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Hoshiyama Koko (Chapter 5 up)

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by Detective Calvin, Apr 6, 2015.

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  1. Detective Calvin

    Apr 6, 2015
    This fic is heavily influenced by anime, but is completely original, save for a few references here and there. It's about a group of girls who are beginning the transition into high school, each with their own aspirations and struggles. I hope that everyone enjoys reading this as much as I enjoy writing it.
    Chapter 1: Train Ride of Hell

    "Oi, when do you suppose this train will get there? We've been ridin' on this damn thing for hours!" An angry female voice said, piercing through the recent silence. The owner of the voice was a short, slender brunette who was currently doing pushups on the floor of the car to kill the time. She wore a pair of black sunglasses and a dark blue shirt and pants outfit with black sneakers. The train in question was en route to Hoshiyama High School, the most prestigious high school in Tokyo. A group of prodigious individuals had recently been accepted at the school after graduating middle school with exceptional marks, and would spend three years living at this school. Unfortunately, getting there seemed to take a long time, and certain individuals had little patience.

    "To be precise, exactly 3 hours, 47 minutes, 24 seconds, mark." A second grating monotone voice said, this one sounding more mature and sophisticated. The speaker was a black-haired girl with large glasses and an apparent inability to smile, as it looked like she hadn't smiled once in her life. Her glasses looked nearly opaque, so it was difficult to see her eyes behind them. She was dressed in an all black uniform that included a double breasted jacket, and fancy button-up blouse, a knee length skirt, leggings, and flats. Her nose was currently in a thick book. "By the way, that round of silence lasted 5 minutes, 18.675 seconds."

    "Shut it, Tomoko. Go back to your book." The first girl snapped, standing up and cutting her eyes at the bookworm.

    "You know, Akako, you have no one to blame for your boredom, save yourself." Tomoko said calmly, looking over the top of the book and her glasses at Akako, exposing her misty-blue eyes. "I've offered you books to read, and you shot them all down. I offered to play I Spy with you, and you shot that down as well. Even Hanako suggested you go to sleep, but did you listen?" Her answer came in the form of Akako getting up, snatching the book, and closing it. "I was reading that."

    "Read this." Akako sneered back, slamming Tomoko over the head with the book. The weight and density of the book was more than enough to render a person unconscious for awhile, which was exactly what it did to Tomoko. Akako smiled, knowing she wouldn't be hearing from her for awhile, and put the book next to her before going back to her seat.

    "Tomo-chan? Are you okay?" A short blonde girl with blue eyes got up from her seat, going over to check Tomoko's unconscious form before turning to look at Akako with shock and fear. "She did nothing to deserve that."

    "Hanako, stay out of it." Akako growled, going back to her pushups. "Unless you'd like to join her in Dreamland."

    "Kiyoko, she's threatening me!" Hanako called out, casting a fearful look at Akako. At that moment, a tall redheaded girl stepped into their car, looking none too amused. The new arrival wore a blue and pink track jumpsuit with matching running shoes.

    "Akako, what is it gonna take for you to settle down?" The girl apparently called Kiyoko said with a tired sigh. "Honestly, you've been insufferable this whole ride, and we've still got x hours to go."

    "If you must know, I'd love nothin' more than to be able to settle down and take a nap, but I got way too much energy." Akako drawled, continuing her pushups. "You know how I get when I'm cooped up for too long. My blood starts boilin' an' I gotta do stuff."

    "Yeah, I didn't forget. Your ADHD keeps you constantly moving." Kiyoko said, looking around. "Say, how'd Tomoko fall asleep so fast? I was gone for five minutes."

    "Actually, she hit her with the book and knocked her out." Hanako said meekly. "She got mad because she scolded her for complaining."

    "Really now?" Kiyoko said, turning to face Akako with a tired expression. "Akako, you're one of my best friends, and I understand your problems, but remember that you made a promise to me, and I expect you to honor it. I hope you haven't forgotten that already. You promised your bullying days were over."

    "Shaddup! I'm tired 'a you lecturing me!" Akako growled, standing up.

    "Akako, don't pick a fight with me." Kiyoko said gently. "I don't want to hurt you, especially with your condition."

    "Don't you dare pity me, Kiyoko! I hate that!" Akako whined.

    "I apologize, Akako. Please calm down and try to relax." Kiyoko said, putting up her hands to placate the irate brunette.

    "Whatever." She huffed, going to the other end of the car and shadow boxing.

    "Kiyo-chan, it looks like Tomoko got hit hard, and that book was heavy." Hanako said softly, staring at Tomoko with worry ever-present in her large blue eyes. "Think she might have a concussion?"

    "She might. There's a bump growing." Kiyoko said. "Can you go get some ice for me?"

    "Okay." Hanako said with a hint of sadness, leaving again.

    "I hope you're proud of yourself." Kiyoko sighed, turning to Akako. "She did nothing to deserve a concussion."

    "She pissed me off with that damn mouth 'a hers." Akako muttered. "I ain't in the mood for her big words and snarky attitude."

    "Then you ignore her." Kiyoko growled. "You need to keep that temper of yours in check."

    "Whatever. Just leave me alone." Akako sighed.

    "Here's the ice." Hanako said as she entered, holding up a bag of ice.

    "Thank you, Hanako." Kiyoko said with a smile, taking the ice and applying it to Tomoko's head.

    "Oh, and we're almost there now. I can see it on the horizon." Hanako added, sitting down. "It's so big and beautiful!"

    "It's about damn time!" Akako huffed in exasperation, throwing faster and harder punches. "I can't wait to see the place!"

    "Yeah, the pictures in the brochure were beautiful." Hanako said. "It must look even better up close."

    "If Tomoko doesn't wake up by the time we get there, one of us is gonna have to carry her out." Kiyoko said. "And someone's gonna have to get her luggage."

    "Hmph. I'll handle it." Akako said.

    "Thank you for volunteering. I'm glad you're showing some responsibility." Kiyoko said with a smile.

    "Shaddup already. Someone has to do it, and I think I can handle her stuff." Akako muttered.

    "All of it? She needed help getting her stuff on the train." Kiyoko laughed.

    "She's a weakling. I'll handle all of it." Akako boasted, throwing one last punch before turning to face them and puffing out her chest.

    "You sure you don't want help?" Kiyoko asked. "You shouldn't be doing a whole lot, what with your arm and all."

    "Fine, you guys can help. Just don't remind me." Akako said, leading the way to the storage car. When they got there, they located all of their luggage, and started making trips back to their car. Akako and Kiyoko had an average amount of luggage, while Hanako had several more bags, filled with ecology magazines and the like. When they finally got to Tomoko's luggage, the three sweatdropped. "You mean THIS is all hers?" Akako shouted in disbelief, staring in shock at the large pile of suitcases, most of which were filled with books.

    "Yep, that's all hers." Hanako said. "It took ten trips to get all this stuff on."

    "Are you kidding me?!" Akako exclaimed. "My arm hurts just looking at this pile!"

    "Nope. Not kidding." Kiyoko said. "You definitely need help. Oh, and don't use that right arm if you can help it."

    "Shut up about my arm, already!" Akako muttered. "It's been a year, I think I know how to deal with it."

    "Just reminding you. You haven't mentally adjusted to the injury yet, so someone has to remind you." Kiyoko said. "You're not as strong as you were a year ago, even with the rehab."

    "Let's just get this stuff ready." Akako huffed, grabbing a smaller suitcase and dragging it with her left arm.

    "Ugh, this is heavy!" Hanako groaned, struggling to lift a suitcase.

    "You're lifting the wrong way, Hana-chan." Kiyoko said, going to help. "Watch me." She squatted in front of a heavy suitcase, hugged it close to her, and lifted back up using only her legs. "See? It's easier to carry, and has less strain. You only use your legs, so it doesn't hurt your back or arms."

    "Okay, awesome!" Hanako said, trying it. "Hey, this is easier!"

    "Yep. But we got a lot of work, so don't overexert yourself."

    "I won't." Hanako replied, following Kiyoko. And so a gauntlet of hard work began.


    Chapter 2: Arrival at Hoshiyama
    "Ah, so ne*... finally done!" Akako panted, dropping the last piece of Tomoko's luggage on the boarding platform. "Oh... my back hurts... An' my bad arm... why did I have to use my bad arm?"

    "Trying to compete with me, I suppose. Even so, you only lifted the lighter suitcases. I got the heaviest ones, plus her." Kiyoko said in a strained tone, carrying Tomoko fireman-style with some difficulty.

    "Well, you are the strongest one of us." Hanako panted, taking a puff of her inhaler. After a few seconds, she exhaled and turned to Akako. "You forgot that you're handicapped, that's all."

    "Shaddup, or you'll be joinin' me in that category." Akako growled, grabbing Hanako by her collar and lifting her, only to drop her again. "Oww... my bad arm..."

    "That's enough." Kiyoko said, separating them. "Hanako, you don't call people handicapped, even if they are. It's extremely impolite. And Akako, you need to control your temper. People are gonna say things. The worst thing you can do is let it get under your skin, let alone react violently. Now both of you apologize."

    "I'm sorry I called you handicapped." Hanako apologized. "In hindsight, the word just has a terrible aroma to it."

    "I'm sorry I almost kicked your ass." Akako grumbled, looking away.

    "Akako..." Kiyoko warned. "Do it right."

    "Fine. I'm sorry I threatened you." Akako sighed, trying to look sincere.

    "That's more like it." Kiyoko said, shifting Tomoko to her other shoulder. "Now, let's go outside and see what this place really looks like."

    "You're new students, aren't you?" A younger voice said. All three heads turned to see a girl whose size and voice made her seem no older than Tomoko dressed in an elegant black gothic-lolita dress. Her chin-length black hair almost looked an extremely dark shade of blue, and her dark brown eyes stood out well against her pale skin. "You'll get your dorm placements at orientation later on. Now, what are your names?"

    "You seem a little small to be askin' questions like that." Akako said challengingly. "Why should we listen t'you?"

    The little girl frowned, then stood up straight, looking dignified. "I'll have you know I'm in charge of guiding the first-years who are arriving on this train." She informed the girls. "You'd better cooperate, or the administration's gonna have a word with you for insubordination."

