Hideki Nakajima is back, and better than ever!

[13:10] <PersonaGM> [A three note chime sounded throughout the train.-
[13:12] <PersonaGM> ["Attention passengers," began a recorded voice. "This is an Overland Line train. We will be arriving at Oda Station in. Five minutes. This train terminates at Oda Station. Passengers transferring to the Sophia Academy Line, please change trains at Platform four. I repeat…"-
[13:13] <PersonaGM> [The train's seats were full of people, most of whom were teenagers. Some glanced up nervously at the roof at the chimes, whilst others barely stirred. Some began packing away laptops, game consoles and books, whilst a few moved their bags so they'd be easier to carry.]
[13:18] * Hideki was among those fussing with their bags. His were a pair of very large, red, wheeled suitcases with various decals slapped on them. -
[13:24] <Hideki> "Freakin' finally," he grinned to himself. The ride to Oda Station had felt longer than usual this year. Maybe that was because of the absence of a willing seatmate to pass the time chatting with, or maybe it was because of the relentless eagerness he had been carrying with him ever since he'd left home. -
[13:28] <Hideki> On a whim, he glanced around him at the other passengers to see if he could find any of that excitement mirrored in another face.
[13:32] <PersonaGM> [Here and there were eager teens already starting to leave their seats. Some were middle-schoolers, a few chatting loudly enough for Hideki to hear snatches of talk- "… See 'em again" "… Good club last year! Who's running it?" "… someone good-"-
[13:32] <PersonaGM> [One middle schooler who was neither eager nor chatty was sitting a few seats down, headphones in ears. He glanced up at Hideki, then looked away.]
[13:46] <Hideki> Ahh, the one familiar face on the entire train… though most of the time it had been turned to the window, blocked from sight by a shaggy mop of black hair. Hideki rolled his eyes. Whatever. They'd run into each other again on campus - or, more likely, when the kid needed to borrow money for something. -
[13:47] <Hideki> For now, Hideki just waited for the doors to open so that the students could finally get off and transfer.
[13:50] <PersonaGM> [A chime sounded again over the train. "Attention passengers. This is an Overland Line train. We are now arriving at Oda Station…"-
[13:53] <PersonaGM> [More of the passengers were climbing to their feet now, and a few had already started camping the doors, luggage in hand.-
[13:56] <PersonaGM> [Oda Station. The heart of Katashiba, not just symbolically but in a very real sense, pumping the blood of the city out to the extremities, and pulling it back as well.-
[13:59] <PersonaGM> [Most of Oda Station was new, having been refurbished sometime during Hideki's attendance here- even if that felt, weirdly, like it had happened years ago. The old, ugly but functional brick and concrete had been pulled down and replaced with open-air walls of glass and steel that now gleamed in the springtime morning sun. As the train pulled into a stop, Hideki would be momentarily dazzled by the wall of shimmering light.-
[14:02] <PersonaGM> [Platform One, the one they pulled into, was above-ground and covered with a mix of white ceramic tiles and granite edging. The roof above them wasn't fully enclosed, but instead stretched out to just barely cover the platform itself and a little extra. A pitiful collection of luggage trolleys had been set aside nearby for the passengers' convenience- and already the students at the doors were eyeing each other in a most jealous, cutthroat way.-
[14:03] <PersonaGM> [The doors opened, and the students began pushing off. Within seconds the hapless herd of trolleys had been hunted, and the rest of the student body were left to grumblingly carry and drag their luggage onwards.-
[14:05] <PersonaGM> [The platform was fairly bare, all things considered. There were stairs downwards toward the main lobby of the station, and elevators too- now being used by the gleeful trolley-hunters. There was a security and information booth in the square middle as well as many benches and seats, most of which were empty.-
[14:05] <PersonaGM> [There was of course also a board of timetables, that'd let Hideki and the others know when the Academy Line train would next depart.]
[14:16] <Hideki> Platform four~ Hideki had hefted his luggage up the stairs with relative ease, backtracked once or twice to assist a younger student who seemed to have a rough time clearing them, and now found himself meandering around the platform. He gave a cheerful nod to the people manning the information booth and eyed the timetable. Somehow, he didn't feel like sitting while he waited. He'd spent
[14:16] <Hideki> the entire morning sitting, and it was starting to suck.
[14:24] <PersonaGM> [Platform four was much similar to platform one, with the exception that it was a subway. It was fortunate that Hideki didn't want a seat, because they were all taken.-
[14:24] <PersonaGM> [As he arrived, something bright blue caught his eye on the timetable- but when he eyed it, he didn't see anything out of the ordinary.]
[14:26] <Hideki> Weird… He let his eyes linger on it a little longer. Was he just tired or something?
[14:27] <PersonaGM> [It had been a long trip.-
[14:28] <PersonaGM> [But all he learned by looking at the timetable was that he had ten minutes until the train for the Academy Station.-
[14:28] <PersonaGM> [And then it was just a short walk to his student dorm building- 5 Soejima Road…-
[14:29] <PersonaGM> [Now all he could do was wait. Could he manage that?]
[14:43] <Hideki> Pfft. Waiting was easy. Too easy. He decided to spice it up by stepping among a throng of nervous-looking students. Any first year students? He welcomed them. Cracked a joke or two. Asked them to join the baseball club because it was awesome. Returning students? He exchanged pleasantries. Asked about their teachers from the previous year.
[14:44] <PersonaGM> [Too easy was right. The time passed all too quickly, and before long he was climbing on a train bound for Sophia Academy Station.-
[14:49] <PersonaGM> [A moment after he was gone, a bright blue butterfly alighted for a moment on the timetable. It stayed there a moment, then vanished with a passing crowd.-
[14:49] <PersonaGM> […-
[14:51] <PersonaGM> [Soejima Road was pretty much just another road in the great urban fiefdom of the Academy.-
[14:53] <PersonaGM> [Hideki hadn't been to Soejima Road before, yet it looked pretty familiar. A collection of stores sat huddled together on the corner of Soejima and Shigenori- convenience stores, news agencies with lots of school stationery, a greasy fast food shop… The rest of the road was home to dorm apartments, each more or less identical.-
[14:54] <PersonaGM> [5 Soejima Road was one such dorm. It looked like this:-
[14:56] <PersonaGM> [First, there was a 1.6 metre high perimeter wall, made of packed stones cut straight. The actual gate was solid wood, and wasn't locked either.-
[14:59] <PersonaGM> [Inside the wall was a little front courtyard, about eight metres wide and five metres long. A cobblestone path cut from the gate to the actual front door. The rest was all grass, although the grass had clearly given up and in many areas gave way to bare dirt. There were little flowerbeds lining the inside of the courtyard, up against the perimeter wall, but these beds lay empty. A single sad-looking tree sat to the right of the gate.-
[15:01] <PersonaGM> [The building itself had an off-white stone facade, although it was obviously rather cheap and in some areas, needed cleaning or even replacing. The building otherwise seemed sound. There were five floors, and from what he counted based on the windows, about four rooms on the front side per floor.-
[15:02] <PersonaGM> [Sitting in front of the door, lazily sunbathing, was a black cat.]
