Previous thread >>61249 New Character blurbs: www.touhou-project.com/others/moretheater.txt
I chewed Aya out, telling her this and that. I wasn't her plaything and certainly it wasn't worth humiliating myself for a favor. I'd helped her out in the past, after all. Even if it had been for money.
She seemed to take it well, looking at me with an unaffected smile. Aya didn't cross her legs or otherwise move, letting me finish saying my piece before finally showing signs of an actual reaction.
“A politician with a choleric temperament” she quipped, “that always bodes well for his career. I can see why they've ensured that you'll run unopposed. I'd write it up, but I think the truth will come out sooner or later.”
“Is that all you have to say?” I asked, feeling deflated. Without any direct pushback, I was just getting myself worked up for no reason.
“It is,” she affirmed, getting off the table, “you rejected my terms outright and then got personal about it. I have no further interest in talking to you now. I should get back to my work and you should leave.”
“So that's it? I won't get any help from you?”
“Nope, not even your pretty face can sway me now,” she said with a shrug, picking up a few of the items she knocked from the table. “Pride with lack of conviction just isn't interesting to me, sorry. Can't write about or document a subject like that. My energies are better spent elsewhere.”
“So you were planning to write about me and take advantage of me?”
“Whatever the people want to see, I give,” she said, not really answering the question. “Whatever scandal you get into in the future, which will come soon by the sound of it, will sell just as well. I'm sure we'll be talking again real soon but for now, I really should get back to what I was doing.”
I left, feeling unsatisfied. That she kept herself cool and unflappable was somehow aggravating. Her response had had a pointed lack of interest to it. It was a detachment that I probably should have expected from someone who could rake in the muck and avoid getting dirty herself. She sold things to people who were often all too consumed by their desire, so she was good at manipulating others.
Aya had been my best bet at getting a clean resolution to the situation. She specialized in information and, with that door closed, I wasn't really sure what else I could do. I didn't have the connections that could keep an investigation both discrete and headed in the right direction. I supposed that I shouldn't worry about it anymore. I risked doing more damage if I kept poking aimlessly. The best thing to do was to wait to see if anything else happened. Then act.
Home wasn't really a place I wanted to be just then. I was restless. Walking around for a while, I found myself going towards the city. Sunset came and passed and the city shifted gradually into its nocturnal mode. A different kind of pedestrian roamed the streets at night and the neon signs that I started spotting in every which direction tempted the passerby with temporal pleasures.
It was a good way to blow off steam and it had been a while since I last played around in the city. Even though I was still in my uniform, I knew for a fact that a lot of establishments didn't care at all. So long as I was good for the money for services rendered, at least.
 Head to the secretive little bar I knew.  Go to Miko's club.
The heavy entrance to the bar filtered most of the noise and atmosphere of the larger city and created a safe and quiet space for patrons to enjoy. There were only a few people sitting about, reading books or making discreet conversation in small groups. The bartender looked me over, scanning to see if I really belonged there. He recognized me and quietly nodded. If he thought anything of the fact that I still looked like a student, he kept it to himself. His consummate professionalism meant that he'd only address me whenever I was ready to place my order.
I was in the mood for something with plenty of taste but also relatively uncomplicated. So I ordered a Sidecar and watched as it was prepared. Though it was a simple cocktail, the barkeep still took his job seriously and focused entirely on making a flawless drink; he poured first the cognac, then the Cointreau and finally squeezed half a lemon into a shaker filled with ice. Instead of closing the receptacle and shaking as I expected, he instead took a long silver stirrer from a drawer and stirred. After a few stirs, he closed the shaker and poured the drink out from the top into a pre-chilled cocktail glass. Finally, with a practiced grace, he garnished the cocktail with a thin slice of orange rind.
I thanked him and took the drink to a booth in the back. I wasn't in the mood to sit at the bar. I would be too visible and I felt like retreating from the world.
I sat there for a long while, slowly sipping my cocktail. It was a delicate drink, one that had subtlety thanks to the interplay of the three ingredients. It wasn't quite sweet nor exactly acidic and had a fulfilling and rich body, one that rolled down my tongue and throat easily. I relaxed and closed my eyes, enjoying the feelings of warmth that spread from my stomach to the rest of my body.
After I was done with my drink I asked for another, feeling that my thoughts were blissfully unfocused. In that moment there was nothing else to the world but the intimate bar atmosphere and the satisfying taste of my cocktail.
“Isn't it a little late for a schoolboy to be out in town?” she asked softly, her words brushing my ear like soft cotton.
“Probably just as late for someone with a respectable day job too,” I said, looking up at Yukari with a smile. She stood before me dressed in a modest ensemble – a somewhat loose and dark blue blouse and a long white skirt. Save for the smart and subdued application of lipstick and eye shadow, she showed none of the almost predatory appeal that I had seen the last time I had met her at the bar. Yukari looked remarkably unremarkable. Sophisticated, sure, but more in the same way a teacher at a parent conference was rather than plain worldly.
“I more or less set my own hours,” she said with a chuckle, “I'm not really needed in the day to day operations. May I?”
“Go ahead. Are you buying again?” I asked.
She sat down opposite me, setting down a small square purse on the table. “Seems I've caught you in a foul mood,” she observed, “where is that playful roguishness from the last time we were here?”
“Still here,” I said, “just a little tired of being played around with. You can only tease a man so much before he gets put off.”
“”Don't pout now,” she said, laying on the patronizing tone thick, “you fill your cute little head with worry. Your confidence is one of your best qualities.”
“You have a deal if you and your lackeys stop messing with my life,” I said, signaling to the barkeep that I wanted a refill.
Yukari nodded after making eye contact with the bartender, requesting a drink of her own. She smiled at me and the smiled, finally saying with a giggle, “I don't interfere with your life at all. You should know I have a hands off policy when it comes to dealing with my students.”
When our drinks arrived, she took a slow sip of her Tom Collins through a straw, as if not at all concerned with my frustration.
“Can I least expect not to have this encounter hang over my head like last time?” I asked.
“We're here, not at school,” she said quietly. “I said last time that play at work was a bad idea. I'd like to think that the reverse is also true. I'm a beautiful lady whose attentions are focused squarely on you. You should be rejoicing instead of complaining bitterly. If this bar weren't so discreet, I would be fighting off unwanted advances from other males right now.”
“It must have hurt,” I said, letting the sarcasm creep into my voice..
“When you fell from heaven,” I said with a shrug. “Is that more the kind of thing you want to hear?”
“I think you can do better than that,” she said, smiling and taking another sip from her drink. “But you shouldn't force yourself either. We are at a bar. This is the kind of place where people tell each other their sorrows and laugh about it. If you want to unburden yourself, I wouldn't mind. After all, right now I'm just a beauty you're talking to at a bar.”
 Open up to her and ask her for advice.  Make a pass at her after drinking some more.  Use the opportunity to try to learn more about her.
-- >>61755 If you think it's hypocrisy then I think you've completely missed the point of what she was doing and why.
She said we should flirt, so let's do that. I also don't think that we should seek her counsel: She just went out to have fun so I think it's inappropriate to pester her with our personal issues, even if she says she's okay with it. I guess asking her about herself is possible too, but unless I'm missing something either works here just fine.
[x] Use the opportunity to try to learn more about her.
Curious though I'm not sure how well this is going to go, mainly due to my fellow readers' stupidity.
>>61755 Just shut up, that whole thing was a result of the readers being unable to make up their fucking minds on anything. And instead of trying to mend a bridge, you just had to fluff up your empty pinata pride.
>>61786 >>61784 Don't votespam, please. Not only do you risk getting banned for progressively longer periods of time for each time you do it, but I discount all your votes anyhow. It's tedious to have to check stories for vote spam, more tedious still if people use proxies in case any of you were wondering. Mods have a pretty good track record at finding suspicious votes but it does mean that we waste more time dealing with this shit instead of reading and/or writing magical girl fanfiction. Most of all, it breaks my heart a little since this is essentially an honor system and we're supposed to have a writer-reader relationship built on trust. Usually for a first time infraction you get a short term slap-on-the-wrist ban without read privileges but I decided that hopefully this post will be more effective as a deterrent for others in the future. Especially as I was somewhat looking forward to the prospect of writing the option that was spammed because it would have been fun to do.
It's been three days since my last update and we just haven't had the minimum amount of votes I've needed to start writing. Which is perplexing considering the first update and its turnout in a shorter time frame. As a result, I'm going to make an exception and start to write in a short while in order to keep things moving. But I won't make an exception again so updates are in your hands.
Finally, I think it is worth reflecting on your past few choices instead of thinking that it's over with. It continues to be relevant and consequences are still being woven into the narrative. Especially as yet another option to follow up here has been passed up. So whether it's ultimately a matter of hollow pride or not, not thinking about what happened and why is a disservice to yourselves.
Hollow pride, hollow pride... I was not interested in telling her about how the student council would be run either. Being asked to lick after just made my pick more decisive. I don't care if you call it hollow pride, there is a line of self-respect I would never vote to go under. Hell, I never wanted to go to Aya to start with.
Also, what narrative anyway? Honestly, as far as I see it, this story just progress at your whims as to what you want as a plotline. At this point, I'm voting because fuck it, you may need that vote to go on. But as the story itself? It brings mostly 'meh' feelings at this point.
“I think you're just trying to find out just how old I am,” Yukari said with a soft chuckle, continuing to nurse her drink by stirring with her straw every now and again. It was the same level of aloofness and deflection that she had begun showing as soon as the conversation had become about her. I hadn't really learned anything very exciting as a result, just bits and pieces about her personal life.
She lived alone, though she used to have a roommate. Whether it was Yuyuko or someone else, she wouldn't elaborate. When I pressed the subject about being curious to see how she lived, she instead joked that if I wanted to see her in a more intimate environment, I would have to save up for a good love hotel. With a sly wink and distancing but coy smile, she kept me at arm's length and danced any topic that was too personal.
I got the distinct feeling that she was just toying with me. After a pause to take another sip from her cocktail, she added, “it wasn't too long ago that I was wearing a school uniform, however. I'm not sure if it'll still fit, but I still have it hanging in a closet somewhere.
“I imagine you wouldn't mind if it was just a teensy bit tight in the right places, right?” she asked with a gamine little smirk. It was what anyone in my position would have loved to have heard. Not to mention would have loved to imagine.
I gave her a vague reply. Enough to egg her on but not to get swept away in the game she was playing. My instincts tended towards flirting with her so it was somewhat difficult to keep myself from letting myself get carried away. I was interested in learning more about her, not least because I doubted many people knew her very well. As headmistress she was cool, commanding and definitely intimidating. I doubted the teachers socialized with her and I figured she had a very business-like relationship with the upper management. Forget about the students. We barely saw her, let alone spoke with her.
So yeah, I guess I was curious to know what kind of person she was.
“I wonder if Yuyuko will get jealous if we start seeing each other more often,” I said, trying a different avenue of approach.
“Doubt it,” she said after giving it some thought, “we've been friends for a long time. And part of friendship is knowing how to share the good things.”
“There's no escape for me, is there?” I asked with a playful shake of my head. The bar had become emptier in the time we had spent talking. Last call was still a ways, but only a few lonely figures were enjoying the relative peace.
“I'm afraid not,” Yukari joked. It seemed that she picked up on the same vibe that I had. “I think that after I finish this one, it'll be time for me to go,” she said, “in order to face the adult world tomorrow, I'll need to get my beauty sleep.”
“I'm a little disappointed that I haven't really gotten to know you as much as I would have liked,” I confessed and finished the residual drops left in my cocktail glass.
“A woman without her secrets isn't very alluring,” Yukari commented, winking again. “I'm sure that if you keep trying, with time, you'll learn everything you'll want know about me. More importantly, it'll give me ample opportunity to play around with you.”
“Is that really something an educator should say to one of her students?”
“We're just two acquaintances having drinks together here. Never mind that one of us is still in his school uniform. Whatever opinions we've expressed here is something strictly between friends.”
“All is forgiven then,” I said, leaning into the soft backrest of the booth.
“Well then, I'll be seeing you around,” she said, getting up. That she didn't remind me that I had an early day ahead of me underscored her earlier point.
I stayed in the booth a little bit longer before heading out. I had had enough of drinking for a single night. Not too eager to spend too much money in a single outing, I grabbed a cheap beef bowl on my way home.
Marisa was half-asleep watching TV downstairs. As soon as she saw me get in she decided to call it a night too, yawning a combination of a hello and goodnight as she went up the stairs. The lights were off in Alice's room and I drew my curtains and began to undress. I wasn't quite ready to go to sleep just yet so I wasted a little time on my computer before finally hitting the sack.
I was up again before I knew it. It was my utmost wish to sleep in after a night out but my two dear blonde friends would have none of it. I didn't put much of a fight because I knew that I'd just lose and, uttering a few curse words under my breath, got dressed and walked to school with them. The prospect of napping at my desk was cruelly taken away from me too. Reimu approached me as soon as I entered the classroom, telling me that we'd be spending half the day dealing with formalities related to running for student council.
We'd have to talk to the powers that be about our campaign and the commitments we were promising to take by running. As applications were finalized, we'd also meet every other candidate too. But I got the feeling that most of the races would be uncontested.
 Go along with Reimu and the others.  Tell Big Sis to take care of things and run away for the day.
>>61788 I don't understand why you're taking things so personally. I passed no judgment and merely framed things in the way they've been discussed this thread and the preceding one. I will interject with my own opinion now, however: whatever you may reason and believe is only as good as the practical consequences it produces. Ignoring context and the results and refusing to keep an open mind in face of developments is simply foolish. I don't care what wins so long as there's consideration for how it affects the whole and reflection on how you've gotten there. Instead of throwing a fit make the best of what you can given the circumstances. I'm not just casting aspersions on you here, this is a more general point: inflexible partisanship is best left for broken political systems, not magical girl fanfiction. Especially not fanfiction which has repeatedly made fun of people who have adopted that sort of stance time and time again.
It seems that you don't understand what this story is about. It's always been presented as a character-focused story and been described numerous times as a series of subplots, each dependent on which characters you interact with and how, that have been stitched together under a less important general umbrella of a plot. I'm not going to repeat what I've said a million other times in other threads anymore. You get what you vote for, simple as that. The only thing I actually control on more or less whim is the passage of time - both how long a scene goes on for and the calendar year. But then again, all writers must do that in order to get anywhere.
