The long wait has come to an end. Though, I must apologize, since it's my fault this took so long. Just needed a bit of a break! But, now we're back, with the third big project! This one is huge, and though it's still in-progress, there's enough material to last for a long while. We'll be posting these in increments of one per two days, so keep an eye-out!

This is a major AU, where nothing is as you guys are used to. Hope you all enjoy, and it's good to be back!

We do not own the Corpse Party franchise or any of the characters included. We, however, do own original ghost stories and characters mentioned in this story.

She drew a big black 'X' over September 2nd, sighing lightly as the summer officially came to its end. School started today, and her usual enthusiasm for it was dampened by her upcoming 17th birthday. She only had ten more days of a somewhat normal life before her genetics gave way to the ritual she had no choice but to participate in. Of course, since she had been trained and taught for her entire life, there was some excitement. That was hard to see past the amount of fear and anxiety. Not that anyone would even guess it, the way she went around school and told scary stories like funny anecdotes. No, to most people, Shinozaki Ayumi was fearless of the paranormal.

It was a mask she wore well, but a mask that was not going to become the truth anytime soon.

Ayumi grabbed her school bag, slinging it over her shoulder as she made her way out of her room. She was excited to see her friends again, and who would be in her class this year. She wouldn't mind if things were a little switched up from last year's class, considering not seeing Mochida Satoshi or Nakashima Naomi everyday would be a little nice. Not that Naomi particularly deserved these negatives feelings directed at her. Though, Satoshi did.

"Ah, my baby girl is a Junior. Where has the time gone?" she heard her dad reflecting as she came into the kitchen. She scowled lightly at the word 'baby', grabbing her toast with no plan to engage in conversation with her dad. "C'mon Ayu, don't be so scowly faced. You're gonna have a great year," Ayato assured her with a big grin.

"Maybe," Ayumi remarked as she cut some butter off the stick to put on the still warm bread. "It's ten days, though, y'know, till it all starts."

"Ha, I'd tell you not to worry, but it seems you're going to do that anyways. You'll be great! You'll get rid of all the closed spaces without any problem!" he said as he shoved some eggs into his mouth, his speech continuing past his chewing. "You and your Centurions will clean this city of its entire bad vibes!"

"Yeah, yeah, I've heard it a million times. I'm not worried, so much as… impatient. I just want to get going, I guess. One full year of purifying closed spaces is a long time. And I guess I feel a little worried about who is going to get dragged into this by being forced into the position of Centurion," she admitted as she munched on her toast thoughtfully.

"I hope you have only girl centurions. It'll be such a bother having boys hanging around you all the time," he said thoughtfully.

"I really hope that is the reason," Ayumi remarked sharply, glaring at her dad. He could be such a creep. "I don't really know what I'm expecting from my Centurions… Bravery, mostly, I guess."

"Don't worry, any Centurion who is chosen will only be given the position if they can handle it," Ayato assured her, his tone confident.

"I certainly hope that's the case," she grumbled as she tossed the rest of the uneaten toast in the trash. She felt her worries leaning most on the Centurions right now, even if the idea of going into a closed space was intimidating. It could literally be anyone she has come in contact with, who knows who will be chosen.

"I swear by it! The spirits would only choose the best for you, baby!" he yelled out excitably, raising his orange juice in the air too fast, so some of its contents splashed onto the table.

"Father is right, Ayumi," Hinoe, her older sister, agreed as she stepped into the room. A calm smile adorned her face as she grabbed a rag and wiped down the table, cleaning up the orange juice spill. "You'll be watched over, so just put your faith that your training will see you through anything," she told her younger sister, putting the dirtied rag aside to give Ayumi a hug.

Ayumi let out a small sigh as she wrapped her arms around her sister. "Right… yeah, it'll all be fine," she said with some uncertainty. She had faith in the spirits, she really did. It was herself that she was questioning.

"You'll be great, Ayumi," Hinoe said quietly to her little sister. She broke the hug and patted her gently on the head. She turned around grabbing a lunch box and handing it to her. "Now, get going. It's never good to be late on the first day."