[15:17] * Hideki juggled the latch to the gate, shoved it open the rest of the way with his hip, and let it slam closed behind him once he and his suitcases were through. He gave a low whistle as he strolled up to the font door. "Man, I guess the groundskeepers were on vacation too, huh?" He grinned at his lone audience member… the black cat.
[15:22] <PersonaGM> ["Mew."-
[15:23] <PersonaGM> [The black cat rolled over onto his back and stared up at him with big blue eyes.]
[15:26] * Hideki took that as an invitation to lean down and pet him. Was there a collar on the cat? Where the heck did it even come from?
[15:29] <PersonaGM> [No collar. A stray?-
[15:29] <PersonaGM> [The cat happily let Hideki pet his soft belly, nonetheless.]
[15:32] <Hideki> The petting was gentle but brief. After just a few moments, Hideki stood up properly and tried to step around the cat to unlock the front door of the dorm with the key Sophia Academy had sent him days ago. What would the inside be like?
[15:41] <PersonaGM> [The first floor of the dorm was…-
[15:42] <PersonaGM> [Well, as far as lobbies went, it was little dingy. The first floor was split into basically three parts.-
[15:46] <PersonaGM> [The first part was the entrance area, just inside the front door. It was all off-green linoleum and cheap wallpaper, with a wooden check-in desk sitting on the far right. Built into the corner of this desk was an ominous booth, like a ticket booth, except the walls were entirely wood and opaque, as was the door. The only visible gap between the inside and the outside was a little slit at the top of the desk, where the check-in book sat.-
[15:48] <PersonaGM> [The second area was a common room. This one had red carpet instead of green linoleum, although it too looked dusty. There was a lounge area, consisting of a loveseat, a three-seat couch and a recliner, all of it mismatched and in wildly different styles and materials, clustered around a surprisingly ornate-looking antique coffee table and an equally antique-looking television. A metre or so away from the lounge room was a square western-style dining table, with matching chairs. The walls, sadly, were still coated in cheap white wallpaper.-
[15:49] <PersonaGM> [And the third section sat off to the left. The kitchen, Hideki could see through the open swinging door.]
[15:56] <Hideki> "So the inside's also…?" Hideki pulled at a snarl of peeling wallpaper until he had a thin strip of it in his hand. Slightly worried, he peered behind himself at the cat lounging outside. "Hey little bro. You're not hanging around here because this place is infested with mice or anything, right?"
[16:14] <PersonaGM> ["Who's saying there's mice?" Came a gruff voice from the sign-in booth.]
[16:15] * Hideki started. "Oh shi-! Someone's here?"
[16:23] <PersonaGM> ["I'm the caretaker. You can call me Miss Asahina." Said the surly voice. "And we don't have mice. Only rude little boys."]
[16:30] <Hideki> "And embarrassed ones too." Damn. Two seconds in, and he'd already ticked off the caretaker. Well… maybe that could be remedied! He wheeled his luggage over to the sign-in booth armed with his most charming grin. "It was only a little joke, you know, Miss Asahina? It's pretty classy in here. Clean and cozy. I'm Nakajima, by the way."
[16:31] <PersonaGM> [The slit was really small. He couldn't see her at all. She presumably couldn't see him either. Unless she could? Cameras…?-
[16:31] <PersonaGM> ["I know who you are." She said. "You're the only boy this year."]
[16:36] <Hideki> "Huh." He cocked his head. "So what I'm hearing is that I get the showers all to myself. Wait. There are mens' showers in this building, right? Like, it's supposed to be co-ed…"
[16:41] <PersonaGM> ["Of course there are." Said Miss Asahina. A little stick protruded out of the slot and pushed the sign-in book towards him. "You're in Room 2A. Make sure to sign in your full name, please."]
[16:42] * Hideki signed with a flourish! "Am I the first student here?"
[16:43] <PersonaGM> ["Is that important to you to know?"]
[16:45] <Hideki> "I'm just curious." Another bright grin. "I was hoping to meet some of my housemates."
[16:47] <PersonaGM> ["Then yes, you're the first. As you can tell, considering yours is the first signature in the book."]
[16:49] <Hideki> "Right. Well, maybe the two of us can hang out in the lounge and have some coffee in the meantime. You know, chat a little."
[16:49] <PersonaGM> ["… You must be feeling tired. You should go to your room and unpack." Said the voice firmly.]
[16:55] <Hideki> "Heh. All right, then. Thank you for your help, Miss. I'll see you later." No use pressing the matter. Room 2A. Second floor? He began to search for a staircase.
[16:56] <PersonaGM> [Staircases! There was a spiral one in the corner, as well as elevators.]
[16:58] <Hideki> He took the stairs. Quickly, with both suitcases lifted high. "Hup! Hup! Hup!" -
[16:59] <Hideki> Second floor. He did a search for his room.
[17:00] <PersonaGM> [THere it was! 2A.-
[17:03] <PersonaGM> [What was Hideki expecting as he opened the door…?]
[17:04] <Hideki> A large bed. A small bookshelf. A desk. Maybe a closet and a window. Simple furnishings!
[17:05] <PersonaGM> [But was he expecting disrepair? Mould? … Mice?]
[17:08] <Hideki> More antiques. Perhaps mice and more shabby wallpaper too.