I clearly am hurting for votes by the look of things. Every vote is precious. Motivation is hard enough to come by with real life being what it is. So getting thoughtful and timely votes is what helps me keep on writing. That said, I think that you should stop reading if you're not enjoying yourself. If you're having a bad time of it, you won't be doing anyone who is enjoying things any favors. It really sucks for me too and I don't want to lose anyone. But honestly, if after this post and all the explanations I've given time and time again you're unable to come to grips with what I'm doing with the story and what we both should expect, you should consider moving on.
I'll happily discuss any grievance you or any other reader may have about any specific element in the story at any time. Either in-thread or on IRC. But I can't give any better response to an ambiguous 'meh' and further entrenchment of an opinion that is irrelevant to the larger point that I was making.
I don't really have a substantial reason for this. I just like Reimu and I think it'd be fun to hang out with her. Get away from all this depressing atmosphere everywhere.
I had written a long three or so paragraphs trying to explain my thoughts on the story but it boils down to this: I really like this story and how it's written, including the different plots. I dislike how there are wrong choices that lead to dead ends.
From my perspective, the choice not to kowtow to Aya was the wrong choice and not only did it make the previous choice meaningless, but now we've dropped the letter subplot until who knows when? when it bites us in the ass is when
It's certainly unrealistic to expect everything to always go our way and every choice leading to new things as if we were in some kind of literary Lake Wobegon, but that's how I feel. I get discouraged from voting when not only do things go poorly, but poorly in such a way that closes doors, like we got a dead end or something. It's a pretty childish mindset, no doubt, but I'm not reading this shit to be adult.
I'm sure Reimu wouldn't mind the company, and think of the bigger picture here people. Try to think before you vote, especially beyond wheter or not the choice will involve your waifu or not.
>>61779 >>61788 It wouldn't have come up if not for Arc/Anon blowing her off excessively in the past. Cause and effect, something that many readers seem to have trouble grasping as just about everyone trying to find their waifus reckless tends to wreak some havoc.
And if the story going in a meh direct it's the fault of you an every other idiot that enaged in reckless waifuing.
>>61790 Arc's life in school and home is the plot. It's not an invitation to go full randumb waifu waifuhunt.
>>61791 I agree pretty well on those points. It's hard to read when the waifuing morons keep on wrecking things. That and the matter of doors closing, especially with how the voters are in this story (hopelessly unfocused seemingly)
And we'll be lucky with the letter matter doesn't blow up somehow, especially with Aya being scorned.
>>61791 >I dislike how there are wrong choices that lead to dead ends. Sorry, but that's not true. If there are dead ends, it's not in the way you're imagining and certainly never with a single choice. I'm going to save the generalities and give you a concrete example from the previous update: you could have brought up the issue with Yukari. Yet you didn't. You could have also avoided this scenario to begin with by being more discrete as this event is the culmination of several 'flamboyant' actions taken in the last few threads. Also you could have disregarded the letter and gone down a different path altogether. Instead you made other choices that led in a different direction. I'm sorry if you're not happy with the results but this is exactly why I keep telling you to think things over and not shy away from discussing choices with other readers!
There are no wrong choices but every choice has its consequences. Some of which aren't always immediate and are affected by past and future choices. The situations with Rin, Marisa and Tenshi could have been resolved in drastically different manners too - yet a combination of votes led to them to play out the way they did. Some outcomes were 'better' (like, I guess, getting to know Okuu as well is something most people would agree would be a good thing) while others could have been 'worse' (helping Tenshi fit in but not being amorously involved with her). There's upsides and downsides to every situation and each path. There's even an upside for not hanging out with Byakuren et al, though personally, not speaking as a writer but as a touhou lover, I'm not sure it's worth the price.
If you frame things in a simplistic and narrowly defined manner such as "the ideal would have been having Aya help us" then yeah, you did vote for the wrong thing. But that's something that the readers have to decide whether it's ideal or not, hence discussion. On my end I'll continue to give you several options to go for things and follow up, sometimes with second, third or more chances (see: that magic book). Things will continue to happen whether or not you're BFFs with Byakuren, Aya is pissed off at you or Alice finds love elsewhere.
>>61790 At this point I'm not sure you're bothering to read the things I've written in reply. Since I'm fairy certain I've addressed both those points because they're been brought up recently. I'm assuming that it's been you, since I don't think it's been more than one person complaining about those things. All the same, I'll give you a brief rehash of my replies:
>there is no real plot ongoing. This is a slice of life story. It's been like this since the very beginning. What was the plot ten threads ago? Dealing with a couple of touhous while getting through school life. As you get to know characters, things happen. How you deal with them and those things affects how those characters then affects future interactions. It's that simple. Were you unhappy then? The world isn't going to be saved at the end of the story. A few broken hearts/fun romances, a little growing up and fond memories along with good prospects for the future are hopefully what will be waiting at the end.
>being biased towards certain votes. If I were truly biased and wanted something to happen, I would make it happen and give the reader no input. It's certainly within my power. That I don't abuse my power is part of the unspoken covenant I have with readers (or indeed most writers on the site). It's a matter of trust and I think that you can more or less see it in the history of the updates that I don't abuse reader's expectations. When I do intervene it's usually because I don't think people are weighing their options properly. Every choice has a reason for its existence and, particularly when the stakes are high, I'll encourage people to discuss and think about why they're voting for something and if they're happy with the apparent course that'll set them on. It doesn't matter what the particular choice is about. If you look at any of the times I've intervened you'll see that it's never about any one choice as such but about the underlying logic and assumptions made by the voters (>>61791 is a good example of I guess voter's regret which I hope to minimize by this process). I'm not going to repeat my thoughts on unanimity and the philosophy I have behind choices in full but suffice to say that the story becomes richer because of discussion.
I don't think I can state both things any plainer than this. I don't want to be overly dismissive but if you don't understand both these things, I'm afraid that you'll never really enjoy this story. It's a matter of outlook and expectations. There's plenty of other stories on the site that have more traditional storytelling structures and emphasize less analysis in votes because they're more linear. I've even written some of them. But ToY isn't likely to change its execution anytime soon.
Maybe it was something in her eyes. A softer, more unguarded look that she now showed from time when talking to me. Or maybe it was just the general sleepiness I felt. It clouded my judgment. Either way, I found myself persuaded to go along with her and suffer through the formalities.
I half expected us to be crammed into Big Sis' office but instead we ended up going to the administrative wing of the campus. We sat in a conference room with a view that extended over most of the front of the hill. It was striking just how the people who ran the school got all the nice views and spaces. Our classrooms weren't destitute or anything, but by comparison they seemed far more modest. We didn't have wood paneling nor veneered surfaces, certainly.
“Where are the others?” I asked Reimu when it became obvious it was just the two of us in the room. We were at one end of a massive rectangular conference table. My voice carried easily in the mostly empty room.
“Not sure,” she said, “I was told to tell you and that the others had already been informed about this.”
“Who asked you to tell me?”
Before she could answer me, the doors to the room opened. My suspicions were confirmed instantly by the appearance of my favorite pair of educators. “Let's get things started right away,” Big Sis said with a smile, a small folder in her hands. Yukari nodded silently, looking solemn by contrast.
“Sorry, but shouldn't we wait for the others?” I asked as they took a seat on one side of the table, near us.
“No, this is it,” Big Sis explained, “this meeting only really concerns the president and vice president.”
“And we're the only candidates, right,” I said with a shrug, barely insinuating at my real criticism.
Yukari didn't say a word and was happy to let Yuyuko do the talking. She sat there with her arms crossed, occasionally looking us over quietly. It was a sedate contrast to the woman of the previous evening, the affable and playful flirt. If she was thinking about the drinks she shared, she was doing a good job of not showing it. The pantsuit also contributed to her reserved air, I supposed.
“So, you just want us to sign a couple of papers?” I interrupted Big Sis. She had been going on and on about the standards of leadership and excellence that characterized the student council. We were expected to take on the heavy burden of representing our fellow students and had to work with the school administration on vague but key issues.
“In essence, yes,” Big Sis said with a nod, opening up the folder and handing over a pair of papers. “All these say is that you understand your responsibilities and will abide by the founding ideals of this academy. The rest of the student body will be looking up to you, so it's important you set a good example.”
“What are these unspecified 'penalties' mentioned here?” I asked, after giving the document a quick look. There wasn't anything offensive otherwise about the document. It just said that I would try my best to embody the ideals of good leadership, basically. It was just a tiny clause at the end that said that certain trespasses would warrant unspecified punishment.
“Nothing of real consequence,” she said. “In case of gross misconduct, such as a suspension-worthy offense, procedures to censure you can be started by the rest of the student council in conjunction with the school board. This has only happened twice in our long history and only once has a censure been handed out. It's a simple reprimand that goes on your permanent record.”
“But I wouldn't be kicked out? Why bother with all that ceremony?”
“The only practical consequence is that you won't be able to claim the distinction of being a member of the student council on any future curriculum. If you do anything that's serious enough to get you kicked out of school, that's handled by the normal channels. Same as any other student,” she said.
I signed the paper, against my better judgment. Wasn't worth starting a fuss over.
“I'm certainly looking forward to seeing your leadership in action,” Yukari spoke up. She smiled slightly at us and added, “Monday there will be an assembly and you will be introduced to the student body. As of now you may start campaigning and putting up posters in the designated area. Good luck and I hope you secure a good mandate. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll let our esteemed counselor carry the rest of this meeting.”
Just like that, she left.
With her gone, I felt more at ease. I wasn't used to seeing Yukari act so still and formal. It was a little bit intimidating. I gave Big Sis some of my usual lip, “are we done here? I'd rather be napping at my desk and if you keep going on about traditional values I'm going to fall asleep right here and now.”
“I, too, am looking forward to your brand of leadership,” Big Sis said with a chuckle, directing herself at Reimu. With a knowing smile, she added, “if you have any doubts or questions going into the campaign, I'll be happy to answer them for you.”
Reimu shook her head and told her that she understood what was expected of her.
“Yeah, I've got a question,” I jumped back in, interrupting, “what's the point of campaigning if we don't have any rivals?”
“You need a certain threshold to be elected into office. If you don't get enough votes, a representative is chosen from the class presidents who reports directly to the office of the headmaster.”
“In other words, we don't get much of a voice at all,” I said with a raised eyebrow. Democracy was a sham.
“Try not to worry about it too much,” she said, “if you need any advice on campaigning I can share my experiences with candidates in previous years. I've helped a few of them manage their images and polish their messages.”
 Ask Big Sis for tips on how to run a good campaign.  Figure a strategy out later with Reimu.
Tough choice. It pains me to vote against Big Sis. I think it'd be better to work on our relationship with Reimu, since most of our actual student council work will be with her and not Big Sis. I think she'd appreciate it if we showed at least a bit of initiative with the council work.
After covering a few more minutiae, Big Sis was on her way. It seemed that with all formalities over with, she wasn't too insistent on sticking around. With her hand on the doorknob she added, almost as an afterthought, that we could use the conference room for as long as we liked.
“I'm interpreting that as a free pass to skip class,” I said after she was gone.
“That was pretty much a given,” Reimu said, rolling her eyes. “We've got to put up posters and take care of a few campaign details. They expect us to do all that today.”
At her urging, we left the conference room. We had a stack of posters stashed away that needed putting up. It wasn't hard work and we stuck together for the most part. Before too long, the various bulletin boards and designated spaces in the hallways had a variety of posters inveigling the reader to vote for us. Felt weird to see my full name written out in big letters. I wasn't sure people would know who I was.
Reimu didn't seem too worried about the small stuff. Her name was on the posters too, she said, and they would see who I was at the assembly anyhow.
“So, what are we going to do anything special for the campaign?” I asked while looking over one of the posters we had commissioned carefully. They were a bit dry, I felt. Business-like. Didn't really show our enthusiasm for the position, just simply listing our (mostly Reimu's) various accomplishments. She was well-known and relatively well-liked. So that wasn't a big deal. That said - a splash of color here and there would have helped make the posters pop out.
“Special like what?” she asked, coming over to look at the poster in my hand. We had discussed some of the details a while back but it was still mostly her design.
“Campaign promises, a slogan – y'know things for the masses to eat up.”
“No, not really. We're just promising to use our best judgment and make this as good of a place as we can.”
“Not exactly inspiring,” I said with a shrug.
“It doesn't have to be. Realistically speaking,” she explained, “we don't have that we can do. We oversee clubs and student activities and occasionally talk to the administration. Occasionally handling of student grievances. We can't promise to change the academic calendar or anything. WE can petition to beautify areas in a certain way, however.”
“I'm beginning to regret putting my name forward as a candidate,” I said with a sarcastic chuckle.
“It won't be so bad,” she said with a smile, “if we get along the work will get done quickly enough. Most of our meetings will likely be us talking about this and that. We'll definitely get to know each other better.”
“That's motivation enough for me,” I said, putting the poster in my hand up on the wall. Reimu patted me softly on the back and got back to work.
We covered most of the school fairly quickly. Since we were only supposed to put up materials in certain areas, it wasn't long before we were nearly finished. It was a while before lunch break and before anyone else would see our handiwork.
“It's not as exciting to skip class when you have permission,” I said, finishing up on one side of the main entrance.
“I'm sure the possibility of getting caught is quite the thrill,” she said with a laugh, finishing up on her end.
“It's not just about that,” I said, “it's also about the freedom aspect. It's something that you choose to do. So it feel extra good to do it.”
“Mm, what a carefree way to look at things,” Reimu said with a shake of her head, “don't you worry at all about the consequences? Not necessarily of getting caught, but of falling behind in class. Or making teachers get cross with you.”
“It's all stuff I can deal with when it comes up. I do study at times, too, so it's not that big of a deal.”
“Indeed. I heard you studied with the transfer student for the finals. Must have been an intense series of sessions given your results.”
“Marisa really has to learn to keep her mouth shut about these things,” I lamented, sighing, “spreading rumors makes things seem more salacious than they actually are.”
“Oh, it wasn't her who told me,” Reimu added with a sly smile. “At any rate, it's not like you're very subtle about these things. It's like skipping class – you just go ahead and do it. The teachers notice but don't say anything . Anyone else and they'd go crazy.”
“All part of my appeal,” I told her, half-joking, “spending too much sweating the details usually only gets me bogged down in things.”
“So long as you can clean up after your own messes, it's fine,” she said with an almost fatalistic shrug.
“So...” I started, staring into her eyes.
“So?” she asked, scrunching up her brow a little bit. Seemed like she was trying to figure out what I was getting at. Didn't seem like she expected what I had to say next.
