it's about being called 'the honeymoon groom of II-C', don't worry about it. Students just love their gossip. They'll forget about it in a month.."
"Wait, I'm being called what?" That was a bad sign. Getting too much attention was something I hoped to always avoid. Ugh, to make things worse it made things uncomfortable for Alice. I wasn't okay with having her teased because of me. Our relationship was special and it gave me some leeway in the smart ass department. Strangers weren't extended the same privilege. "You know what? It doesn't matter," I dismissed that line of conversation. It was something I would deal with by myself later. Somehow. "I'm here for advice on someone. Not about rumors and nicknames."
"Alright, ask away, I'll be glad to help you out however I can.."
I thought about it. I wanted to know what she thought about how I should handle others. How I could reach an understanding with them. Or even how I could get closer to them. I thought the people with whom I was having trouble the most and narrowed the question down. "It's about.."
 "the friends closest to me. There's been a lot of strange tension with them lately."
 "girls in another class. I'm not sure what they expect of me even when they ask for my help."
 "older women, actually. They have an annoying tendency to keep me at arm's length."
Probably the last update in the evening due to schedule conflicts, something to chew on and think about. Earliest the next update may come is in 5-6 hours.
"I wonder which friends you mean," Yuyuko said, "there's just so many to choose from.."
She knew exactly who I meant, of course. It wasn't like I had a huge circle of friends. The obvious conclusion was that she was poking a bit of fun at me. Inappropriate for a person in a position of trust at school. Well, if she had been a proper normal counselor, I would likely not be taking to her. I just had to deal with it.
"I can see you're not in a very good mood," she clicked her tongue, correctly observing my disposition. "Fine, I'll be just a teensy bit more serious. I'll say that I'm a bit surprised if you mean your wife." Apparently not too serious. That just wouldn't do. "She's a strong girl, I don't think she minds the misunderstanding all too much. You're probably not as straightforward as you need to be with her if you feel there's a tension."
"I'm plenty straightforward," I defended myself, "I always tell her what's on my mind. She's the one that keeps to herself all too much."
"I wonder about that," Big Sis said dubiously. She didn't care to press the issue however. "I suppose that time may help the parties involved get some perspective," she concluded, "I don't think an external force can change things.."
"Duly noted," I added, feeling a bit impatient. She wasn't being very helpful.
"As for your short co-conspirator and habitual truant...."she closed her eyes as she trailed off, letting out a pensive "mmm..."
"I'm not sure you could understand our relationship," I told her. "We do things our own way and get into trouble all of the time.."
"Another relationship that will depend on changing perspectives," she said.
"You're sounding an awful lot like a series of bad fortune cookies," I said, snidely. She wasn't getting to the root of the issue at all. "We've been fighting more than usual lately, that's something that can't be explained with long-term nonsense."
"Oh?" I could tell the exact moment she knew she had me where she wanted. A perverse glimmer appeared in her eyes. "Didn't you just say that I wouldn't understand your relationship anyhow? This is something that only you can answer then. Why come to me at all? A possible conclusion is that you're just pretending that you understand your relationships but really don't. Regardless of that, it is possible that you're the source of tension instead of them. You may even be trying to consciously change things. And you're just here for affirmation. You want to know if you're on the right path.."
"I should have figured you were a shrink, or at least a wannabe one," I felt like sighing. She played me, trying to simply get insight into my mind. There was no point in asking her anything else, she'd just twist it to be only about me. "I don't think you'll be able to help me, after all.."
"How does that make you feel?" She asked, laughing a little like it was a clever joke. "Oh, come now, do have some pride and take it in stride. I thought you were all about presenting an unflappable face to the world. Just don't pout because it'd be too cute."
"Great, I'm being made fun off by my counselor. That's got to do wonders for the morale of the student population," I said with plain old sarcasm.
"I treat each student differently," Big Sis assured me with a smile. That same damnable smoothly-deployed smile as always. "I don't think you'd like it if I was humorless and too uninteresting. You like mysteries, I could tell from the moment we met.."
"Great, it's my fault again," I grumbled. She had me beat. Routed, even. Got under my skin with little effort. Worst of all, she was right. I may have been a bit annoyed and humbled, but I wouldn't have dealt with her in the first place if she was just some humorless bureaucratic administrator.
"Ok, ok," I won't press any harder, she said with an almost genuinely-apologetic look. I knew better than to take her facial expressions at... uh, face value. "I didn't even get to your fiancee either. There's not much to say about her attitude, she's an earnest girl. Though even earnest girls have things they wish to hide. Sometimes people can't understand complex situations and complex feelings. Human condition and all that, I'm sure the school nurse would say with gravitas. That's her talent, being taken seriously.."
"It'll just be smooth sailing from now on, thank you!" I did my best 'fake appreciative suckup voice'.
"I do feel just a little bit rotten for upsetting you," she said with what I assumed was fake remorse. She pounded a fist downwards into an open palm, like she just had a great idea. "I've got a great idea!" she exclaimed, sounding like her effervescent self. "I'll do something nice for you so you can improve your strained relationship with your friends." She opened up a desk drawer and began to rummage around. "Trust your big sis on this one," she said with a wink, "who do you want to patch things up with?"
"I'm fine on my own," I told her.
"Nonsense! We all need a little help from time to time and I think that a bit of help is just what you need.."
"I'm just going to leave now," I announced.
"If you do, I'm not going to write you a pass for skipping class~" she voiced a little too happily. "Don't be a fool, just accept my help. You don't have to use my ideas if you don't want to in the end, just think the possibility over."
"Fine, fine, if it means I can get out of here finally," I sighed, buckling again in the face of her pressure. It was in bad form to be that weak-willed.
"Great!" she clapped her hands to congratulate me on my choice. "So pick someone and I'll get something from my big drawer here that can help with her.."
"What an unexpected choice," she observed with that blasted smile of hers. "I would have thought you too proud and too stubborn to even consider letting an outsider affect your relationship with that wild friend of yours."
"Shut up and just give me what you were going to give me," I retorted, testily. I didn't need her trying to get into my head again.
"Yes, Ms. Ibuki certainly is an interesting choice, if not entirely logical," she said to herself. It seemed like it was an amusing result for her. She reached into her drawer and produced a thin straight piece of textile. Plain and light pink with no stamping or patterns.
"Really, a ribbon?" I asked incredulously. "I'd ask you if I could change my mind but I get the feeling that all of the alternatives were likewise poor.."
"It's up to you to make the most of it," she said, ignoring my attitude. "I'm afraid that it would be improper for me to tell you what the other things were."
"Let me guess - a big cash prize?"
"We'll never know now," Big Sis said with a laugh. Like it was the most amusing thing in the world.
"Wow, you've really come through for me," I said sarcastically. I was unimpressed by her attempt to help me. It felt like a wasted effort.
"You'll survive," she shrugged, "truth be told I doubt you even need this gift. All the same you can have it." It almost felt like she was going to praise herself. Like she was going to say ?see? Aren't I great?"
"Can I have my pass now?" I asked, pocketing the ribbon but otherwise not acknowledging what had just happened.
"Of course!" she exclaimed with delight, finally bringing the stilted exchange to a close.
Actually arriving late to class with a valid note was a rarity for me. The teacher looked skeptically at me and inspected the handwriting closely, as if expecting to find out that it was a clever forgery. I was allowed to come in and take a seat but, from time to time, I could see that the teacher checked the note on the desk as if there was still hope that it was a fake. I couldn't blame them. I didn't make their lives easy.
I kept my head down for the rest of the afternoon. When the bell rang I was the first to leave, ignoring any other distractions.
With classes finally over, it was finally time for the moment of truth. I got a couple of looks from the other 'go home club' students as I started walking towards the gym. Their smug little smirks told me that they would be enjoying themselves in their leisure time while I struggled to make it through the next few hours.
There was no fighting it, so I decided to try to make the best of it however I could.