[17:08] <PersonaGM> [Well as it turned out…-
[17:11] <PersonaGM> [The room was simple, but it was very clean. There was indeed a bed, and a bookshelf, and a desk. But there was also a modern television attached to the wall in the corner, and the window, positioned above the desk, was very clean. He even had bedside tables! On the wall opposed to his bed was a wardrobe, too. The wallpaper was higher quality too, and consisted of a bright healthy yellow. The floor was covered in soft pink carpet.]
[17:14] * Hideki drifted in, eyebrows raised high. Why did these rooms look so completely different? But, there was no way he was complaining about it. Happily, he slipped out of his shoes, dropped his luggage carelessly in the center of the room and tested the bed out by bellyflopping onto it. "Ahhh…"
[17:18] <PersonaGM> [The bed was… Decently soft. It could be better but, honestly, he'd been on worse.]
[17:22] <Hideki> Not complaining. He rolled onto his back and pulled out his phone. There were a few people to alert by text. First, his parents, to let them know that he had arrived safely. Then a certain someone… although he wasn't sure if she had arrived on campus yet. Oh, and the guys from the team. Maybe they could go out for food tomorrow or something.
[17:22] <PersonaGM> [And so he'd get to texting. His parents didn't reply, not too surprising, they'd get to it later on…-
[17:23] <PersonaGM> [A few replies from the team, short and positive…-
[17:23] <PersonaGM> [But of course a minute later he'd receive a reply from that 'certain someone'.-
[17:23] <PersonaGM> ["Hi :3 you settled in? Wanna help me unpack?"]
[17:26] <Hideki> ["Hell yeah. Where's your new place?"] -
[17:28] * Hideki rolled onto his stomach again, peering down at his own luggage. Meh. He'd deal with his own bags later.
[17:28] <PersonaGM> [As he rolled over, something would catch his eye. Sitting on his desk, in brown wrapping paper, was a parcel…-
[17:29] <PersonaGM> ["8 Shoji Street!" came the reply. His phone helpfully hyperlinked it to a map app.]
[17:32] <Hideki> Perfect. The package drew his attention, though. Housewarming gift? This was new. He hopped up to investigate, pulling off the wrapping paper without much fanfare.
[17:34] <PersonaGM> [A parcel from the academy. In it was his yearly academic diary, with class timetables, week-to-week schedule entries and notes… A calendar he could pin up on the wall… Yet another touristy guidebook to Katashiba… A special set of pens, the first entry of the weekly newsletter, that informed students that voting had been counted and Caol├ín Choi had become their new President…-
[17:34] <PersonaGM> [And a small, new smartphone.]
[17:38] <Hideki> "Seriously?!" He held up the phone, searching for a brand or a logo. Nothing. What model was it? Who cared? It was brand new! "God, I love this school!" He tried turning it on immediately.
[17:42] <PersonaGM> [It flickered on. The Sophia Academy symbol appeared, before fading into a white screen.-
[17:45] <PersonaGM> ["Congratulations! You've been randomly selected to be a beta tester for the new Sophia Academy Student Smartphone Programme. Using this phone, you can access the Sophia Academy intranet and special services, such as S-Chat or the Sophia E-Marketplace. You can also connect with other beta testers as well."-
[17:46] <PersonaGM> ["Please enter your full name to log in."]
[17:50] * Hideki typed in his name. "So what's this E-Marketplace thing? I don't think we had it last year."
[17:55] <PersonaGM> ["Meow." Said the cat at the door.-
[17:56] <PersonaGM> [His phone, meanwhile, resolved his log-in, showing a collection of apps. There was a basic kit- search engine, maps, messenger, so on- but also special ones for the school programs. S-Chat, the E-Marketplace… Another one, simply labelled 'Tome', looked like some kind of e-reader.]
[18:01] <Hideki> Hideki sat up, blinking slowly in confusion. The cat had followed him? "Whatcha doing there, Lil' Bro? Sneaking around?" He stood and walked to the door. Poked his head out into the hallway. Obviously, he'd gotten past the weird lady dowstairs, but that probably wasn't too difficult on account of him being small and stealthy and catlike and such. -
[18:04] <Hideki> "You can hang out, but I don't have any food," he warned, leaving the door open and retreating back to his bed. "I'll bring somethng back from the covenience store soon, though." He promptly began fiddling with the apps. First the E-Marketplace. Then the 'Tome' thing.
[18:05] <PersonaGM> [Both… Were actually empty. The E-Marketplace was essentially a digital marketplace where students could sell and buy stuff, and the Tome thing didn't even have instructions!-
[18:06] <PersonaGM> [The cat leapt up onto the bed and began batting at his old phone, where the text messages from his 'Someone' were still visible.]
[18:11] <Hideki> "H-hey." He reached for the old phone with one hand, the new one still in his other hand. "Easy. 's not a toy."
[18:13] <PersonaGM> [The cat eyed him, then leapt off the bed and headed for the door. "Meow!"]
[18:15] <Hideki> "Hmm." Hideki looked down at the directions on the phone, and then went for his shoes. "Time for me to go too, I guess. Girlfriend's waiting."
[18:16] <PersonaGM> ["Meow~"-
[18:16] <PersonaGM> […-
[18:19] <PersonaGM> [It was clear that Girlfriend's neighbourhood- Shoji Street- was on the whole a lot more… What was the word? Fashionable? Here, the buildings looked clean on the outside, with pretty flowers and trees. Plum trees fought for aesthetic space with cherry blossoms, each scattering petals on green, lush grass. Unlike the wilderness of Soejima Road, Shoji Street was bustling outdoors too, with plenty of fresh-faced students milling about, chatting and dragging luggage inside.-
[18:19] <PersonaGM> [As he approached 8 Shoji Street, one student- a girl he only vaguely recognised- saw him, giggled and ran away, her phone out.-
[18:20] <PersonaGM> [He didn't even have to go inside to find his girlfriend. She was sitting outside, beneath a flowering cherry blossom tree, wearing a blue sundress cut just above the knee, her luggage at her side.-
[18:20] <PersonaGM> [Why doesn't Hideki describe how she looks, in his own words…?]