 Suggest that she was a little jealous that she didn't get to study with me.  Ask her for a small reward for doing such a good job at helping out.
[x] Ask her for a small reward for doing such a good job at helping out.
I can see Reimu getting irritated if we make assumptions about her. On the other hand, the worst I can see happening with this choice is a roll of her eyes or a quick "grow up" quip. She's pretty used to Arc hitting on her, after all. Plus, with that recent event at her shrine, she may actually be amenable to this idea!
“I did a good job helping out, right?” I asked with a practiced smile. I was sure it exuded nothing but pure trustworthiness. “We got done in no time at all.”
“It didn't take us very long to get through the work,” she agreed, clearly suspicious about what I was driving at. I supposed I was just a tiny bit predictable.
“I'd say that we did an excellent job, actually. And excellent jobs often merit, not only recognition, but reward.”
“Aha,” Reimu laughed, at getting my none-too-subtle suggestion. “I thought that skipping class was reward enough,” she stated with a coy smile, “too much reward can lead to bad habits. I wouldn't want to spoil you. I mean, Alice would glower at me if I did.”
“Forget her,” I said, “just look deep into your heart and do whatever you feel is right.”
“All I can picture is that intense stare of hers,” she said with a giggle. “Now she's mouthing something. I can't quite make it – wait, I got it. She seems to be saying 'don't indulge the idiot' – harsh words, I'm sure you'll agree.”
“I'm going to need you to wall off that section of your heart and look elsewhere,” I told her. I couldn't deny that she was probably channeling Alice in some capacity. Worse still, I was also kinda picturing her cold stare too. But wait, if I concentrated hard enough – ah yes, Marisa was there too. Her bubbly smile softened Alice's glare. Then Suika came around and dragged me off somewhere else.
“If you're quite done spacing out, I think I've made up my mind,” Reimu waved her hand in front of my face. Seemed like I had gotten caught up in a mental facsimile of my daily life.
“Yes, of course. So I'm getting a big kiss, right?”
“You didn't do that good of a job,” she teased, “you were needlessly confrontational with the counselor, for one.”
“It's just banter. I treat her irreverently, she treats me like chattel. It's really just one big laugh,” I said somewhat sarcastically. My relationship with Big Sis was special but it wasn't something I expected anyone else to understand.
“Be that as it may, I don't think you've earned a kiss?”
“But it means that it's on the reward table somewhere, right?” I asked, feeling optimistic.
“Who knows?” she shrugged. “It doesn't seem like the kind of behavior that would behoove a student council president.”
“Not a completely straight-laced one,” I said, “but-”
“Let me stop you right there before we get too carried away. You wanted a reward? Well, let's get to it.”
Reimu led me away from the entrance, up the stairs and through the hallway to a discrete alcove by some of the club rooms. Obviously, with it being the middle of the day, there wasn't anyone around.
“Why are we here?” I asked, “wouldn't a classroom be-”
“Shh,” Reimu shut me up, stating in a near-whisper, “our voices carry easily in the empty hallways so be quiet, unless you want a teacher to come looking for us.”
I nodded. I wasn't sure what she had in mind. We weren't exactly in a secret spot. During breaks students idled around the area. It was near the cafeteria, the courtyard and a few of the second year classrooms.
“Alright, close your eyes, I'm going to get your reward ready,” she said, “I just have one question for you first – plainly sweet or something a bit more exciting?”
“Give me a moment,” Reimu said quietly, “and no peeking.”
I felt her move away momentarily. The fact that she told me not to peek made me want to look all the more. I would have, too, if she hadn't come back so quickly. A mysterious rustling and a dull thud hinted at what was coming up.
“It's a bit uncomfortable for me to stretch so much. Tilt your head down a little and puff out your lips,” she instructed, “as if you were pouting.” I did as asked, feeling a little excited at her proximity. I could just tell that she was mere centimeters from me. I thought I felt one of her sleeves brush up against my chest. “There you go,” she whispered, her breath tickling my chin. Something smooth and flexible pressed up against my lips. “Go ahead and suck.”
It certainly was sweet. Tasted like grape. I opened my eyes as Reimu stepped back, handing it over to me.
“Enjoy, you've earned it,” she stated with a smile.
“Unexpected, but nice,” I said, pulling the straw out of my mouth, “I was kinda thirsty too.”
“I'm glad. And I hope you aren't too disappointed. I'd never seen someone stiffen up and blush while waiting for juice,” she teased.
“I was so not blushing,” I said with a roll of my eyes.
“Sure you weren't,” she continued to tease, “it was kind of cute to see you so anxious about your reward. At any rate, who would have thought you'd gone for the safer option? I thought you were all about taking risks.”
“Like kissing you at your own shrine?” I asked, trying to turn the tables on here.
“...yes, like that,” she agreed, otherwise seeming unaffected by my counterattack. It was hard to tell what she was thinking. I enjoyed seeing the more playful side to her when we were alone but I still couldn't tell just how far she was willing to go with anything.
“Any hint as to what my next reward will be?” I asked. “I imagine I'll work my way up from a juice box to at least a roll. Though that might be too much, too quickly.”
“We'll see.” Adding with a wink, she stated, “don't expect anything regular. Alice once warned me not to spoil you if at all possible.”
“What am I? A puppy?”
“In many ways, yes,” Reimu giggled, “keep wagging that cute little tail of yours.”
We ended up spending the rest of the period outside, in the courtyard. I supposed that that was also her way of showing her appreciation. I'm sure that she'd normally want to return to class right away. Instead we chatted about this and that while I slowly sipped from my juice box. She hadn't bought any from the vending machine for herself and she wasn't too interested in taking a sip from mine. All in all it was a pleasant way to spend our time.
As soon as the bell rang, we left the area. The hallways soon became full of students using the break as an opportunity to stretch their legs and socialize. I overheard a few casual remarks about the new posters but it didn't seem like they elicited strong reactions either way. Reimu and I returned to our homeroom and I went back to my seat.
“Got the ground rules on joining the shadowy cabal that runs the school clear?” Suika asked, with a stupid grin on her face.
“Yes, I also learned that the curry rolls contain a substance that make people more susceptible to indoctrination,” I answered sarcastically.
“I wouldn't put it past them,” Suika grumbled, ignoring my facetious jibe. “Don't get too swept up. The class prez might be cute and all but you should know better than letting yourself being led around the nose by women by now.”
“That include you?” I asked, prodding once again.
“I'm not a woman,” she shook her head, “I'm a badass first.”
“Duly noted,” I said, pretty indifferent to the conversation. I humored her during the break, eventually turning the conversation onto more normal subjects. But I didn't really feel like repeating the experience over lunch. Truth be told, I was curious to see if there was any buzz at over our campaign.
I decided to take a stroll, skipping lunch.
 Visit the other third year homerooms.  Check in on the underclassmen.
My own class was pretty indifferent. With Reimu's perpetual class representative status and her genuine popularity, we were basically guaranteed to get the majority of votes. A few random girls I asked told me that they would vote for me because Reimu had told them that I was a good person despite my quirks. I didn't press them further for details of my so-called quirks, opting to take the win regardless.
I started my classroom tour at the top of the alphabet.
Class III-A, like III-C, hadn't really seen many changes to its composition between academic years. The class rep, that standoffish president of the art club, was nowhere to be seen. That was probably for the best. Because it was lunchtime, most of the students that were there were in small groups. I saw Reisen with a group of friends, chatting away happily. If she saw me, she was doing her best to ignore me.
“Come to harass me again?” Kaenbyou asked as soon as she made eye contact with me. I had missed her somehow but she was sitting right next to the door with a half-eaten lunch on her desk. Reiuji was nowhere to be seen.
“It's not always about you, you know,” I greeted with a smile, “I came by to see how people were reacting to our campaign posters.”
“Ah, that's you, isn't it? I didn't recognize your name without the label 'lech' next to it,” she said with a self-satisfied smirk.
“Say what you will, I still like you. And I'm pretty sure that you sort of like me,” I told her. She may have mumbled a few expletives under her breath that I didn't quite catch. As much as I felt like teasing her a little more, I wasn't planning on spending too much time in any one class. I got the impression that she would vote for me anyhow. But that the rest of her class was ambivalent at best.
I left Kaenbyou behind after exchanging a few more words and checked in on III-B. A random sample there showed the same overall ambivalence. I got a toothy grin from the track team captain for some reason, however. I didn't know what that was all about but it seemed like I would at least get her vote.
“Cheating on me with that Hakurei girl, eh?” Tenshi giggled mischievously when I talked to her. “I suppose I should be both outraged and jealous.”
“How far have you gotten with her? She asked.”Maybe I should start seeing other men too. No reason you should get to have all the fun.”
“I'm just teasing,” Tenshi said, interrupting any rebuttal I could have formed. “While you don't own my heart, you've certainly earned an important place in it. I'll vote for you because I'm sure that you can do for the school what you did for me. I can't be so selfish to demand you exist only for my sake.” With a laugh, she added quickly, “Though, I'm not sure everyone will want you to be quite as vulgar.”
“Don't mention it,” she said, “I cannot be upset with someone willing to go shopping with me. I doubt that those other guys that have been calling on me lately would suffer the same.”
“What other guys?”
“Again, just teasing, maybe” she winked. “It's cute to see you worry.”
The assertive side of her that had come about as a result of her openining up and blossoming was still paying its dividends. I wasn't sure if it was for the best. As I started to leave, she squeezed my butt. She didn't say anything and simply smiled, leaving me both happy and a bit perplexed. No one else seemed to have noticed the indiscretion, so at least there was that.
“Oh, he's that loser?” the Scarlet girl said just a little too loudly to her companion after I entered her classroom. It was safe to say that I probably wouldn't be getting a vote from her. I didn't really feel like interrupting their conversation and so I canvassed the rest of III-D.
Aya was out, probably on business. Opinions about the election were more or less the same as other classes. Patchouli responded positively to me, however. “Some administration is better than no administration,” she stated after giving my question some thought.
“Not exactly a ringing endorsement.”
“Your lateral thinking may be an asset,” she stated, “but I suppose all real duties will fall upon your running mate.”
“No 'I believe in you and your message'? How cruel,” I joked.
“I'm merely stating the facts. You'll do fine when push comes to shove. That much you have demonstrated already.”
“My, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were falling in love with me,” I continued to joke.
“There may be an attraction,” she admitted, surprisingly enough. Like it wasn't a big deal. “I don't let my personal feelings cloud my assessments, however.”
Well, at least she made me smile. Especially as she adjusted a strand of wayward hair and moved it away from her ear. It was a carelessly girlish gesture that somehow made my heart skip a beat. Yeah, I knew that was a stupid thing to get worked up about. Still, maybe there was something to all of that…
I left III-D before I got too distracted by my thoughts.
The last stop was III-E, a classroom where I didn't really know anyone. Responses there were the coolest of them all. By reputation, I knew that Fujiwara was in the class, but she was nowhere to be seen. If I had to guess, she was off smoking behind the gym. Or writing graffiti in the girl's bathroom. Something antisocial, at any rate.
The girl from the other day still wasn't over my dose of honesty, it would seem. She glared at me as I approached, in no mood for talk of politics.
“I should have apologized right away the other day,” I said. “You can't really hold it against me, I'm not blind.”
“You're just here to try to win over my support in the elections. I don't really care about what you have to say,” Kagerou said. “I am told that the president is a good person, so I'll be voting for the both of you, despite what happened. Now you can go ahead and leave me alone.”
The bell rang, signaling the end of the lunch break. “I'm sure that I can make it up to you if you let me try,” I said optimistically, waving her goodbye. She didn't return the farewell but at least didn't hit me again. So solid progress all around.
The overall conclusion of my polling was that the student body was more or less apathetic. No surprise there. I didn't think I was going to get few votes but it wasn't going to be a landslide either at that rate. If there were actual competition, I'd be in danger of losing. Reimu was doing more for me than I was for her.
Afternoon classes came and went by quickly. With only Saturday ahead of us, it would only be half a day before the elections came around on Monday. The negative voices I had heard were weighing on me harder than the support I had received. Maybe it was Reimu's reward from earlier or simply my own ego, but I decided that I would try my best to win over those most apathetic and hostile to my candidacy.
 Approach Komeiji  Speak to Kochiya and Kawashiro  Influence Remilia  Find Fujiwara
I returned to III-B the next day during lunchtime. Tenshi was busy talking to classmates and didn't notice me. Just as well.
Luckily the two people I was looking for were sitting together. Kochiya and Kawashiro were talking to one another over lunch. Seemed like they were friends, given their body language and tone. Kochiya was the first to notice me, looking up at me with a polite smile. By contrast, Kawashiro's face displayed what was perhaps best described as suspicion.
“Sorry to interrupt your lunch,” I started, “but I was wondering if you had a moment to talk.”
“What about?” Kochiya asked.
“The upcoming student council elections.”
“You go ahead and talk, Sanae,” Kawashiro said, putting away the rest of her lunch, “I have a few projects I should be working on, anyhow.”
“It doesn't have to be right now, I'd still like to talk to you if at all possible,” I said to her.
The twin-tailed girl didn't really seem receptive to the idea. She brushed me off with a non-committal “we'll see.” She avoided eye contact as she got up, scurrying away as if staying in the area would be hazardous to her health. Her short legs couldn't carry her away quickly enough.
“Was it something I said?” I asked.
“I'm sorry, she's just a little shy. I'm sure she didn't mean to come off as rude,” Kochiya apologized for her friend. “It takes her a while to get used to new people.”
“If you say so,” I said, wondering if maybe I had had any sort of interaction with Kawashiro in the past. She was cute enough, I supposed, so I might have talked to her. Her clear blues eyes certainly stood out. As did the somewhat-childish-but-distinctively-cute short tufts of hair on either side of her head. But I didn't recall any particular incident or extended interaction. Thinking about it, I didn't really know anything about her. We might have been in the same class in our first year but that was it.
“So, what exactly did you want to tell me?” Kochiya asked, interrupting my thought process.
I took Kawashiro's vacant seat. “I don't know if you know, but I'm running for vice president of the student council. And so I came to ask if I could count on your support.”
“Ah, so you're that fellow in the posters,” she said quietly. With a nervous edge to her words, she added, “I'm sorry, I didn't realize that that was your name.”
“Arc is just a nickname,” I told her, “but it might as well be my real name.”
“I see, that was silly of me not to realize.”
“It's okay,” I said with a smile, “we haven't spoken much and I wouldn't expect someone relatively new to all of this to know the full names of students from other classes. Can I count on your support then?”