The girls were just starting to get changed when I made it to the gym. Among the first bunch that came out, some bothered to acknowledge my presence. The melodic ?hey manager? I got between the occasional hushed whispering and giggles was like music to my ears. It wasn't quite a sign of respect to be taken so lightly (I was certain that some of those conversations pertained to teasing) but it was at least an acknowledgement that I was somewhat welcome there. I sighed, noticing just how conditional my reasoning was. I sat on the bleachers until I saw my charge emerge.
Oh, black suited her. It was sure to make her movements look more fluid.
"Good afternoon," I approached her cautiously. She tensed up as soon as she heard my voice. Expected but not encouraging. "I'm here to help you get into shape with your performance. I'm going to be here every day with you just to make sure you get the hang of it.."
No reply. Again, as expected. Still wasn't encouraging. Well, Kaenbyou would probably have something to say about that. She wasn't around, though. That meant that I had to deal with the reluctant girl all by myself.
"I'm not going to bother you," I told Reiuji, "I'm just going to watch you practice a little. We'll take it slow. I want you to focus on what you usually do, just forget that I'm here." I doubted that giving her advice would work. It'd require a little bit of trust to get her to do anything I asked. "I'm doing this as your manager," I told reminded her, "your performance is important for the club.."
To emphasize my commitment, I sat down on the sidelines, giving her ample room to do her warm up. I tried to wear a smile that showed the appropriate amount of concern without crossing into the creepy perv category. That was pretty hard to pull off when the other party probably has a low opinion of you. Still, I think I managed to do something convincing enough.
Still looking skittish, she nonetheless got on with doing her warmup routine. She'd furtively steal a glance in my direction every few moments. Not unexpected but it affected her performance. She wasn't concentrating enough on what she was doing and what muscles she was supposed to stretch. Extrapolating, I didn't think that she would change her behavior from one moment to the next. If I kept watching she was bound to keep being self-conscious.
 Keep at it
 Lay back and stop watching, just being near her is enough for today
During one of her not-too-subtle glances in my direction, I threw her a thumbs up. It nearly made he trip on backwards over herself. It would have been comical if it had happened to a normal girl. With her, it just seemed tragic. "You need to concentrate more on what you're doing," I told her, sounding all managerial. "If you think I'm bad then you have yet to realize how it'll be a million times worse with more people watching you."
Reiuji stopped her practice all of a sudden. She looked around the gym, as if looking for anyone who could help her out. Naturally that someone couldn't be me. Her best friend wasn't around. Neither was Alice. All of the first-years were off doing their own thing, gossiping between exercises and laughing like the young girls that they were. It probably dawned upon her that I was the only one around that was taking an interest in her. Probably not a comforting thought for her.
"Is anything the matter?" I asked, full well not expecting an answer. "Would you like me to get you some water?" Not so much as a shake of the head from her. I wasn't about to shirk from my duties as manager. "If you like you can take a five minute break. But we need to keep up a steady rhythm if you want to be in shape."
Looking just a little bit exasperated, she seemed to give up. Well, it seemed like she was exasperated. She kept trying to hide her face away from me. Which in the grand scheme of things, wasn't that big of a deal. After all, she was standing right in front of me wearing skin-tight spandex. I saw more with every graceful stretch of an arm or vigorous step than a man normally would see in a year. I wasn't about to point that out in some sort of strange pep talk. It would be sure to backfire. Any and all indecent thoughts that I had were being filtered into the recesses of my mind. I could digest what I saw later. In private.
"Perhaps you'll respond better if I oversee an actual routine," I had a stroke of genius. I had an excuse to be attentive and she had less of an excuse to not cooperate. "Let's do something basic, straight from the textbook.."
I went away to the gym teacher's office. Yuugi was taking a nap in a chair, mouth agape with a tabloid resting on her lap. Classy. I didn't bother to wake her up as I helped myself to the portable stereo. As predicted, she didn't even flinch as I rattled about getting everything ready. I came back to where Reiuji was with everything prepared.
"I'm sure you can follow along," I said as I prepped the music.
I was right about that. Though hesitant at first, Reiuji followed the routine. I could tell that she was still concerned about me. Her steps weren't as steady as they could be. But she powered on through it. So it was clear that she was capable of some focus. At least for the simple things. And at least in sparsely populated environments like the gym. That was... something. Something that I could try to use as a foundation and build up.
"You did great!" I applauded as the song came to an end. People around the gym were all staring at our general direction, probably wondering what the fuss was all about. This only served to make Reiuji retreat into her shell even more. If she were a turtle, she would have long since been withdrawn into her shell. She somehow tried to make herself look smaller by slumping her shoulders and leaning a little forward, closer to her center of mass.
That was the beginning of a new strategy.
 Just keep talking to her while she performs until she's used to it
 Reward her for doing well, using flattery if necessary
>>49499 If that was true then it was Okuu insisting on taking over, but I doubt the whole "Orin getting injured" detail was there for no good reason. Hence I wonder about the cause and nature of the injury.
>>49493 Don't ignore the power of rewards though. That is exactly what could make some flattery work. We're still flying blind since we don't know the nature of her anxiety, but a reward serves as positive reinforcement to ease her in to the idea of her being watched like this.
[x] Reward her for doing well, using flattery if necessary
Looking at this whole thing she did not seem to like flattery and too much attention to her person. Talking to her could be a good way to introduce her to someone else talking to her, instead of someone she knows, and slowly make her more comfortable with the whole situation. Flattery could work the same way though.
This is a good chance to Arc once again trying his best. Just this time he is all alone.
>>49563 WTF, it still sounds like everyone is ignoring the "reward" portion. Remember Utsuho's terrible impression of Arc here? This dick put her in a room where it was just the two of them. She does not like him at all, given her reaction just now.
Knowing all of that, you still think that continuing as is will produce the wanted results? Flattery is not offensive unless it's used disingenuously. Combining a desirable reward with the proper amount of flattery has the potential to speak volumes in this case. My goal is not just to acclimate her to being watched like this. That's too short-sighted to be any fun. I want Arc to befriend Utsuho and help her through her issues. The added benefit with Rin for helping her friend is just icing on the cake. That's the full scope we should be looking at reaching with these choices. Anything less is just half-assed.
Hey, sorry for not updating. Bunch of stuff happened and I'm also a lazy ass. That should stop and we should resume our regular schedule soon. Ideally tomorrow will be updates all day. We'll see.
With that out of the way, I think you guys should talk to each other much more. Don't just vote and forget the story until the next update. People sometimes raise valid points for other options or about what just happened. An example of this >>49414 and >>49413 the following update pretty much confirmed in-universe that they were right about that. It could be seen as a missed opportunity. The fact that there's no reader reaction to these types of things is a bit troubling. I'm not saying that you need to put things under a microscope every update but genuine back and forth prevents you from missing a lot of details. And yeah, you've missed quite a few of them. Some might be useful if you plan on romancing someone or achieving a certain goal. The fanservice with Reisen to the parts with Alice, Eirin and Yuyuko have seen you sort of just collectively shrug when you ought to instead be more engaged and active. Or even this update, you seem to be latched onto the 'flattery' bit and not really the 'positive reinforcement' part that precedes it. Some people who I talked to on IRC have since pointed it out in thread but it doesn't seem to have had much of an effect. This is why I ask for the involvement.
Bottom line is that you should check often and feel free to speak your mind. This story depends on you as much as on me as it does on me. I really enjoy writing this story, by the way. The setting is fun and the characters are entertaining to write. Hopefully some of you feel that way about participating too.
It wasn't that exciting to spend time with Reiuji. She kept to herself, quietly practicing as before, all the time looking extremely nervous. If she could simply take off and fly away, she probably would have done so.