[18:25] <Hideki> She was hot. -
[18:31] <Hideki> More specifically, she was short, pale and fragile-looking, with silky black hair and big olive eyes that could stare into a man's soul if she thought he was hiding something. Right now, though, they weren't glaring at him suspiciously as he sauntered up the road to her. -
[18:33] <Hideki> "Hey! I heard someone needed a hand~"
[18:36] <PersonaGM> ["Hii~" Said Yi Ji-Hu. She gave him a bright, sunny smile; those powerful eyes twinkled.-
[18:37] <PersonaGM> [Ji-Hu patted her luggage bag, which was rather bigger than Hideki's own. "I've been waiting for you. She's been waiting for you, too."]
[18:43] <Hideki> "Well, I aim to please." Hideki gave the suitcase an experimental tug. "Hm. I think your friend here needs to lose weight, Ji-Hu."
[18:45] <PersonaGM> ["Too heavy for you? That's a shame…"]
[18:47] <Hideki> "Never said that," Hideki insisted, lifting it up properly. "Where's the room? Did you check it out yet? Did they give you a roommate?"
[18:48] <PersonaGM> ["3-B, no, no." Said Ji-Hu, opening the door and heading inside.-
[18:50] <PersonaGM> [Well. Her lobby was way nicer than Hideki's. The couches looked softer and also coordinated, their check-in desk didn't have a weird border patrol booth, and their television looked new.-
[18:51] <PersonaGM> [Two flights of Hideki running up steps whilst Ji-Hu watched later, the two would come to her dorm room. Ji-Hu unlocked the door and swung it open dramatically. "Ta-da!"-
[18:52] <PersonaGM> [It was actually quite similar to Hideki's, albeit a little larger, with a nicer desk (it had more drawers!), and a mirror off in one corner. The bookshelf was also larger.-
[19:00] <PersonaGM> ["Dump it anywhere, Mitty."]
[19:12] <Hideki> "Done." He placed it by the desk and then sat on the edge of her bed.
[11:10] <Minaplo> [Ji-Hu closed the door behind her and locked it. The moment she did so, her demeanor changed; a huge grin spread out over her face and her eyes narrowed, as though focused on Hideki. Ji-Hu ran across the distance, let out a quiet little squeal, and tackled Hideki back onto the bed, letting herself land on him.-
[11:10] <Minaplo> [She folded her arms across his chest and rested her chin on her hands. "Hi there, my big, strong, beautiful man."]
[11:17] <Hideki> "Enjoying the view?" He grinned. It was impossible to draw her any closer than she already was at this point, but somehow he still wanted to. "I know I am. It was a looong summer."
[11:21] <Minaplo> ["Yep." Said Ji-Hu with a chuckle. "I missed this." She reached to tap his grin. "I missed your smell. Home was so boring. I must be a dumb nerd, 'cuz I was looking back to coming to school."]
[11:25] <Hideki> "Guess that makes me a nerd too." He wrapped his arms around her back. "Let's do some catching up."
[11:29] <Minaplo> ["Natch." She said sweetly.-
[11:29] <Minaplo> ["So tell me about your dormmmmm~"]
[11:37] <Hideki> "It's oooold, and beat up, and it came with a stray cat. And a free phone."
[11:37] <Minaplo> ["A free phone? Like a good one, or a brick?"]
[11:38] <Hideki> "It's nice. Check my left pocket if you want to see for yourself."
[11:40] <Minaplo> [Ji-Hu rolled her eyes. "'Is that a new phone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?'" She nonetheless reached into the pocket and drew out the phone. Her eyes widened slightly. "Huh. What brand is this?"]
[11:43] <Hideki> "No clue. The whole thing's some kind of beta test. Someone on the school's payroll has to know the details, so I figure I'll ask around later."
[11:44] <Minaplo> ["Huh. I wonder if I got one?" Ji-Hu pressed the on-button. Nothing happened. "Huh, out of charge, I guess."]
[11:47] <Hideki> "Check your desk. That's where mine was."
[11:48] <Minaplo> ["What, and move?" Ji-Hu tucked Hideki's new phone back into his pocket and nestled her head into his chest. "Nu."]
[12:00] <Hideki> "I have but one complaint. It's awfully hard to kiss you from this angle."
[12:02] <Minaplo> ["Good point." Said Ji-Hu. She sidled up a little higher, cradled Hideki's head in her hands and kissed him.]
[12:07] <Hideki> All too happily, Hideki kissed back!
[12:11] <Minaplo> [After a few long minutes of 'catching up', Ji-Hu pulled away slightly and nestled her head into Hideki's neck. "You really have missed me, huh~?"]
[12:15] <Hideki> "Why wouldn't I? You didn't come visit this summer."
[12:15] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, sorry. Big sis was getting married, you know? That was a big production…"]
[12:21] <Hideki> "Yeah, I know. You guys didn't get into any major fights, I hope."
[12:23] <Minaplo> ["Nah. I just got nagged by my grandparents. 'You're next!'", Ji-Hu said, making yap-yap motions with her hands.]
[12:28] <Hideki> "Want us to tie the knot? Y'know, to get them off your back for a little while?"
[12:29] <Minaplo> ["Oh please." She said, running a hand through Hideki's hair. "No thanks. The girls in this dorm are already gossipping about us."]
[12:33] <Hideki> "Ahh. Spreading rumors about how damned cute you are, I bet."
[12:35] <Minaplo> ["That'd be the dream. Instead they'll just be talking about how loose we are."]
[12:39] <Hideki> "They say 'loose'. I say 'lucky'." He went in for another quick kiss. "What do you think?"
[12:40] <Minaplo> ["Lucky does sound better." Said Ji-Hu, kissing him in return. "Oh, we could be luckier, though. Tilly down the hall, her boyfriend's just across the street. And Yuriko and Naomi? Their rooms are literally right next to each other."]
[12:45] <Hideki> "…and here I am, miles away from you, in 5 Soejima Road. That's just unfair. Maybe it's a conspiracy."
[12:45] <Minaplo> ["Who'd want to keep us apart?" Ji-Hu asked, her eyes wide.]
[12:49] <Hideki> "Who can say~? You haven't made any enemies lately have you?"
[12:49] <Minaplo> ["Hmm…"-
[12:49] <Minaplo> [A serious expression crossed her face. "Have you seen our timetables yet?"]
[12:50] <Hideki> "Huh?" That seriousness was contageous. Hideki's smile faded a bit. "No. Why?"
[12:55] <Minaplo> ["We probably have Mr. Asaka teaching history again, huh?" Said Ji-Hu. "I've… Heard and seen some weird stuff going on there."]