"But after the first day, be as late as you'd like the rest of the year!" Ayato chimed in with a bellowing laugh. Both girls just stared at their father before directing attention back on one another.

"Thanks, Hinoe. I'll see you after school!" Ayumi said cheerfully to her sister, putting her lunch away. She glanced over at her dad. "Bye, dad," she said in a much flatter tone.

She was out the door before her dad could yell anything else. She glanced back at her home, the shrine looking as good as ever in the sunshine. It really was a lovely place to live, even if the upkeep wasn't so easy. As she exited the shrine, she stopped to look at the twin Komainu statues that stood in front, protecting the shrine. She smiled lightly at them, patting the stone with a light touch. "I really do hope everything will be fine…" she admitted to the inanimate stones. "One whole year… dealing with angry spirits and trying to appease them… I don't know if I can do it. Especially because who knows who will be supposed to act as my protectors… I just don't feel very confident as I let on about all of this,"she vented, only feeling comfortable talking to the mute guardians about her shortcomings. She let out a heavy breath, feeling a little better as a wind picked up and tickled her face.

With the small venting done, she moved away from the shrine. She decided she had ten days until she really needed to address the fact she had to act as a purifier. For now, she was just a normal High School student on her first day to school. She'd give herself ten more normal days of worrying about classmates, school, and student council.

After that?

Well, it was certainly going to be a long year.

The first day of school's excitement was always contagious. As much as everyone was a bit bummed about the empty summer days passing, seeing classmates again was nice. Shinozaki Ayumi was one of the ones who was instantly happier when inside the school's gate. She loved the energy, the education, the altogether vibe of Kisaragi Academy's High School. During the summer, her Miko training had consumed her life, and she was happy to finally have some other way to spend her time again. She pushed that thought away, though. She had promised herself she wouldn't focus on the upcoming trials until she had to face them. She approached the bulletin board that spread along the wall outside with club posters and announcements strewn about it. She, and her fellow classmates, were more interested in the class listings. It took a while to finally locate her name.

'Class 2-9, eh?' she thought to herself as her interest shifted to her classmates. She felt herself pale as the names 'Mochida Satoshi' and 'Nakashima Naomi' passed her eyes. "Seriously?" she grumbled to herself, her mood dampened by the presence of her ex-boyfriend and the object of his affections. She would rise above... or rather, ignore to the best of her abilities. A whole year stuck in their class... ugh, she should have never gone out with him in the first place. It was stupid to date people you were forced to see after break-ups. She read over the sheet one last time, before leaving in defeat that the names wouldn't change. She approached the opened classroom door, head buzzing in anxiety at the start of a new year.

The class was already bustling with other students, who were chatting with their friends and just casually excited about sharing their classes with that person or another. The girl who had earned a glare at her name, Nakashima Naomi, was talking happily with a few people, one of whom was her best friend, Sonohara Seiko, and the other her long-time friend, Mochida Satoshi. She, too, was a bit disheartened at seeing Ayumi's name, since she was Satoshi's ex-girlfriend, but she just planned on ignoring her for most of the year. Another person of interest was about the only student in the room who wasn't chatting it up with somebody. It wasn't abnormal for those who knew him, though. Kishinuma Yoshiki, a slacker, loner, and all around rebel. Quite infamous for his temper and tendency to smoke in the bathrooms. Currently, he was doing what he did best: sleeping in class.

Suddenly, a girl bounced her way towards Ayumi, wrapping her arms around the other girl's neck. "Uwaaah, Ayu-chan! We're in the same class!" she said with glee, letting go of her and giving a shining smile, "I'm so happy! Shige-nii is here too! Such an exciting year!" She was all around very pleased with the turn of events, but suddenly glanced around, holding a finger to her now frowning mouth. "Oh... but he's here too, isn't he?" she asked thoughtfully, looking at Ayumi sympathetically. "Well, it may not be that bad... After all, you don't have to talk to him much, right? You can probably just ignore him most of the time," she mentioned, her smile reappearing as she tried to console Ayumi's spot of bad luck.