"It must be difficult to keep all of these routines in your head," I said to my unresponsive friend. She carried on as best she could, ignoring me with every literal step of hers. I talked, regardless. "There'll be crowds and noises and distractions in the future. That doesn't worry you at all? I mean, it would worry me. Spectators are a nuisance. You have to be real confident in your abilities to let yourself get lost in that world. But you're our best, so you should be able to do it effortlessly." I wasn't sure where I was going with my babble.
She missed a step, nearly tripping and hurting herself.
"Are you alright?" I asked, naturally worried about her welfare. Even that didn't get a response. I didn't know whether she didn't want to give me the satisfaction or whether she was really that withdrawn but she simply paused, looked away and then resumed practice. "You don't have to push yourself that hard if you don't feel good," I told her, knowing my words would fall on deaf ears. "As your manager I'm supposed to look out for your welfare. If you go too far, too quickly, you'll just end up losing in the end. It's okay to take it slowly sometimes."
But she continued to practice, as if nothing had happened. She danced around with ribbons and weights, doing the fundamentals that would be part of any choreography. It was weirdly admirable, thinking about it. The girl didn't like me nor did she seem to be that comfortable in the clothes or at the gym. Yet she still did what was expected of her diligently and without complaint. As charming as I was, I knew I couldn't be a comforting presence for her. A normal girl would have told me off or even kicked me in the shin. Being kicked in sensitive areas was a constant worry for someone like me who pushed the envelop frequently.
I continued to talk, even though my heart wasn't really into it. Reiuji was technically proficient, better that a lot of the others I had watched practice. But, I didn't know how else to explain it, but she seemed to lack the passionate drive I had seen in a couple of olympic performances on the 'net. I needed to address that and help her channel her energies if she was to be successful. The main obstacle, however, was obvious. She could not stand my being around her.
We were interrupted just as she started some of her more complicated moves.
"Where the hell were you?!" Kaenbyou hissed in greeting. I tried to tell her that I was in the middle of observing Reiuji. She would have none of it. "I waited for you all lunch break," she complained standing uncomfortably close to me. She completely blocked my view of the practice. "Hey, are you even listening to me?"
"Yeah, I am," I pushed her gently away from me, "you're just blocking my view a little. I've got other things to worry about right now.."
"Things that you should have discussed with me first!" she huffed, puffed her cheeks and almost blew me down with a retaliatory shove.
"Hey, quit it," I shooed her away, trying to act like the responsible manager that I was pretending to be. "You'll make her mess up her concentration.."
"You're not getting out of this! You're going to pay attention to me! You've got a lot to answer for!" Kaenbyou was as loud as she was pissed off at me, her red hair a perfect match for the fiery bluster. I'd get burned up if I just ignored her.
"People are staring," I reminded her we were in a public area, "isn't this the type of thing best discussed in private?" I couldn't see anything past her flaring nostrils and narrowed eyes but I assumed people were staring by now. She really didn't respect the unspoken rules on personal space.
"I'll show you private!."
The grenade was about to go off.
 Scramble to Reiuji for cover and help.
 Kiss her - that'll shut her up!
What to do? I am sure if he were to hide behind her, Rin would give up and calm down. She can't be mad when she got her face in front of hers. But Reiuji might be losing it if he were to do something like that.
That kiss to shut her up option only helped with the help he got. Rin would just outright kill him if he were to try.
Ohhh shit, ditching Rin might not have been the right call. Is this one of those "don't kiss Sakuya" moments? I'm not really divided here, kiss Rin and possibly push Reiuji further away or hide behind Reiuji and ... accomplish what? Hard to say, I'm having trouble justifying the other option. Why not kiss Rin? Because hiding behind Reiuji would be much more fun.
I... I don't really like either of these option. They both feel like they'll backfire horribly. Kissing Rin might cause her to off and lower Okuu's view of us. Or Rin might like it and that might cause a rift between her and Okuu. Running to Okuu will probably just cause her to freak out.
>>49588 The roof options probably would have led to Arc meeting her. They did speak about it beforehand, the options didn't suggest it though. I wish we spoke about that option a bit more though. Oh well, it did open this golden opportunity. I'm convinced hiding behind Reiuji is the right call.
>>49591 I'd agree, but we haven't exactly been 100% mission-oriented. It'd help to have an order of priority as far as these girls go, but i doubt that's feasible. Going back and forth is hurting the narrative, I think. Alleviating that should be our first order of business.
Hmm...on one hand Rin probably won't take the sudden kiss in front of Utsuho and everyone in the gym well, and it'll might alienate Utsuho further. On the other hand, hiding behind (possibly androphobic) Utsuho is likely to cause her to freak out and run away, considering how our interactions with her until now were. This is looking like a 'damned if we do, damned if we don't' decision. Well...
[X] Scramble to Reiuji for cover and help.
I guess I'll hope she won't run if we don't touch her.
>So you basically chose something you considered a bad choice? If it wasn't related to a task, I'd really wouldn't care as much as I do.
I voted for the other option first but was unhappy about it even if the other one is more sound.
Her breath was warm on my lips and, for a brief moment, she continued to say words that were immediately muffled. Then she noticed the change in the situation. Her eyes closed by reflex. There was about a second or two of peace. Stunned silence. Perhaps a moment or two of understanding. If I wanted to be optimistic I could even say enjoyment as we lost ourselves to the new and sudden sensation. As sudden as it was, it was still an intimate exchange. It couldn't last, however. It was because of where we were and what had been happening.
The fleeting moment came to an end. Kaenbyou was red in the face. But her confusion couldn't be mistaken for reluctant approval. She had been red before the kiss. And I doubted that that anger had dissipated.
Well, her next couple of actions proved as much.
My whole world spun around and a feeling of weightlessness prevailed. I caught myself thinking that maybe that's what being an astronaut was like. Right before I crashed onto the floor, ass first. Then I was sure I was right. Reentry was a dangerous affair. As was having foreign bodies crash into you. My mind couldn't believe what my eyes say. Swooping down through the air like a bird of prey, Kaenbyou crashed down on my supine form.
"You damn idiot!" she bellowed, her small hands slapping away at my chest in a series of open-fisted punches. That didn't hurt so much as it made a whole lot of noise. What hurt was when her nails occasionally scratched against my sides or arms during her flailing. She may have had even drawn blood. "I'm trying to talk to you and all you're doing is messing around!" was one of her more lucid and non-profanity laden exclamations.
She had free rein over me, pinning me down by sitting on my torso. She bobbed up and down, dishing out divine retribution with no regard of how it must have looked to any and all onlookers.
In for a penny, out for a pound. Or so I figured.
"You know, you're beautiful when you're angry," I said with what must have been the stupidest of smiles. My baiting saw her shift into overdrive, drooping closer to me so that she could hit me faster. "You know, that kind of tickles," I said with a laugh.
"I oughta-!" Kaenbyou did not look like she was about to settle down. So, when she came in a little closer to really deal out more punishment, I made my move. There was a reason I hadn't been shielding myself with my arms. I wrapped them around her back, pulling her down vigorously towards the ground - and me. "Hey, what the hell are you doing!?" she began to flail around, finding that her movements were constricted. I pressed her tightly against me, preventing her from lashing out.
"Settle down," I said cooly with a whisper, "you're making a scene needlessly. I'm sorry for not talking to you earlier but I was busy. We can discuss whatever you want later. It's important that I pay attention to what I'm doing now.."
"You're too close to me..."she complained, looking but not sounding as angry as before.
"You started it," I reminded her, then adding with a cheeky smile, "afraid I'm going to kiss you again?"
"I'll bite you if you do," she threatened.
"Well, maybe later then," I turned her words against her. "I'm going to let go now, I trust that you've settled down.."
"..."she said nothing. I let go. She stayed still for a moment, staring into my eyes.
"You're surprisingly heavy, you know," I said. It wasn't that having a girl press down on me wasn't nice but it was more than time we got back to normal. "Still, this is kind of nice, we should do this again. This time without the hitting," I told her.