[12:58] <Hideki> "Yeah? Like what?"
[13:00] <Minaplo> ["I heard he got into a fight with a student over World War Two." Said Ji-Hu. "Like, I didn't hear many details, but it sounded like an international student?"-
[13:01] <Minaplo> ["And… You know Park Eun-Jeong, my study buddy? She says he made a pass at her last year."]
[13:09] * Hideki frowned. "So he's one of those teachers, huh? And there's no avoiding him if he's teaching us again…"
[13:10] <Minaplo> ["Pretty much." Said Ji-Hu. "I also think he might've tried to look up my skirt once. It was kind of ambiguous, but ehh… Call it gut feeling."]
[13:12] <Hideki> That frown turned into a scowl. "Should I kick his ass?"
[13:13] <Minaplo> ["What, and get expelled?"]
[13:14] <Hideki> "Then… should we file a complaint with the right channels? See if that gets us anywhere?"
[13:15] <Minaplo> ["Yeah…" She huffed and lowered her head back into his neck. "No evidence, though. Maybe I should start taping him."]
[13:17] <Hideki> "Hmm. Think about it. Then tell me how I can help."
[13:20] <Minaplo> ["Thanks." Said Ji-Hu warmly, leaning up to give him another kiss. "Hopefully I won't have to do anything, but if it keeps up…"-
[13:21] <Minaplo> ["Egh. I dunno. I expect better than to find someone like him at a school like ours, but I guess no school is perfect."]
[13:32] <Hideki> "He's just one teacher. We've got a lot of good, dependable ones too."
[13:33] <Minaplo> ["True." Said Ji-Hu.-
[13:33] <Minaplo> ["Still, maybe we could get him fired." She said cheerfully. "And then you can become the history teacher!"]
[13:35] <Hideki> "Yeah, I've got all that experience failing to get the guys from the team to study. May as well put it to good use!"
[13:36] <Minaplo> ["See? You're already qualified." Said Ji-Hu. "And besides, I wouldn't mind being perved on by a teacher if it were you~"]
[13:40] <Hideki> "And then I'd get fired. And then you'd have to replace me with another pervy but handsome guy, who will in turn be fired. What kind of a vicious cycle are you starting here?"
[13:41] <Minaplo> ["If you've got an hour, I'll show you~"]
[13:43] <Hideki> "Baby, I've got all afternoon~"
[13:47] <Minaplo> ["… Pffft."-
[13:48] <Minaplo> […-
[13:49] <Minaplo> [It was sundown by the time Hideki left, his hair rather messier than perhaps he'd intended it to be. Fortunately, he'd arrived on a Friday, which meant he had the weekend to himself before it was back to school on Monday.-
[13:49] <Minaplo> [Would he head back home immediately? Or…]
[13:52] <Hideki> Well, he had to stop by the convenience store first. Needed snacks for himself and also snacks for Lil' Bro. After that he would simply head home.
[13:54] <Minaplo> [Lil' Bro was waiting on the front step. As Hideki arrived, the cat stretched, sat up and meowed.]
[13:58] <Hideki> "Hey, man." Hideki pulled a little can of cat food out of shopping bag he had gotten from the store, pried it open, and placed it in front of the cat. "Enjoy. The ingredient list says its made out of chicken livers and other stuff. That's gotta be tasty, right?"
[13:59] <Minaplo> [The cat eyed him. It nudged the can.-
[13:59] <Minaplo> [It eyed the rest of his shopping bag.]
[14:01] <Hideki> "Uh…" Why did he feel like he was being put on the spot? He peered down into the bag. Did cats like jerky? Power bars? Oh wait…-
[14:01] <Hideki> "Tuna?" He pulled out a can of it.
[14:02] <Minaplo> ["Meow." The cat said. He ran his head against Hideki's leg.]
[14:03] <Hideki> "That's a start, then." He opened the can and set it down so the cat could eat.
[14:03] <Minaplo> [And the cat ate indeed.-
[14:04] <Minaplo> [The dorm… Was still quiet. And shabby, of course.-
[14:05] <Minaplo> [Was anyone else even here? Was he alone in this weird dorm? What would he do now?]
[14:09] <Hideki> Bright side. If he was alone, didn't that mean he could do whatever he wanted? Eat dinner in his underwear. Be king of the ancient lobby TV set. Maybe throw a party. Maybe all three at the same time. -
[14:11] <Hideki> Yes, please. But before sending out invites, he would take a bath to relax.
[14:12] <Minaplo> [A bath!-
[14:12] <Minaplo> [Every floor had its own bathroom. Meaning yes, Hideki had a bathroom to himself. And it also meant little chance of 'hilarious' mistakes by which he would accidentally walk in on one of his dorm mates.-
[14:13] <Minaplo> [But as he arrived on the second floor, he'd notice something curious: a tray had been left outside his door, with a handful of covered dishes and a pamphlet.]
[14:15] * Hideki investigated by picking up the pamphlet and reading it.
[14:16] <Minaplo> [The 'pamphlet' was in fact two pieces of paper folded together and joined with some cheap glue. They nearly fell apart in his hands.-
[14:17] <Minaplo> [Written at the top were the words 'BOARDING RULES FOR 5 SOEJIMA ROAD'.-
[14:17] <Minaplo> [Read it…?]
[14:17] <Hideki> Ugh, rules? Fiiine. He would continue reading.
[14:20] <Minaplo> ['5 Soejima Road is a student dormitory run for students attending Sophia Academy. The caretaker is Ms. Asahina. My-' at this point, someone had crossed out 'my' and scrawled 'her' in pen over the top- 'phone number is…' And the phone number was listed.-
[14:21] <Minaplo> ['All tenants of 5 Soejima Road are expected to follow the listed rules:'-
[14:23] <Minaplo> ['Rule One: Curfew is from 12 AM to 5 AM. During curfew, the front gate is locked and the building's external doors are bolted. If you believe that you will stay out past curfew and know in advance, due to accident, planning or circumstance, ring me-' again, 'me' had been crossed out and replaced with 'Ms. Asahina'- 'in advance and I-' replaced with 'she'- 'will keep the back door unlocked for you.']
[14:24] <Hideki> Aw, that was nice of her. He supposed curfews were mandatory, no matter which dorm you ended up in, but least there was some flexibility here. He read on.