“Um,” she fiddled with the plastic cover of her packed lunch. It seemed like she was trying to figure out how to say what was on her mind. “I'm sorry,” she finally said, looking a little too serious, “but I'm not sure I can vote for someone whose policies I know nothing about. Even if you were nice to me before. It would be irresponsible of me.”
“That's fine,” I said with what I hoped was a disarming smile, “that can easily be fixed. We'll just talk a little about what I think and what I'm planning and then you can make up your mind.”
“Alright, thank you. And sorry for being such a bother.”
“No worries, it's rare to see someone so principled when it comes to civic matters,” I said, feeling full of crap for starting to sound like a politician. It was coming to me all too easily and I hated that. I covered a few vague points quickly, telling her that we planned to listen to our fellow students and we would do our best to promote our collective voice. Honestly, it was about as specific as I could get. We didn't have much of a strategy or planks that I could mention. Kochiya listened quietly to my pointless explanation.
It seemed like I made an impression on her. She ate up my crappy spiel. Given the lack of other candidates, I was sure she would vote for me.
I felt like apologizing. But held back.
 Encourage her to talk others into voting.  Tell her to forget politics. Getting to know her better was a better use of time.
While I didn't have a die-hard supporter in my hands, I was confident that Kochiya had had enough convincing. Or maybe she was still just humoring me. Either way she smiled warmly as I spoke, paying attention to every stupid thing I could think of saying.
I concluded my thoughts, stating, “it's important to participate in elections. If you could tell others to pay attention and vote, I would appreciate it.”
“I'm not sure that my voice would carry a lot of weight,” Kochiya said quietly, but added, “I'll speak to Nitori later if I see her but other than that, I'm afraid that I can't help.”
“Anything and everything you can do will be appreciated,” I told her. As disgusted as I was with myself for all that I had just said, I couldn't help but feel a little proud too. Maybe I was more silver-tongued than I gave myself credit for. It made for conflicting emotions, at least.
“If you don't mind me asking,” she spoke up after a pause, “why did you decide to run for student council?”
I thought about the answer. And decided to tell her the truth. “I felt like I had no other choice,” I said, leaving out any unnecessary details.
“That's what I thought,” she said, misinterpreting my words, “people who are as confident as you go into leadership positions when the opportunity presents itself.” By the way she looked at me and smiled nervously, I could guess what she was thinking about.
“You're thinking back to when we met at the library, right?” I hazarded a guess. It was why she called me confident.
“Yes, I was,” she admitted. As if being too direct about what happened was somehow immodest, her choice of words were a little vague. With some difficulty, she added, “knowing what you want and going for it is something admirable. I don't know much about politics but I think that it'll make you a good leader if you have clear goals.”
“We'll see,” I said with a soft chuckle. I resisted the urge to get more personal than that. It wasn't the time or the place to broach more intimate subjects. Fighting my instincts on it was the right thing to do.
“Thank you for taking the time to talk to me,” she said and gave me a polite nod.
“Ah, no, thank you for taking the time to listen to me,” I told her. “I shouldn't take up more of your time but I hope you'll have luck talking to others.”
I felt too uncomfortable to press my luck and stick around the classroom. Being complimented on leadership qualities was just too much for me to bear. I ended up returning to my classroom in a weird, slightly foul mood. Clearly I wasn't completely comfortable embracing the role of diligent candidate. What was worse, I thought that just maybe I kind of cared about winning. It annoyed me that I couldn't quite make sense of what I was feeling and why.
I wasn't sure that any of my friends would understand what was troubling me. Reimu was serene enough and I didn't think that Suika would be too sympathetic and would make fun of me for getting hung up on this. Marisa would try but I think wouldn't ultimately understand and Alice would moralize at best. None of those things were what I needed the most.
 Spend time alone figuring things out.  See some of the nicer teachers for their take on things.
After classes were over, I headed to the teachers' office. I'd been there before dozens of times, not often out of choice. A few of the stricter teachers would make it a habit of trying to make an example of my free-spirited ways and chew me out in front of the rest of the staff. Joke was on the, of course, since I learned to get good at looking genuinely concerned about what they were telling me. Some teachers caught on, naturally, and I heard that they had a monthly pool to see how many times I would get called in for a reprimand.
I knocked on the door, though there really wasn't any need. It was a large open space, with a chaotic arrangement of desks and space dividers. Most of the teachers were never in the room at once due to their schedules, so some of the newer hires had to share desks in shifts. I wondered why the two dozen or so desks couldn't be spread out over different rooms. Or by department. The administrative building had plenty of room to spare. As far as I knew it was only the heads of departments that got their own private little offices.
The smell of old coffee hung heavily in the air. No surprise given the large amount of empty styrofoam cups that littered the desks alongside stacks of printouts, flyers and textbooks. Everything was in a state of flux and so I just walked on in and looked for someone that I could talk to.
In a corner, sitting with her back to the window, was a teacher that didn't look too busy. A pile of papers was stacked in front of her and she had a red marker in her hand, but she seemed to be spacing out. Maybe it was the warm afternoon sun. I walked on right up to her desk before she finally noticed that there was a student in the room.
“Oh hello,” she said with a spaced out smile, “what brings you to the office? I hope it's not professor Kobayashi again. He really needs to work on his temper.”
“It's not that, Ms. Kamishirasawa,” I said, “I was looking for someone I could talk to for a little bit.”
“This isn't about history, I suppose,” she sat up in her chair, realizing that she was slumping. She was one of the younger teachers on staff, someone who hadn't yet become jaded from dealing with students like me. “I'd be happy to talk, if you like, but I'm not sure I can help. I would recommend that you check with the counselor first.”
“I don't really want to speak to her about this,” I told her, “she might be part of the problem. In a way.” Man, I was being vague. But I couldn't help myself. My thoughts were in disorder, nothing made much sense. I still felt dirty, but also somewhat satisfied. But I didn't want to feel either way.
Ms. Kamishiraswa looked around the room. Half a dozen teachers were working away at their desks, drinking tea and looking at their computers. All of them too caught up in their own thing to care about our conversation. She adjusted the neck of her loose-fitting blouse, as if trying to look trustworthy and reliable. She was taking things seriously enough. “Alright, have a seat and tell me what's up.”
I told her a little bit about what was going on in my school life. I was tipped to be the next vice president and that I wasn't exactly too thrilled about it. But then that I had spent some time with Reimu and talking to other people and… I ended up not being too coherent. But I think she got the basics.
“I think you're just unused to thinking of yourself as someone that's taken seriously,” she said, “you clown around in class and posture but I think you're an extraordinarily sensitive boy when it comes down to it.”
She continued her assessment, “I don't mean to embarrass you. It's a good thing you're conflicted. It means that the labels my colleagues and some of the other students have tried to put on you just aren't true. Even Naoto has been unfair to you in that regard...”
“Erm,” Ms. Kamishirasawa tensed up, “I meant to say Mr. Mikisaki. We talk sometimes.”
“...I,” I cut myself short. I didn't want to be rude. There might have been something to the rumors after all. That the history teacher and the dainty, pompous jackass of a chemistry teacher were seeing each other. Mikisaki was a pain in the neck. He never directly confronted me but he was the type to write up poor evaluations because he could. Unless you happened to be a girl. In which case he would hover over your desk during class and even hold your hand as he 'helped' you write the answer on the chalkboard. I wasn't the only guy who had a problem with him but he never was openly hostile to us, so we couldn't prove any complaints we made.
After her slip of the tongue, I couldn't really concentrate on the advice she gave me. All I could think of were Mikisaki's ulterior motives for getting close to Ms. Kamishirasawa. She was kind, soft spoken and compassionate – traits that were wasted on a jerk. Her somewhat conservative clothing style, consisting mostly of mid-length skirts and plain blouses, and general pleasant demeanor made her somewhat of an idealized symbol.
I felt like sighing. I knew that I was projecting my feelings and expectations too much but I couldn't help it. I was in no state to keep my mind from wandering.
“I don't think I helped you much,” she said, frowning. Her disappointment mirrored my own. Though hers was for more genuine reasons. “I'm sorry about that.”
“No, it's okay,” I said, trying not to sound ungrateful. “Your perspective helps, but it's just a lot to take in, you know.”
“I understand,” she said, sounding unconvinced. It seemed like I was genuinely making her worry.
“Don't worry,” I tried to laugh off the awkwardness, “I'm sure I'll be all better come Monday. It just takes some time to get used to this sort of thing.”
“...I-” she started to say something but checked herself.
“Thank you for your time,” I got up, trying to save her the frustration. She had tried her best.
“Wait up,” Ms. Kamishirasawa said with a frown. “Even if I was of no help, I think that opening up is an important first step for you. Please talk to other people, they might be able to help. Your homeroom teacher cares a lot about you, you know. She grumbles about your insolence every other day but I know deep down that you're her favorite student.”
“Mima? Nah,” I laughed at the notion, “she sees me as a perpetual pest.”
“Try talking to her. Please,” she said, clearly holding back a sigh. Her soulful eyes pleaded with me.
“...I'll think about it,” I said, trying not to get too affected by her. I thanked her for her time again and left.
Maybe she had a point. I might need to talk to someone else, someone who would know me well enough to say the right thing. Someone who (perhaps only in my imagination) wasn't having a carnal relationship with him.
 Turn to Mima.  Yuugi would know the right thing to say.
It took a while to find my homeroom teacher. She wasn't in the office and she certainly wasn't still teaching – I checked our homeroom but there were only a few stragglers left. I found her in the teacher's lounge. She was the sole occupant of the break room, sitting in a small plastic chair by the window.
“Yo, Mima,” I greeted her irreverently as always, choosing not to pussyfoot around. She looked right at me and I saw that she had a mug in her hands. It looked like she was trying her best to suppress a sigh, but a look of impatience was written clearly on her face.
She didn't even bother chastising me for barging into the room. “Is there a good reason why you're bothering me after school hours?' she asked.
“I wanted your advice.”
“Bury your nose in a book and I don't mind if you sleep in class,” she said.
“No, it's not about my grades.”
“Think back to health classes then. If it's really bad, try asking the school nurse for help. Though you just might want to see a doctor to save yourself the embarrassment.”
“That's not it either,” I said. I would have sighed but I couldn't exactly blame her for having a dim view of me. The two obvious topics exhausted, she looked up at me quizzically, her deep and dark green eyes trained on my face. “I have legitimate concerns and I need my homeroom teacher to listen to me.”
“Fine, fine, whatever,” she said and told me to sit down, finishing off whatever had been in her mug. “You could have done me the courtesy of bringing me a free bottle of something as promised.”
It was a joke, though it felt awfully dry to my somewhat sensitive state of mind. Mima picked up on my unease well enough, restraining herself from further pushing her advantage.
“As you know, I'm running for student council vice president...” I began and told her more or less the same thing I told Ms. Kamishirasawa. To her credit, she listened patiently. I had expected some snark and condescension at a minimum.
“I really don't see what the problem is here,” she said after a moment of reflection. “Whatever you may feel, you're still going to end up handling it like you handle everything else. For better or worse, you're going to do things your way. I don't see you volunteering for the responsibility,” she said, indirectly hinting at that she knew at least something about the circumstances behind my candidacy, “but it's not like you've ever cared what others have thought of you, right?”
“Mm, never mind, I take it back,” she drooped her shoulders and stared into her empty mug. “Maybe you do really care after all. Pushing others away is just your way of avoiding criticism. Real criticism at that. About who you really are deep down.”
“I wasn't aware that you were a psychologist,” I observed sarcastically.
“It doesn't take one to know what you're going through,” she said. “I kinda get it. I'm sure that you see these old bones and you see an adversary of sorts, but not too long ago I was much like you. Confident to the point of arrogance. Not to mention rebellious.” Not letting me get a word in, she added with a sly smile, “if you had been in my class, I believe that our relationship would have been something like the one you have with Ibuki.”
“Even if you're right about me, that still doesn't help me decide what to do.”
“I've watched you enough over the years to know that you'll do the right thing if pressed,” she commented, with an annoying smirk. “I had thought you a bad influence on your friends initially, at least after that… incident.”
“I don't really want to talk about it,” I told her. Freshman year was an eternity ago. Some things were best left forgotten. “The past is the past.”
“Indeed it is,” she nodded, her voice taking a more cheery, almost sing-song quality, “I only meant to say that it took me a while to figure you out in that first year. But, everything considered, I can't consider you a bad person nor student. I have never filed formal complaints about your behavior because I don't think you're as disruptive as other teachers make you out to be. Or even you, yourself, think you are. If anything, that liveliness is an important asset.”
“If I didn't know any better, I'd say you had a soft spot for me,” I said, not sure if I was being genuine or snarky. The words just came out of my mouth almost automatically.
“Listen up, I'm only going to say this once so look me in the eye,” Mima said, her voice lowering an octave to show her seriousness. I did as she asked and found myself having strange thoughts of her as a person, rather than just a teacher. Her eyes had a hardness to them that told me that I shouldn't make light of what she had to say. “There is no competition to foist you onto other homeroom teachers. Every year, I've chosen to have you in my class. You are, in fact, one of the four choices that I wouldn't relent on even as I got pressure from the administration. I'm sure you can imagine the impact your behavior has on other teachers. I've- well, I've said what's most important.”
“I had no idea...” I muttered. I knew that she gave me plenty of latitude. But I had no idea she actually liked me.
“Don't get too emotional, you're still a pain in the ass. Just for different reasons.” Rolling her eyes, she added, “I will deny this conversation ever happened if you tell anyone else, so don't get any ideas. So are we done here?”
We were. She did all she could. I didn't feel like she could help further. Anything else was up to me.
I changed the subject. Since she was chatty (relatively speaking) and I had nothing better to do, I tried to get her perspective on something else.
 Ask her what she thinks of the rest of the class with full deniability.  See if there's any truth to the rumors about Ms. Kamishirasawa  Find out what she thinks about the school administration. Off the record.
[x] See if there's any truth to the rumors about Ms. Kamishirasawa
I don't see how getting her thoughts on our classmates would help us at all. Maybe it might give us a hint as to who wrote that letter or something, but I think that's unlikely. She may dislike the fact that we're buying into gossip, but given how we've just had a conversation with the source of those rumors, maybe she'll put some of them to rest. Hopefully.
[x] Ask her what she thinks of the rest of the class with full deniability.