"You don't have to stop on our account," a voice said with a laugh, "things are just getting good.."
Rin bolted up and got off at an almost impossible speed.
"Sorry for making a scene," I apologized, "it wasn't my intention to disrupt practice.."
"No need to apologize. This is racier than a soap!" Yuugi laughed again.
"We'll get back to practice now," I said, standing up. As I had suspected the whole gymnasium was staring at us. Giggling girls. Just what was missing in my life.
"Why don't you call it a day?" Yuugi suggested with a knowing smile. By the gods, she was almost as bad as Big Sis. "We only have a little time left until it's time to go home and it looks like you still have a lot of unfinished business," she winked, looking at me and then pointing her chin at Kaenbyou.
 Call it a day and deal with the distraction
 Practice must go on
That ended better than I expected, too bad the practice day is likely shot to hell. There's no point in trying to continue as getting Okuu back into the right state of mind after this outburst is going to use up what little time is left.
What an update. Rin is just too cute when she is angry and flustered. Arc really knows how to handle her. Makes me wonder how real sex with Rin is like and how Arc would tease her. But that is another story for another time.
It shows that he has a plan. Let's go along with it.
I looked around me. Kaenbyou still looked all hot and bothered but tried to pretend she was over it by staring off at the opposite end of the gym. Yuugi was smirking, her good nature and love of liveliness annoyingly shining through. Groups of girls in leotards talking among themselves, looking over in our direction. Reiuji had withdrawn even more, walking over to the corner like it made her less noticeable. And there was also a lone blonde by the large double doors. One who had no doubt seen everything and would not be as amused as the teacher was. I would have to deal with her in the morning on our walk to school.
"I think it's probably best that we call it a day," I said to no one in particular. "Enough practice for one day.."
Stretching my arms a little (parts of me were a little sore from my rough handling), I gave any spectators a polite smile. I left the gym calmly, finding that my childhood friend had left by the double doors already.
"Don't look so worried, Rin," I heard Yuugi call out, "I'm not going to mention this in homeroom tomorrow. Go and have fun now!."
I waited by the benches at the track, watching some of the sports teams begin to pack it up. They were so hard at work for reasons I couldn't quite understand. Most of them were just in those clubs because they thought they should be. The few talented individuals were a minority. It couldn't possibly be fun for them to have to do the same exercises day in and day out with so little reward.
"You waited for me this time," Kaenbyou remarked as she sat down next to me. She sounded more sedate but I had no idea how she was feeling.
"I do what I can, when I can," I told her, "you shouldn't be so quick to anger. You lose track of your priorities that way.."
"You've been avoiding me, after I told you how we should deal with Okuu.."
"I already told you, I'm not going to encourage her to drop out." I looked on over at her. She was as serious as she had been the last time. "I think she can do it if she wants to. I'll help her achieve that in my own way.."
"She's my friend and I know her better than anyone else here. I'm just trying to save her from being put through hell."
"....it's her decision in the end."
"Okuu only really started because I got hurt," Kaenbyou said. The obvious truth had finally come out. "I don't know why she's so stubborn about it but it's not good for her to strain herself so much.."
"You'd help her out if she was in a pinch, wouldn't you?" I asked, knowing that it was a stupid question. Friends, close friends like them, they would do anything to help the other.
"Of course!" she exclaimed, not surprisingly.
"Then it's obvious why she's doing all of this. It's for your sake. You said that you liked the sport when we first met, you sounded like you were really into it. She's simply honoring your effort by doing what you can't.."
"Shut up..."she said quietly, "what do you know about our friendship anyhow..."
"I think you just need to accept what she's trying to do. There's probably a lot to you two that I don't understand but I can understand how crazy it can be with people that are really close to you." My own best friend was extremely unconventional. I wouldn't trade her for the world but it was just the way things were. I couldn't change her and I didn't think she could change me.
"It's not that simple. She's just going to get hurt doing something stupid."
"Yeah, but it's her choice. It doesn't matter what you think. I doubt she feels like she's being pressured. If you guys are as close as I think she's not doing it out of obligation but because she wants to. Friends can be a pain in the neck, I'd know. But at the end of the day you just have to deal with it.."
"Screw you," she snapped, "you can't try to pretend to be all wise with the crap you were pulling just a few minutes ago."
"I'm just telling you what I know. All of that other stuff is separate.."
"I'm going to complain about sexual harassment.."
"You're free to do so," I said cooly. "I'm willing to bet though that you wouldn't really mean it if you did though."
"...that right there is more harassment," she said with a sigh. "What now? You're just going to keep at it with Okuu?"
"A lot is riding on this," I told her. It was a commitment to myself more than to Big Sis at that point.
 "It'd be nice if you helped me see her outside of school."
 "If you were supporting me during practice this would be easier."
[?] "If you were supporting me during practice this would be easier."
Both options have their merits but I think more than anything else, Okuu needs Rin's support and approval more than Arc's. I mean, a womanizer is one thing, and given time, I'm sure Arc can help her succeed, but Rin can do it so much better and her support would mean a lot more to Okuu than Arc's.
[x] "It'd be nice if you helped me see her outside of school.."
I feel that this would have more benefit in the long run as it'd help Okuu deal with new people and get her to warm up to Arc. The other choice while nice would only cover the practice related things while not addressing her shyness issues.
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"I have a busy schedule, you know," Kaenbyou said, sounding reluctant. She was quick to anger but it was hard to see what she was feeling other times. When I met her she had a cheery, even whimsical air about her but as I grew closer to her I could see that she was much more nuanced than that. Well, that was a stupid observation to make. All people tended to be nuanced. Sometimes even complicated. That's what made life interesting.
"I thought you wanted to help her, what's all this all of a sudden?" I found her change in attitude a bit perplexing. "You don't have to do much. She trusts you and will probably be more at ease if you're there. All you have to do is be there with me. We can deal with any issues as they come along.."
I felt like she was holding back a little. "I'm not sure I can," she said, the energy gone from her voice. "This is something that you're probably better off doing alone.."
"Come on, it's something else, isn't it?" I pressed her a little. It may have been a bit rude but I was close to making progress. "You guys are friends, I know there can't be bad blood between you. Am I the problem?"
"It's just that," her voice dropped again, "if I'm honest, I don't feel like watching practice. I have mixed feelings about it. I know it's selfish but it's really hard for me to just be there.."
"Oh," I realized what she meant. Her past weighed her down. If she had been so into the sport like any young aspiring athlete, the accident must have had a huge impact on her. Kaenbyou was unable to do anything too strenuous with her ankle. It couldn't be easy for her to watch someone else do what she loved. I found myself grabbing her hand.
"What are you doing?" she asked, more curious than upset. She didn't try to shake me off even though I could feel that her fingers were tensed up.
"I'm sorry for being insensitive," I looked her straight into the eye as she spoke. "It must hurt to watch your best friend try her best. I know it's something you were passionate for and it's uncertain when you'll be able to do it again." Her gaze wandered while we spoke, staring off into the ground. "I'd be grateful if you could help but I don't want to force you either. Just do what you can, okay?" I concluded, squeezing her hand once before letting go.
"...I'll try," she mumbled, still staring downwards. "Hey," Kaenbyou said after a pause, "I'm sorry for yelling at you. And for hitting you. And scratching you.."
"Fuggedabboutit," I said and slumped down into the bench, letting my legs wander. "I should probably apologize for a few things myself.."
"Aren't you going to apologize?" she asked.
"I said should, not will," I said with a chuckle.
"You're such an ass," she groaned.
"No use apologizing for something I'm sure you enjoyed as well," I timed that provocation well, standing up before she had any time to punch me. To my surprise she did not retaliate, instead simply giving me the evil eye. Scary stuff.