    "Heh! You, guidin' first-years? You can't be any older than us, if not younger than even Tomoko!" Akako laughed, patting the girl's head. "This administration must not be too smart, puttin' a little kid like you in charge 'a something like this."

    "Akako, stop it! If she was put in charge of this, it's not our place to question it." Kiyoko snapped, pushing Akako aside with her free hand. "Please excuse our friend. She's got the temperament of an ill-mannered pit bull."

    "Hmph. She'll be written up for insubordination." The girl huffed, fixing her hair. "Now, your names?"

    "Right. I am Kiyoko Matsumoto." Kiyoko said, bowing. "This is Tomoko Satomi," She gestured to the unconscious girl slung over her shoulder. "And the one in the sunglasses is Akako Minazumi. Please don't ask."

    "I can introduce my-"

    "Damare.**" Kiyoko snapped, cutting off Akako rather harshly.

    "Ahem... I am Hanako Takara." Hanako said, stepping forward and bowing.

    "Good. I am Mikuma Shiroyama, the guide for the first-years." Mikuma said, bowing back. "Your luggage will be taken to your dorms. I must ask you all to follow me now."

    "Why can't we know where our dorms are, but the luggage goes?" Akako asked.

    "You will get your dorm assignments at Orientation. Come, I'll give you a tour." Mikuma said, turning and walking, leading the girls across the vast campus. Everywhere they looked, they saw beautiful trees surrounding several large buildings, and lots of flower beds along the walkways. Mikuma pointed out the library building in the western area, the student dorms to the north, the gymnasium to the east, the auditorium to the northwest, the mess hall to the southeast, and the main building where all the classes were held in the middle of campus. The main building itself was so huge, it looked like a castle on the outside. Behind the dorms, one could see a tall mountain that seemed to reach into the heavens. Hanako was entranced by the beauty of the environment.

    There were lots of other students walking around, and all of them seemed to be looking at Kiyoko. After all, her combination of red hair and uncanny height for a female made her stick out like a GloFish. Kiyoko could have sworn she heard people talking about how freakishly tall she was, and it hurt inside. She was always self-conscious about her height, even since grade school. She had always towered over even the older kids, and because she was so tall for her age, she was too weak to be able to support her lengthy frame. It didn't help that her right leg was longer than her left by a good two inches. She was the epitome of clumsy, and was always bullied for it, even by Akako, as they were in grade school together. That was the main reason she took up combat training and athletics, other than to alleviate her clumsiness. But now, instead of being bullied, most everyone was terrified of her. Either way, she was unable to make any friends, save for the three she had at the moment.

    Hanako was Kiyoko's first friend in grade school. They went to different schools, but lived in the same neighborhood. When Kiyoko moved into the neighborhood, Hanako emphatically welcomed her since she had no other girls near her age in the neighborhood. Initially, Hanako was frightened by Kiyoko's size in comparison to her own, but later saw past that and realized that they both needed a friend. The two became inseparable soon after, and such rituals arose as flower gazing and jogging, the latter once Kiyoko was able to walk without falling on her face every second step. The two would become like sisters in every way, which seemed to mean the world to Hanako.

    Tomoko was originally an unwelcome addition to the group. Being the wunderkind she was, she had an ego the same size, if not larger. Tomoko wasn't afraid to voice her opinion that she was the best thing since fire, and everyone grew to hate her. Kiyoko happened to witness Tomoko being attacked by a known school bully, and her hatred for bullies won over her hatred for Tomoko. Kiyoko's combat training allowed her to best the bully and save Tomoko, who sought to befriend Kiyoko not out of gratitude, but the epiphany that Kiyoko would make an excellent bodyguard. Despite Kiyoko's vociferous protests, both families insisted upon Kiyoko protecting the fragile prodigy, with Tomoko's family even paying her to do so. The arrangement also benefited Kiyoko's academics, as she gained the best tutor to whom one could ever have access, though at times, Kiyoko was often wondered if it's worth putting up with the insufferable little genius.

    Akako was the last to join Kiyoko's social group. Akako had bullied Kiyoko for most of her youth, and held the reputation of being the best athlete, but the day eventually came when Kiyoko returned to school after having corrective surgery to even out her legs, and she'd started her combat training. Now that Kiyoko could use her size to her advantage, Akako soon found out the hard way that Kiyoko was no longer the laughing stock of the school. Kiyoko beat Akako easily, but wasn't willing to hold a grudge against her for making her life a living hell. Then, to punish Akako even further, Kiyoko took up athletics, and with time, became second only to Akako. Unwilling to be beaten twice by Kiyoko, Akako began a bitter rivalry with her, but was unable to compete with Kiyoko's newfound athletic prowess. Kiyoko had beaten her in every competition they had since the start of their rivalry, and made it look easy. Then, Akako disappeared from school for a year, and returned the next year with sunglasses and and an arm injury. Akako's competitive fire burned hotter than ever, but in her year of inactivity, the gap between Akako and Kiyoko had become insurmountable. Akako wanted to hate Kiyoko for taking away the only thing she was good at, but she realized that Kiyoko was simply better than her, and grew to respect her. The two became friends in middle school when Akako started getting bullied because of her sunglasses and Kiyoko defended her without hesitation. Akako realized that a person who could be bullied by someone most of their life, then turn around and save that bully when the tables were turned, all without ever bearing an ounce of ill will, was the best type of friend anyone could have. Akako still swore that she would one day catch up to Kiyoko and their rivalry would be rekindled, only friendly this time.

    "Kiyo-chan... so many people are looking at us..." Hanako whimpered, keeping close to her sister surrogate. A true agoraphobe, Hanako's biggest kryptonite was large crowds, especially if she was the center of attention. When asked to speak in front of the class or sing in a school concert, Her alternative was to faint. She was more accustomed to being alone in a garden with a spot of herbal tea.

    "Don't worry, their attention is on me." Kiyoko reassured her, looking at all the girls were focused on them.

    "It could also be that you're carryin' an unconscious girl over your shoulder." Akako pointed out.

    "Good point. At least we're almost inside." Kiyoko said.

    "This is the office building, and our destination. All of the school officials are here." Mikuma led them up to a large building in the southwest corner, and went inside. Once inside, Mikuma led them up several flights of marble stairs to a conference room at the end of a hallway that had a door on the far side. "Please wait here." She instructed them, then went into the room beyond and closed the door.

    "So what do you suppose this will be about?" Hanako panted, taking another puff of her inhaler. "That was too much walking."

    "Who knows? Maybe she's getting someone else." Kiyoko said, shifting her weight back and forth from one foot to another. Just then, the door opened, and Mikuma came out, followed by an older girl who looked almost exactly the same, just three heads taller. She looked to be even taller than Kiyoko.

    "So, you must be the last first-years to arrive." The older girl said in a calm, eloquent tone, looking at all of them. "There were fewer this year than I antici-wait, what happened to her?" Her attention suddenly turned to Tomoko.

    "Ooh, shiny!" Akako snickered, laughing at how quickly the older girl changed track.

    "This is not a funny situation, and shame on you for thinking in such a way." The older girl scolded, going over and taking Tomoko from Kiyoko. "What happened to her?"

    "Akako hit her over the head with a heavy book." Hanako said. "I saw the whole thing."

    "Harassing a fellow student before you even get here, on top of being insubordinate?" The older girl seemed to hiss, staring at Akako with calm, yet dangerous eyes. "You're already gonna be at the top of the watch list."

    "That's some nerve, threatenin' me when you ain't even introduced yourself. Didn't your mother teach you any manners?" Akako snapped.

    The girl set Tomoko down on a chair, then turned to face Akako, eyes flashing dangerously. "Since you are in such a hurry to know, I am Myoko Shiroyama, and I am the student council president." She hissed, narrowing her eyes. "As for nerve, we seem to have a case of the pot calling the kettle black. You would dare to talk to a superior in such a way? I've a good mind to send you back home right now, but I'm feeling lenient."

    "Sounds more like-"

    "Akako, for the love of all that is holy, shut up!" Kiyoko hissed. "Can't you tell that you're on really thin ice? You're making a horrible first impression."

    "Put a lid on it, Kiyoko! I can handle myself." Akako snapped.

    "I suggest you listen to her. She can see the seriousness of the situation, whereas you obviously cannot." Myoko said, slowly lightening up.

    "Oh, whatevs." Akako huffed. "I'll be good."

    "Most commendable. Now then, she will need to be taken to the infirmary. Mikuma, I'll leave them to you." Myoko said, standing up. "You three, go with her." She stood up, grabbed Tomoko, and left the room.

    "Ahem, we'll be going to the main hall. There, you can mingle, and wait for orientation to start." Mikuma said, leading them out of the building and to the auditorium where several scores of first-years were already gathered. "This is it. Orientation starts in one hour, so make yourselves comfortable." She bowed to them and went back the way they came.

    "Well, this is interesting." Kiyoko said, looking around. The hall itself was several times bigger than any other hall she'd ever seen. The sheer amount of people that were there was overwhelming, but in a school as big as this, it was to be expected. "So many people here."

    "This is making me nervous." Hanako said. "I need some tea..."

    "Oh, don't be a pussy!" Akako laughed. "C'mon! Let's go!" She dragged Hanako into the crowd, despite her protests.

    "Oh, boy. This is gonna be an interesting school year." Kiyoko said, finding a quiet seat in the back and watching the action around her. Eventually, she somehow managed to gain some attention. A few girls walking by stopped to notice her, and came over to talk.

    "Wow, I've never seen someone with hair like yours!" One girl gushed, motioning to Kiyoko's waist-length red hair. "Did you dye it? How did you grow it out so long?"

    "No, my hair naturally looks this way." Kiyoko replied, feeling a bit self-conscious all of a sudden. "As far as growing it out, I just never cut it, and I always take good care of it."

    "That's amazing." The girl said. "Is it as soft as it looks?"

    "Umm... I don't know how to answer that." Kiyoko stammered. "Oh, by the way, my name's Kiyoko Matsumoto. What about you?" Nice save.

    "I'm Saki Tsukuda." The first girl said, bowing. "These are my friends, Rei Suzuki and Hoshiko Nakamura." The other two bowed in turn as they were introduced. "Nice to meet you!" They chorused.

    "Likewise." Kiyoko said, standing and bowing before sitting back down and noticing the the three were suddenly terrified of her. "What's wrong?"

