31 March 2010
Minatodai Dorm, Exterior
The door exploded, slamming on stressed hinges against the railings that guarded the steps leading down to the street. People poured out of the building like a flood, though this one was quite short as some were more hasty than others.
"FREEDOM!" Junpei cried out, exalting in proper sunlight for the first time in over a week. Behind him, Akihiko and Midori both emerged and stood to one side, gulping in fresh air. The rest of SEES filed out, one after the other, until only Aigis remained.
"I must change first," she said, reminding people that her robotic nature was not common knowledge. "I will join you in a couple minutes."
"Hurry back, Aigis!" Fuuka called back as the blonde robot went further into the dorm.
"Fresh air never felt so good, huh Chidori?" Junpei took another deep breath, letting it fill him with more life. "Oh man, so much to do, so much to catch up on."
"Your plans will have to be put on hold, Iori." Mitsuru interjected. She had a cell phone in hand. "You need to get your injury examined."
"It's fine! Honest!" Junpei flexed his wounded arm and shoulder, but he did not convince anyone there that it was in perfect condition. He saw it in their faces that the battle was lost before it began. "Fine, Chidori can come too, right?"
"Of course," Mitsuru replied as the other end of her call was picked up.
Midori finally got over to her bags and found a spare pair of glasses. Putting them on, she breathed a sigh of relief that the world she loved came back into focus. "So, what's the plan, sempai?" She looked at her COMP, which now displayed the correct time. "We kinda gained about 10 hours."
Fuuka and Akihiko shared a look while Mitsuru talked on the phone. "I'm not sure. This sort of thing hasn't happened to us before."
"Bath." Yukari declared. "No arguments. We're getting a bath."
"You mean that place to the north?" Ken asked as Koro circled his legs.
"Yes." Yukari rubbed her head, trying to work some of the mess in her hair. "No way we're going back in there, so it's the next best thing. Bath house."
"Oh, come on, don't do this to me!" Junpei complained as the plan was being formed. "Mitsuru-sempai is sending me to the hospital, and you're all going to the bath!"
"I'm going with you," Akihiko said. "We can do the bath house in a few hours after we've got everything straightened out."
"Why must you come?" Chidori asked, unsure of his motives. "You aren't needed."
"No," the boxer replied, "But the staff at the hospital know and trust me more than you. They'll talk to me more directly that to either of you."
"Hey, Chidori? Don't fret it." Junpei moved to soothe her down. "It's not like everyone is coming."
"Oh! Aigis, there you are! We're going to the Bath once Junpei comes back from the hospital," Yukari explained to the returning person. "You are up for that, aren't you?"
"I am," Aigis said as she stepped out into the sunlight, dressed in her school uniform. "I was surprised that this was still available."
Mitsuru snapped her phone shut. "Iori, a car will be here for you shortly. I will expect a call from you, Akihiko, once the results are in." For a moment, she relaxed in her composure before regaining it. "I will take that time to secure a proper bath rental for all of us, as well as a proper supper." She looked around, judging each person's needs as she met their faces. "We have several unexplained hours free, I do not know if our actions now will do something to our actions in the past."
Groaning, Fuuka bowed her head. "Are you suggesting we repeat what we were doing before we entered the Dorm?"
"That is impossible," Mitsuru admitted. "Rather, we should do nothing that would contradict our memories of this day."
"Wait, so that means I can't send Ken to the corner store to buy a lottery ticket?" Junpei suggested off the top of his head.
Whichever cold gaze was more intimidating, Chidori's, Mitsuru's or Akihiko's, he would never say. "Never mind then."
"While Iori is being examined," Mitsuru returned to her command, "We will need to write up reports regarding what happened. While I've been doing so during our... incident, it would behove us to put our thoughts in order." She fixed Midori and Aigis with a stern glare. "And you two will have to set down everything you know about Igor-san, the Velvet Room and all there in. No more secrets from either of you."
Aigis nodded. "Of course."
Midori shook her head. "I still have plenty of things I won't tell you," she carefully prefaced, "but regarding Igor, Theodore and Elizabeth, I won't hold back."