"I'm going to go back in there and talk to Okuu," she said, sounding abit livelier and determined. Kaenbyou wasn't going to allow herself to get stuck in a cycle of self-pity. Admirable. It made me smile. "Wipe that stupid smirk off your face. I'll see you tomorrow.."
"Right, okay sunshine, see you tomorrow.."
I watched her return to the gym. It was the end of the day, the sun was low on the horizon and long shadows from the school buildings covered the track. Most of the clubs were finishing their tidying up and some members were walking home already. That was my cue to leave.
I wasn't in the mood to play around town. I had had a full day and all I wanted to do was wind down and relax. There was still one outstanding item in play for the day and I wasn't sure if it was worth the hassle of dealing with right away.
 See if Alice's offer for dinner is still valid
 Forget about her for a while
DinnerWithAliceDinnerWithAliceDinnerWithAliceDinnerWithAliceDinnerWithAliceDinnerWithAliceDinnerWithAlice Routing for Harem End. It's an old style VN. There's always a harem ending for high school AU's.
Folks, have you even considered Alice's feelings right now" she probably saw Arc kiss Rin right there and she is most definitely upset with him. The options are to go see Alice anyway or give her some space to cool down.
So I ask you all, how is Arc going to smooth that over? Such an act is bound to inspire strong emotions in Alice. Jealousy, anger, and sadness are all plausible on her side. In any case of these, it is usually better to let it sit and blow over before resolving it. I'm sure you all know how futile it is to argue against raw emotion with pure logic. The person isn't going to see it until those emotions die down a bit.
Thus we find ourselves at a crossroads. I choose to let Alice cool down for a bit before reengaging her. Arc will make it up to her, just not right now. Who's with me?
>>49621 changing to
[x] Forget about her for a while
>>49623 has a too good point to just ignore. Not everything can be fixed as soon as possible. Sometimes it needs more time to be able to tackle a problem. I am not sure what Alice might be feeling right now but it could make it worse if he were to just waltz in and demand dinner like nothing happened. She was really jealous the last time but then he smoothed it over with asking if she were to cook him dinner one day. Now might not be the best time for that.
>>49625 What this guy has said.
Whether there are strong emotions or not, anger jealously etc. it's better to talk and resolve it now then it is to let it fester and boil over. The latter can break friendships, the former can be traversed.
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The lights were on next door. I knocked on the door. I wasn't sure if Alice would be upset. That's why I ran all of the scenarios in my head and tried to think of what I would say and do in each. Maybe showing up empty-handed and with an idiotic smile on my face was too brazen. A lot of the scenarios ended with me getting slapped and called a philanderer. I could practically feel the sting on my cheeks already. Not exactly a happy ending.
"Maybe I should compliment her on her clothes or something..."I mused aloud.
"Always the thoughtful one, aren't you?" The door had been opened while I was lost in my thoughts.
"Oh," I looked up, "Ms.-"
"Not a word more," she said, smiling, "titles like that make me feel old. I'll have none of it.."
"How about Auntie?" I perked up, realizing who it was. "My actual auntie is only a few years older than me and you certainly look as young as her.."
"Acceptable - for now," she giggled, with all the trappings of youth. Absolutely divine. Like a refreshing breeze on a spring day, carrying the smell of roses and happiness. "What can I do for you today, Arc?"
"I'm here to see Alice," I said, over the moon with happiness. "I didn't know you were here, if I had known I wouldn't have shown up looking this. I'm a mess.."
"You're a student," she said, "it's fine for you to look like that. You don't have to try to impress me. Oh, right, silly me, I shouldn't just have you stand at the door. Do come on in." She beckoned me in with an angelic smile. I was sure that I looked stupid smiling back but I just couldn't help it. Alice hadn't told me that her mom was back. I was going to hold that against her. "Alice, honey," she called out, "we've got a guest tonight. Make sure to fix enough for him too.."
"Oh, I hope I'm not imposing," I said, "I could go back home to eat."
"Nonsense!" she chided me with a playful look, "you're here and it's no bother at all to have you over for dinner. You're a growing boy and you need to eat. Your guardian works so hard that she probably doesn't have the time to cook for you.."
"I'm mighty grateful," I told her. "Thank you for the hospitality.."
"Sit down, relax," she pointed to the couch, "dinner will be ready soon. You look tired, dear, would you like me to give you a shoulder rub?"
I wasn't sure what to say to that. My mind froze up. I was sitting on the couch. She'd come from behind, in that tight little sweater of hers and droop over me as she massaged my... stiff areas. But Alice was there. She'd stop it from getting out of hand. What a tedious obstacle.
...what was I thinking?
"No thank you," I answered her with a nervous laugh, "my shoulders are fine. I'll just sit here and watch TV until dinner is ready.."
"Alright, suit yourself, I'll be helping Alice out in the kitchen.."
I sat there, trying to meditate like the Buddha, clearing my mind of any superfluous thoughts. I wasn't acting like myself and I couldn't help it. In the end all I could manage to do was pass the time until the call came for me to come to the table. Alice sat opposite me. Hers was a stoic and cool look, one that clearly ignored my presence at the table. Her mother, by contrast, sat to my right at the head of the table, smiling sweetly like nothing was amiss.
"Help yourself," she said, "there's plenty of food and you're a growing boy.."
"Ah, it's curry, one of my favorites," I said cheerfully, digging in with gusto.
"Alice cooked it, you know," she pointed out the obvious fact. It was like she was oblivious to the mood between us. "Isn't it nice to eat all together like this? We should have you over more often. It's the neighborly thing to do."
"Thank you for the invitation but I wouldn't want to abuse your goodwill. I,..? almost said that Alice had promised to cook for me when I wanted, but thought better of it, "...well, this is nice.."
"My daughter is a bit stubborn and has a hard time showing how happy she is sometimes, so you'll have to excuse her.."
?!" Alice angrily looked at her mother. "Mom, please don't get involved in this.."
"Involved in what? I 'm just making an observation, honey," she said blithely." You guys have always been so hard on each other. Since you were kids. If there's something going on between you and Arc I think you should just forget about it and kiss and make up.."
"Ah, forget this!" Alice got up in a huff from the table, storming up the stairs.
"Oh dear.... she didn't even finish her plate," she turned to me with a smile, "why don't you go talk to her? I'm sure she wants to speak to you.."
"I don't think she does, actually," I said. I couldn't handle her like I had handled Kaenbyou. They were just too different.
"You don't understand women at all, don't you?" she giggled, "Ah youthful inexperience... I have some fond memories of that myself."
"Things are complicated," I told her, "if I tried to lie to her or explain my actions it'd just insult her intelligence. Though I'm not sure why she's so upset.."
"Mm, you'll figure it out eventually," she nudged me on after having a spoonful of curry. "Don't worry about the food, I can reheat for you two later.."
"I'm... not sure..."I said absentmindedly. "It might be best to let her cool down a little.."
"Children do throw tantrums at times," she conceded, but didn't really seem to be paying much attention to me. "They tend to tire themselves out before too long and then forget that anything was wrong.."
 Go upstairs
 Finish the meal first and talk later
Must resist milf Shinki. Even if it is a very hard thing to do considering her teasing and body language. She knows what is up and pretty much told him what is the best thing to do. Best to not keep her waiting.
>>49634 This is the same thing as with Sanae. Let's not go there. Shinki is just teasing him and already losing interest in him. She just wants him to make up with Alice because of her being her mother.
So better not hurt Alice more and just go after her.
We already ate some dinner, I think that counts as experiencing her cooking. I don't think there's any point in waiting downstairs. Not to mention, less time to be tempted into possibly doing something we'd regret later.
"I'm going to give her some time to calm down," I grumbled between mouthfuls of curry. I wasn't sure if it prudence on my behalf or old-fashioned cowardice. Either way the result was that I had my meal. Which was rather good, unsurprisingly. Not too hot and not too sweet. Just how I liked it. "I'm sorry for ruining dinner," I apologized to Alice's mom. "I'm not sure what to say to her, honestly," I let out a small and pathetic laugh, "this is giving me time to think.."