    "Y-you're..." Saki stammered.

    "So..." Rei continued.

    "TALL!" Hoshiko finished. "That's so darn freaky!"

    "Freaky?" Kiyoko parroted, offended by the label. "So red hair is cool, but being 6 feet tall is freaky?"

    "6 FEET?!" The three screamed in chorus, running off.

    "Ugh..." Kiyoko moaned, dropping her head on the table. "Why does everyone I draw in get scared off? Surely I am cursed."

    (*Oh, geez.)



    Chapter 3: Orientation
    "It just doesn't make sense. Everyone loves my hair, but once they see how tall I am, they run for the hills!" Kiyoko thought aloud, examining her hair. "Both my hair color and height are extremely rare, but what is it that makes one trait cool and the other freaky? And why can't someone just accept who I am? It's a shame that society has been reduced to this." She sighed, getting up and stretching. As she did this, she saw a pair of cat ears in her peripheral vision, so she looked toward where she saw them. Sure enough, when she looked between several tall people, she could make out a pair of cat ears moving through the crowd. "That's either a huge cat, or a short person wearing cat ears." She mused, getting up and attempting to navigate through the crowd to locate the wearer of the ears. When she got to where she last saw them, she saw no trace of them. She began looking again, and couldn't find the ears. "Hmm... she got away. Must've known she was being pursued. Tricky ninja-huh?" Kyoko's musings were cut short when she heard rapid footsteps coming from behind. She turned to see Hanako and Akako coming towards her.

    "Hey, what lit a fire under your butt?" Akako asked. "You just bolted from your seat."

    "I know. I saw a pair of cat ears moving through the crowd and tried to track 'em down," Kiyoko explained, rubbing the back of her head.

    "Cat ears?" Akako parroted, lighting up like a Christmas tree. "Oh, jackpot! Here I come, neko-chan!" With that, she sped off through the crowd like she was on fire.

    "Do you see what you've done, Kiyo-chan?" Hanako complained. "You've doomed somebody! I can already smell the impending peril!"

    "Oh no! I forgot that the mention of anything moe lights her butt on fire!" Kiyoko exclaimed, looking around. "We need to stop her from scarring this poor girl for life!" Before she could go anywhere, the sound of microphone feedback permeated the large room, grating everyone's ears and forcing a collective groan. Everyone in the room snapped toward the source of the noise and saw that Mikuma was fumbling with the microphone. Then she said something into the microphone, but the microphone appeared to not be working. She shook it, producing another grating squeal, much to everyone's displeasure.

    "My apologies for that, everyone. Anyway, the-" Her shaking hands unknowingly switched the button into the 'off' position, causing the microphone cut off on Mikuma midsentence, subsequently causing her to look at it confusedly. She held up a finger to the crowd, then began hilariously shaking the microphone, then went to percussive maintenance in the form of pounding on its head with her fist. After producing no results, she repeated the shaking action, only to shake too hard and hit herself in the forehead. "Itai, chikuso!" She shouted, unknowingly clicking the switch back into the 'on' position, which caused her shout to blast through the speakers. Predictably, this caused an uproar of laughter, which made Mikuma flush bright red. "A-a-anyway, our student council President will be in shortly to start the opening ceremonies. Thank you for your patience," She quickly stammered, putting the microphone back on the stand and walking off the stage, dripping with embarrassment.

    "She is way too uptight, wouldn't you say?" Hanako asked, analyzing the stiff manner in which Mikuma walked. "She looks like she hasn't had a massage in years."

    "People are like that, Hana-chan," Kiyoko sighed. "Although, for her age, she looks horribly stressed."

    "Exactly my point," Hanako said. "She needs to loosen up and relax."

    "I'd ask what you plan to do about it, but knowing you, it'll probably have something to do with plants," Kiyoko deadpanned.

    "Don't criticize the healing power of plants, Kiyo-chan," Hanako said, wagging a finger. "Flowers are a key ingredient in aromatherapy, one of the most potent forms of healing."

    "What flowers? All I've heard of in aromatherapy is scented oils," Kiyoko said, crossing her arms.

    "Which are made from volatile plants." Hanako said, grinning. "Don't argue with me about nature, Kiyo-chan. You should know by now that you won't win."

    "Oh, bug off, you eco-nut," Kiyoko muttered, rolling her eyes.

    "No one likes a sore loser, Kiyo-chan," Hanako said cutely, standing on her toes to stare directly into Kiyoko's face with a smile of victory.

    "You know, your throat looks very vulnerable right now," Kiyoko said, staring at Hanako's throat with a sly grin.

    "You're still a sore loser," Hanako pouted, retreating so that Kiyoko wouldn't follow through on her threat. "You need to lighten up. Do you want a massage?"

    "Do you want my foot in your ass?" Kiyoko countered, her grin widening.

    "You're no fun," Hanako said, maneuvering behind Kiyoko and jumping up to grab her shoulders.

    "H-Hana-chan, not now!" Kiyoko squeaked, jumping and going red. "We're in public, you baka!"

    "Shut up and relax," Hanako whispered, slowly starting to knead her taller friend's shoulders. In the blink of an eye, and to her confusion, she found herself with her arm twisted behind her back, and Kiyoko was holding her arm tightly.

    "I. Said. No," Kiyoko hissed, letting her go and scowling at her.

    "You're no fun..." Hanako whined, turning away. "Hey, look! There's the President!" She pointed towards a door, from which Myoko emerged, followed by another girl whom she didn't recognize at first who was holding an ice pack to her head. Some things stuck out, like the black outfit, the shiny black hair, and the glasses that were so thick, if she looked on a map, she could see people waving.

    "Hey, that's Tomoko! She's okay!" Kiyoko exclaimed, running over to her. "Tomoko, you okay?"

    "Other than a light cranial shock by means of blunt force impact, disorientation, and dull cranial pain, my physical condition is normal," Tomoko replied in her usual monotonous tone.

    "Seriously. Not everyone speaks Shakespeare," Kiyoko sighed, rubbing her temples.

    "Shakespeare's language was Elizabethan English. We speak modern English, which is much more advanced," Tomoko said, shaking her head. "It's a shame how limited your vocabulary is."

    "If you know that we can't understand you when you speak like that, why bother?" Kiyoko asked.

    "If you have a unique gift, why wouldn't you use it to set yourself apart from the everyday people in society?" Tomoko asked.

    "Just speak normally around your friends, please. When you do that, if makes it seem like you're insulting us," Kiyoko sighed.

    "Fine. But you really should enhance your vocabulary," Tomoko said. "I have a mild concussion, and I need some water."

    "Okay, come on. Let's get you to a chair," Kiyoko said, walking her over to a chair with Hanako's help. Hanako then went and found a water bottle for Tomoko.

    "Arigato, Kiyo-chan, Hana-chan," Tomoko whispered, relaxing and sipping the water, shivering afterward. "Ooh, chilling. Say, where did Shacho-sama go?"

    "Huh? The President? She's up there." Kiyoko said, pointing to the stage, where Myoko was picking up the microphone to begin her speech.

    "Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to Hoshiyama High School," She began, looking disappointed at something. "I would like to start by apologizing for the lack of organization. The teachers and administration are still straightening things out, and were unable to come for orientation. As a result, I, the student council president, was asked to stand in for orientation. So please, just bear with me, and I'll try to make sure things don't go too badly. At this time, all of you form an orderly line in front of the desk over there to receive your dorm assignments. All of you will have roommates, if we have counted correctly. After you receive your assignments, you should find your roommate and go up to your room. At 7:00 we will have dinner and finish giving you the information you need." She pointed to a desk in a corner that Mikuma was behind, then hung up the microphone and went to help organize.

    "Roommates, huh? This should be interesting," Kiyoko mused, going over to the line.

    "Mine better not piss me off," Akako said, looking indifferent.

    "I just want someone I can get along with," Hanako said, looking hopeful. "And I'd love someone who likes flowers."

    "All I ask is that my roommate has some semblance of intelligence, can hold a conversation, and shares the same interests," Tomoko said.

    "Knowing you, that's gonna be like finding a Shiny Pokémon with perfect IVs," Kiyoko giggled.

    "Someone has to have high standards," Tomoko sighed.

    "Okay. We're almost up. Let's hope you get we get favorable pairings," Kiyoko said.

    "Watch it! Someone might hear you!" Akako hissed.

    "You know what I mean!" Kiyoko said. "Okay, we're up." They each got their assignments, and went off in separate directions to search for their roommates.


    Chapter 4: Getting Settled
    "So... my roommate is named Sayuri Koneko," Akako said, looking at the paper that had her room and roommate on it. "Interesting. Now, where is she?"

    "She's waiting over there," Mikuma said, pointing to a short, brown-haired girl with cat ears that made her stick out like a GloFish. Bingo.

    "Oh, Kami, you shouldn't have," Akako sighed happily, rushing over to her roommate. She stopped in front of the girl, realizing that she was really short, and she looked a lot like a cat turned human. Not questioning it, she cleared her throat and knelt down to greet her roommate. "Hello, Koneko-san! I'm your roommate, Akako Minazumi! How are you doing this afternoon?" She made her introduction as happy and friendly as she could, but immediately regretted it.

    "Eep!" Sayuri squeaked, jumping back in shock and fear. Her chestnut brown eyes were large and moist, showing a large amount of fear and nervousness. If that wasn't enough, she was shuddering so hard, it looked like she'd fall apart, and her arms were drawn tightly to her chest, with her knuckles under her chin. To top it off, her bottom lip started twitching slightly, as if threatening to unleash a devastating cacophony. Why is she wearing sunglasses? How can she see that way? Why is she so loud? She thought, feeling afraid for her life.

    Hmm, she looks so cute. I think I scared her, though. Better fix it before she ends up crying, Akako thought, mellowing herself out while maintaining her smile. "I'm sorry, did I scare you? I didn't mean to do that, I was just excited to meet you. I've always wanted a good roommate, but I never thought I'd be blessed with such a cutie!" She took this moment to take in the girl's features. Aside from being shorter than anyone in their age group had any business being, she was just as thin, proportionate to her height. Her choice in color clothing made it seem that she was really sucking at avoiding attention. Her shirt, skirt, and tights were all a loud pastel baby blue, and she wore really tiny black flats.

    "..." Sayuri shrank under Akako's stare and words, shuddering even harder, if it was possible.