Knowing that was the best she would get, Mitsuru made her acceptance of that condition known. "However, I see no reason to do so inside the Dorm. We can work outside."
Rio picked up the phone, "Moshi-moshi?"
"RIO-CHAN!" Rio jerked the phone away form her ear, lest Midori destroy it with her enthusiasm. "I talked to Aigis, she's changed her mind, she's coming back to school and she'll join the tennis team and she'll bring a friend and she'll be captain!"
"I did not agree to that," Aigis could be heard saying in the background.
"Oh, hush," Midori said away from the phone. "You'll be fine!"
"What is going on, Midori?" Rio finally managed to get a word in. "What's this about Aigis? I thought she was leaving."
"I changed her mind. Sort of." Midori admitted cheerfully. "I just wanted to let you know so that you can know you can depend on her."
"Um, that's good and all that, but..." Rio looked up at the kitchen. "I'm in the middle of something here. Tell Aigis I'll see her at school then. Or she can call me."
"Right!" Midori hung up, leaving the tennis team captain wondering just what the hell was going on.
Kirijo Memorial Hospital
Akihiko waited for Mitsuru to pick up, which she did after the second ring. "Akihiko, how are things?", she asked without introduction. "Good news, I hope?"
"Pretty much," Akihiko glanced down the corridor where Junpei was trying to get enough privacy to change back into his street clothes. "The doctors did an X-ray, and there are still fragments of the bullet in his shoulder, but they are tiny. They recommend against further surgery as it would only cause more tissue damage. The body will heal around them."
"So, Junpei will be alright?" He could hear the complete relief in her voice.
"Pretty much. He still needs time to rehabilitate his arm, the doctor is doing some paperwork on that now."
"I told them, no paperwork." Mitsuru took on a hard tone. "Which doctor?"
"Oh! No, this isn't official paperwork, more like an exercise regimen." Akihiko moved to stop his friend from going overboard. "No paper trail."
"Good. I will let Midori know that her actions were completely successful then. I have also made arrangements for food and bath. Come back to the dorm, and we can go together."
Akihiko watched as Junpei finally managed to close the door on Chidori, leaving him trapped in the bathroom while she stood vigil with the door a mere centimeter from her face. "We'll be there."
Now all he had to do was keep those two in line. As he put the phone away, a thought crossed his mind that gave him pause.
Would Chidori be going into the same class as Junpei? That would be something Mitsuru would do, ignorant of the consequences.
"Oh, that feels good." Fuuka sank into the hot water, letting the stress of the past two weeks slide away. "Thank you, Mitsuru-san."
"Don't thank me," the oldest woman in the room replied. "It was Yukari's idea."
"Thank you, Yukari!" Midori said as she joined Fuuka. "How are you guys over there?" She called out over the divider wall between the male and female sides.
"Oh, just peachy," Junpei said back. "You didn't have to rent the entire place, just for us, you know."
"Yes she did," Ken corrected him. "Aigis."
"Oh right. Sorry Aigis!"
"Forgiven." The robot didn't need more than a functional cleaning, so she took to helping the others.
"Chidori, relax." Midori tried to command from her slumped over position on the edge of the pool. "You're trying to burn a hole in the wall."
"I don't feel right leaving him." The red-haired woman said without changing her gaze."
"Frosty." Midori summoned her Persona, and lifted him up with one hand to interpose him between Chidori and the wall. "There, he can take all the heat you can muster."
"Dismiss your Persona," Mitsuru said sharply. "Now is not the time for such things."
Midori pouted. "She's just jealous," she stage-whispered to Fuuka, who only rolled her eyes. But Midori did as she was commanded anyways. "So, after this, supper, then what?"
"You go to the train station," Aigis said. "You are under the most sensitive time limits."
"DADDY!" Midori shot upright, the sudden motion of pushing herself off the lip of the pool causing her to slip and fall backwards with a splash. The others dropped what they were doing to make sure she hadn't hurt herself, but she broke the surface without harm. "What do I tell him?"
"Tell him what?" Mitsuru frowned at her junior's actions. "The past two weeks never happened."