[14:29] <Minaplo> ['Rule Two: Your rent and utilities is paid by the school. The following extras are also provided to tenants free of charge: daily breakfast, nightly dinner, sanitaries. Submit any dietary or sanitary requirements to me-' crossed out again and replaced- 'within a week of arriving'. Today was Friday the 30th of March, so that meant… the 6th of April.-
[14:30] <Minaplo> ['If you wish to request a specific dish, request this A WEEK IN ADVANCE!!!!! or I Ms. Asahina will not cook it. The meal schedule for the rest of springtime is as follows':-
[14:39] <Minaplo> ['MONDAY: Breakfast is rice, grilled fish, buttered toast. Dinner is boiled bamboo shoots with steamed rice.'
[14:39] <Minaplo> 'TUESDAY: Breakfast is rice, grilled fish, buttered toast. Dinner is Beef Mapo Tofu.'
[14:39] <Minaplo> 'WEDNESDAY: Breakfast is rice, grilled fish, buttered croissant. Dinner is curry pizza.'
[14:39] <Minaplo> 'THURSDAY: Breakfast is leftover pizza. Dinner is pork and chicken curry.'
[14:39] <Minaplo> 'FRIDAY: Breakfast is kare-pan. Dinner is seafood mix. (Fish, mussels, squid etc.)'
[14:39] <Minaplo> 'SATURDAY: Breakfast is rice, takoyaki. Dinner is spring vegetable medley (bamboo, rapeseed, sprouts etc.)'
[14:39] <Minaplo> 'SUNDAY: Breakfast is continental on sundays ending in an odd number and Full English on sundays ending in an even number. Dinner is pork cutlet and steak with a mix of Italian pasta dishes. Dessert is provided: taiyaki and strawberry desserts.']
[14:43] <Hideki> "Er… very organized." Curry Pizza for breakfast…? He paused at that point to take a peek at the covered dishes. What day was it today, anyway?
[14:43] <Minaplo> [Friday.-
[14:44] <Minaplo> [That meant… Yes, here it was. A dish of rice, and small dishes containing pieces of grilled fish, a few little mussels, some squid rings, a seafood claw…]
[14:46] * Hideki decided to move the food inside his room and continue reading while he ate at his desk. His stomach commanded it! So that's exactly what he did, fumbling with the lights and leaving the door open as he went. Once he was settled in and chowing down, he went over the rest of the pamphlet.
[14:48] <Minaplo> ['IN FUTURE MEALS MUST BE COLLECTED FROM KITCHEN AT 7:30 AM (breakfast) AND 7:30 PM (dinner)'.-
[14:49] <Minaplo> ['Rule Three: No smoking.']
[14:50] <Hideki> No problem. He'd never get anywhere in sports if he smoked. Next rule?
[14:51] <Minaplo> ['Rule Four: STAY OUT OF THE BASEMENT.']
[14:53] <Hideki> There was a basement? Now he was intrigued…
[14:53] <Minaplo> ['Rule Five: STAY AWAY FROM ROOM 5-E.']
[14:54] <Hideki> Yet again he was intrigued. Maybe Ms. Asahina lived there. Or in the basement. Or… maybe there were certain rooms in the building that were haunted. -
[14:57] <Hideki> Hideki leaned back in his chair and thoughtfully chewed a bit of squid. The idea was interesting. If there were ghosts, maybe they were bored and lonely, and cool with hanging out until the rest of the tenants arrived. -
[14:58] <Hideki> On the other hand, ghosts didn't fucking exist. -
[15:04] <Hideki> Maybe it was wishful thinking. Less work to round up people for an awesome underwear party if there was already a couple of interested people already staying in the building. But on the other other hand, he couldn't really count on the ghosts being interested. Their old-school sensibilities might get in the way. How okay would a girl from the 1920's be with a modern party? She might
[15:04] <Hideki> hate the music, or not get the whole underwear theme. And even if she did get it, her underwear would be, like… bloomers or something. Not fun. -
[15:11] <Hideki> Hideki polished off the rest of his meal, gathered his plates, and started for the kitchen. At the top of the staircase leading down to the first floor, he stopped thinking about ghosts long enough to peer around in the silence around him. "Ms. Asahina! Are you still here? Thanks for the meal! It was good!" he called out.
[15:11] <Minaplo> [Silence…]
[15:12] <Hideki> Maybe she wasn't here. -
[15:14] <Hideki> He descended, passing the lobby, and slipping past the door that led to the kitchen. He may as well clean his own dishes. Maybe it might slowly start to get him on Asahina's good side?
[15:16] <Minaplo> [Perhaps it would.-
[15:17] <Minaplo> [Still, it was lonely and quiet. The kitchen was clean, and most of the appliances were serviceable, although a few were pretty old.-
[15:17] <Minaplo> [It did mean that he could see where the basement was, though. It was right next to the kitchen…]
[15:20] <Hideki> He kept an eye on it the entire time, as he scrubbed off the bowls and wiped down the tray. He left everything on a drying rack, and then looked around again. "Thanks again, Ms. Asahina," he called again, softly this time. -
[15:21] <Hideki> Another important hypothetical question came to mind. If a person broke a rule, and there was no one around to see it and enforce it, how could one prove the person really broke the rule? -
[15:23] <Hideki> He debated it, and then looked around for cameras.
[15:23] <Minaplo> [None he could see…]
[15:24] <Hideki> So he went over to the door. And knocked. -
[15:25] <Hideki> If there was no response, he would gingerly try the handle.
[15:25] <Minaplo> [No response.-
[15:28] <Minaplo> [The basement door was locked… But only barely. It felt like if he forced it, he could push the door open, probably without damaging the lock.]
[15:31] <Hideki> "…" He thought about it. Very hard. Then he took a step back. -
[15:36] <Hideki> This felt off. It wasn't the rulebreaking that stopped him, or the fear of punishment. It just felt like a shitty thing to do. Someone didn't want him down there. Someone took precautions to make sure people didn't go down there, even if it was via a shitty lock. That someone was also the same person who had surprised him with dinner. -
[15:39] <Hideki> It would have been like… if Lil' Bro had wandered back up to Hideki's room after eating that delicious tuna dinner and had hacked up a massive hairball on his pillow for no reason. It was a jerk move, and it was going to sour relationships. -
[15:44] <Hideki> Team 5 Soejima Road was small - just two people, a cat, and an undetermined number of restless spirits - but it was a team nevertheless. So he should act he as if was a part of it. -
[15:45] <Hideki> Damn if it wasn't hard, though. He turned, very reluctantly, and padded away, back to the stairs leading to his room.
