Yo, it's another new story. Read it. Enjoy it. If you enjoy it, go over to SpaceBattles and read it there, cause I'm updating one a week over there in installments of 2K. I'm only going to post to here once I'm done with chapters. If you wanna know why I'm even posting here to begin with, I'm doing it to help reach all audiences that I possibly can. Gotta diversify, after all.

-Mandatory Disclaimer-

I don't own nothing about this story (except the ideas I myself come up with).

-8/8/20XX.-

Birthdays.

It was safe to say that I didn't like them one bit. Really, what were they more than an unnecessary celebration of someone being alive for yet another revolution around the Sun? Seriously, why go through all of the trouble of putting together a party for something as mundane as that?

Sure, one could argue that they were nice to have when you were just little a kid as they were usually easy ways to instill within a child a distinct sense of individuality, of self-worth, of being special essentially — which was a decent argument against my stance of them meaning nothing…if that was actually the case for every child that was in the world.

What was a birthday to a child who had parents who couldn't afford to celebrate in anyway, other than a cruel reminder that their family cared more about a paycheck than them? To a child who just so happened to be born on a worldwide holiday and was always forced to celebrate their birth alongside it, other than a restating of how inferior they were? To a child who didn't have a friend to celebrate with, other than a way to better emphasize how lonely they really were?

To those kids, I was sure that their birthdays didn't make them feel any more special every time they came along. Actually, I was fairly confident the opposite happened. I was one of those kids, after all, and I certainly didn't feel my confidence being raised when I invited all the kids in my class one year while I was still in primary school, to celebrate with me at my house — only to have not a single soul show up.

Long story short, I thoroughly believed the concept of a birthday to be nothing more than idiocy made by a self-congratulatory society, meant to fool hopeful idiots into thinking that that they weren't what they actually were, just another face in a sea of seven billion.

Anyone who knew me to any extent knew my disdain for the tradition. Well, at least, I sincerely hoped so. I swear, I've voiced it enough times to drill it into the memory of a goldfish. So, if someone close to me were to be somehow unaware that fact, I'd have to be concerned that they were a) going senile, b) developed a condition that caused them to go deaf for moments at a time, or c) a complete and utter airhead.

Now, clearly, the girl standing before me with the brightest smile I had ever seen fell under that last category of being an airhead, which didn't surprise me at all. Hard to be surprised when you already knew as much about the person to begin with. It was safe to say that the girl in front of me was the very epitome of the phrase 'air-head' and that wasn't me just being mean either! This is proven by science, people! Look up her grades! They're downright atrocious!

"Yuigahama…" I began slowly, dull grey eyes never leaving said girl's — which despite being completely closed from the moment I stepped in, I knew could see the irritation that was currently present on my face. There, standing directly in front of me, was Yuigahama Yui, a girl who was many things to me: a classmate, clubmate, and very close acquaintance – a title that I personally thought to be inadequate for someone as close to me as herself, but was unable to upgrade due to an agreement between the both of us. "Didn't I already tell you that—?"

"Yeah, I remember what you said, Hikki!" The girl in question whined loudly as her brown eyes suddenly shot open; her entire body slouched forwards dramatically; her pale white, flawless cheeks puffed out and her lipgloss covered lips formed a pout. "I just didn't want to listen, is all! Especially when you say something that dumb! I mean, who say something like," her voice suddenly became deeper as she made an obvious attempt at trying to imitate my voice, "'I have no desire to do something as idiotic as celebrate my eighteenth birthday'."

Huh. Seeing that she actually managed to remember what I told her over the phone the other day, I guess I was wrong about her being a complete airhead. It also rules out her going senile and the temporary deafness theories. That means one thing then. I am currently dealing with a traitor worse than Brutus and Judas combined and her name is Yuigahama Yui.

"Basically, what you're saying is that you hate me and have no desire to see that my one birthday wish for today comes true?"Adamantly not wanting to leave the comfort and safety of my home on today of all days, I decide to go for the kill immediately. Please remember this Gahama-san as you cry into the pillow they put under your head in the casket, I don't hate you. I hate birthdays. Blame birthdays for your sudden death via verbal lashing. "Sorry, this hurts to say, but I usually don't like to associate myself with people like yourself so please, go away and come back at a later time when you've learned your lesson. Until then, I will spend my time in my room, crying my eyes out due your sudden betrayal." I slowly being to close the door in her face, hoping that she'll be so confused with my Isshiki-like rambling to notice. "Thank you and have a good day."

I let out a silent curse when I felt the door suddenly cease closing despite me putting force behind it. Damn. She saw through my trick. Well, might as well face the music and see if I can convince her to leave me alone face to face.

"What?" I asked and am immediately rebuked for it.

"Did you seriously try to slam the door in my face just then?!" Her voice was so loud that it was literally ear-piecing and the pitch of her voice was so shrill that I'm sure glassware in my house had shattered without my knowledge. "Do you seriously hate celebrating your birthday that much, that you won't even entertain the thought—?!"

"Yes, I hate it that much," I don't hesitate in cutting her off and giving her my honest answer. She asked for it, after all. Might as well just give it to her. "Now, please leave me alone."

Oi, woman, why are you looking down at the ground like that? Also, why is your body shaking like that? It's the middle of August, y'know. There's no way you're cold. Wait, was that a sniffle right there? Did you seriously just sniffle there? Oh, you have got to be kidding… There's no way I actually made you cry with that little verbal abuse. Aren't you good friends with both Miura Yumiko and Yukinoshita Yukino? I've heard them do more than that to you and yet not a single tear. How is it that when I do it to you, you immediately start crying? Is it the fact that they're also girls that you can withstand their verbal lashings?! Frankly speaking, this is unfair! This is actual discrimination! How dare you try and say that I can't be mean to a girl just because she is one? I thought women these days wanted equality? What the hell are with these double standards?!