We really lack insight in all but the most obvious issues. I wonder if there's a living bomb in our class that we could be solving. I just hope she doesn't think that is gossip just for the sake of it.
That said, the Kamishirasawa option is really good too. I'm still a bit concerned about it.
“Really? That's what you want to talk about?” Mima shook her head and smiled. There was a clear mix of scorn and amusement in her expression. She wrinkled her nose and added, “you'll have to ask someone else about that sort of gossip.”
“I'm just asking as a friend, not a student.”
“All the same, that's the kind of thing we just don't talk about,” Mima lectured, “I don't want anyone on staff prying into my personal life and I don't pry into anyone else's life. The system works.”
“And, yes,” she interrupted with a sharp glare, “I do have a personal life, so don't you dare crack jokes.”
“Wouldn't dream of it,” I said with a shrug. I might have, actually.
“Just ask her yourself if you're curious,” she added with an impish smile. I didn't know if it was genuine advice or if she was just messing with me. Seemed like she was at least a bit curious herself, if I had to guess.
“I'm not sure she'll appreciate a student asking about her personal life,” I told her. I mean, Mima didn't.
“How else will you ever know if you have a shot with her?” she laughed viciously, mocking me without hesitation. I supposed I deserved it. Clearly trying to act like a 'friend' instead of a 'student' had opened me up to harsher criticism. That said, it was nice for her not to hold back.
“I suppose I have a better shot with you,” I rolled my eyes.
“While you'd be my first choice from all the boys in the class, I think I can do better,” she said. “As a matter of fact, I think that both Margatroid and Kirisame can do better. Not to mention Houraisan. Jeez, how the hell did you manage to pull the wool over her eyes?'
“My winning smile,” I said, flashing her an example.
“Yeah, Keine is sure to fall for that,” she said sarcastically. “I'm sure that she'd risk getting fired over your quaint boyish smile.”
“'Keine', huh? So you do know her. At least well enough to be on a first-name basis. Then I'm sure you don't want her to be hurt by Mikisaki.”
“He's a fine teacher,” Mima said flatly. It was an unconvincing performance. “I'm not going to stand for you talking crap about my coworkers.”
“Well, sorry, but he's a real moron. I'm sure you've heard the rumors about how he treats the boys. And, more importantly, how he supposedly treats girls.”
“Back to rumors? I think we're just about done here.”
“Fine, but maybe one day you'll feel like telling me the truth. Maybe after I bring you a bottle of something hard to loosen your tongue.”
“You're welcome to try,” she said, shaking her head at me. After that, I barely got to say anything else before she shooed me away. Though it was Saturday, she still had work to get back to before she could go home. And she claimed that I was being a pain in the neck.
It was still early afternoon when I left. With Sunday off, I had plenty of time off to do whatever I felt like. After talking to my teachers, however, I didn't feel like doing much. I opted to stay home for the rest of the day, playing games for the most part.
“Rise and shine!” Marisa's excited voice was the first thing I heard the next morning. She practically launched herself into bed, ultimately kneeling and hovering above my face while shaking me firmly with her hands. Her bright smile was a little too much to bear first thing in the morning. I had maybe been dreaming about… something nice… the details escaped me quickly.
“It's not a school day,” I groaned, struggling to recall what my dream was about. A house on the beach? String bikinis? Something like that. Something something, leggy brunette.
“I know, silly,” she was unfazed by my response. Marisa bolted from my bed and stood up in what seemed like half an instant. Way too much energy for me. “I was just really excited about today.”
“Yeah? What's going on today?” I sat up, rubbing my eyes with my hands. No use in trying to go back to sleep. I looked at my clock. It was just past nine in the morning.
“We're going on a date!” she exclaimed, nodding her head quickly.
“I don't remember agreeing to that,” I said, keeping my lower half covered by the sheets. It was morning, after all.
“Well, it's not really a date,” she admitted, “but it might as well be. In the sense that it'll be the two of us spending time together doing fun stuff. I got a line on some genuine magical articles and so I want you to come with me to see if they're the real deal.”
“Where'd you hear about them?” I asked.
“I've been doing independent research,” she said, smiling. It was her attempt at being enigmatic. Kind of cute, I had to admit. Her enthusiasm certainly was contagious. “Anyways, we gotta leave soon if we want to keep up our studies. I don't think we're quite ready for spells and brew just yet, so artifacts might be worth checking out.”
“Why soon? Couldn't this wait? I'm feeling pretty lazy.”
Reluctantly, Marisa spilled the beans, “Um, well, I talked to Alice last night. She wants to go do boring stuff. Something about coordinating for the assembly tomorrow. Reimu is supposed to show up at her place later. So I wanted to go out before we get sucked into that. It's boring and unimportant stuff. I mean, compared to magic.”
I could understand her reasoning. Though I wasn't happy with being woken up by others in principle, I couldn't fault her for being zealous about magic. We had agreed to keep at it in secret, after all.
 Time for a magical date.  Stick around for non-magical meetings.
[X] Stick around for non-magical meetings. Two girls > one girl. Magic is not real and is a waste of time, we've seen that already, and if we are to spend time with someone, better do it with more people than only one person. Besides, boring stuff can be turned into fun stuff with Alice around.
I don't want to disappoint Marisa when she's being so enthusiastic about this, especially after she sought us out to spend time together. Not to mention, I'd feel kind of bad for ignoring her in favor of the thing she didn't want to do in the first place.
I wouldn't consider either choice any more consistent than the other. Sure, Arc's been demonstrating an interest in being a good VP, but he did also agree to look further into magic with Marisa.
Writing, albeit slowly since there aren't very many of you around at this hour. Please check in more often because I want to pick up the pace of updates. Kinda sucks to wait the whole day to write again.
For all intents and purposes, it did feel like a date.
Marisa was all smiles as we walked together to the station. I was still feeling a little tired but the combination of the warm sun and her unfiltered excitement had me perked up before too long. It was a perfect spring day – warm with a few clouds in the sky and an occasional breeze that rustled the leaves of any nearby trees. Since it was Sunday, there weren't too many people on the streets and to anyone who saw us we would have, indeed, looked like a happy couple. I found myself eventually smiling too. All in all it wasn't a bad way to spend a day off.
“How did you hear about this?” I asked as we boarded our train. According to her, it was a spot across town, where there used to be some light industry. I had heard that a lot of the old warehouses had been turned into luxury lofts and the whole zone was become one of the trendiest places to live.
“Kosuzu told me,” she said, “she heard of someone who sets up shop every couple of Sundays in a plaza by an abandoned factory. Sounds mysterious, right? Definitely the kind of place where we can score magical artifacts.”
There was something else that we could probably score at abandoned factories, but I didn't say anything. Instead, I was more interested in her dealings with the girl from the bookshop. “So you've gone back and gotten more books?”
“To the shop? Yeah, a couple of times. It's a pretty interesting place. That girl is pretty patient and has a sharp memory. Can cross-reference terms across multiple books quickly. She asks about you all the time too, seems that younger girls like you too, isn't that nice?” she stated with a playful wink.
“I'm thrilled,” I shrugged and shifted the topic away from amorous entanglements, “so what do you expect to find, anyhow?”
“Dunno, anything,” she gave me a shrug of her own. “I'm sure that whatever we find will be worth it. Besides, I like it when it's just the two of us. At school we're always surrounded by classmates and you're not always at home either.”
“That's kind of a bold admission,” I told her, shaking my head with a slight smile. That kind of attitude was totally what I had come to expect from her. She was right, however. It was nice to be truly alone for a change. No Auntie, Alice or Suika around.
Marisa simply laughed quietly in response, fidgeting with her sleeve. We didn't talk about much else, opting to look out the window as the train made its stops. It didn't take too long to get to our stop and Marisa led the way towards the spot she was told about. I followed along, noting that the redevelopment ended abruptly in the direction where we were going.
“I think this is the place,” she said, point at a small green space wedged between an old factory, complete with brick smokestacks, and a parking garage. It couldn't really be considered a park, I thought. Chainlink fence surrounded the area and the vegetation grew more or less wild, engulfing concrete and bench alike. Clearly the municipality didn't think it was worth doing regular maintenance there. The complete lack of people present might have been a factor.
We looked around and found no one. At least, not at first. Once we swept the area from one end to another, we found someone sitting in a bench as soon as we turned around. She sat there as if she had always been there, hunched forward, wearing heavy, dark robes with a cowl that looked incredibly unseasonable. Lilac lipstick was one of the few things that I could make out about her face – it was otherwise hidden by shadow and heavy fabric. A small upturned cardboard box was set in front of her.
“Have you come looking for me, dears?” she asked as we approached, her voice raspy as if she was a longtime smoker. I couldn't begin to guess at her age. She preempted our unspoken question, sweeping her hand in front of the cardboard box, making a few different items appear. “Magic beckons you, I can tell as much.”
“What are these?” I asked, taking a quick glance at the things she had placed. A deck of cards, a cameo in the shape of a disc, featuring a young woman with her eyes in contemplation and a small scrap of paper were among the things placed before us. Marisa studied them with quiet reverence, looking like she had found what she was looking for.
“Only trinkets that have found their way into my hands over the years,” the woman said, a half-smile curling up on her lips. “That piece of jewelry that your friend eyes so like a magpie, is something forgotten from another era. Effectively a charm, most apt for those who wish the power of tranquil mediation. And the deck that your gaze has settled on is something historied too. Gone from hand to hand, their divinatory nature is said to be without peer. Then again, the cards are only as effective as your ability to interpret them.”
“I want something that'll increase my power,” Marisa said. “Got anything like that?”
“That box-” the woman stretched a thin finger at an item at the very edge of the array. It was a small wooden box about the size of a pack of mints. I could have sworn it wasn't there before. “it is permanently sealed. But the small item within still radiates what you need. If you focus with it on your person, you'll find that you'll be able to accomplish what you wish more easily.”
“I'll take it,” Marisa said with a nod, handing the woman a bill. She didn't even ask for a price. And the woman didn't bother giving her change.
“All items are worth as much as you feel they're worth,” she said, as if she could read my mind. “So then, will you be getting something yourself?”
 Get the tarot deck.  Ask her to give you whatever she thinks is best.  Pass on the opportunity.
The woman nodded as I picked out the deck of cards. Their container was made of worn black leather, unadorned save for a complicated symbol printed with golden ink on one side. This symbol consisted of series of ten circles each with four lanes that connected them to other circles, save for the ones at the top and bottom which only had three. A strip of leather near the top was inserted like a tab into a slot, keeping the whole thing closed.
I handed over some money to her. For some reason, I settled on an amount quickly. I didn't think it over at all.
“May your endeavors be thrice blessed,” the woman said, clearing the cardboard box with a smooth motion of her arm. I couldn't tell how the items disappeared and, as fast as her gesture was, I suspected that they simply disappeared up her large and heavy sleeves.
She sat there motionless and mute, ignoring our presence. Marisa grabbed my arm and nudged me away.
“That was… different,” I said once we were out of earshot. I stuffed the cards into my pocket, not really keen on examining them right away.
“Mysterious and magical, right?” Marisa seemed pleased with how things turned out. She held her small box firmly in her hand, like it was going to somehow slip away if she didn't keep it under constant pressure.
“We'll see if it's actually magical,” I said, slumping my shoulders. I was willing to concede that there was something strange going on with that woman. I forked over hard-earned cash after a lousy sales pitch. That wasn't really like me. I should have haggled. Or simply given her less.
“Trust the stranger who sits in this weird park all by herself on a Sunday,” Marisa said, “I mean, just look at her, she screams 'trustworthy magic'. That cloak, that voice, that posture.” She turned around to point at her to emphasize her point. “Um...”
“Yeah...” I agreed with her confusion. The woman was no longer sitting at the bench. In fact, she wasn't anywhere at all. In the time it took us to walk back to the street she had vanished. “She could be behind a tree or bush,” I offered a logical explanation, scanning over the area carefully. The vegetation was overgrown but not to that extent.
“Told you it was magical,” Marisa grinned triumphantly, not at all bothered by the turn of events. She held me back from searching the area, instead urging me to just walk back with her. There was no denying that she was satisfied with the experience. For all the way back home she was grinning from ear to ear, clutching at her box triumphantly. “This should jump start our efforts,” she said as we got off at our stop.
“It'll do… something maybe. Not like we have an instruction manual handy.”
“You have to trust your instincts,” she said, explaining her views on magic, “believe, experiment and keep at it. I think that if you want it bad enough, you'll be able to manage. I'm feeling super positive about this and I think I can translate that into results. I read in a books that and strong emotion, if controlled can be a catalyst for spells. Maybe I'll use my love to get my way.”
“That'd be a first,” I told her. I didn't really buy into what she was saying. It seemed just a little bit too convenient a method. I'd wait and see if she got results. She was taking point on the subject, I was just along to help her however I could.
“Mm, maybe though in your case you should have asked for a quick lesson,” she said, patting the pulge in my trousers where the pack of cards was. “She did say something about the cards only being as good as your ability to interpret them. So I guess you should bone up on the basics first.”
“How hard can it be?” I was confident that I would be able to learn the ropes quickly. Heavy with symbolism as they may be, the cards still fell under a system of rules. It was just a matter of studying things properly. I'd need to do a little research.
We stopped for lunch at a fast food place on the way home. Things started feeling more like a regular date there, with Marisa and I changing the conversation topic to more normal things. Magic or no, Marisa's upbeat attitude was contagious. I was in a good mood when we finally returned home.
Without saying a word, we each went our own separate ways, both too curious about our respective purchases. I opened up the deck of cards and spread them out on my desk. Colorful and detailed images were drawn on each card and the name of each was written at the bottle in a simple font. A few extra symbols, both in the images themselves and next to the name were on each card. I couldn't recognize their significance. What made a four of wands better or worse than a hierophant?
I would have to get a few books on the subject, I reckoned, but for the moment my computer could reveal some of the answers. The consensus was that I should use the trumps for divination. I separated the so-called “major arcana” and put away the rest of the cards. I was left with twenty-two cards, each as cryptic as the next. I still wasn't sure of the significance of The Magus being surrounded by the symbols of the four suits I had put away was, nor why The Universe was an egg-like structure with an eye and a woman within it but I was well on my way to learning more.
After a few hours, I thought that I knew enough to do a simple spread if I tried. I wasn't too confident of my interpretation's accuracy, however. A site I visited warned that a bad interpretation could be more disastrous than no interpretation at all.
 Try it out for myself.  Use Marisa for a test.
“You should really open a window, it stinks in here,” I said, holding my nose as I entered Marisa's room. The smell of paper, ink and what could have very well been mold was unpleasant.