"You take your time now," she said warmly, "you're practically family. And no family is perfect. You have a good heart and both my daughter and I appreciate that.."
"Y-you do?" I was feeling embarrased and couldn't really explain why.
"Yes, we're blessed to have you as a neighbor. And I'm especially thankful for your patience in dealing with Alice. You mean a lot to her, whether you know it or not." Adding with a enigmatic smile, she said, "and of course you mean a lot of me as well.."
"You're too kind," I felt that my cheeks were reddening up, "I'm not that good with Alice. It seems that every other day I'm upsetting her somehow.."
"That's what boys and girls do," she laughed, "it's only normal that things aren't that perfect. But you trust each other, right?"
"...I guess." I thought about how Alice diligently woke me up nearly every day. And how she walked with me to school. She was a positive influence in my life, nagging aside.
"Well then..."she finished her curry and looked straight into my eyes. She radiated an intoxicating essence, it shut down my brain and made me lose my train of thought constantly. In short, it made me feel like a child. "I think things will work out just fine for the both of you," she stated, her finger hovering towards my face.
"...what's the matter?" I somehow managed to ask. She pressed her finger against the corner of my mouth for a moment and then withdrew it.
"Just had a little something on your face," she winked just before placing the very same finger onto her own mouth, licking it clean. "There, all better now!."
"T-thank you," I said, more than just a little bit dumbfounded.
"I'll wash up now," she said, "so go on ahead and do as you please.."
I stayed at the table for a few more minutes. I had to get all sorts of inappropriate images and ideas out of my head before I could get up. Humming came from the kitchen along with the sound of running water. Another potentially attractive scenario to think about. It wasn't what I needed. I had to turn my mind to steel.
I climbed the stairs deliberately. The wood groaned with every footstep. Alice could probably hear me coming.
"Alice? Could we talk?" I asked after knocking on her door.
There was no reply.
I wasn't about to get discouraged so easily. "Your curry was really good," I said, "you got the flavor just how I like it. I don't know if that was on purpose or not, but it was excellent all the same." I knocked again, "Alice? I know you're in there. You should say something. Otherwise I'm just going to keep droning on about the food."
That was easy. Good food was a subject near and dear to mens' hearts everywhere. I could go on and on about the texture, taste, temperature and everything about the dish. And when that was exhausted, I could turn the monologue into a comparison with other similar dishes I had eaten in the past. "...those baby carrots are really good when used properly. Don't you think so too?"
Well, I wasn't going to get discouraged easily but before I knew it I had been talking to myself outside of her bedroom for a half hour. Showed how easily I got lost into food talk. Those potatoes I had that one time were totally worth discussing, though. Still, it could wait for another time.
 Go home, take it easy, talk to her in the morning
 Stick around all night if necessary to talk to her
I sat outside of her door. For the longest time I did nothing, occasionally talking to the door like it was Alice herself. It had been a long while since we had had a proper talk. I ended up talking about school, class and the latest in the news. Oh and for a while I brought back the topic of food. I guess I was a broken record when it came to good eating. Cooking for myself didn't have the same effect as eating Alice's food. It was a fundamentally different experience. Like those packed lunches I had that other time. That was nice. That was a break from cafeteria bred and the occasional plate of noodles.
"I wouldn't mind it if you made me a packed lunch once in a while either," I told the door. "It'd probably help me get through the day. I always get hungry in the afternoon. The school lunches aren't that filling.."
Naturally the door didn't bother to reply. The dark polished wood was as enigmatic as it was unresponsive. Beyond it lay a completely unknown world with wondrous and otherworldly inhabitants. There would be at least two dolls. They would be doing what they did best - looking incredibly cute. Of course Shanghai would be the cuter one, with that perfect little bow of hers on her head. Sorry other dolls, it's not your fault you weren't made as cute as she was. Anyhow, back to the exotic world. A lot of soft and comfortable surfaces. That bed of hers looked extremely comfortable. One could simply lay down and close their eyes and be transported to a magical realm of fantasy.
...I was losing it.
Talking to the door and staring at nothing for so long had made my thoughts wander in a curious direction. Grabbing a few cushions from downstairs provided a softer surface to sit on. As well as protect myself from any sneak attacks. Inane concerns like that occupied my time. Somewhere along the line, I seemed ot have fallen asleep. It was dark around me before I realized it. There was a blanket on top of me. I messed up. I yawned. Oh well, I gave it my best try. I closed my eyes again.
My neck was killing me. Sleeping up against the hallway wall wasn't exactly comfortable. I got up, seeing that sunlight was coming in from a small window at the end of the corridor. It was probably too early to go to school. After washing my face in the bathroom I returned to that monolith of a door. I decided to knock.
There was no reply.
I knocked again. Turned out it was ajar. I pushed it carefully, peeking into the room.
She wasn't there. The curtains were open and the bed was made. Alice had already left. I didn't bother going back home, instead heading off directly to school.
I was the second to arrive to class. Alice wasn't there. Where the hell was she?
"By the gods," my thoughts were interrupted by an annoying distraction, "at least have the decency to skip morning classes if you're going to be out all night. You look like crap.."
"Good morning to you too," I greeted Suika. "I'm not really in the mood for your abuse right now. Could you kindly jump out of the window instead of talking to me?"
"And here I thought we were friends," she slapped me on the back, with all the cheer of an automaton. All she wanted was to piss me off. "You should have called me if you were going to paint the town red.."
"Nothing like that happened, Have you seen Alice?"
"So you are going steady," she mocked me, "and to think that you had given up on ever being a bride.."
"Just answer the question, ' I was less than amused. "Have you seen her or not?"
"No, should I have?"
"It's fine," I sighed.
"Got into another fight, I suppose," she was annoyingly observant when she wanted to. "Did you try holding a music player over your head and playing power ballads outside of her window yet?"
"...no. It's not like that.."
"It never is with you," Suika slapped my back again, clearly enjoying annoying me, "chin up, you'll get through this.."
Yeah, I'd get through it alright... I'd skip classes. Only needed to be around in the afternoon anyhow.
 Go back home and check in with other Auntie
 Go into town
Honestly I don't see the harm in doing this as I think going into town may be a nice distraction but we'll just end up deep in something else. Though the way Arc shot his mouth off was pretty distressing considering that we were aiming to mend things.
>Of course Shanghai would be the cuter one
[x] Go into town
At least Alice heard everything and went so far as to cover him up. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't worrying about her. Searching in town for her might prove useful, she could be in the park or some other place trying to think.
Remember: You can only get distracted if you allow it. That means not wandering off with some other girls.
>>49658 odds are it'd backfire. Have you not played Tsukihime?
>>49657 Have you forgotten the general decision making of anon? This mess with Alice was caused in part due to people thinking kissing Orin would be funny as well as effective. Not so funny or effective now is it?
With the way our luck's been, either choice could go good or bad.
>>49659 I don't think that kissing Rin was bad at all. It is youth and Alice is pretty jealous when Arc gets close to a girl. Something like that was bound to happen sooner or later until either she accepts that or Arc makes it clear that he wants *more* of her cooking.
>>49658 >Now that's bullshit right there.
This guy knows what's up.
Just make sure to give it to the right girl
>>49661 I'm under the impression things with Alice were rather strained just due to his recent actions (that increase his womanizer status) and the whole Kiss thing might have been the straw that broke the camel's back.
>>49661 Agreed, kissing Rin wasn't a terrible choice. Choosing Suika with Yuyuko? Now that was a bad choice, think of how simple it'd be to make it up to Alice. But what's done is done though and we need to focus on the now.
Now this also brings up a good point, what would Alice appreciate in a gift? I'd suggest a teddy bear, but since she makes her own dolls, I don't think that would work. The ribbon miight work, but since we asked for help with Suika, I suggest we save it for Suika to enact her route. It'd need to be suitably girly and show a lot of thought.