    "Oh, wow... You really are scared of me, aren't you?" Akako asked softly, looking sad behind her sunglasses. "Please don't be scared of me. I want us to be good friends."

    "..." Sayuri didn't look any less nervous, but she seemed to understand that Akako meant well. She was still creeped out by the whole sunglasses indoors thing. It hadn't even been that bright outside today. It was all so confusing to her.

    "Tell you what, why don't we go to our room. I know you don't wanna be around all these people." Akako said, offering a smile. Sayuri nodded slightly, then turned and started walking in nothing short of a rush.

    "Hey, wait up!" Akako called after her, attempting to follow her. Unfortunately, and rather predictably, she ran full sprint into the wall. Her glasses flew off, and slid across the floor in Sayuri's direction. The entire incident drew the attention of everyone still present, and a round of raucous laughter erupted from the crowd.

    "What a baka, wearing sunglasses indoors!" One girl laughed. "How crazy can you get? And she wonders why she ran into the wall!"

    "Shut the hell up!" Akako yelled, finally daring to open her eyes, only to realize her sunglasses weren't on her face, and her eyes were treated to searing pain due to the bright light. "Aaagghhh!!! Bright light! It burns! Where are my sunglasses?" She shouted, squeezing her eyes shut and covering them with her hands. A tap on her shoulder got her attention, and she turned her head in that direction. "What?"

    "Umm... your s-sunglasses... Minazumi-san... T-they're here..." Sayuri stammered, tapping the sunglasses on Akako's hands. Akako slowly took them and put them back on her face.

    "Thank you... " Akako murmured, moving a switch on the arms of her glasses and standing up. "Can we go now?"

    "Bright light? What are you, a Mogwai?" Another girl piped up. "Hey cat girl, don't feed her after midnight, and keep her away from water!"

    Akkako rounded on the speaker, turning red and seething with rage. "That's it, let's go, you little-"
    "What's going on here?" A voice piped up from beyond the crowd that commanded the attention of everyone. The crowd parted to reveal a tall, athletic-looking girl with waist-length shiny red hair, mint-green eyes, and a generous smattering of freckles under her eyes. She had an aura about her that was calm, yet commanded respect. Her height added to that, with her being a full head taller than the tallest girl in the crowd at a solid 6 feet tall. Her eyes examined the now fearful crowd, sharpening when she saw that the crowd was surrounding Akako and Sayuri.

    "She's so tall..." One girl murmured, staring at her.

    "Kiyo-chan?" Akako called out to her, still reeling from the light.

    "What happened, Akako?" Kiyoko asked, regarding the crowd with hostility.

    "I ran into the wall, and they all came and started harassing me," Akako said, rubbing her right arm.

    "So, you like picking on people who are different, do you?" Kiyoko asked the crowd, narrowing her eyes. "You like picking on people who can't blend in?"

    The crowd shook their heads frantically, looking amongst each other.

    "What's wrong? You had no problem picking on her for being different and not blending in," Kiyoko said challengingly. "I'm different, I can't blend in! Take your best shot! I dare ya! I double dare ya!" There was silence for several seconds, which Kiyoko took as a silent refusal. "I see, you don't have the guts to take a shot at someone who can take it and dish it back. Tell you what, let me see another girl being picked on, and I'm really gonna get scary. Got that?" Seeing the crowd nod, she smiled. "Good." She walked up to one of the girls up in front, towering over her by a good foot. She leaned down, staring into the girl's terror-filled eyes. "Boo." It was spoken in a monotone that matched even Tomoko at her worst. It still did the job, though. The girl yelped and took off, with the entire crowd dispersing in several different directions afterward. "You alright, Mina-chan?"

    "Yeah... thanks for sticking up for me like that, Kiyo-chan..." Akako murmured, looking at the floor. "That was a terrible experience... and to think, I used to be a bully."

    "Don't worry about it, Akako," Kiyoko replied, hugging her friend. "I hate bullies, and I couldn't let anything bad happen to my best friend."

    "Okay, I get the point, stop bein' all mushy!" Akako complained. "Besides, you're squeezin' me too hard, and it's hurtin' my arm."

    "Oops, I'm sorry," Akako said, letting her go. "So I guess you two should get going." She turned to Sayuri. "As you saw, Akako can't see too well. So I need you to be her seeing-eye cat for me, okay?"

    Sayuri blinked, then laughed at Kiyoko's joke. "O-okay."

    "That was a good one, Kiyo-chan," Akako giggled. "I'll see you later."

    "Yep. Take care until then," Kiyoko said, waving as she went her own way.

    "I will," Akako said, turning to Sayuri. "Okay, Koneko-san, lead the way."

    "H-hai," Sayuri stuttered, tentatively taking Akako's hand and leading her to their room. When they got there, Sayuri unlocked the door and escorted Akako in, leading her to her bed so she could sit down. The rooms were very large, with ivory wallpaper and blue carpets. There was a fairly large bed on either side, along with a bedside table and a large chest of drawers with several shelves on top. Each room also had a walk-in closet and its own bathroom.

    "Arigato, Koneko-san..." Akako whispered, getting comfortable on her bed. "I hate being made fun of because I always wear sunglasses..."

    "I-I don't want to intrude, b-but..." Sayuri began, fumbling for the right words. "Why do you have to wear them?"

    "..." Akako didn't answer, electing to somberly stare up at the ceiling.

    "Gomen-nasai... I-It's none of my business..." Sayuri said remorsefully.

    "Nah, you're fine... I just hate tellin' people..." Akako said. "But my eyes are really sensitive to light. Without my sunglasses, I'm completely blinded by even normal lighting. Burns like a mother, too. These are special sunglasses that protect my eyes, but I have to adjust the light level of the glasses on my own, and I forget sometimes. That's why I ran into the wall, because my glasses were too dark for me to see."

    "That sounds t-terrible..." Sayuri whispered. "I've always been made fun of for my love of cats, and how short I am." She motioned to the cat ears she wore in point, scratching them like a cat would, and even smiling like a cat, down to the elongated top canines showing.

    "That's funny. I think that adds to your appeal. Especially the cat ears," Akako commented, noting Sayuri's height once again. Even with her cat ears adding a few extra inches, she was nowhere near 5 feet tall. Unlike herself, who was about 5'3", and thus was just above the average of 5'2" for japanese women.

    "Y-you mean it?" Sayuri asked with a hint of shock. "Everyone says that I look moe. What does that mean?"

    "Uh- What the hell?!" Akako sputtered, sitting upright. She was so shocked at hearing this that she was sure there was a visible '!' above her head. "I ain't the right person to tell you that. New subject, please?"

    "O-okay..." Sayuri stuttered with a nod.

    "Good," Akako said with a smile. "So, can you tell me about yourself?"

    "Umm... well..." Sayuri stammered, unsure of what to say. "My name is Sayuri Koneko, I really like cats, my birthday is March 18th, and I want to be a veterinarian."

    "I figured you'd say that," Akako replied, picking up another quirk or Sayuri's. She seemed to always have her hands folded up to imitate cat's paws. "Anyway, my turn. My name is Akako Minazumi, I like sports, I used to play volleyball and run track with my friend Kiyoko until this happened, my birthday is June 23rd, and I wanna be an even better athlete than I used to be and make it to the professional level. I'm only really good at sports, and I can't do that right now, cuz I'm hurt."

    "Myaa... that's terrible..." Sayuri mewled sadly.

    "My whole life is sports..." Akako sighed, looking at the ceiling. "I thought for sure I was gonna be a famous athlete someday. I was gonna a sports scholarship to Tokyo University, and then maybe even go to the Olympics. But Kiyoko's way better than me, and while I can't practice, she continues to get better. it's so infuriating!" She sat up and punched the wall in a fit of anger.

    "Myeow!" Sayuri yelped, shuddering nervously.

    "My bad, didn't mean to freak ya out," Akako apologized. "Let's start unpackin'. I wanna get done before night time." As she said this, she got up and started going through her suitcases. "An' when we're done, we can go and meet up with my friends."

    "O-okay," Sayuri nodded. "Let's hurry, then." She went to work on her own suitcases, and the two worked in relative silence.

    With Kiyoko

    "Let's see... I'm looking for a Yuki Takeuchi," Kiyoko muttered, looking at a sheet of paper. "Where could she be...?"

    "Excuse me, are you Kiyoko Matsumoto?" A voice behind her asked, making her jump and turn around.

    "Yes I am..." Kiyoko said, looking at the girl who had addressed her. She was looking at a blonde girl of average height with blue eyes. The girl didn't look Japanese at all, but then, she didn't look it herself. "You must be Yuki. Nice to meet you."

    "You... are... AWESOME!!!" Yuki squealed, looking and sounding like a fangirl. "You're so tall, and beautiful, and, like, omigosh, I absolutely love your hair! Did you dye it? How'd you get it so long? Oh, and the way you saved those two girls was just like so totally AWESOME!!!"

    "Oooooookay..." Kiyoko muttered, blushing and feeling extremely shy. "Thank you, I guess... I've never gotten a reaction like this from someone..."

    "Oops, excuse me!" Yuki said, calming down. "Yep, my name's Yuki. Can I ask you something?"

    "Okay, what is it?" Kiyoko asked.

    "Are Japanese people supposed to look like you?" Yuki asked.

    "What do you mean?" Kiyoko asked, looking herself over.

    "You know... tall, shiny red hair, distinct eye shape, gorgeous face... that sort of thing." Yuki said.

    Kiyoko cleared her throat and tried not to blush. "Well... we generally don't have red hair, we have brown or black hair. I happened to get the recessive hair color gene, along with the eyes and freckles, from my father. He's Caucasian. Other than that, yes."

    "So you're unique, too? Cool! That makes our bond extra special!" Yuki exclaimed.

    "Okay... fill me in on this bond thing." Kiyoko said.

    "Oh, come on! Two like people always bond together and become inseparable." Yuki exclaimed, grabbing Kiyoko's hands.

    "Well, actually..." Kiyoko trailed off once she noticed how Yuki was holding her hands. "Please let go of my hands."

    "Killjoy..." Yuki muttered. "So, wanna go to our room? I really want to get my piano set up."

    "You have a piano?" Kiyoko asked.

    "Yep. I also have an ocarina." Yuki said. "I love instruments."