“You should learn to knock,” Marisa dismissed me, sitting at her small desk, several piles of books surrounding her. She was half dressed, wearing the same top from earlier but with pajama bottoms. Clothing mismatch wasn't the only thing going on with her. Her hair was also wild and disheveled, like she had been victim to a huge static discharge.
“Door's open,” I said, “that's your fault. So, still trying to unlock the mysteries of your box?”
“You could say that,” she sighed and turned around in her chair, facing me. She was frowning, her face showing the mental exhaustion of someone who had been frustrated for hours on end. “I think I might just go to bed now, it's a school day tomorrow.”
“Before you do that, mind if I try reading your fortune?”
“Sure, I guess. The bed is mostly clear of junk, so let's sit there,” she said as she swiped a stack of papers clear from the bed top onto the floor. I sat next to her after she scooted next to the wall.
“Okay, please shuffle the cards for me, thinking of something you want to know,” I told her, handing her the deck. She nodded and quietly mixed up the cards. A look of determined focus crept onto her face as she finally handed the cards back to me.
“What do you want to know about?” I asked, indicating that she should cut her deck with her left hand.
“Um, that's kinda private,” she said evasively, like she hadn't considered that I would have to know what she was asking about.
“I can't give you an accurate reading if you won't tell me what the subject matter is,” I told her. I wasn't completely sure if I was competent enough even knowing what she was asking about.
“It'll be fine,” she said, trying not to let me notice that she was getting a little worked up. A nervous smile was pasted on her lips. “Just do your thing, I believe in you.”
“Don't blame me if I get it wrong then,” I gave in, revealing the first card. XI – Lust. A woman relaxed with a multi-headed lion, a least casually placed in her hands. “That's you, your past behavior and your passions and strength.” I took out the next card, placing it to the right of the first. I – The Magus. I stared at the content figure standing in the middle of the intersection of cosmic lines and tried to think about what it could possibly mean. “I think that whatever the situation is, it's a matter of willpower. Of finding the right way of manipulating events. Or it might be someone else, I'm not too sure.”
“And the next card?” she asked, impatient. Whatever it was that she was asking about, it was something she cared about. Her lips pursed and then she retracted her bottom lip and bit it. With one hand she fiddled with the end of her braid, separating the strands of hair.
I drew the final card. XV – The Devil. “I'm not sure whatever it is will work out,” I told her. The large-horned goat that stood in the sinew-like strands of smokey dark atop confused figures of both men and women was a difficult card to interpret. It wasn't bad as such, from what I read, it depended very much on the context of what was being asked. It could be positive, in the sense that embracing base desires could lead to something better. “That said,” I added, “I think that the other cards might be a hint to what it really means. So keep that in mind. I could be that the strength of the first card with the savviness of the second can lead to a good resolution if you follow your instincts.”
I wasn't sure that was what it really meant but it was the best I could figure. Marisa didn't look satisfied with my reading. She stared at each card, as if trying to look right through them to some sort of hidden, unknowable secret.
“Want to ask it something else? Make it a question you can tell me.” I withdrew the cards from the bed.
“Okay,” Marisa took the deck once again and began shuffling. “I want to know if I'll find the information I want about my box in these books.”
I once again laid out the spread. XVI, VII and XIX. “I'd say yes. You keep at it and you'll find the revelation that you're looking for. The sun is a really positive card.”
Marisa nodded her head and smiled, “that's good to know. I guess I have to be optimistic about both things and I'll get there.”
“You might want to try again once I learn a bit more. There's a lot of different spreads and a lot of interplay between cards that I might not be entirely aware about.”
“It's fine for now,” she leaned in closer to me, planting a quick peck on my cheek. “Thanks Arc. Not just for this but for going out with me today. I feel good about the direction I've chosen.”
“No sweat,” I told her, getting up from the bed. “I'm going to leave you to it then. You should go to bed. I should turn in too, tomorrow is an important day.”
I put away the deck of cards in a drawer and got changed. It wasn't easy falling asleep, I wondered if I had made the right choice getting the cards. Or if they actually had any power. I didn't feel any different using them or learning about them. More importantly, I was curious what Marisa was thinking about. I felt like I had the answer within grasp but my mind kept going blank. I probably should tease her about it. She would tease me. And rifle through my computer and cards...
I woke up earlier than usual. Way earlier than usual. The sun was just coming out and the sky was still mostly dark. I felt strangely rested, like I had been asleep for half a day. Calm before the storm? Not likely. I chuckled at myself for being pessimistic.
Looked like I wasn't the only one that was up. When I went to the bathroom, I noticed that Marisa's lights were on. I got dressed and opened my curtains. A pair of eyes stared right at me. Seemed like I had caught Alice by surprise, she looked like a deer caught in headlights, still wearing a rather girly pink set of pajamas. I waved a cheery and silent 'g'morning' and she seemed to come to her senses, a slight smile forming on her lips. She nodded and indicated that she was going to go do stuff by miming a hairbrush with her hand.
 Go over and hassle Alice during her morning routine.  There was still unfinished business with Marisa.
So lust is her passionate approach, overconfidence is the weak point on it and trickery and cunning is what is needed to accomplish it?
Okay, after reading up a bit, I have to make some corrections.
Lust is obviously about Marisa. Her drive, endless energy, incredible willpower and devotion to her objectives are easy to understand. At the same time, the negative effects of this card (obvious-in-hindsight) were also shown by the story: when you put a lot you expect to receive a lot and if her (not small) patience runs out, weakness and depression are on the menu. Also, it makes her a bit of an uncomformist, accepting nothing less than a full victory. If she were a gamer (a hardcore one, I mean) she'd be the quicksave-quickload type.
Magician, unlike what I thought, seems to be a very positive card in combination with lust. If your objective is clear, it means that an opportunity is about to present itself and it's up to her to take it. It also represents purity without being naive and a tendency to hide your own worries. Yeah, not familiar at all. The devil is the last card and the most complicated. I thought that, if you're trying to read an objective, the first card is yourself, the second your approach to it and the third the result. However, if I'm wrong, this is all bananas. Anyway, the devil represents a voluntary addiction and over dependence to either something or someone. It is a fear that chains you unnecessarily and prevents you from actually acting against it. In this situation, it could be that her objective isn't worth pursuing, because the cost will override the benefit. Or, alternatively, that you're way too worried about something that you shouldn't and that will stop you from enjoying your reward or might even take it away from you in a short time.
Long story short, I think that she can accomplish what she wants, without too much trouble, as long as she focuses; but she should reconsider her objective, approach or reasons for her to want it in the first place.
>>61998 This is good. I think it's safe to take it with more than a grain of salt.
I think this is a pretty important choice, progress-wise. The Alice option is supremely enticing, hence why it makes an appearance now at this critical juncture. How rare is it to be able to follow up so quickly on a previous segment? Follow the thread as far as we can.
I really don't want to have to decide two updates in a row with a coinflip. So I'm leaving this open for an undefined amount of time while you hopefully discuss, use influence and whatever to reach a better consensus. While this isn't a critical choice it's not nothing either and there's some stuff going on beyond the obvious. Conveniently, this also gives me time to play games and be lazy.
>>61998 That's a nice analysis and I'm glad you took the time to type it out. There's a lot you get right, some things that are less right and fewer still that are just wrong. Unfortunately for you, tarot is one of those useless topics I know way too much about. So unless you start reading a lot of books on mysticism, gnostic practices and the historical aspects of divination, you're probably going to always be at a disadvantage. The results are something that I thought long about and have multiple layers in meaning to them. Without exaggeration it's the most heavy-handed combination of foreshadowing, symbolism and character analysis I've done in the story yet. Even the image chosen was a fortunate coincidence for something I was attempting. I don't expect anyone to get it all and I fully expect people to interpret some things in a different way. If Arc were good at reading the cards he might be able to determine certain truths about people, events and things. Yet there would still be metaknowledge that he would have no way of interpreting correctly because he doesn't know his world is fictional.
There's a reason that those two readings were something as ambiguous as a three card spread and not, say, a celtic cross or one of the larger wheels. Even though it's basic, the three card spread can mean many different things depending on the question you pose to it and how you choose to interpret the positions. It can be past, present and future. It can be context, obstacle and outcome. It can be what you think, what you feel and what you need to do. It can be you, another and your interaction. And it can be about what you can and cannot change. That doesn't even contemplate things like the relationship of one card with respect to another within those contexts. They modify each other and sometimes even harmonize. As I mentioned, I know way too much about this stuff, and there's more than one intended meaning I put behind each result. But there's more 'obvious' ones like the ones you've alluded to can be used as a springboard for other interpretations based on somewhat different basic assumptions. The cards are symbolically flexible and any reading depends on both what the reader knows and thinks about both the cards and his subject and his subjects own disposition. In short, even putting aside the questionable divinatory aspects there's always a very human and psychological aspect to reading a tarot spread.
I could go on and on but I won't. I really wish I could be more direct and reveal stuff outright. If you want more food for thought, I suggest taking both the obvious approach to interpretation and the more nuanced, abstract view at times. Why someone is asking is as important as who it is and when. What I intend with them is always truthful, but the cards themselves can mislead because of misinterpretation. They're great vessels for story tellers. I've previously been brutally honest with the cards in another story, the mother of this one, doing a celtic cross which revealed all. I don't think anyone got it at the time either.
You can safely ignore these and any future readings readings, I guess, and put them out of mind when making choices in the future. You can still make informed decisions with what is just in every normal update. But consider them my gift to those who want to have fun peeling onions and gaining hidden knowledge about this world and its characters.
Marisa slumped in her chair, still wearing the same mix of pajama bottoms with the top from the day before. It looked like she had stayed up night by the looks of it. I knocked softly but found that she had actually been asleep.
“Oh, Arc,” she mumbled quietly, still half-asleep by the look of things. She managed to lift her head up to acknowledge my presence. “Are we going for another round?”
“Round of what?” I asked.
“You were giving it to me really hard just now, I'm surprised you still have so much stamina left. I thought my hips were going to give after the last round.”
“I think that was a dream,” I said, a stupid grin manifesting itself on my face. “It's morning Marisa. And I came to see you because your light was on.”
Her words slurred and a half smile on her lips, she asked, “oh, then just five more minutes then? I'll do it myself. Let me finish properly. It feels too good.”
“That's… well, there's no sugarcoating it, that's incredibly lewd,” I said, shaking my head. “Once again, I'm really here, standing right before you.” I flicked her forehead lazily, just strong enough to show her that it was the real world. “See?”
“Ah, so it is,” she sighed and rubbed her eyes. “What time is it?”
“Still early. We won't have to go to school for a while.”
“I've really got to p-” finally coming to her senses, she cut her sentence short, “um, forget what I was saying just now, would you?”
“It'll be hard to forget,”I said, still grinning like an idiot. “I'm flattered to have been of such service to you in your dreams.”
“I'm sure you have outlandish dreams all the time,” she said, sounding more than just a bit defensive. Maybe her mind was still dull with sleep. “It's natural, so I don't know why you're giving me lip. I wouldn't make fun of you for having fantasies about someone in your dreams.”
“Alright, sorry,” I said,” I was just surprised, that's all. It's kind of flattering… and cute if I'm honest.”
There was a pregnant pause between us. I scratched my nose and looked at her desk, avoiding making eye contact with her. After a moment she cleared her throat and stood up, walking away briskly. Without turning to face me, she sad, “I'll go to your room in a bit, let me get ready first.”
I gave her no argument and went back to my room.
She showed up about twenty minutes later, already changed into her uniform. Seemed like she was properly awake. “It's a little hard to comb my hair in the mornings. It has a tendency to get a little wild,” she said, excusing herself for taking a long while.
“So, stayed up all night?” I asked, putting away the magazine I had started reading.
“No, but it feels like it,” she said, forcing a smile. Her energy was noticeably lower than the usual. “I ended up reading up on a lot more so that was worth it. Somehow I think that something like magic happened to me. I think that whatever it is that I got is related to my feelings and I had a dream-” she paused, a sheepish smile on her face, “before that. It felt like I could affect reality by focusing myself and imposing my will. It was really cool. Whenever I have the box nearby, it seems like I'm close to understanding more, it's hard to explain.”
“Would be nice if there's something to this,” I said. There hadn't been anything conclusive yet but there were a few reasons to keep cautiously optimistic.
Marisa closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. She said, “I think that the dream afterwards might also have had something to do with it. Strong emotions if focused properly can lead to results. At least according to this one book I read. There's invocations to say too, of course, but well… let's just say that what led to all that involved a lot of feelings.”
“If you say so,” I said, feeling a weird tightness in my chest. It was uncomfortable and I didn't know how to deal with it.
“You know...” Marisa started and paused. Her lips pursed. She held up her hands to her face, pressing them together, taking both index fingers and tapping them nervously together. “I mean, I might have had that dream because...” she continued unsteadily, her voice small and uncertain, “I read in one of the books that… well, that sort of activity promotes the transfer and focusing of magical energies. Especially if between those sensitive to it. And, uh, that might have stuck with me and-”
“I get the point,” I told her, understanding fully why she was so skittish. I, too, wanted to fidget with something if only to pretend I wasn't so uncomfortable. Why? I couldn't quite figure that out either.
I couldn't figure out what to say next. And it looked like she couldn't either. Thankfully, providence had other plans.
Marisa waved at the window and smiled. Alice was looking in at us, probably wondering what we were up to. The tension dispelled at once. I opened my window and we chatted a bit and agreed to have breakfast together.
After that, it was business as usual. We walked to school together and got to class earlier than was normal. With the assembly looming ahead, I didn't really pay much attention in class.
When it was time, I went to Reimu and chatted. We were going to be up on the stage and so we were to go to the rear of the auditorium, past the doors into the hallway that passed through there. Big Sis was there waiting for us. She told us that the headmistress was going to go through a few announcements and give a speech on civics before introducing the candidates.
“Wait here, I'll come get you when we're ready,” she said, with her usual sunny smile, “I know you'll do well out there but good luck. I'll be back in a few, I have to go by my office first.”
Big Sis disappeared around the corner, leaving just me and Reimu in the empty hallway. I could head the assembled students talking for some time before they finally quieted down. I leaned against the wall, crossed my arms and tried not to think too much. .
I imagined it would be at least a few minutes before we would be called in. Reimu took a few steps down the corridor and then turned to face me.