"I..!" Midori bowed her head. "You're right. I just miss him, you know. I was expecting to be in Inaba by now, but now is not now, but it still is, so he hasn't missed me." She looked up at her friends. "Am I making any sense?"
"No more, nor less than your usual self," Aigis offered a hand to Midori, which was taken. "Come, let us be done soon. We still have a meal, then you have a train to catch."
01 April 2010
They had seen her off, all of them. It was good bye, but it wasn't a proper parting. They had been through so much together that their bonds could be strained, but never broken. Even though she was the first to go her own way, away from the others, she knew she could count on them, and they on her.
In the darkness and privacy of her seat, Midori let herself cry for the first time since hell came to Earth. Some days, survival wasn't enough.
The Conductor looked over the napping girl. She had been passed into his care a couple hours ago when she had sleep-walked between trains, escorted by one of his co-workers to make her connection. Having come a long way, she kept her ticket in her hand with a complete death-grip, even as she was guided by the conductor through her journey.
And her luggage wasn't lost either, which was always a good thing.
"Sit down here," he said, leading the barely-awake girl to one of the plastic seats that lined the walls of the station. "I'm sure whoever it is that will pick you up will be here shortly." He looked around and didn't see anyone obviously looking for a pickup. He had examined the ticket when she had made her transfer, and noted the name, well experienced in this sort of polite service.
Walking over to the station office, he borrowed the public address system. "Would the party for Komaki please go to Pillar 3B for the rest of their party?" He did not announce who was being waited for, as that was completely unprofessional, and not to mention improper given that he was protecting a teenaged girl.
When he got back, he saw a middle-aged gentleman approaching. Seeing the Rail official, he angled toward him. They met out of sight of the napping girl. "Komaki Mamoru," the man said, bowing. "There was a page for my daughter, Midori?"
Knowing the name was good enough, and the Conductor would stay to make sure that it was the correct pick up. He showed Mamoru to Midori.
"Hey, beautiful. Wake up!" Mamoru gently pinched Midori's nose shut, causing her to snort, then fitfully wake up.
Satisfied, the Conductor left the father and daughter to their reunion.
"DADDY!" Midori did her best to sweep away the far too little sleep and stood up to embrace her father. He returned the hug gratefully. "You came to pick me up!" Her words were slightly slurred by her exhaustion.
"And you've been crying," he said as he pushed a strand of hair out of her face. "Come on, I haven't seen you properly in months. Let me have a look at you." He broke the embrace and stepped back. "You've been growing!"
Midori smiled and bowed. "Thank you, daddy!" She saw that her luggage was neatly stacked beside her seat, though she had no recollection of getting into said seat. "So, how has work been?"
Mamoru smiled. "My job is well. The promotion has brought with it more responsibilities, as well as more opportunities. I am grateful." He bowed in apology. "Once again, I am sorry I asked you to come to this town for me. It was greedy."
"You don't need to apologize!" Midori replied. "You're my daddy! And we've spent enough time apart already." She grabbed two of her bags, leaving the middle sized one for her father. "Where did you park?"
Picking up the last bag, Mamoru led the way out of the train station and into the early morning fog. It was extremely thick, with visibility less than a hundred meters. "The company bought a new car for me, as I'm going to be doing a lot of driving in the near future." He pointed with a free hand at pearl-white car sitting just outside the handicapped stalls, and beside a heavy farmer's truck. "They went all out, and bought me a Crown!"
"A what?" Cars weren't her thing.
Mamoru sighed. "One day... It's a Toyota, and one of the new Hybrid Electrical cars. The company wants me to put our best face forward, so they loaned me a new model, this year!"
"Daddy, you don't get excited over cars." His daughter admonished him. "That just sounded fake."
"Would you rather I channelled my inner Sentai?" Mamoru grinned, knowing he could still bust out the proper poses from his time as a stuntman for the Featherman franchise. And did on occasion when he wanted to elicit a humorous reaction from his co-workers and beloved daughter. "That can be enthusiastic enough!" He toggled the locks with the remote and swung around the back to open the rear compartment. "Here we go. Going to stop at the convenience store for some breakfast, I think, then we'll go to our new home."