    "Oh. Are you good?" Kiyoko asked.

    "Yep. I love to play music," Yuki said. "I've been playing for years."

    "Long as I can study and sleep peacefully, I'm all for it." Kiyoko said.

    "Not a problem. I specialize in soft, soothing music, and I even do love songs." Yuki said.

    "Excellent, I love-wait, what was that last part?" Kiyoko asked, blushing.

    "I can play love songs, and even sing them," Yuki said. "Wanna hear one?"

    "I wanna get to our room, how about that?" Kiyoko said, turning to walk away. Her face was redder than her hair. "Come on, let's go."

    "Lead the way, Matsumoto-san!" Yuki cheered, tagging along. "So, you should totally tell me about yourself!"

    "Huh? Me? I guess there isn't much to tell," Kiyoko said, brushing her hair back. "My birthday is July 3rd, I play a lot of sports, I'm a skilled martial artist, and I hate bullies with a flaming passion. Basically, my goal is to be the best I can be at sports."

    "That's awesome!" Yuki exclaimed. "I like you already!"

    "Umm... thanks, I guess..." Kiyoko stammered, blushing again. Ugh, this girl is so weird... I've never met someone so energetic. And the way she's fangirling over me... that's never happened before.

    "My turn!" Yuki cheered, breaking Kiyoko's concentration. "My birthday is October 13th, I play the piano and ocarina, I'm a hopeless romantic..."

    No kidding... Kiyoko thought, remembering why the girl made her feel so nervous.

    "...I have more energy than I know what to do with..."

    Wow, never woulda labeled you as the type. Kiyoko thought.

    "...And my feet are, like, way too big for my body- O-TSU!" Yuki tripped over her feet as she said this, falling back down the stairs they just climbed.

    "...I didn't ask for a demonstration..." Kiyoko said in a complete deadpan. "Are you okay?" She went down the stairs to help Yuki get up.

    "I'm sort of a jinx..." Yuki said with a blush. "Every time I say the wrong thing, something bad happens to me."

    "Case in point..." Kiyoko said dryly. "Come on, let's go. Our room's just up the stairs and down the hallway to the left."

    "All right. BACK TO ADVENTURE!" Yuki cheered, raising a hand.

    "You ever thought about drinking decaffeinated coffee?" Kiyoko asked, walking up the stairs.

    "I don't drink coffee. Like, why would you think that?" Yuki asked, cocking her head to the side.

    "No reason. No reason at all," Kiyoko muttered. "Okay, we're here." She unlocked the door and opened it.

    "YAY!" Yuki shouted, running past Kiyoko and into the room so fast that the wind created by her speed blew one of Kiyoko's bangs into her eyes.

    Hyperactive, speed demon... epiphany, Kiyoko thought. "Hey, Yuki, you ever thought about running track?" She asked.

    "No, why do you ask?" Yuki asked.

    "Well, you're really fast, and it'd be a nice way to channel your bottomless pool of energy," Kiyoko said, entering the room and shutting the door. "Well, once you learn to not trip over yourself."

    "I guess..." Yuki said thoughtfully. "Will you be running track, too?"

    "Of course. I'm an athlete!" Kiyoko said, puffing out her chest proudly.

    "Okay. I'll do it!" Yuki cheered.

    "Good. Now, let's unpack, and when we're done, I'll take you to meet my friends," Kiyoko said, starting to unpack.

    "Yay! I get to meet Matsumoto-san's friends!" Yuki cheered, getting to work.

    Good... that worked out perfectly. Kiyoko thought as she worked. Now she won't have enough energy to talk my ears off, or be so damn loud. I wonder how the others are faring...

    With Hanako

    "Oh, I do hope my roommate is pleasant," Hanako said, looking at her paper. "Sakura... I need to locate her."

    "So... this is where an enchanting and mysterious aroma led me," A gentle voice said from behind her. "I pray I am not wrong... are you Hanako Takara?"

    "Huh?" Hanako turned around to see a girl who was quite tall, but not quite as tall as Kiyoko, with long blonde hair like hers that was curiously tied back, and blue eyes like her own that were covered by goggles. Most curious were the apron and gloves she wore, as well as perfume that smelled of cherry blossoms. "Yes, I am Hanako. Are you Sakura Kobayashi?" She asked, gazing at the girl curiously.

    "Indeed I am. A pleasure to meet you," Sakura replied. "I found you by pure accident. I was tracking the smell of lily perfume."

    "Actually, it's scented oil. I can't wear perfume," Hanako corrected. "But how on earth is one able to pinpoint a specific fragrance in a place like this?"

    "When you've been exposed to all sorts of herbal scents and trained to have a good sense of smell, you can identify quite a few things," Sakura said.

    "Oh. I see. Wish I was that good," Hanako said. "I've only been able to work safely with plants for two years."

    "Oh, why is that?" Sakura asked. "If you don't mind my asking, that is."

    "I'm allergic to several plants, and most scents set off my asthma," Hanako said. "So I have to use special gloves, goggles, masks and aprons when I'm doing plant work. I always have an inhaler just in case."

    "Oh, that sucks. Well, I've been around plants for my whole life. My mother and father had a greenhouse with every single type of flower in the world," Sakura said. "My father took most of them with him when he left, though..." She trailed off, looking at the ground sadly for a moment. "Of course, I'd be happy to help you along."

    "Oh, great. That means you'll be able to make me look an idiot on plant matters," Hanako whined. "I've always been the big brain on anything plant-related amongst my friends, even more so than my friend Tomoko. Oh, and my stepfather has a lot of plants, too."

    "Ohh, that sucks, I'm sorry to hear that..." Sakura said, hugging her. "But I wouldn't purposely make you feel stupid or insignificant."

    "Well, that makes me feel a little better..." Hanako said. "Umm... should we head up to our room?"

    "Oh, yes! I've got several plants that need tending to! Thank you for reminding me!" Sakura exclaimed, running off. I got distracted looking at her! I feel like I've seen her before... but where?

    "Eh? Hey, wait!" Hanako shouted, running after her. By the time she caught up, Sakura was standing by an open door.

    "There you are. I was getting worried." Sakura said, beckoning her in.

    "Just... as well... you should be..." Hanako panted. "You left me... behind. I can't... run... for too long, or else... my asthma... will flare up."

    "Come here, lemme help," Sakura said, standing behind Hanako and holding her arms up. "If you stay like this, your lungs will open more, making it easier to catch your breath."

    "Thank you..." Hanako panted, finding it easier to breathe. "Hey, isn't that a Scindapsus Aureus?"

    "Also known as the Pothos. You are correct," Sakura said, going over to the window and motioning to the hanging plant. "I've had her for three years."

    "She's so long. Exactly how long are the vines?" Hanako asked.

    "When I last measured her, the longest vine was 13 feet, 8 and a half inches," Sakura replied, holding up a vine.

    "Amazing. I wanna grow a plant like that," Hanako said.

    "Well, sure. I can walk you through raising plants like these," Sakura said. "That is, if you haven't already learned."

    "I have a plant encyclopedia in one of these suitcases," Hanako said. "However, being taught by another person is a much more rewarding experience."

    "I agree. So, do you wanna start now?" Sakura asked.

    "No thanks. I wanna unpack first," Hanako said, opening a suitcase and looking inside.

    "Right. I won't bother you," Sakura said, pulling our a watering can and going over to the Pothos so she could water it.

    "Oh, by the way, are you doing anything in herbalism?" Hanako asked as she emptied out a suitcase into a drawer.

    "No, I'm going into ecology as a whole," Sakura said. "I love everything about plants. I couldn't bring myself to choose a specialty."

    "Okay. That makes sense," Hanako said. "I like the healing properties that plants have."

    "I see. So you work with scented oils as well?" Sakura asked.

    "Indeed I do," Hanako replied, pulling out several bottles of assorted oils. "They're especially effective in massages."

    "Wait, you're a masseuse as well?!" Sakura exclaimed.

    "Of course. It's a therapeutic use of medicinal plants," Hanako replied. "What, you expected otherwise?"

    "Forgive me for saying so, but I didn't expect someone with such small, delicate hands to be capable of such works of magic," Sakura said, walking over and taking one of Hanako's hands in hers.

    "You shouldn't judge a book by its cover," Hanako replied, confused at how Sakura was handling her hand. She acted like her hand was a glass item that would break if it was so much as held improperly. "Excuse me, can I have my hand back?"

    "Oh! Sorry, I started daydreaming," Sakura said, going back to her side so she could unpack.

    "Yes, not all masseuses have strong hands, or big hands," Hanako said. "Mine happen to be quite effective."

    "Yes, and they're very soft, like the skin of a baby," Sakura said, nodding.

    "Right..." Hanako stuttered, pulling out several books. Oh, there are my magazines."

    "Magazines? I'm assuming plant magazines?" Sakura asked.

    "Yep," Hanako nodded, sorting them. "Oh, man!"

    "What's wrong?" Sakura asked.

    "Tomoko still has last week's issue!" Hanako exclaimed, getting up and heading out. "I'll be back, I need to find her."

    "Okay, I'll be here," Sakura called, going bck to her plants. "I swear I know her from somewhere... she brings back memories..."

    With Tomoko

    Tomoko had her papers, but wasn't looking for her roommate. Instead, she was sitting down with a large book and an ice pack on her head, trying to fight sleep.

    "My, my. I never thought I'd see a book that thick in hands that weren't my own," A voice said.

    "Books like these are easy to get, but so few people are inclined to read that they hate the sight of a book this size," Tomoko said, looking up to see a girl with long blue hair, and glasses that were almost as thick. "Salutations. Please recite identity code."

    "Chieko Kozue," The girl replied proudly. "And yours?"

    "Tomoko Satomi," Tomoko replied, studying Chieko carefully. "Finally, someone who speaks English."

    "Curses, I've been found out," Chieko said dryly.

    "I feel better knowing that my roommate has at least some semblance of ability to use their brain effectively," Tomoko said, looking back to her book.

    "Why are you so deadpan?" Chieko asked. "You need to learn to smile when you talk to someone, and make eye contact, too. Oh, and try not to speak in that boring monotone. Put some energy in your voice!"

    "I'm about two seconds away from putting some of the extremity of my lowermost limb into the space between the fat-layered surfaces on which you sit," Tomoko said, projecting a lot of energy into her voice, but it was still extremely deadpan, and she wasn't smiling.