“Nervous?” she asked, offering an unguarded smile. With a practiced touch she adjusted the ribbon in her hair. How she even knew it was slightly askew without a mirror was beyond me. I felt her project calm all around. It didn't seem like wasn't too concerned about the assembly.
“A little,” I confessed, “I just want to get this over with. I'm not too used to being stared at by the whole school.”
Reimu giggled. It was hearty, honest giggle. She stepped closer, looking me up and down with a smile. Finally, she reached out and brushed away at my shoulder. “A little lint,” she explained. “And I thought you liked being the center of attention.”
“Quite the opposite. It's why I run away from classes so often. I like being left alone,” I told her.
“Make sure to smile and, if you're put on the spot, I'm sure you're more than capable of thinking on your feet. I've got a good feeling about this,” Reimu said. “This circus will all be over soon. And then we'll be left to our own devices.”
“Yeah, don't worry, I'll be fine,” I said. Even if I didn't fully believe it, it was close enough to the truth. I may have been generally uneasy but, with the end so close, I was feeling determined to see it through.
“Still, just in case...” she looked right up at my face, her soulful brown eyes meeting my own. They seemed to be asking for something. Or maybe waiting for a prompt.
If I was reading it it right, it was...
 A kiss, for good luck.  Just a confident smile to reassure her.  Some words of encouragement.
“It's for good luck,” I told her, my lips leaving her forehead
“And here I thought you were going to try something a little bolder,” she said, a pixie-like smile on her lips. Clear mischievousness sparkled in her eyes, a byproduct of her letting down her guard.
“I didn't want to be too forward and throw you off,” I said.
“Well, maybe you're just afraid of losing your own balance,” she dropped her voice to a whisper, bringing her face closer to mine. With her lips barely a couple of centimeters from my face, I could feel her every breath tickling my skin. “Luck is important, yes. And I'm not sure if you've calmed me down with your half-hearted attempt.”
“I'll strive to do better,” I whispered back, tilting my head forward. With the lightest of touches, our lips pressed together. It was more of a causal, somehow innocent thing, than an emotional kiss.
Big Sis cleared her throat. “The headmistress will be calling your name at any moment,” she said, having appeared from back around the corner. She carried a binder with her, slung under her arm. “I'll be at the door, listening in, so be ready to go in at a moment's notice.”
“I feel a bit luckier,” Reimu smiled, taking a step back. “If you feel tense, remember back to what just happened. You looked happy and if you're happy, you're relaxed. People look for that natural ease of being in their leaders. Hold onto that. “
Big Sis signaled us, telling us to come near the door. Yukari was wrapping up her speech, talking about the smaller, but very talented field of candidates that were running for student council. Most important among them were the peerless presidential and vice presidential candidates, both from the outstanding class of III-C. She called us by name.
Polite applause welcomed us as we got up onto the stage. Yukari was standing at the podium, smiling at the assembled student body. Hundreds of eyes from all three years were upon us. Whatever confidence I had been feeling earlier quickly started to fade away. I couldn't make out the face of anyone familiar, all were generic eyes that were trained on us.
“Let us hear first from the candidate running for the office of president,” the headmistress said. She indicated to Reimu with a sweep of the hand and more polite applause ensued. I stood by, looking on silently, standing next to Big Sis. Yukari joined us, standing to my other side as Reimu took the podium.
For her part, Reimu seemed to be perfectly calm. She introduced herself and stated the basics about herself and the campaign. Our plan might have been unambitious but it was at least sincere. I felt that some reacted well to her words though I wasn't sure that we had convinced too many undecided students. In total, it was a very short speech but one that covered everything that needed covering. The freshmen didn't really know us and so getting a good first impression was important.
Yukari led the clapping after Reimu was done, escorting her away to where I was standing. It was all very sterile and scripted. It didn't quite sit right with me. I didn't know either why we were the only ones up there when there were candidates for the position of treasurer, secretary and so forth. My gut told me that it was part of some harebrained plan by the administration. Calling these elections a farce would be too kind.
It was my turn to speak. Yukari called me to the podium, patting me on the back with a subtle gesture that would have been impossible for anyone in the crowd to see. Though I wasn't too worried about the concept of speaking, there was an oppressive energy about. I felt like I could be crushed easily if I let my guard down.. I smiled, remembering Reimu's advice, and introduced myself. It was strange to command enough respect to silence the whole student body and the several staff present. Strange, but somehow a little gratifying. I pushed down the feeling of unease that was gnawing at the edge of my conscious mind. Public speaking was something I was completely unused to but that was no excuse to flounder on my first try.
I spoke about how Reimu was a great candidate and how I would do everything to make sure that students' voices would be heard in our administration. True enough, but not exactly exciting. I went further, saying that not only would always be willing to listen to the problems and challenges facing the students but that I would be proactive in resolving situations before they got out of hand.
There really was no way of gauging feedback. The silent stares betrayed nothing of what they were all thinking. I felt like I had to do something a little bolder to get them eating from the palm of my hands.
 Promise to stand up to the administration if need be.  Push for greater opportunities and resources for club activities.  As an outsider to politics and bureaucracy, I would make the discipline committee less strict. Dan Quayle choice
An interesting political choice. we need to sway the undecided without turning away our base. We can either speak to the needs of the students which will be seen as an empty campaign promise unless we show we can back it up or we can promise to stand up to the administration which will make us enemies with the administration and will sour the students on us if we should ever fail to do so. We should avoid the 3rd option because coming from Arc it will be seen as him just being a lazy layabout who abuses his power to be a delinquent.
And given we don't have a blackboard around to scribble 'potatoe' on, that leaves the quail gambit out.
[X] Push for greater opportunities and resources for club activities.
[x] Push for greater opportunities and resources for club activities.
This is the only option I see that doesn't involve empty promises of some sort. I don't think we have the power to affect the disciplinary committee and standing up to the administration hasn't done jack shit so far. Plus, I really like Big Sis so I don't want to piss her off.
I think it's unwise to just pick one of these half heartedly. I think we need to determine what Arc actually wants to try and accomplish as VP in this administration.
[X] As an outsider to politics and bureaucracy, I would make the discipline committee less strict.
They had to see this coming. You can't shoehorn someone like Arc into the nomination without it. We're going to do all three things if we can help it, but his power is limited and this might use up most of his leeway. Regardless, this should really shake up the assembly and get them pumped.
[X] Push for greater opportunities and resources for club activities.
While the third option seems more in-character, or maybe more in-character in the eyes of his peers, I don't think it's going to get him taken seriously. Also, the club activities option is the only non-opposition choice - "stand up to the administration" and "weaken the discipline committee" are basically throwing the gauntlet. Since this isn't his arena, I figure starting small and cautious is the best way to go about this.
All things considered, I thought that my speech went pretty well. I stuttered and stalled a few times, nearly losing my train of thought but ended up catching myself in the end. For my first real go at public speaking, I could have done a lot worse.
I didn't really make much of an impression with my promise, I felt. There wasn't an obvious response from the audience. I put myself in their place: I'd heard candidates promise things every year and often it resulted in no discernible change for the majority. Still, it might have swayed a few people that were on the fence. Or so I hoped.
At least I didn't seem to piss anyone off. That was a victory in of itself. Maybe the people who were really into their clubs would appreciate the pandering. Heaven knew that the tea ceremony club could use more money. The school had a heavy bias towards the athletic clubs over the more cultural options.
“In conclusion,” I wrapped things up, “I'll do my best to represent every student in the school and do my utmost to support the student council president. Thank you for your time.”
Big Sis approached me after the students started leaving. She placed her hand on my shoulder, showing a bright smile, “you did about as well as I expected,” she said. “Voting will start soon. I'm sure you'll win. Your foot remained far away from your mouth.”
I didn't say anything, instead looking to see if I could find Reimu. We were supposed to go back to our classrooms to continue the exercise in democracy. Yukari had taken her aside and was talking to her, a sober expression on her face. Maybe she wasn't too happy with how the speeches went. Or maybe she was just acting the part of the concerned headmistress. The kind that actually cared about the welfare of her students.
We made eye contact briefly. A slight smile formed on her lips momentarily but quickly dissipated. She continued to talk to Reimu, paying me no mind.
“Nervous?” Big Sis asked, still trying to talk to me.
“Not at all,” I said, “got this one in the bag.”
“Good to hear,” she laughed, “you're starting to sound like a real politician.”
“I learned how to be duplicitous from the best,” I made a none-too-subtle jab.
“I'm pretty good at inspiring others to better themselves,” she said, brushing off my implications with ease. Either she didn't care what I thought of her or part of her actually believed that. The end result was that she was completely impervious to whatever I had to say about her either way.
“I suppose that I should go to class, I should at least vote for myself,” I told her, not looking to stick around for much longer.
“Don't worry, I'll give you a ballot, you don't have to go. We have a little business to take care of in my office now.” Dropping her voice to a whisper, she added, “unless you mean to go somewhere more private with the future student council president. In which case, I'll totally understand.”
That confirmed my suspicions that she had been spying on us for a while.
“Yeah? I thought that those types of interpersonal interactions were frowned upon on school grounds. Aren't you about to tell me that I need to set an example as the future vice president?”
“I'm a romantic at heart,” she said with her usual polished smile. I wasn't sure if she was being facetious or not. “There's nothing sweeter than young love, so I'm willing to bend the rules. Especially for the next president and vice president of the student council. I can't say what voters would think if they saw you two together, however.”
Was that supposed to be a threat? As always, there was no way of truly knowing.
 Go with Big Sis.  Ignore her and go get Reimu.
Big Sis escorted me to her office, nodding and smiling in greeting at the few teachers and students we passed. No one really acknowledged me despite the recent speech. That wasn't a surprise – I wasn't charismatic nor did I say anything that was especially popular among the students. “Down with homework” would have been a better rallying cry but I hadn't been quite ready to start a riot.
“First things first,” Big Sis said, closing the door after me. She opened up the binder she was carrying and produced a small piece of paper, handing it to me. It was a ballot. My name was printed on it and next to it was a check box. With so few candidates up for election it seemed kind of ridiculous to even have to check my preferences. “Go ahead and vote,” she told me.
“Shouldn't I be doing this in the classroom with the others?” I asked. There were ballot boxes and procedure to follow.
“Doesn't matter,” she said, sitting down at her desk, “I'll be there when they count the votes. I'm sure they'll let me add your sealed ballot to the count.” She leaned back in her chair and chuckled, “what's the matter? You're stare is looking a little too harsh. It's perfectly within the rules. Blame the previous student council for not being more strict about elections. You'll be able to change that soon enough if you want.”
“Fine,” I grumbled, voting for myself and Reimu. One of the edges of the ballot was semi-adhesive, activated by moisture. I licked it, sealed the ballot and passed it on to Big Sis. She took it and stuffed it into her pocket. “Let me guess, you're also going to be counting the votes, right?”
“It is the staff, yes,” she admitted, “there are provisions for student supervisors but no one came forward as a volunteer this year. If you want to do it, I'll be happy to accommodate you.”
“Somehow I don't think I'd make a difference,” I said, slumping my shoulders. One set of eyes divided among twenty or boxes wasn't much. “So what is it that you called me for? Surely not just for my vote.”
“I just wanted to catch up a little with one of my favorite students,” she said, gesturing for me to take a seat. An electric kettle would be a nice addition to her office. Tea would add a touch of comfort to the situation. That way I could at least pretend to have the same type of honest chats I had with Eirin. Even if we both knew that we were both being less than honest.
Big Sis began to tap her finger on her desk, closing her eyes as if in deep thought.
“So how's your love life?” I asked, being impudent. All I wanted was for her to get to the point. I wasn't really in the mood to dance around.
“Not as good as yours,” she opened her eyes, flashing a toothy smile. “I've missed our little conversations, truly. One would think that the soon-to-be vice president would remember to check in with his big sister more often. Especially when she helps him out of all sorts of jams, asking for little in return. If that isn't love, I don't know what is.”
“I'll buy you a box of chocolates to show you my gratitude,” I said, rolling my eyes. “...but you might want to be careful. Eating too many sweets can have serious repercussions. That blouse of yours is already looking a little too snug.”
“That's a low blow,” Yuyuko shook her head. But she laughed all the same, adding, “though I should remind you that it's rude to talk about a lady's weight, I'm also flattered that my sweet vice president can't help but stare at my body. Such a piecing gaze it is too. It's almost as if you're undressing me with your eyes. Another quirk of being young, I suppose.”
“You're-” I started but checked myself. I was about to say 'the one wearing a pink bra whose contours can be seen through her white blouse' but that would be playing right into her game. Instead, I sighed and tried not to let myself get too carried away. She was just messing with me, like she always did. I chose my words carefully, “I don't think that you brought me here to hear just how pretty and wonderful I think you are.”
“No,” she agreed, then added with a playful chuckle, “but it doesn't hurt to hear it.”
Big Sis opened up her binder, and pulled out a stack of papers. Reviewing them quickly, her fingers flicking between the pages, she then handed them over to me.
“What are these?' I said, taking a look. There were charts and tables galore. A few names jumped out at me. They were classmates' names.
“Just information that you might find useful when you sit for your first meeting tomorrow after school,” she told me. “Feel free to share it with your beloved president too.” Her emphasis insinuated something that I definitely didn't want to talk to her about.
“Budgets and participation rates in activities is more of a job for the secretary and treasurer to deal with. At least initially,” I said. The unspoken question was, of course, 'what do you really expect me to do with all of this?'
“Your big sis is simply watching out for you,” she answered my unspoken question. “You'll have a lot to deal with in the coming days and a lot of new responsibilities. There's no reason to jump into it blind.”
“Thank you for your concern,” I told her, still trying to figure out the catch.
“You'll be making your own real decisions about who to help and what to prioritize. The growth you've shown in the last several months almost brings a tear to my eye,” she said, wiping away an imaginary tear with a swipe of her finger.
“Any particular 'real decision' that I should be making in the next couple of days?”
“Oh, your big sister wouldn't want to fill your head with her own wishes. You're grown up enough. Figuring out things on your own is something you're more than capable of doing.”
“Even so, I can't help but be a little curious about what Big Sis thinks about this and that...” I flashed a smile of my own, regaining the initiative in the conversation. Or the illusion of initiative.
 “If my darling big sister were in my position, what would she prioritize? Good advice is always welcome.”  “With all the growing I've done, Big Sis is starting to see me as a dependable man, right? She's been secretly staring at my body, too, after all.”