Midori judged her father's actions carefully. He had said nothing about their accommodations here in Inaba, so she still wasn't sure how much room to expect in their new apartment. And his body language said nothing still, save that he was excited, which was only natural. "So, where do we live?"
Mamoru loaded all the luggage, thankful he had lowered the rear seat earlier. "In a residential area on the north side of town. We're pretty close to the river, and it's within walking distance of your new school."
"Huh," Midori didn't know how to respond to that. She had never walked straight to school before. It was always via bus, or in the case of Gekkoukan, Monorail. "How is that supposed to work?"
Her father barked out a quick laugh. "Oh, don't worry. Classes don't start for a week, so you'll have time to orient yourself around town."
"Thanks, daddy." Midori yawned as she opened the passenger door and sat down. After a moment's fumbling she got the seat belt to work right, then started to snore, her store of energy depleted.
Once Mamoru climbed in and secured himself, he saw his daughter already napping. Leaning over, he kissed her on the forehead. "Welcome home."
"Wake up, Midori. We're here." Mamoru shut off the engine and put on the brakes before tapping Midori in the shoulder. "Wakey wakey!"
In response, the bluenette swatted at his finger like it was an insect. So he went with the standby and pinched her nose again.
After a moments interrupted breathing, she was forced awake. "Daddy?"
"We're here." He opened his door. "Come on, get your stuff, I'll show you to your room."
This time remembering where the seatbelt was, Modori got out faster than she got in. Circling to the back, she collected her bags, then looked around. "Daddy, where's the apartment?"
Mamoru stifled a laugh. "We live here," he said, pointing to the house whose driveway they were in.
Midori looked at it, then back to her father. "We're sharing with someone?"
"No. We live here."
"Oh, we're renting a floor!" For some reason, she felt like she was missing something, but couldn't figure out what. "Top or bottom?"
"No, this is our house."
Midori looked at the house, her brain refusing to process. "Huh?"
"House, Midori." Mamoru started to giggle, just a bit. "I own a house now."
"But houses are for rich people." Midori tried to figure that out. They had always lived in an apartment of some stripe, save for the past six months in a Dormitory. Which was close enough to an Apartment to make no difference.
"Yes, and I got a promotion, remember?"
Then it dawned. This was a house. She was going to live in a house from now on.
03 April 2010
Midori didn't like this town. It was too small. From her room (she had a room!) she could see most of Inaba, and not in a good way. The Junes store was still under construction, raised up like a bloated hill that was currently covered in blue tarps as the construction workers milled around it.
She was a city girl, there were no two ways about that. She was accustomed to crowds, either for the anonymity they brought, or because she stood out in them. Here, there was just enough people on the street that she was neither.
And the looks didn't help any either. It had become painfully obvious in the past couple days that anyone associated with the new mega-store being put up was unloved at best. And having just moved in, the locals had automatically ostracized her, even though her daddy didn't work for Junes, but rather for the Advertising company. But they didn't care.
A bag of tofu for supper in hand, she walked back down the street. Across from her was the local shrine to the land god of some stripe. While normally she would have gone there and prayed for a good welcome, she was on the outs with pretty much every divine spirit that could be housed there at the moment.
Fighting in the War of Bel kinda did that.
Looking up at the sky, she saw more impending rain. According to the long range forecast, there was good chance for rainfall for the next week or so, and her daddy had told her that this valley was good farmland thanks to the higher-than-average rainfall they got. Which meant, she was warned, that she had to carry her umbrella with her every day until summer.
At least she had a proper umbrella, rather than one of those cheap plastic ones you could buy at the corner gas store. She had nothing against them, but she liked her own personal one.
She had walked up and down this street a few times already, noting that several store fronts were closed, while others showed some signs of distress. It was sad in a way, but she had no investment in these places to make it more than academic.
Passing by the book store, impulse over took her. She stepped inside, ringing the actual physical brass bell that was above the door. "Hello," she said, bowing slightly to the man behind the counter. She got a grunt in reply. Typical reaction.