And finally, I am actually a fan of Hourai. She always gets upstaged by her sister and can never truly shine.
[x] Go into town
The other option is not immediately clear, which other Auntie is it? Shinki or Arc's guardian? More Shinki is never a bad thing, but I do think we'll find Alice in town somewhere. Or, at least it'll trigger a random encounter.
>>49664 Well, I'm guessing something from their childhood or something only they've shared. It would be far more genuine and heartwarming to Alice.
I have a feeling that Yuyuko was going to give us the Ribbon no matter which girl we choose. If we use it to make up/help another girl, we loose a chance to make mends with Suika. Sad that friends grow apart as we change
Writing 'soon', sometime within the next hour probably.
Using this post to state a few things regarding scheduling because someone on IRC brought it up. This story is meant to have short and fast updates and I aim to update in the afternoons (EST) when most of you are likely to be home. Over the weekend I may update a little earlier. Additionally, I usually wait at least three or so hours before starting to write during this time period, unless a majority of votes are clearly in. So if you're checking often and voting that means generally even faster updates. I promise if I'm busy one of these days and it's unlikely that I'll update for a long stretch of time (a day or longer) I'll make a status post stating as much. If you want to know how an update is coming along or something, you can always bug me on IRC as well, I don't mind so long as it's not every five minutes or something.
>>49665 It doesn't really matter now but Yuyuko had different things for the different girls. The ribbon has no more significance other than being something that Yuyuko thinks Suika will like.
I got some looks being the only student walking against the tide. No one said anything, naturally, it was none of their business. I was the center of attention more often than not and that worried me. Keeping a low profile allowed me to get away with some of my more outrageous habits, like skipping class or going out for a drink with Suika.
Well, I didn't want to worry about that. I made it back home quickly enough. Auntie had left for work by the time I got in. I'd probably have to rustle up a good explanation for her. She gave me plenty of latitude and I respected her approach. I didn't want her to feel like I was flaunting my independence and freedom. We had a nice and stable tacit agreement between us.
I decided to go next door again. I knocked. I heard shuffling footsteps coming from the inside. "Just a minute!" she called out.
"Good morning," I greeted her when she opened the door. It was an unexpected feast for the eyes. She wore a full set of pajamas, the kind that had a buttoned blouse and long trousers. Her d?colletage was still amply on display as the 'v' cut of the top exposed plenty of flesh. I hadn't taken her for the type to wear something so plain and without lacey bits. Still, it was intimate and new to me and therefore good.
"Oh it's you Arc, good morning," she smiled when she saw me, "shouldn't you be at school?"
"I'm sorry to bother you but Alice wasn't around when I got up and she wasn't at school either."
"So you're worried about her?" she nodded, not at all looking concerned about learning that her daughter was skipping school. "That's sweet of you. I knew I was right when I told your aunt yesterday about you staying over.."
"Oh... you told her?" I guess that solved one of my problems. "Thank you for that.."
"No problem. It was about time we caught up over some coffee too. She's a marvelous woman. Such a hard worker."
Yeah, Auntie was pretty great.
"Did you see her leave this morning?" I asked.
"No, I didn't. I got up in the middle of the night and saw you still sitting in the middle of the hallway. I'm sorry about that. All I could do was put a blanket on you. I figured you wouldn't want to budge from the spot.."
"Thank you for that," I felt myself blush a little. She had taken care of me even though she was under no obligation to. Even though I had upset her daughter. "Do you have any idea where Alice might have gone?"
"She'll be back soon, wherever she is. I can feel it as her mother. Would you like to come in?"
"Aren't you going to tell me to go to school?" I asked, a little sheepishly.
"You can't be so heavy-handed with young people," she laughed, "your heat is in the right place so who am I to tell you to do anything else?"
"Thank you but I think I'm going to go home. I need to clean myself up a little, I must look terrible."
"Alright then dear, do as you like. I'm going to go out in a little while so the house will be empty until Alice gets back." She stated the last bit with almost prenatural confidence. If there was anyone who knew Alice better than herself, it was her mother. It made me feel a little jealous, actually.
I thanked her for everything again and went home. There I drew a bath and relaxed a while. Inevitably my thoughts turned to Alice. I had been thinking about her all evening and all morning. It would be the first time she was absent from school since we were kids. She had an otherwise impeccable record. What was it about her that made my life so difficult? I wasn't thinking about the nagging necessarily. But something like what happened made me focus all of my attention on her. It was different than with Suika; With her, I could tell her to just deal with it and she would! I didn't understand what went on in Alice's mind. Or maybe I didn't want to.
All that thinking was spoiling my mood. I dried off and went to my room. My thoughts were still about her. Was I taking her for granted? She was my friend and she woke me up almost every morning. She walked with me to school. She cooked for me at times. All of that made it seem like I was an asshole who only took and never gave back. An incapable one who would be lost without her. Why did she stick around? She had other friends. Better friends. Ones who didn't try her patience constantly.
 Maybe I needed to tell her how much I needed her
 Maybe I needed to do something nice so she felt appreciated
Normally I don't like to step in and talk about choices but I feel this is worth mentioning: You have been obsessive about Alice since Rin so this is a culmination of those choices. You haven't backed off or given her any space. What does that say about your intentions? Or more importantly, Arc's? I think it's safe to say that it's about more than just getting her to stop being upset. This isn't a route lock (or chance to miss one) since this story doesn't operate that way but it is about either starting to come to grips as to why you've been doing all this (needing her) or more denial/just trying to fix something temporarily. There's still a lot of road up ahead and nothing is certain but I think that this is a good moment for self-reflection of past reasoning and future desired action.
>>49675 I actually have no clear goal in ToY. I am not even sure if there is a clear goal? But one thing that I would like to see is Tenshi getting helped, get closer to Rin and visit Shinki from time to time. Okay those were more than one but oh well.
>>49677 Yeah, I think it'd would really help to set some goals/ have expectations. We've been moving from vote to vote without any clear motivation. Those are excellent goals, and I want to add several. The first includes resolving Reiuji's case, the second involves finding that moon bunny, and the last one would be for getting closer to Satori. In the future, I'll weigh the choices against each goal, hopefully they don't come into direct conflict with each other.
For right now, Alice is at the forefront. Follow. Through.
That seems like a majority of the votes. Time to write. What better way to spend a Friday evening than writing magical girl fanfiction?
>>49679 Sleep is for the uninspired! In all seriousness though, the story is written in such a way that none of the choices tend to be immediately decisive. That way you can miss one or two without the story suddenly going off in a different direction.
>>49677 I thought the clear goal was becoming an unstoppable team of badasses along with Suika, eventually culminating in saving the president.
I lay down in bed, hair still wet from the bath. Auntie would not approve. But she wasn't around to say anything.
TCK. TCK. THWOMP!
Two soft noises followed by a hard impact on my window. Hail? No, that didn't make any sense. I got up just as the noise repeated itself. Drawing back the curtains, the cause was immediately obvious. I opened up the window at once.
"Alice?" I asked the hand moving the stick that was poking my window from just beyond the window frame. It stopped moving. "That's you, isn't it?" I asked. In response the stick retracted and the hand disappeared. "I really want to talk to you if you're there.."
"I don't want to talk to you," came a reply. It was an artificially high in pitch. A little bit squeaky too. I was about to say something else when the 'speaker' showed herself. She sat on the windowsill, looking irresistably cute. Alice knew my weak spots. Dammit.
"Oh- it's you Shanghai," I played along, trying not to laugh. "Have I done anything to wrong you?"
"You made my Alice skip classes, which is unforgivable.? 'Shanghai' said, moving her cute little arms via the magic of puppetry. The trick was very obvious, I could clearly see the hand that was holding her in place. "And you're a huge jerk anyhow, you don't deserve to talk to me."