Ayumi had no clue why she was surprised to feel Mayu's arms around her, considering she was known for her hugs. She smiled cheerfully at her friend's presence... actually, Mayu was the only person in the entire school she would give the title "friend". A lot of her classmates had branded her as 'weird', which wasn't entirely wrong. She wasn't able to get a word in with Mayu's quick, happy chatter. She did manage to toss Sakutaro a small smile, which he answered with a small curt nod. He seemed to only tolerate her because Mayu accepted her as a friend, but she couldn't say she disliked the stoic boy. He was just a bit difficult to carry a conversation with, especially when Mayu wasn't around. Her own smile flickered as Satoshi was mentioned, her eyes glancing over to glare at him with Seiko and Naomi. Ugh, he had the nerve to deny his interest in that girl the entire time they were going out. He was such a liar! She realized she was getting angry, so she tried to focus on Mayu's comforting words. "Well that certainly is the plan," she admitted with a small shrug. "It would be easier if she wasn't around, though. Ugh, I can bet you they're actually going to start going out this year," she vented with a small pout. Her affections for Satoshi were long gone, buried in the chaos of last year. Still, there was something about the idea of him and Naomi dating that made her want to punch him in the throat.

Mayu's smile turned sympathetic as Ayumi mentioned Naomi too. That's right, the source of the reason she and Satoshi had broken up. Her being here would probably run all over Ayumi, but hopefully it wouldn't be too bad. "Just don't pay them any mind! Satoshi is long gone in your head!" she encouraged with a thumbs up, placing her other hand on her waist. She then giggled, eyes scanning across the room, "Who knows... If you take some of your attention off of your anger, maybe you can find that really special someone!" Ayumi probably was nowhere ready for another relationship, but a new class meant new peers, and that meant more opportunities to get a new spark going! Any of the guys here could be that dream guy! Well, except for Satoshi... and Sakutaro. She didn't want jealousy to be something Ayumi was targeted with, but she wasn't sure how she'd feel if she got too comfy with him. But she didn't really think she had to worry. Sakutaro wasn't really in Ayumi's radar whatsoever. "Oh, Ayu-chan! Are you thinking of volunteering for class representative again this year?" she asked curiously, her thoughts jumping from one subject to the next, "You should! You were really good at it last year!"

Ayumi scoffed lightly at the idea of her dating anyone else. She certainly wasn't interested in getting back into all the drama, stress, and general frustration. Their relationship had been nice at first... things just took a turn for the worst and never really recovered. They let it drag on too long before finally cutting the tie, too. And while Satoshi had insisted they remain friends at the end, that promise wasn't one either of them kept. It was just easier to fall out from one another's lives, since neither had the interest or energy to keep the other one involved. Plus, scanning over the classroom, she felt nothing stirring inside of her at the new selection. She was a little surprised to notice Kishinuma Yoshiki, who would probably be a rarity to actually see in class, according to what she's heard. Eh, she had no interest in no-good slackers or any other of the boring boys. Ayumi was grateful for the question, because she didn't want to think too much about her failing romantic life. "Uh, yeah, I think I'll be able to keep up with it," she said with a small smile. She had no idea how busy she'd be dealing with her Miko duties... but she loved being class representative. She couldn't just let someone else take the position. Plus, it was a nice thing to put on a college resume. "Student Council is really the only club I have much of an interest in... Are you and Morishige joining the Drama Club again this year?" she questioned curiously.

Mayu was happy to hear that Ayumi was going to be class rep again. It really was her calling in school society! She was good at organizing class activities, and keeping most everyone in line. Ah, but judging by the crowd, she'd have a little trouble roping in some of their peers... Though, Mayu had high hopes in Ayumi's ability as a leader! "Yay!" she cheered at her answer, hopping up slightly, "Good luck this year! You have a tough crowd!... But I guess the challenges are the fun part!" She viewed every role as a sort of sport or hobby. The hard things were the most fun, and most rewarding, and there was no exception for class rep and a seat in student council. She smiled at Ayumi, giving her a nod. "Yep! We live to play the role!" she announced, giggling lightly, "Especially Shige-nii! He's so good!"