[15:51] <Minaplo> [How noble of him!-
[15:52] <Minaplo> [Of course, that meant he had the rest of the night to kill. Apart from witnessing Lil' Bro pad up the stairs to the above floors, there wasn't anything very interesting going on… WHat would he do?]
[16:00] <Hideki> First, a hot bath. Then, he sprawled out on one of the couches in the lounge, fiddling with his new phone. Then, before he could properly form plans for a party… -
[16:01] <Hideki> He felt his eyelids growing heavier. The noise from the TV became dimmer and dimmer…
[16:02] <Minaplo> […-
[16:02] <Minaplo> [He felt… Warm. So very warm. Like he was under a dozen thick blankets.-
[16:09] <Minaplo> [He was lying on the couch in the lobby, but it looked… Different.-
[16:12] <Minaplo> [There was a bright blue-velvety light shining from underneath the front door. A similar light shone from beneath the other doors in the lobby as well. The windows, however showed nothing but endless, rolling fog.-
[16:12] <Minaplo> [The television had gone dead, showing nothing but static.-
[16:13] <Minaplo> [The furniture here- the lumpy, mismatched seats and couches- were gone. The only seat here was the one he was sitting on, and even it looked different…]
[16:18] <Hideki> It was a fainting couch, with glossy gold legs, gold trim, and gold, tassled throw pillows. The upholstrey was a plush, wine-colored velvet. Overall, very indulgant and very comfortable.
[16:19] <Minaplo> [Very comfortable. Yet Hideki didn't feel tired…-
[16:20] <Minaplo> [Sitting in front of him was the coffee table. On the table were just two objects: the sign-in book and the school phone.-
[16:21] <Minaplo> [Which one would he look at?]
[16:22] <Hideki> The phone, which had been the subject of so much mystery today. He reached for it and tried to turn it on.
[16:23] <Minaplo> [And turned on it did.-
[16:24] <Minaplo> [What greeted him was a scrolling screen of text. It looked like a EULA, or some kind of contract or something.-
[16:32] <Minaplo> [The only parts of it that seemed to stick in his mind were the following: that he understood that the thing he held was intended to aid him in finding and making choices, but ultimately, he and he alone was responsible for his choices. If he agreed, all he had to do was enter his name…]
[16:34] <Hideki> He entered his name without much thought. Weird agreement, but whatever, useful phones were useful phones.
[16:36] <Minaplo> [The sign-in book disappeared.-
[16:36] <Minaplo> [He heard a sound from the staircase- the sound of a door creaking open.]
[16:38] <Hideki> He looked up, trying to find the source of the sound. Someone coming? Great! He readied a warm smile.
[16:40] <Minaplo> [But on the contrary- no one came.]
[16:42] <Hideki> So… Hideki tried to see if he could go looking for them instead, clutching the phone and sliding off his couch. "Hello?" he called, stumbling forward.
[16:43] <Minaplo> [The word echoed through the blue-tinted lobby.-
[16:43] <Minaplo> [There was a ghostly blue light coming from the top of the staircase now…]
[16:45] <Hideki> Hideki followed it, for lack of any other clues around. Up he went!
[16:45] <Minaplo> [And up… And up…-
[16:46] <Minaplo> [Past the 2nd floor. Past the 3rd, and past the 4th. Up, until he came to the top floor- the fifth floor.-
[16:46] <Minaplo> [There was only one room open here. Room 5-E, that weird blue light shining out of its open door.]
[16:48] * Hideki knocked on the doorframe and then peered in. "Hello?" he said again.
[16:51] <Minaplo> [Within was… A room.-
[16:53] <Minaplo> [It was obviously a room bigger on the inside than on the outside. The walls were lined utterly with bookcases that went right up to the roof… Which Hideki couldn't see, as it faded into fog.-
[16:55] <Minaplo> [There were many things in this room that could catch Hideki's eye. There was a globe that permanently spun at a slow and steady rate, yet was completely blank. At the far end of the room was a giant printing press that worked unceasingly, churning out page after page after page, each joining a stack of pages…-
[16:57] <Minaplo> [The floor was universally carpeted in a plush blue velvet carpet, with a blue velvet rug sitting in front of the door- a rather homely touch for such a strange place.-
[16:58] <Minaplo> [Indeed, blue velvet seemed to be the theme. Each book in this place was covered in a blue cover, and the bookcases seemed to be blue as well.-
[16:59] <Minaplo> [But most unusual was the sight near the back of the room. It was a study desk, large, heavy and ornate, made of wood- a rich red mahogany, rather than blue. It groaned beneath the weight of what must've been hundreds of books, each stacked neatly on top of one another to form huge great and dubious towers.-
[16:59] <Minaplo> [Yet a space had been cleared, allowing Hideki to see the occupant of such a desk.-
[17:00] <Minaplo> [It…-
[17:02] <Minaplo> [Well, it was a man, albeit a man whose looks were so bizarre as to invite comparisons with goblins or fairies. He was short, yet gangly, thin and spindly. He had pale, waxy skin, and silver hair, although most of his head was bald, leaving only a fan of hair near the back. He had huge white eyes, a little bloodshot, his pupils tiny pinpoints. His eyebrows were thick, bushy, wild and set at an aggressive angle- as were his pointed, thin ears. He had a massive grin, showing perfectly square white teeth. All of this served to frame his nose, which was incredibly long and pointed, approaching nearly a foot in length at least.-
[17:03] <Minaplo> [The man wore a neat black suit, with black leather shoes and white gloves. His seat was a high backed blue velvet desk chair.-
[17:03] <Minaplo> [The man leaned forward, one hand resting under his chin.-
[17:05] <Minaplo> ["Ah. It seems that we have a guest." Said the man; his voice was strange- calm, even warm, yet high-pitched in a way and almost singsong. "A guest whose path here has been long and twisted indeed…"-
[17:05] <Minaplo> [The man gestured towards… Hideki's sofa, which now sat in the room all of a sudden. "By all means, take a seat. My name is Igor; I am most happy to make your acquaintance."]