    "That's better, but you don't have to kick my ass," Chieko said, looking offended. "Why must you threaten? I'm trying to be helpful."

    "Because you are superimposing your personality onto mine, and it's about as successful as attempting to combine a molecule of dihydrogen monoxide with a hydrophobic molecule of liquid lubrication solution," Tomoko huffed, crossing her arms. "Now, assuming you are indeed my roommate, we should head up to our room now. I have a great plethora of items that need to be unpacked and put away in an orderly manner, and I'd like to still be able to see the Sun when I am finished."

    "I see. I'm sorry. But then, why were you here?" Chieko asked. "You could have been unpacking this whole time."

    "I was waiting for my roommate at my friend's request. She said it would be in bad taste not to do so," Tomoko replied. "She's been giving me lessons on how to properly handle social situations. I'm struggling with it."

    "I can tell," Chieko said. "And I like how you used the water and oil simile. Perfect comparison, if not a bit offensive."

    "If you're offended by something I say, I hardly see how I can be charged with responsibility for it. I mean, if you're the one whose mental state is vulnerable to mere words, then it's a personal problem," Tomoko said, spontaneously sneezing afterward.

    "Bless you," Chieko said. "So, based on what you're saying, if I was to say something offensive, you wouldn't take offense, correct?"

    "First of, it's 'If I were to say something offensive'. You forgot to use the subjunctive," Tomoko said. "Second, I would not be offended, because I'm not a hypocrite."

    "Whatever," Chieko said. "Now, shall we be going?"

    "Oh, yes. It nearly slipped my mind, thanks to your nonsense about offense," Tomoko said, getting up and picking up her book. "There's not a second more to waste. We must get to our room at once."

    "Just one thing: where's the map of how to get there?" Chieko asked.

    "In your hand, genius," Tomoko sighed, walking off. "Come. We must hurry."

    "Please do not condescend me. That is unsettling, and it adds turbulence to what is supposed to be a positive relationship between us," Chieko said in a somewhat whiny tone.

    "I am not condescending. That is merely your perception of the intent behind my words," Tomoko replied over her shoulder. "And the only turbulence in our relationship is your lack of the ability to realize when certain things are not welcome, such as your complaining."

    "I am not complaining! I am pointing out certain aspects of the situation, such as your deadpan tone, obloquious words, and apathy towards me," Chieko exclaimed, speeding up.

    "Same difference. And I must say, your constant whining is getting annoying," Tomoko said dryly.

    "Now who's complaining?" Chieko asked. "What happened to 'practicing what you preach'?"

    "I-" Tomoko stopped in her tracks, then turned and faced Chieko was a defeated scowl. "Touche. I see what you did. You annoyed me to the point where I experienced a brief breach in my composure, which caused me to become annoyed at your complaining."

    "Okay, let me see something here," Chieko said, adjusting her glasses and looking directly into Tomoko's eyes. "You are an intellectual young lady with a dry personality and an intolerance for things that you perceive to be weaknesses. This includes, but is not limited to, complaining and fear. You are afraid of succumbing to these weaknesses yourself, so you put up a wall to block out those things. However, the wall is not as sturdy as you want it to be, which scares you. As a result, when your wall is close to being or is broken, you become more cynical and aggressive as your way of coping with the stress of the situation."

    "How dare you attempt to get inside my head?" Tomoko exclaimed, recoiling sharply. "I take great offense to that!"

    "I did not attempt to get inside your head," Chieko said with a grin. "The word 'attempt' implies the possibility of failing the task. I successfully completed the task, as further evidenced by your reaction."

    "Augh! Stop playing mindgames with me!" Tomoko yelled, grabbing her head and running off.

    "Huh. Dislikes her vulnerable inner psyche. Interesting," Chieko said. "Getting through to her will take some work, as will getting her to ultimately come to terms with her weaknesses." She adjusted her glasses again, causing a brief glint to flash across her lenses. After a brief moment of thought, she followed Tomoko to their room, and found her on her bed, busily unpacking books and clothes. She shrugged and went to her side, which had already been packed, oddly enough.

    "Before you get in too deep, I want you to look at the paper I have placed on your pillow," Tomoko spoke up, not looking at her.

    "What's it for?" Chieko asked.

    "Just look at it. It'll tell you immediately," Tomoko said, neatly folding a skirt and setting it aside.

    "Fine then," Chieko said, picking up the paper on her pillow and looking it over. "A roommate agreement? Seriously?"

    "Affirmative," Tomoko replied. "I typed that up before I came here. To be precise, as soon as I received notice that I would have a roommate."

    "What's the point of this?" Chieko asked. "We don't need this."

    "I wonder sometimes if that's what the people in the 13 Colonies thought," Tomoko said.

    "Oh, geez. What's the reasoning behind this?" Chieko asked, starting to lose her patience.

    "If you're really so bent on obtaining the answers from me instead of using your own equally potent mass of gray matter, then I suppose I could explain it," Tomoko said, her voice dripping with condescension. "This roommate agreement is our equivalent to the Constitution that America has. It tells us what each of us can and can't do, and it maintains order. The best part is, it's in writing."

    "Oh, good grief. I can't help but appreciate the thought you put into it, but I feel that it's a bit too much," Chieko said.

    "Very well. You have plenty of time to think about it before signing," Tomoko said. "Of course, I'd prefer to have it signed as soon as possible."

    "Whatever. I'll look at it later," Chieko said, putting it aside and starting to unpack.

    "Most commendable," Tomoko said. "I know it doesn't seem like it, but I truly want a mutually beneficial relationship with you."

    "You mean that?" Chieko asked, looking up and smiling.

    "Of course," Tomoko replied. "You're my roommate, after all. I'm stuck with you until we graduate. Or until I do, I can't say with certainty that you won't be held back. Either way, what choice do I have?"

    That ripped the needle off the record. Chieko hypothesized that Tomoko was insensitive to others' emotions as well as her own, but it was particularly painful to hear that from her roommate. She did bring up a good point, though. They would have to coexist the entire time. Unfortunately, it seemed to Chieko that Tomoko was only seeing one side of the issue: hers. She didn't seem to realize that it went both ways, and that she had to contribute as well. I'm not sure if she sees it or not, but with Kami as my witness, she will when I'm through with her. She thought. "You realize that this is a two-way street, right?"

    "Of course," Tomoko replied. "If you're talking about trust, I definitely trust you. I trust you to follow the roommate agreement, and I trust you to not damage myself or my property when I am asleep or preoccupied in such a way that I cannot keep an eye on my belongings."

    "That's not exactly what I meant," Chieko said. "I meant that just as you are imposing rules on me, you have to follow those same rules and listen to what I have to say."

    "I always follow my own rules. To not would be hypocritical." Tomoko said. "And I am listening to what you have to say. Have you not noticed my response to every single thing you've said?"

    "No, I mean that you have to consider and abide by my rules, as I do yours," Chieko said, rubbing her temples. "We're supposed to be equals."

    "I have no equal, but I think I understand your point." Tomoko said with a nod. "Would you like to create your own roommate agreement or something similar?"

    "..." Chieko could only stare blankly at Tomoko for a moment. "I'm sorry, but I no longer have the energy to carry on this conversation. You need to focus on unpacking."

    "Understood. Consider this conversation temporarily delayed," Tomoko said, returning to her unpacking.

    "Thank you," Chieko said, laying down. I'm this close to coming to an understanding with her. I'll need to think on it a bit more before I try again.

    "That's interesting," Tomoko suddenly muttered, breaking Chieko's concentration. "I forgot I had borrowed Hana-chan's magazine. I need to return it to her. Kozue-san, hold down the fort until I return, and understand that I'm trusting you to not bother my belongings."

    "Understood, Satomi-san." Chieko replied with an offhanded over-the-shoulder wave. "Don't get lost."

    Tomoko turned to face Chieko with a dry expression. "Such an event is not possible. I have a map," She said with a sigh.

    "That explains why you didn't get lost," Chieko said thoughfully. "You ran off so abruptly."

    "I wanted a moment's reprieve from you," Tomoko said, turning away. "However, I did not expect you to know how to use your map. I was hoping you'd have gotten lost."

    "You wanted me to get lost?" Chieko parroted in an outrage. "I hope you're not like this with everyone."

    "Not by choice," Tomoko replied with a shrug. "I was forced to lower my expectations of the human race in general in order to come to terms with the fact that I'm smarter than everyone I know."

    Chieko huffed indignantly. "You sure are arrogant. Even if you are smarter than your peers, there's no reason to broadcast it at the tip of a hat. Show some modesty!"

    "Why should I?" Tomoko asked, looking genuinely confused. "In my opinion, someone has to remind the inferior minds of their place in society. Besides, if ignorance truly is bliss, I'm doing them a favor by giving them a reality check."

    "It's socially unacceptable!" Chieko exclaimed. "Have you no concept of social etiquette?"

    "I never bothered. It's not like anyone in today's society could talk to me on my level," Tomoko said, turning up her nose. "What I want to know is who designed the parameters of this 'social etiquette' of which you speak? What were their credentials? What authority did they have in the field to make such decisions? Who or what gave them said authority?"

    Chieko cut her eyes at her roommate. "You haven't the authority or right to question social conventions," She hissed. "Go return the magazine."

    "Oh. See, you distracted me with your trivial conversations," Tomoko huffed irritably. "I'll be back." She left the room.

    "Don't hurry back," Chieko tossed back, returning to her unpacking. The nerve of that girl! Who does she think she is? Someone's gotta teach her some humility, and it may have to be me.

    A few minutes later

    "How unfortunate... I'm lost," Tomoko muttered to herself as she ran through the hallways. "Figures I didn't think to have all of us exchange information as to our room assignments until now. I'll just bring it up at dinner-"


    "Oww, why can't anyone look where they're going?" Tomoko groaned, opening her eyes to find herself laying on top of someone. The familiar blonde hair and blue eyes gave away the identity of the person. "Oh. Hana-chan. I was looking for you."

    "Well, unless it was to buy me a drink, get off of me!" Hanako screeched, completely red in the face at this point.

    "Why would I buy you a drink?" Tomoko was clueless, but nevertheless obliged. "Anyway, I was looking for you so I could give you back your magazine." She handed it to her, then stood up and turned to walk away. "Until dinner, good day."