Ayumi looked thoughtful for a moment when she realized reelection may not be as easy as she was considering. Satoshi, Naomi, Seiko... the extension of people who disliked her, or at least wouldn't be in favor of her bossing them around, was pretty bad. Satoshi was definitely more popular among their peers than she was... But, she had done a good job last year, so hopefully she could still manage to nab the position. "Ha, well, it certainly won't be as easy as last year," she conceded with a small sheepish smile. She perked up at the two rejoining the club. She did enjoy going to the shows the Drama Club put on, they were always so entertaining. It was the most lively she ever got to see Sakutaro as well.

"Ah, you're too kind, Mayu," Sakutaro mumbled in some embarrassment behind her. Although, Ayumi could easily tell he was pleased by the praise. He did aim to be a world-famous actor, after all.

"I hope you guys can get leads this year. The seniors who led Hamlet last year were... eh, not good," Ayumi commented. Some of the people in the drama department considered it an easy club, so they didn't put too much effort into it, according to Sakutaro. Seniors normally were chosen for leads before any other grades as well, given it was their last year.

Mayu gave a glance to Sakutaro, giggling slightly at his modest comment. It was obvious we was the best in Kisaragi! He should live it up more! Hehe! She turned back to Ayumi, holding her hands behind her back. "Ah, yeah, it was painful to watch, and a bit disappointing that we only got minor roles...," she muttered in a slightly lower tone, "Most of the seniors and juniors are only in there for a credit. Even though we still are a little young, I hope they make better decisions for this year's play." Really, she didn't know if she wanted to be in the class anymore if this year was as bad of a disaster as last year was.

"They'd be stupid to not give you guys bigger roles," Ayumi said earnestly. Though, it seemed the time for chatting was coming to an end as the new homeroom teacher entered the class. She smiled in farewell to Mayu and Sakutaro before retreating to a seat with her name labeled on it. Eh, not as close to the front as she liked... but it was against the window, so she wouldn't complain.

Ayumi was pretty sure her luck must be at rock-bottom as her and Satoshi stood in front of the class. The results of class representative between her and Satoshi were a draw. She was using all her willpower to avoid glaring at him. But, really, she still couldn't believe he was nominated for class representative and accepted the nomination. Urgh, he knew what the position meant to her and the entire thing was turning into a production. Ms. Shishido, a young teacher, seemed to be a little panicked by the draw, and was quickly recounting the ballots.

Satoshi rubbed the back of his neck as he avoided even glancing at Ayumi, because he was almost positive she wanted to kill him at that moment. He was interested in the position, but at this point he just kind of wanted to throw his hands up and say 'never mind'. Although... a draw shouldn't happen in an odd-numbered class. He had a decent idea of who wouldn't even bother checking a name, though now he was just causing more trouble for everyone.

The fact that there was a tie slightly shocked Mayu, maybe even more so than the fact Satoshi would run against Ayumi. She didn't like to think ill of people, and it probably wasn't him trying to spite her, but it was still not a very nice move. She pouted slightly, glancing around the room and at their teacher as she wondered what would be the solution to a stalemate. 'Ugu, no matter what it is, Ayumi better be picked!' she declared in her head, crossing her arms with a small huff. How did an odd number class get a tie anyways?

What were the chances of this stupid thing ending up in a tie? Yoshiki glanced down at the paper on his desk, a paper he had neglected to even turn in. He didn't care who the stupid class representative was... Hell, he probably wouldn't even be in class after the first few days. His vote shouldn't even count... But since it did, and he had a sort of hatred for the overly pure Satoshi, he wanted to assure he'd at least fail at something. If he was class representative too, he'd be way too perfect. With a sigh, he sat up straight from leaning in his chair and jotted down a name. He held up the paper, a somewhat uninterested glance directed at Ms. Shishido. "Missed one..," he said in a semi-bored tone, watching as the relieved teacher came over and took the paper. As she went back to the front of the room to declare who exactly won, Yoshiki settled back into the chair with his hands behind his head, his eyes locked onto Ayumi.