Browsing to the back of the store and working her way forward, Midori picked up a couple books at random, not really interested in the contents, but more to try and buy her way into some grace with the local businesses. She hadn't set foot in the fabric store yet, that would have to come later after she had properly settled in.
Oh, that was another thing. Her house (HOUSE!) had a room separate from her bedroom, which her daddy called her 'studio'. A separate room where she could put her Web show equipment, and her sewing gear! And daddy had a private office as well! The mind boggled!
She picked a book from the cooking shelf at random, deciding that three was enough for a initial purchase. At the front, she made her purchase, and was nothing less than cheerful, civil, cute and polite. And she barely got three words from the man. Admitting to failure at round one, she resolved to have better luck once school started on Monday. Which was in two days. Which was barely any time to get ready!
Tomorrow, she would need to get everything in order. There was no taking any chances, as she needed to put her absolute best foot forward, or spend another agonizing year being on the outside of the social circles. And the Internet wasn't being helpful either.
04 April 2010
Residence of Kinshiro Morooka
Principal! This is an honour!" Morooka bowed and scraped as the venerable man who ran Yasogami High School with a firm and strict hand stood at his door.
"Ah, Kinshiro-sensei. I was hoping you were home. May I borrow a moment of your time?" The man invited himself in, allowing for his junior to step back and make him welcome. "I won't be more than a moment."
"Of course, of course!" Morooka bowed again, and thanked the gods that he kept his home spotless. The Principal would find no fault there. "Would you like some tea?"
"Yes, please." The Principal changed footwear and let himself be escorted to the living room, where he sat at the table. "How are your preparations coming along?"
"Good! Good!" Morooka replied from the kitchen. "Everything is ready for class to begin tomorrow. If I may, how is your commencement speech?"
"It too is complete. And it warms my heart to see an honest young man like yourself taking his responsibilities seriously." The Principal let the scent of the tea waft over him as his host set down the two cups and poured some for both of them. "But I am afraid my visit is for something a bit less... controllable."
That worried the teacher. But then again, the Principal was coming to him, so that showed a large amount of faith in his abilities. "How may I be of assistance, Principal?"
"You have a new student in your class, starting tomorrow. She is a new arrival." The Principal sipped the tea, enjoying the texture. "But she is not an ordinary student."
"What do you mean, Sensei?"
"Her name, Komaki Midori-chan. She is quite the unique individual. Thankfully she's starting with the new year, easing her transition. She also has a sponsor."
Morooka said nothing, letting the Principal explain at his own pace. "You recall, from your own High School days.. oh, what was the name of it again?"
"Seven Sisters," Morooka was proud of his time there. Proper people with proper culture and none of this modern crap that came with everything else.
"Ah, yes, the Seven Sisters High School. Anyways, this Komaki-chan is coming to us from Gekkoukan High, an equally high-class facility." He sipped some more. "She is also friends with one Kirijo Mitsuru, whom is now head of the Kirijo Group, since the untimely passing of her father last year."
Morooka paid attention. Details were important.
"Anyways, the young mistress of the Kirijo has made a sizable donation to our esteemed school. While it is simply a donation on paper, one need not look deep to see why."
The teacher nodded in understanding, though he was not yet sure of where this was going. "I know the name Kirijo from somewhere, but I cannot recall."
"They are an off-shoot of the Nanjo Group," the Principal explained. "Surely you remember them?"
Morooka froze. "Ah, yes." Everything started to make sense now. He had experience in proper educational standards for high-class students, and this Komaki-chan was being sent to his class because of it. He knew a young Nanjo from his own days as a student, and the connections were apparent to him.
"This donation was quite fortunate, I must say." The Principal drew a slip of paper from a pocket in his sleeve, and slid it face down across the table to Morooka. "With it, we can do certain maintenance work that has been delayed over the summer break."
Morooka looked at the paper, his face turning very pale as he saw what was written there. That changed a lot of things. "Of course, Principal. I will see to it that our new student receives the very best education that we can give her."
"That's what I wanted to hear, Kinshiro-Sensei."