[17:08] <Hideki> "Er." It was a bit much to take in. The decor. The very strange man. The… this. The sofa, at least was familiar, and he drifted toward it almost as if on instinct. "Thanks? Am I still in my dorm?"
[17:10] <Minaplo> [Igor chuckled. It sounded rather impish.-
[17:12] <Minaplo> ["But of course, you are safe on your lounge in the waking world. This place-" he gestured around at the great study- "exists between dream and reality, mind and matter. Only those who have signed a contract may come here… And indeed, it seems that you have."-
[17:14] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure you must have many questions."]
[17:20] <Hideki> "Well yeah. For starters, who are you? Where did you come from? Based on the name, you're probably European, right? Are you here because you signed a contract too?"
[17:22] <Minaplo> [Igor chuckled. "There will be time for details later, but for now, you should know that I am here to assist our guests."-
[17:23] <Minaplo> [He lowered his hand over his desk, where a deck of cards suddenly appeared. "As for what, exactly, our guests need assistance with, that is the question… Perhaps the answers lie here. Have you had your cards read before?"]
[17:29] <Hideki> "Can't say I have," He stared at the cards. With all the other astonishing things going on around him, any awe he would have normally felt over it just sort of sank into an ongoing daze.
[17:32] <Minaplo> [With a wave of a gloved hand, the cards spread out into a cross-like position. In the very middle, one card sat atop another, forming a little cross within the larger.-
[17:32] <Minaplo> [Igor tipped his hand over, and the top card of the middle cross turned over, revealing to Hideki what looked to be an upside down green wheel.-
[17:34] <Minaplo> ["Fortune in the reversed positioning… As this card represents your current situation, that suggests that you struggle to exert power over your current situation. Indeed, it appears as though you're stuck with a most challenging fate to change, one that strips you of control."]
[17:37] <Hideki> "Yeah?" He folded his arms and frowned seriously. "I don't know what that is, though. Maybe it's something I don't know about yet."
[17:39] <Minaplo> ["You most definitely may be right." Said Igor.-
[17:40] <Minaplo> ["Perhaps the cards can offer a little more insight." He flipped the card beneath the reversed Fortune. It was a large, bright smiling star, surrounded by smaller stars… Also upside down.-
[17:41] <Minaplo> ["I see…" Said Igor. "Star, in the reversed position. Star can represent hope, faith and guidance, and for it to be reversed means a lack of those, or that you have lost them. In this placement, the card represents a source of your predicament, something holding you back…"-
[17:42] <Minaplo> ["So from this interpretation, it would appear that you are trapped in a situation out of your control, one that strips you of power, and you remain there because you've been robbed of a light of hope, leaving you adrift…"-
[17:43] <Minaplo> [Igor turned a third card over. This one was at the top of the larger cross. It was a tower, being struck by lightning and falling over.-
[17:44] <Minaplo> ["The tower in the upright position, placed to represent your future, should your earlier cards remain unchanged… It would appear that, unless you can learn to master your destiny, a great and terrible calamity will take place…"]
[17:48] * Hideki rubbed the back of his neck. "Sounds like a lot of pressure," he mumbled. "Calamities and dying lights of hope and all that. I don't suppose you have any really good news for me too?"
[17:49] <Minaplo> ["No challenge is unsurmountable. Indeed, we are here to assist our guests- and I see now that we are to assist you in overcoming this catastrophe."-
[17:51] <Minaplo> ["Speaking of which, allow me to introduce one of my assistants." He gestured to his left.-
[17:53] <Minaplo> [Sitting at an incongruously high-tech computer desk was a rather short young woman with tanned skin and silvery, maybe silvery-blonde hair. She turned around in her wheeled spinning chair to look at Hideki with bright yellow eyes.-
[17:56] <Minaplo> [She wore a buttoned up blue leather jacket, worn over what appeared to be jean suspenders. She had a tablet tucked under an arm.-
[17:56] <Minaplo> ["This is Eliana. She, too, is a resident of this place, who will assist you in your journey." Said Igor.-
[17:58] <Minaplo> ["Hi." Said Eliana, her voice far crisper and shorter than Igor's fey voice. "I'm looking forward to doing good work with you, hm?"]
[18:02] <Hideki> "Oh, yeah! It's good to meet you! I'm Nakajima. Nakajima Hideki."
[18:02] <Minaplo> [Eliana gave him a nod, then turned back to her computer.-
[18:03] <Minaplo> ["The following few days will be very eventful for you." Said Igor. "But the next time you come here, it will be of your own volition."-
[18:03] <Minaplo> ["We will discuss this place more when that time comes. For now… Farewell."-
[18:03] <Minaplo> […-
[18:03] <Minaplo> […-
[18:03] <Minaplo> [Hideki woke.-
[18:04] <Minaplo> [His dream was a mix of vivid and vague, some details shifting, some remaining quite clear…-
[18:04] <Minaplo> [… But none were as vivid as his current situation, which was lying on a lumpy old couch whilst a cat rhythmically and deliberately slapped him in the face with a paw over and over and over.]
[18:06] <Hideki> "Hunngh," said Hideki, trying to brush the cat away. "Bad Bro, lemme sleep more."
[18:06] <Minaplo> ["Mroww."]
[18:10] <Hideki> But he was already awake. He lay there a few more minutes, and then groggily pushed himself up into a sitting position, rubbing his arms. What time was it? Was this, like, when his dog used to wake him up by slobbering on him because he wanted food?
[18:11] <Minaplo> [It was, according to his phone… 1 in the morning.]
[18:15] <Hideki> "Ugh, god." He yawned, stretching, and flopped back down. "Probably not food. Do you wanna play or something?"
[18:16] <Minaplo> [The cat leapt off of Hideki and ran up the stairs.]
[18:17] * Hideki stared at the stairs. It took him a few minutes to get up and to bother following him. It would have been better to sleep in his own bed anyway…
[18:19] <Minaplo> [He got up in time to see the cat run into his room, where he'd find the cat curled up at the end of his bed.]
[18:20] <Hideki> And that was where Hideki settled too, giving the cat a clumsy pat before sliding under the sheets and tugging them over his head.
[18:21] <Minaplo> […~…]

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