    "Wait, Tomo-"

    "I said good day," Tomoko cut her off, walking away.

    "Thank you, Tomo-chan!" Hanako shouted after her. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to reach her. "Oh, well. I got my magazine back, now I go back to my room." She got up and went back to her room, finding Sakura handling a tiny tree.

    "Oh, Takara-san! There you are!" Sakura said, turning to face her. "You're just in time for a pop quiz."

    "A pop quiz?" Hanako parroted.

    "Yes," She motioned to the tiny potted tree in her hands. "Identify this tree."

    "Is that... a Bonsai?" Hanako asked, staring at it intently.

    "You tell me, is it?" Sakura asked, raising an eyebrow.

    "Oh. Yes, that's a Bonsai," Hanako nodded.

    "Correct. This is an original Bonsai. They are very rare, and are worth a lot." Sakura said, giving Hanako a closer look.

    "That's amazing," Hanako said breathlessly. "I've only seen them in magazines. How were you able to bring all these plants with you?"

    "Simple. I surrounded the plants with cushions and put fragile stickers on the boxes. That way, the wouldn't get damaged," Sakura explained.

    "Wow, you're so smart, Sakura," Hanako said quietly, going over to her luggage to resume unpacking. "I got my magazine back."

    "Oh, I thought so. May I take a look?" Sakura asked.

    "Sure, here it is," Hanako said, handing her a mint condition ecology magazine before resuming her task.

    "Thank you," Sakura said with a smile, sitting down to read it.

    "Mmm-hmm," Hanako nodded, not looking up, engrossed in her task.

    Back with Tomoko

    "So, you're back," Chieko commented emotionlessly when she heard the door open, not turning to look.

    "Indeed, I trust my belongings are as I left them," Tomoko asked, going to look. "Good, I don't have to fine you."

    "Whatever," Chieko's reply was void of emotion, as before. "You took longer than expected. Map didn't work for you?"

    "I forgot to arrange for my friends and I to exchange information when we got our assignments, so I had no idea where they were," Tomoko replied, going back to her task.

    "I see," Chieko replied. "So, tell me about yourself, if you don't mind."

    "Oh, please, don't engage in small talk with me. I hate small talk," Tomoko sighed.

    "It's not small talk. We need to get to know one another," Chieko insisted. "Besides, we're stuck with each other until I graduate, so what choice do we have?"

    "We don't have to, but I see your point," Tomoko replied offhandedly. "And are you implying that you'll graduate before I do?"

    "Yes, this is your first year, correct?" Chieko asked.

    "It is, but I don't see how that has an impact on who graduates first," Tomoko replied.

    "I'm starting my second year," Chieko explained. "I'm a year ahead, so I'll be graduating first."

    "I see. However, if my previous years have been any indication, I'll end up skipping at least one grade level," Tomoko replied haughtily.

    "Really? You've skipped grades? How old are you?" Chieko asked.

    "I'm only ten years old." Tomoko answered as if it were a common subject.

    "That's amazing. I wouldn't have guessed, you're so intelligent, and... mature-looking," Chieko said with awe. "You look to be at least 15."

    "Everybody tells me that, I just think that everybody's standards are lower than mine," Tomoko replied. "I'm not surprised, though. I am the most intelligent person I know."

    "Okay, moving on," Chieko sighed, rubbing her temples. "Tell me more about you."

    "Why don't you just try to get inside my head again, since you're so adept at it?" Tomoko snapped, turning away.

    "I'm not getting inside your head, I'm determining who you are by studying your outer mannerisms and personality,," Chieko corrected. "The fact that you're getting so worked about it suggests that you have a bad history with psychologists."

    "Mind your own business!" Tomoko shouted, glaring daggers at Chieko.

    "Okay... I'll tell you about myself," Chieko said nervously, shrinking under Tomoko's anger. "I-"

    "Shut up!!!" Tomoko screamed, throwing a pillow at Chieko with enough force to knock her over. "I don't want to hear another word out of you, especially if it's you trying to get into my head!"

    "Oof... Sorry..." Chieko muttered, tossing the pillow aside and going back to unpacking. Her inner psyche is very well guarded by a violent monster. I'm confident that she's gone through something terrible if she gets so violent when I try to analyze her. But you mark my words, Tomoko Satomi, I, Chieko Kozue, am going to help you come to terms with this trauma and become a happier person. She thought, sparing a final, hopeful glance at Tomoko before resuming her task.

    Chapter 5: Conflict in the Courtyard

    "Okay, finally done," Kiyoko sighed, putting away her last empty suitcase. "What about you, Takeuchi-san? Are you close to finishing?"

    "I'm almost done,"Yuki replied, arranging her sheet music on top of her piano. "Why do you ask?"

    "Well, I looked at the clock, and we're gonna be late for dinner-" Kiyoko jumped when she saw Yuki leap off the bed like she'd sat on a thumbtack.

    "FOOD!" Yuki shouted, snatching at Kiyoko as she ran past her. Unfortunately for the redhead, Yuki ended up with a fistful of her shiny red locks in her hurry.

    "Ow ow ow ow let go of my hair! You've got my hair!" Kiyoko yelped in a panic, waving her arms as she struggled to keep from being dragged along by her hair. Unfortunately, Yuki either didn't hear her, or was ignoring her as she ran full sprint down the hallway. Where does she get her energy? I've never seen someone do so much without getting tired! I can barely keep up! She thought as the stairwell came into view. "Oh, crap! Yuki, slow down! Let go! Something!" She screamed.

    "What?" Yuki asked as she turned onto the stairs. Unfortunately, her speed, combined with her natural clumsiness, caused the blonde to trip down the stairs, and Kiyoko fell with her. "Ouch. How did I not see that coming?" She mumbled, shaking away the stars in her vision. "Kiyo-chan, are you okay?"

    "Yeah. I've had worse." Kiyoko muttered, standing up and helping Yuki up. "Let's get to the mess hall. My friends might be there already."

    "Yay! Let's go!" Yuki cheered, grabbing Kiyoko's hand and taking off.

    "Hey now, slow down! Remember what happened last time?" Kiyoko exclaimed, to no avail. As Yuki ran out the front door and into the courtyard, Kiyoko planted her feet and yanked her arm back, causing Yuki to fall on her back.

    "Yes, Kiyo-chan?" Yuki asked as she stood up.

    "You shouldn't run, especially if you're gonna drag me with you. Remember when we went down the stairs?" Kiyoko lectured her.

    "Oh, right. I'm sorry, Kiyo-chan," Yuki giggled sheepishly, rubbing the back of her head. She looked around, then noticed six girls approaching. Two were blondes, one of average height with her hair down at her shoulders, one tall with her hair in a ponytail. Two were brunettes, one with long hair and average height with sunglasses, and a really short one with chin-length hair, cat ears and her hands folded up like cat paws. One had chin-length black hair with glasses, and was average height, and the last had long blue hair and glasses.

    "Oh, hey guys!" Kiyoko called, waving to them. "We were just looking for you! I see you brought your roommates."

    "Indeed we did. I can't speak for everyone, but I was forced to bring mine with me," Tomoko sighed. "Kiyo-chan, at your earliest convenience, I would like you to handle a situation between the two of us."

    "I'm sorry, but I have other things on my mind right now," Kiyoko replied, waving her off. "Why don't you apply your vastly superior mind to handle the problem yourself?"

    Tomoko huffed and placed her hands on her hips. "Excuse me, maybe I worded that wrong. I have a problem. Fix it," She said stiffly, pointing at Chieko, who took off her glasses and massaged her eyelids while reciting Pi to herself.

    "Okay, Tomoko, last I checked, I was your bodyguard, not your damn servant," Kiyoko lectured irritably, crossing her arms. Before she could continue, another voice cut her off.

    "So, you guys are the last of the first-year students, huh?" At the sound of the voice, all eight girls snapped to face the source. Two girls were approaching them, and neither looked friendly. Both girls were taller than average, but shorter than Kiyoko by quite a margin. The shorter girl had been the one to address them, and she had blonde hair done in a spiky ponytail, aquamarine eyes, and a hostile expression that appeared natural in that her eyes were sharp and intimidating, and her lips were curled in a nasty snarl. The taller girl had a tomboyish chin-length cut colored similarly to Tomoko's. Her dark brown eyes appeared almost black behind the thin steel-rimmed spectacles she wore, and her expression was not as hostile as the shorter girl's but she gave off a calm, yet overpowering aura that gave one the sense of someone who didn't like getting her hands dirty, but was more than competent at what she did. They wore identical uniforms that consisted of a white button-up shirt, a black blazer over it, black pants, and black dress shoes. The blonde's blazer was casually unbuttoned. "Oh, Kozue, Kobayashi, you beat us to the new arrivals, did you? We must not have been present when you were made Ambassadors." The blonde nailed a terrifying leer into the two she'd singled out, and it had a splash effect on the rest of the group. Sayuri made a fearful yelping noise and hid behind Akako, whimpering and shaking like a leaf in the wind, Hanako scampered from her spot amongst the six to hide behind Kiyoko, Tomoko's glasses dropped down her nose as she tensed up, and Yuki loudly gulped and joined Hanako in hiding behind Kiyoko, who tensed up in a similar manner to Tomoko, as did Akako. Chieko and Sakura cringed and hung their heads, making no effort to move.

    "It's not like that, Yamauchi-sama..." Sakura stammered, waving her hands in front of her in an effort to placate the hostile blonde. "We were assigned to have first-years as roommates. We had no bearing on the decision."

    "Yeah, we were invited along with them to meet their friends." Chieko added, doing the same.

    "Be that as it may, you violated our rule: as Ambassadors, we meet with the first-years first," The blonde spoke harshly, making the two cringe even harder. "That's strike one already this year. And I expect more from you second-years... especially you, Sakura." The emphasis that was placed on Sakura's name that of dominance, and Kiyoko perceived a threat hidden within; as if Sakura had been singled out as a special victim, and the blonde was dangling it over her head. "For your sakes, don't get to strike three again. I'd hate for you to go through that again..." This time, she seemed to be speaking exclusively to Sakura, who looked entirely powerless, despite being taller than the other blonde by a good two inches.