Oh, meant to say earlier. Even though I've been criticized before for only having two choices for updates in the past, I think I'll stick to the formula for the time being. This thread has shown that you neither discuss nor vote for third (or fourth) options enough to justify my adding alternate outcomes and segues to scenes.
[x] “With all the growing I've done, Big Sis is starting to see me as a dependable man, right? She's been secretly staring at my body, too, after all.”
Flirt with Big Sis? I can't say no to that. Plus, I think we can decide for ourselves what to do with this information. Just the details on who has been going to which clubs and how often can shed a lot of light on a person and their habits.
[X] “If my darling big sister were in my position, what would she prioritize? Good advice is always welcome.”
Let's cut the bullshit. We're in new territory and direction would be nice. When it counts, big sis can be relied upon, I'd like to build their relationship further. Asking for advice is an easy way of doing just that.
“That's quite presumptuous, don't you think?” Big Sis laughed off my comment. While her smile broadened, she placed her elbow on her desk leaned in and rested her chin on the upturned palm. It was a pose that seemed playfully informal. Resting her other arm flat on her desk, she added, “that sort of boldness must get you in all sorts of trouble with women, I imagine. Thank goodness your big sister is so understanding and isn't quick to take offense.”
“It never hurts to check,” I said, “seems like you're pleased with the way I've turned out.”
“Maybe,” she said evasively, really leaning onto her arm. Her fingers played around the side of her face, brushing past a few strands of hair. “I don't think your body has changed much since we met,” she observed, “maybe you've gotten a little taller. Your eyes, no, the look you present the world, however, that's something noticeably different. Still confident but perhaps not so smug? I'd say tempered by empathy but maybe that's wishful thinking.”
“In short, I'm becoming more your type?”
Big Sis laughed again. Once again she didn't directly answer, mumbling a half-baked, “I wonder...”
“Well, it's not like I'm expecting Big Sis to be head over heels in love like an inexperienced teenager. Being seen as more dependable is progress enough.”
“We'll see if others pick up on it too,” she added. “I'll be watching your administration closely. The choices you make should be interesting either way. I think you're at least prepared enough to deal with her.”
“'her'? Who do you mean?” I asked.
She sat back up away from her desk. Her hand was raised at shoulder level, her index finger held up from the rest of her fist. Wagging her finger from side to side, she said with her usual smile, “that, I'm afraid is a big secret. I wouldn't want to spoil anything ahead of time.”
“You mean Yukari, right?” I blurted out the first name that came to mind. They were friends and maybe they had been talking about me. A silent smile was my only answer. “...you're not going to tell me a thing, are you?”
“See? You were right. You've grown plenty,” she teased with a light giggle. That was about right. We both knew that I understood how things were going to play out. Having fun at my expensive – not that I should have expected any different.
“As nice as this has been,” I told her, “I think I ought to get back to class.” It wasn't like I was going to make any more progress. Any openness that she might have displayed was still carefully measured. I hadn't hoped to have caught her off balance since I very much doubted that it was at all possible.
“Wait a moment,” she beckoned me to stay. “There's one more thing before you go. I wanted to ask you something. Are you happy with how things have turned out?
“What specifically with?” I asked, not sure what she meant.
“It's a simple question and I think you know the answer,” she stated. Instead of her usual practiced smile and somewhat flippant attitude, her eyes and restrained expression showed a more sober curiosity.
 No real complaints. She'd be happy to hear as much.  I couldn't give her a real answer.
[X] No real complaints. She'd be happy to hear as much.
A little early, but I certainly don't have any complaints. There isn't a "no" answer here. I find that especially curious, but not enough to change my answer. In reality, I am appreciative of Yuyu. Things would have been so much more dull without her.
I really would like to move the story along faster and only doing at most an update a day has become something of a frustration. I once again appeal to readers to check in more often and to encourage others to do the same. We should be going at a brisker pace and make use of the free time I can set aside to write. At this rate the story will not be finished in a reasonable time frame. I'm trying my best to keep at it but it's hard to find motivation when it feels pointless to keep trying so hard. I'd say more but I don't wish to deviate too much from the basic call to action.
>>62064 There is no emphatic 'no' or 'yes' because partly it's based on general events and attitudes throughout the story. Arc's experience and reader intent. Partly it's also because you've completely turned me off from providing more than two choices to any given option. This would have been a good moment to have multiple nuanced options but seeing as you wouldn't discuss them or vote for them anyhow I figured 'why bother?'.
Writing sometime soon, please let's try to speed things up.
>>62067 That's a glib argument that is easily refuted by this thread. In the past several weeks with uninterrupted updates we still haven't managed to crack more than one per day average. Do your best and it'll be fine.
Big Sis got up from her chair and handed me a small square plastic wrapper.
Though it was the perfect opportunity to make a follow up remark to the quasi-flirtatious vibe from earlier, I held my tongue. Wasn’t quite sure why either. Maybe it was the lack of her usual carefree smile. I watched and waited for her to say something.
She shook her head, telling me that there wasn’t anything else to the gesture.
“Thank you,” I said dumbly, pocketing the condom. Wasn’t sure what other kind of reaction I should be showing her.
“I’m not going to press you on whether or not you’re just saying what I want to hear,” she told me. With a different, and somewhat subtler-than-usual, smile starting on the corner of her lips, she added, “be good and happiness will follow.”
And I was on my way. Big Sis went back to her desk and waved a little playful goodbye, turning to the stack of papers.
Back at my class, things were incredibly lively. A large box was set on the teacher’s desk, Mima was gone and political talk was in the air. Well, maybe calling the banter between classmates ‘political’ was a little too generous. Most of the talk was centered around cafeteria food and how clubs were managed. God save the poor soul that brought up the recently-axed triple curry bun - it was a sore point among the bread connoisseurs and their passion for the savory snack verged on zealotry.
The blackboard was full of scribbles of all sorts. From a wistful poem about how girls look better with the floppy sleeves of their winter sweaters to nonsensical graffiti. My name was featured prominently near the center of the mess, circles with arrows extending from it like an octopus’ tentacles. Apparently it was speculation on my love life as each arrow led to a myriad of other names. All people I had talked to recently, even a couple of guys in other classes. I wasn’t sure if that was very flattering.
A large lightning bolt spread from “Our dear President” to my name, its wrath implying that she was the most powerful contender of them all. Or maybe it was a political statement. Like she was the real force behind the ticket.
Suika came up to me in the carnival-like atmosphere and patted me on the back. As usual it felt like getting struck by a train. She wrapped her arm around my back, adding with a laugh, “Arc, old boy, I voted for you despite my better judgment. I figure that you’re the best schlub for the job.”
“Are you drunk?” I asked.
“Only on the atmosphere,” she said, pinching my arm like that was somehow okay. I slapped away her hand. “We can totally get drunk later if you want to celebrate though. That is, unless you have to go to a cabinet meeting and plan how you’re going to embezzle money or something.”
“I - that’s not how student council works.”
“Sure it ain’t,” she gave me a meaningful wink, “gotta respect a politician that’s on the straight and narrow.”
Shrugging Suika off, I scanned the room. No one else seemed to care that I had showed up. Not even my two childhood friends - they were in a group of classmates in the back, talking about whatever. The free-for-all wasn’t even really limited to people in my own class. I realized that half the people present were from other classes. That therefore meant that every class was using the elections as an excuse to goof off.
Suika continued to pester me as people came and went. She was happy with the opportunity to officially miss class and was actively encouraging me to take it one step further and, in her words, “blow this popsicle joint.” Frankly, I was more interested in keeping track of the new arrivals. Or the passersby. I spotted Kaenbyou walking by, chatting with a smiling Komeiji in the hallway. A little while later, I saw Kochiya pass, being followed by a small group of excited boys. Seemed like she was popular.
It was the next familiar face that gave me pause. She turned her head towards the door, smiling, making eye contact with me. Some guy was trying to chat her up as she walked but she wasn’t paying too much attention to his efforts, looking bored. Suika tugged at my arm again, trying to get me to go do something with her.
>>62071 I'll go with [X] Go with Suika. Because as >>62072 said, it's been a while. but more than that, now that Arc is an elected official and has responsibilities this might be the last chance he gets to blow off and skip class to hang out with suika.
The smile was altogether too brief. Tenshi walked past the room without hesitation, off to do heavens-knows-what. The vice-like grip of friendship soon held me firmly in place. Even if I had changed my mind, I doubted that I could get away with my arm still attached.
“Come on, let’s get out of here,” Suika said, leading me in the opposite direction from the others. Whether I liked it or not, I was coming along for the ride.
As I pretty much had thought, the elections were a school-wide excuse to not get anything done. Both the third and second year classrooms that we passed were free-for-all zones and there were no teachers in sight to keep things from escalating. I got a few smiles on while being spirited away, a sign that maybe my speech had at least made my face a little more recognizable. Either that or they found the idea of a girl half my size driving me like I was cattle amusing.
We ended up going to a part of campus that I seldom went to. It was in the old annexes near the end that faced the gym building. Suika circled us around from the outside, by where a few old trees and an old stone fountain broke up the path. Getting closer to the old annex, she dove in between a few overgrown bushes and looked around.
“You’re getting my uniform dirty,” I complained, figuring I should at least try to make some semblance of conversation.
“Have your personal assistant dry clean it later,” Suika said with a hearty chortle, amusing herself. The thing that she was looking for became obvious soon enough. A metallic hatch, like the kind that led to a root cellar was tucked away next to the annex. Grabbing onto one of the large handles, she pulled it open and led us inside. It was dark, of course, but she was prepared. Suika produced a pocket flashlight and turned it on, revealing a dusty old concrete hallway. A few bulbs hanged from the ceiling but I couldn’t see a corresponding switch to turn them on.
Old janitorial equipment lined the sides of the hallway, alongside a few locked chests and filing cabinets. We went deeper into the hallway until we reached a juncture that went either left or right. Suika chose right and then the first door that came up on the left. She pulled on the heavy iron door and opened it. It looked like a storage closet. A few shelves with unlabeled bottles and boxes lined either side.
“Almost there,” Suika said, jumping up and grabing a cord that was hanging from the ceiling. A hatch opened and a small set of stairs fell down at us. She closed the door behind us and urged me to climb on up. I couldn’t see where I was, it was all dark up there.
Coming in behind me, she reached for a cord and bulb flickered to life. We were in a small room filled with boxes. Well, not just boxes. Signs of recent additions like junk food containers and a soft-foam mat by a bricked-over window told me that Suika had been here several times before. Enough to get comfortable.
“Pretty cool, right?” Suika asked, closing up the hatch below her. There were a few posters on the walls too, all of musicians from at least a decade or two ago.
“Where are we?”
“A club room in the old annex, best I can figure,” she said, “there used to be a door next to where you are but for some reason all entrances and exits have been covered by brick and concrete. Well, save for the one we just came in through.”
“What’s in the boxes?” I asked.
“All sorts of junk. Old records, film reels, even gnarly science experiments suspended in fluids. I’ve been taking a look whenever I have time but there’s a lot of it to go through.”
“How did you discover this place?”
“I have a life outside of you, you know,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “While you’re off playing casanova and Mr. bigshot politician, I was off doing cool badass stuff. Like exploring the underground tunnels that seem to run between the school buildings. I made this place my base since it was easy to hide in but also easy to get to.”
“I’m impressed,” I told her, “this place is definitely special.” I dug through a nearby box, finding that they were a stack of old magazines. Lifestyle magazines. Older than I was, too. I wondered why anyone would have bothered to save them. The smile of the model wearing bell bottoms was yellowed and fading, much like the rest of the covers.
“Here, have a beer,” she tossed over a brown bottle. Looked like she kept a stash there. “They’re cheap and there’s no refrigerator here. But, hey, we’re drinking during the school day. So that makes up for the crappy flavor.”
“Cheers to that,” I said, popping off the top and taking a sip of the warm liquid. I riffled through a few of the other boxes while chatting with Suika. She told me about a box full of vintage photographs. They seemed to be of the campus back in the old days, before the new wings were added. The place had been around for the better part of a century, it seemed. A few images of students among the years were also scattered here and there, no one I could possibly hope to recognize.
“Hey, Arc,” Suika threw another bottle at me as soon as the first one was empty. I barely managed to catch it in time. A little more and it would have hit me in the head.
“Why’d you decide to run for vice president?””
“What’s all this all of a sudden?”
“Just curious why you’d do something that would mean actual work. Gives you less time to hang out with the cool kids, like me.”
“That it does,” I said with a smile.
“Is it because you want to get into Hakurei’s pants?”
“No, it’s not that,” I told her. That would be a happy side effect more than anything.
“Then what? What could be so good about it that it trumps hanging out with your best buddy all the time? I thought that our thing where we didn’t care about anything was the way it was going to be until we graduated.”
 It didn’t. I was forced into something I wasn’t sure I wanted.  Helping people out was a more satisfying experience than the usual stuff we did.
[x] It didn’t. I was forced into something I wasn’t sure I wanted.
Tough choice. While I find it nice to be actually helping people, it is very true that Arc was originally forced into this. However, I don't regret choosing this path and I'm pretty sure that Arc would feel similarly. It feels good to do good, after all.
>>62092 Well, my problem is that the other choice implies that we'd rather be helping randoms instead of hanging out with our bro Suika. Not only is that a dick thing to say, it isn't entirely true. I'd rather see Arc hang out with Suika than get chewed out by Aya for example.
I see it as him growing to tolerate what he's gotten himself into. Yes, he was pushed into this whole mess, but I think he's a better person for it, and things can be "okay" even if they're beyond one's control.
>>62091 Wording does suck. It's difficult to encapsulate the sum of the consequences of previous choices and interactions as well as plausible reader intent while also keeping it specific to what Suika is actually asking. There's no way around it save for making it a write in or adding more, nuanced, choices. Both of which aren't really good alternatives given the general state of voting.
>>62092 Different characters, different circumstances. Defining something that abstract can't possibly be boiled down to a single choice, at any rate. Rule of thumb is that if you're telling a character something it's more about them and how they fit into your life than strictly internal mindset or philosophy.
>>62093 Not sure if getting chewed out by Aya counts as help. Though I'm sure there's room for misinterpretation, the choices here are about activities not people. Arc did say that it wasn't about Reimu, for instance.
I was going to conclude this post with a 'writing now' originally but the truth is that I missed my window of opportunity for writing earlier while waiting for votes and I'm kind of busy and have to deal with a few things. So, optimistic time frame is writing like an hour or two from now. So feel free to keep voting until then.
I'd like to do fast updates whenever possible so please keep checking in whenever you can.