Both the nominees' attention turned completely to Yoshiki as he handed in his neglected vote. Ayumi paled slightly as his eyes locked onto her. He was pretty intimidating looking... and she couldn't decide if his gaze was a good or bad thing for her. She didn't recall the two of them ever talking, and she doubted Satoshi was very good friends with him. Actually, to her knowledge, Kishinuma Yoshiki was a loner in every sense of the word. She looked over at Ms. Shishido announced the winner of class representative.

"Shinozaki Ayumi is our winner," she announced with a smile.

Ayumi visibly relaxed while Satoshi grimaced a little bit. It was probably unnecessary that feelings from their past relationship be brought up in an election that had no correlation with their past, but Ayumi couldn't help but feel a rush of smugness. She had kind of expected Satoshi to win on the ground of guys sticking together... Yoshiki probably just randomly decided on a name so this could be over with, though. She glanced at Satoshi, who offered her a sheepish smile. She made no movement to return it. "Well, uh, congrats, Shinozaki," he said awkwardly.

"Thanks," she replied dryly. The two made no movement to shake hands or complete any typical show of sportsmanship. They were both relieved as they were dismissed to their seats, glad the small election was finished. Ayumi was hiding a smirk behind her hand as she sat down in her seat. It felt ridiculously good to claim victory over Satoshi.

Yoshiki couldn't help but smirk at Satoshi's grimace. It was even more so to see how unfriendly the two were with each other, not even giving a simple handshake. They must have had some sort of history. "Heh..," he gave a small laugh at seeing Satoshi defeated, tossing Ayumi a glance. That was his amusement for the day... Finally, something Satoshi didn't succeed at...

Ayumi glanced over at Yoshiki curiously, catching a satisfied look on his face. She quickly looked back at her notebook in front of her, her expression thoughtful. She guessed he wasn't a big fan of Satoshi, which would make sense if you looked at it as the delinquent and the goody two-shoes. Though, she was a goody two-shoes in some ways herself... Ah, she really couldn't put her finger on why he would take enjoyment in Satoshi's losing. 'Ah well... I won, so I guess I shouldn't even worry about that too much,' she realized as she shifted her attention to the lecture.

Once they were given a break, Mayu bounced over to Ayumi, happily pouncing on her. "Yay! You won!" she cheered. She had really thought Satoshi was going to win, and it had her in such a worry, but that made her friend's victory all the more sweet! "I'm so glad you're 2-9's representative!" she added, rubbing her head affectionately against Ayumi's.

"Hehe, thanks Mayu," Ayumi smiled as Mayu came over and gave her the celebratory pounce. The affection used to freak her out, but she had grown quite accustomed to it as time went on. "I was almost sure I had lost there for a while,"she admitted with a pat to Mayu's head. The counting of the ballots had made her an absolute worried mess. It was nice to know the voting for the position hadn't been purely popularity based, because Satoshi would have probably won if that was the case.

Mayu backed away from Ayumi, holding her hands together as she nodded. "I did too! Not that I had any doubt who would be better, I just doubted that that guy would pick you," she said with slight distress in her tone. That Kishinuma certainly didn't care about stuff like this, so when it came to him for the tie breaker, she was quite worried! Luckily, if he had just guessed like she thought he had, it had been Ayumi's name on that slip of paper. "This is a sign that this year is gonna be great!" she said, the zest returning to her voice, "You'll be able to overcome Satoshi's existence! Noami's too! So that it'll just be you, me, and Shige-nii in the same class!"

Ayumi kept an unfaltering smile as Mayu reflected that it was going to be a great year. Still, she had her own doubts on how great it was going to be... Ten more days until she was seventeen and everything changed. She hoped Mayu wouldn't be chosen, she seemed too fragile to be put through such trials. "I hope you're right, Mayu," Ayumi said sincerely. Though, she would settle getting through the year in one piece.