    "Yes, Yamauchi-sama..." Sakura whispered with a break in her voice as she stared at the ground. Her facial expression and the tone of her voice suggested a great deal of emotional scarring.

    "I can't hear you, Sakura." The blonde said with a hint of teasing condescension. "We both know your vocal capacities, so I suggest you use them. And one more thing..." She walked towards Sakura, who shrank back in response. The blonde wasn't having it, though, and grabbed Sakura by the chin, forcing eye contact. "How many times do I have to tell you to look at your superiors when they're talking to you?" Her tone was dripping was sadistic condescension. Kiyoko could tell the two had a sour history to say the least, and this girl took special pleasure in victimizing Sakura. Kiyoko glanced at the other girl, and saw that she seemed indifferent about the situation. On closer inspection, she saw the slightest hint of disapproval, but other than that, the taller girl seemed like she wasn't paying this any attention. Either that, or she was used to this scene.

    "Sakura, don't you say another word!" Akako's fiery voice ripped the needle off the record, getting the hostile blonde to cast her intimidating glance on her instead.

    "Little girl in the sunglasses, has anyone ever told you not to butt into other peoples' business?" She asked in a threatening tone. A second later, her expression was shattered, and her eyes widened in surprise when she saw that her intimidation not only didn't work on Akako, but it had the opposite effect!

    "Look who's talkin'! We're mindin' our own business, and you two come from nowhere to force your noses all up in our business and mess with these two!" Akako more or less shouted, eyes flaring behind her sunglasses as she stepped forward with blazing passion, much to the confusion of everyone but Kiyoko, who smiled proudly. "By the way, I love that look on your face. Totally freakin' priceless. All the intimidation tactics you use? I know all of 'em, and then some. I know every move in a bully's arsenal. And why, you ask? Cuz I was a bully!" At this, a series of gasps arose, indicating that there was a crowd, and they were all amazed at Akako's stand. "That's right, been there an' owned it from grade school. Akako Minazumi, maybe ya heard 'a me. Anyway, you're smart to fear me. Cuz speakin' from experience, a bully's worst enemy is another bully."

    The blonde suddenly realized how off guard she was, and quickly straightened up, reassuming her dominant face. "Well, Minazumi, I hate to break it you, but it doesn't matter how long you ruled and where. The Yamauchi Sisters rule this roost, and frankly, I don't like your attitude. The obnoxious Osakan accent, the shades, and the fact that you made me look bad in front of a live audience. So I'm gonna enjoy humiliating you for your insolence."

    "Oy vey, where's a mute button when ya need one?" Akako sighed. "You're louder than I am, and I'm an Osakan! But I had a sayin' back in middle school: The weakest dogs bark the loudest. "Course, I was the head o' the hood there, so I'm an exception."

    "Operative word: Was." The blonde corrected. "By the way, the name's Kazuko Yamauchi. It'd be a benefit to remember who's in charge."

    "Geez, quit yer gum flappin' already!" Akako growled. "Goin' from experience, actions speak a lot louder than words."

    "Psst!" Kiyoko hissed, getting the attention of Tomoko, Sayuri, Chieko and Sakura. She made a beckoning motion, getting them to move towards her.

    "Know what? I think it's time I shut you the hell up," Kazuko growled. "First order of business, lose the shades." As she said this, she made a swipe for them, but Akako effortlessly and harmlessly swatted her hand away.

    "Sorry, my shades are a part of my identity. If you can't get with that, you can't be around me," Akako said with a condescending grin, shaking a finger at her.

    "Maybe you didn't hear me. Take them off before I do it for you!" Kazuko growled, swiping again.

    Akako caught her hand in her left, putting a tight grip on it. "Newsflash: I don't take orders from you!" She shouted, yanking Kazuko forward and laying into Kazuko's nose with a sickly crunch, knocking her to the ground. A chorus of gasps erupted from the crowd, followed by emphatic applause from Sayuri.

    "Aagh... dammit!" Kazuko shouted, though she was holding her nose, which made it quite nasally. The blood dripping down her hand onto her shirt only enraged her further. "You ruined my Ambassador's uniform! Now you're gonna pay!"

    "You want that in cash or check?" Akako shot back, grinning. Her grin faded when Kazuko jumped up and charged, swiping with a hard and fast right hook. Akako spun out of the way, but the punch still connected enough to knock her glasses off. "Dammit! Not again!" She howled, doubling over and covering her eyes.

    "Yeah, you weren't kidding, the shades are a part of you!" Kazuko taunted, picking up the sunglasses. "What's the matter? Don't tell me you're only tough when you have your shades."

    "Give them back," Kiyoko spoke up, getting the attention of both Kazuko and the older girl.

    "Shut up, freakshow," Kazuko snapped. "If you want a turn, get in line."

    "I said give them back," Kiyoko hissed, "before I give you a lot more than a broken nose."

    "Alright, let's go, firecracker," Kazuko shot back, walking towards Kiyoko, who took a stance that resembled judo. "I don't mind putting another insubordinate student in her place."
    "That's enough," The taller girl spoke up, getting everyone's attention. "Kazuko, return Minazumi-san's glasses to her."

    "Screw that, what about my nose? My shirt?" Kazuko asked, motioning to the blood and her nose, which looked horrifically deformed after Akako's punch.

    "Is that defiance in your tone?" The taller girl asked, raising an eyebrow. Everyone present but Kiyoko and Akako flinched at this. She was even more intimidating than Kazuko.

    "Uh! No, my apologies, Onee-sama!" Kazuko said in a panicked tone, hastening to obey her orders. She rushed over to Akako, tapping the sunglasses on her arm. "Here, put 'em on." She grudgingly whispered.

    "Hmm? Thanks," Akako said, putting her sunglasses on. Once she did, she stood up straight and looked at Kazuko, only to be knocked to the ground by a punishing right hook. "Ah, son of a bitch!"

    "That was for my shirt, you heathen!" Kazuko shouted. She turned to her left, and saw Kiyoko racing towards her with intent to kill.

    "Stop!" The older girl shouted. Kiyoko slid to a stop and turned to her, regarding her with no less hostility than Kazuko. "There's no need for this to go on any longer. Kazuko, our quarters, NOW."

    "Yes, Onee-sama..." Kazuko sighed, seeming to be in deep trouble. She pulled out a handkerchief to clean her face, then walked towards Sakura, who tensed up and looked away. "Sorry our fun had to be cut short today. But I won't leave you disappointed." She pulled Sakura into her and treated her to an overpowering kiss that made everyone's hair stand on end except for Kazuko's sister.

    "NOW!" The older girl shouted, apparently getting quite impatient.

    Kazuko sighed irritably, then released her hold on Sakura, who was completely frozen and redder than Kiyoko's hair. "Alright, I'm going." She huffed. "Be good." She whispered in Sakura's ear before slinking off. As she did, the older girl stepped up to address them.

    "I apologize for my sister. I am Mai Yamauchi, Student Council Vice President." Mai said, bowing to the girls, who all bowed in return, save for Sakura, who was still frozen. "Normally, I wouldn't condone acts like what we just witnessed, but frankly, Kazuko had it coming." She flashed a grin at Akako, who grinned back. "I must commend you, you throw a wrecker of a punch. I should probably warn you that Kazuko very easily holds grudges, and will most likely come after you with a vengeance. Minazumi-san, you must be careful, as she now knows your weakness, and won't hesitate to exploit it."

    "That only happened because I was too busy makin' wisecracks and I let my guard down," Akako said, waving her hand dismissively. "Next time she comes at me, I'm sendin' her back to you with her ass in a 'to go' box."

    "I prefer that you avoid conflict with her whenever possible," Mai replied. "This school has a strict policy against violence, and Kazuko is a Student Council Advisor... whether I like it or not." She rolled her eyes as she said this. "My point being, she has the authority to get you in serious trouble. Fortunately, I outrank her, and will see to it that such an event does not occur, because, let's face it, she had it coming."

    "Thank you," Kiyoko and Akako said, bowing gratefully.

    "It's okay," Mai said, dismissively waving her hand. "Oh, make sure she doesn't end up alone with Kazuko. It's happened once. She's scarred for life."

    "If what I think happened happened, based on what we saw, I couldn't agree more," Kiyoko said, looking at Sakura.

    "What did happen?" Hanako asked, looking at her roommate worriedly.

    "I'll tell you later, Hana-chan," Kiyoko said, approaching Mai and whispered something into her ear.

    "Yes, that's exactly what happened, and that's why they are no longer roommates," Mai said, nodding somberly. "So please, for all our sakes, keep Sakura away from Kazuko."

    "Ten-Four on that, ma'am," Akako drawled, drawing many a confused look from those around her. "What?"

    "I'm... not familiar with the expression, or how to respond," Mai said blankly.

    "Ten-Four simply means 'Yes, I understand your message' in general Citizens' Band slang. It's been used since the dawn of amateur radio, and is now widely used by law enforcement worldwide. Law enforcement uses an entire system of codes that stems from CB usage, and is more advanced," Tomoko explained as if it should have been common knowledge.

    "How do you know that?" Yuki asked, dumbstruck.

    "When you read and study as much as I do, no piece of knowledge can elude you," Tomoko said.

    "Wow, you must be really smart," Yuki said.

    "Smart? Smart?!" Tomoko exclaimed in nothing short of outrage.

    "Here we go," Kiyoko, Akako and Hanako chorused.

    "I am not what you would call 'smart'. I would have to lose at least 60 IQ points to be classified as 'smart'," Tomoko ranted. Everyone around her began to look rather annoyed, especially the three who were used to it.

    "Well, I must be going. I have to discipline Kazuko and then get us ready for our appearance when the student council continues Orientation tonight," Mai said, bowing to everyone. "Until then, behave."

    "We will," Everyone chorused as Mai walked off. There was relative silence for a second or two, then there was a thud. Heads turned to see that Sakura's legs had finally given out, and she was now on her back, staring at the sky.

    "Aw, geez!" Kiyoko muttered, hoisting Sakura onto her shoulders and heading back to the dorms. "Hanako, follow! We need to lay her down so she can rest."

    "Coming!" Hanako replied, running after Kiyoko so she could guide her to their room.

    "We should probably go ahead to the mess hall?" Chieko suggested.

    "Yeah, that's a good idea," Everyone else agreed, and they all went in that direction together.
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