"Don't break my heart," I told her, "you're the cutest. I couldn't live if you didn't like me.."
"Liar!" she squeaked a bit shrilly," I bet you say that to all the dolls.."
"I have only eyes for you, my dear," I said without thinking. What a strange farce I was mixed up in.
"Anyhow!" she jumped up a little. 'standing' on the edge of the windowsill. I caught myself thinking that she should be careful, that she might fall. I was an idiot, clearly. "Alice saw the note her mother left her downstairs and knew you would be in. She thought that you would be too busy tending to your own affairs at school to skip class. That is why she didn't go to school.."
"I only need to be there in the afternoons," I told her, aware of why she was bringing it up. "I didn't want to be in class if Alice was all alone somewhere in the city. She's not like me, she's a model student. I feel guilty since all of this is my fault.."
"Yes! It is your fault!? 'Shanghai' pointed a hand at me in a 'J'accuse!' sort of condemnation. "You don't deserve to have a good friend like Alice!."
"You're right Shanghai, I don't," I said. "I was thinking about it. I'm a jerk, inconsiderate and give her nothing but trouble. And I'd be lost without her. I reached the conclusion that I need Alice in my life, otherwise I'm liable to fall apart.."
"You're pathetic..."the doll said softly.
"I know, but it's all true. I want you to tell Alice that I need her in my life. I've been taking all she does for me for granted. There's so much more I want to say to her but that's been driving me crazy." I smiled at the doll. Yeah, smiled. It was hard not to when the situation was so plainly absurd. "I'm a putz. But with Alice, she makes me act a little better. She's nice to me. She cooks. She makes me smile. She makes me want to tease her. But we're friends, right? That's how I've been looking at it. I don't know if it's fair to go on without telling her that I need her in my life.."
"You really are pathetic," the doll disappeared from the windowsill. Alice appeared in her stead, looking distant and withdrawn. "You don't need me," she said, "you always do what you want when you want to. And that's alright, but you can't expect me to always be there if you're off doing your own thing."
"I'm sorry Alice," I said, "I know there's nothing else I can say to that. You're right. I just do what I want and then expect you to remain a constant. I'm a read bastard. But I meant what I said. I need you there. I need you in my life.."
"I don't want mama involved," she stated quietly, "whatever problems we have they're between us.."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to get her involved," I parroted my own words, like it was the only thing I was capable of saying.
"Alright, then no more talking to her about us."
"Very well," I agreed. "What happens now?"
"Nothing," she sighed, "I don't think anything else happens.."
I wasn't sure how to deal with her. She wasn't angry - she was beaten down and tired. Looking closely, it didn't seem like she got a wink of sleep all night. There were bags under her eyes and a general sluggishness to her movements. It marred her fair complexion. She had those beautifully deep eyes and to see them so devoid of light was a crime against nature. Same thing with that mouth of hers - cute when pouting but a frown was a waste.
"Can I come over?" I asked, feeling awkward all of a sudden.
"There's something I want to do with you that can't be done with the gap between us," I answered by not answering.
"..."she looked troubled. Alice didn't know what I meant. "...alright," she agreed, "talking from the window is a bit awkward.."
 Give her a hug
 Fix her something to eat as repayment
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1000x1431 , our little secret.jpg) [iqdb]
I went over to her place. The front door was unlocked, like she had forseen my coming over. Though there was no real reason for it, I rushed up the stairs and straight into her room. I was like a gust of wind blowing her door open. She stood there in the middle of the room, doll in her arms, staring vacantly. The doll's carefree smile was a sharp contrast to her creator's frown.
I didn't have any words for her. I didn't know if she would want any more excuses and any more talk. So that's why I instead stepped closer. I looked straight into her eyes and smiled. I held her tight, drapping both arms firmly around her back. She felt so small, so delicate, like one of her dolls. But unlike one of her dolls, there was a distinct warmth against my chest. There was a larger than life quality to her hair as it rubbed against my cheek - it was soft and smooth unlike the doll's hair and felt bouncy and lively as if recently brushed.
"Alice..."I said, "I meant what I said. You're important to me." Truth be told, I could stay like that forever. I felt safe. It was tender and familiar and sort of smelled like a fresh flower. I just wanted to smile and tell her that it would all be alright. Everything would always be fine so long as she helped me out. Butterflies in my stomach prevented me from voicing my thoughts.
"You're so unfair," Alice complained as she gripped back. Her small hands squeezed tightly across the broad of my back as her face sunk into my chest. "How am I supposed to stay upset with you if you're so forward?"
"I don't really care about that," I joked, pushing it a little, "so long as Shanghai isn't mad at me anymore. I'd sooner die than make her sad again.."
"Idiot-!" she complained but only half-heartedly. Her head came to a comfortable rest on my shoulder as she hugged me tighter. I couldn't help but laugh at that. "What am I ever going to do with you?" she asked with a sigh.
"You do know that I'm never going to repeat what I just said in public, right?' I teased a little, "it's bad enough that the class thinks we're a married couple.."
"..."she let go of me.
"That doesn't matter though so long as you know it," I told her, ending the hug. "We've been through a lot and we're close. That's what's important.."
"Maybe I should tell them that you're mine," Alice had a devious look on her face. Like some sort of demon. It was one I didn't see too often, "I don't mind all of the attention but you clearly do. Maybe that's proper punishment for your being a jerk.."
"I'll just deny, deny and deny. 'Till the grave. You know that.."
"Mm, I don't know." Alice's lips began to quiver. Her eyes started tearing up. Had I gone too far? "After all we did together you pretend like you don't care about me. Am I just a piece of meat to you!??
"See?" she smiled, darkly, "I'm a pretty good actress when I want to be.."
"How evil," I realized that moment that my childhood friend had me ensnared.
"Don't worry about it," she giggled, obviously in higher spirits, "I wouldn't do that to someone who needed me.."
"You're as bad as Suika!" I protested, feeling increasingly helpless. Alice was leading my by the nose.
"I have to get something out of our relationship, don't I?' she giggled again. "It might as well be confounding you. You're try to look so cool and act so boldly but I see right through you. That's why I'm special. That's why our relationship is special. Only I get to see you like this."
I was losing the upper hand in the relationship. I was the brash and insufferable one. I was the one who kept the other off balance. That was the natural order of things! Still, looking at Alice's now smiling face felt good. Seeing her as giddy as a schoolgirl should be made me smile in turn.
"Oh, I can go even further, don't you think you're off the hook yet!" she warned. She took her doll, her confidant, to her mouth and whispered into her tiny ear. "Sound good to you?" she asked the doll, placing her by her ear, as if the doll was really going to say something. "Oh..."she paused, "I see, yeah that's better! I'll do that."
Alice pointed the doll at me, waving her tiny hand at me.
"What do you have in mind?" I asked. Alice blew me a raspberry, looking utterly childish in the process.
"You'll know it when it happens!" she teased.
 Let her have her fun for now. She deserves it.
 Regain the initiative! Catch her off guard with a bold proposal.
>>49708 You're absolutely wrong, it isn't a "lulzy" option. Avoiding confrontation isn't going to solve anything either, Arc is most likely to going to kiss more girls. We're always worried about options backfiring. If we allow Arc to live in fear of that, nothing will get done.
Now, I'm not advocating total freewheeling recklessness, but we need to weigh the pros and cons of each choice and make a decision based on what goal we want to achieve, in a collective manner. Tall orders, eh?
Whelp, I was going to update before I had to do stuff and the last vote I saw was >>49713 so I kind of wrote some of that. I didn't expect people to be around because of the hour so didn't say anything. Since I obviously need to redo it and it takes time I may as well get on with the stuff I need to do. So no updates for now. Half a day from now or so until I'm free to write.
Though for the record the choice isn't to be an ass (for a change), quite the contrary. It's just to get her to stop harassing Arc by doing something with her and regaining the initiative.