Knowing myself well enough to know that if I were to open my mouth, I'll instantly cave into her demands of: "helping me celebrate my birthday." I decide to keep it shut and just stare at the girl as she continued to look at the ground and fake cry. Yeah, I know that you're fake crying right now! You can't fool me, woman! Isshiki's pulled the card against me so many times that it's lost all affect! Even my own sister can no longer fool me with it and you know how weak I am to Komachi!

"Agh, seriously!?" With that voicing of frustration, Yuigahama lifted her once bowed head and looked at me straight on, an annoyed pout on her lips as she glared at me piercingly. "You were seriously just going to do nothing there? What if I was actually crying?!"

…Did you really just ask me that question with a straight face? What if you were actually crying? You weren't even actually crying in the first place! Why are you bringing up things like that when you yourself, the girl who was supposedly crying, knew that they aren't true in the first place?! That makes no sense! Is that supposed to make me feel bad? Ha! The only thing that makes me feel is just how much of an idiot you are!

Sigh. Okay, now that's out of my system, best to try and do everything in my power to convince her to leave without angering her any further. Yuigahama may not be able to do anything to me herself, but she knew people—actually, she knew a lot of people who wouldn't think twice about putting me in the ground for being an unbelieveable prick, which, to be honest, is something I'm lucky hasn't happened to me yet.

"Alright…" I begin, my voice heavy with the exasperation that this conversation had caused within me. "What can I do to convince you to leave me alone for the day? I'll do anything."

"'A-Anything…'?" Yuigahama asked, flinching back slightly as she did so – an act that caused the pink bun on the side of her head to shift slightly. Huh. If that thing starts to move around even with that little movement, how is it possible I've never seen that thing come loose at least once? You must tie them really well. "R-Really?"

"I said as much, didn't I? Just make sure it happens on any other day than today."

"W-Well— Wait, stop trying to trick me, Hikki! You're coming with me to celebrate your birthday whether you like it or not!"

"So…you're just going to drag me out of my home without my consent? You do know that, at some point, caring about me turns into kidnapping, right?"

"Mou… Why does Hikki have to be so mean?" With a loud, high-pitched whine that reminded me of something a child would do to guilt trip their parents, the supposed seventeen year old in front of me puffed her cheeks out and crossed her arms over her chest. I, of course, blink in reply, not knowing what doing that was supposed to accomplish. Are you still trying to use your cuteness to get me to break? Ha! Is that all? Your best efforts pale in comparison to what Isshiki and, lord forbid, Komachi's appeals— "I wonder what Komachi-chan would say if she knew that her onii-chan was being so un…unre…unrecep... mean. This was her idea, after all—"

"—Wait, what?" My lips end up moving on their own. "Is that true? Did Komachi put you up to this?" The airhead in front of me nodded firmly. … Dammit, looks like I've lost this one. Well, I have a few hours to spare until she needs me. I guess I can go. "Why didn't you just tell me that in the first place? Wait here, I'm going to get ready. I'll be out in a bit."

"So fast! Hikki really is a sis-con—" I don't hear whatever she was trying to say. Most likely because I slammed the door in her face just before she could finish whatever it was. Oi, don't start yelling at the door like I just did something awful to you. There's a concept in the world called sportsmanship, y'know? Just because you bested me this one time (and trust me, I'm going to make sure that number doesn't change ever), it doesn't mean you have to rub my face in it. That's just plain rude…

…(lol).

May it never be said that I, Hikigaya Hachiman, was an awful older brother to my little sister, Komachi. I mean, look at me. I'm currently out in the world right now, actually celebrating my birthday just like how I never wanted to. How much more self-sacrificing can a guy get for the sake of his little sister's happiness? I fully expect to be rolling in Komachi points by the time I see her next for today's efforts. If not, I'll be sorely disappointed.

"So," I begin to say, an action that succeeds in its goal of bringing my pink-haired guide's attention to me, "where exactly are we going again?"

I ask that as the two of us stroll through the entertainment district of Chiba, which is filled to the brim with things that one of my age would normally find "entertaining". Not to say that I found any of it interesting at all: me being not normal and all. Outside of the arcade, which we've already passed, there wasn't much that I saw that really interested me. A detail that told me that, whatever Yuigahama had planned on doing, it wasn't something I was familiar with. Dammit… She was probably thinking about "broadening my horizons" again. Seriously, what's wrong with someone liking to do a certain thing and only that thing? Nothing! That's what!

"For the last time, Hikki! I can't tell you! It'd ruin the surprise!" Said guide retorted, an air of irritation surrounding her words. What? I get that this is the…sixth time I asked that question now, but can you really blame me for doing so? Think about it. You're currently leading me away from my home, to some unknown location to "celebrate my eighteenth birthday". That's a sketchy proposal no matter how you look at it. "Besides, just wait a little longer, alright? We're almost there."

"Fine, fine." My dissatisfied grumblings are immediately followed by a tired sigh. I did so in a conscious effort, by the way. I was unhappy with where I was currently being forced to be and I wanted to make that fact clear to her. Unfortunately, my gestures of displeasure seemed to fall on deaf ears as Yuigahama simply continued on her way forwards in her usual upbeat manner. "Just don't take forever, alright?"

"Huh, what's with the rush? Do you actually have something to do later?" To my surprise, the question that came back in response wasn't voiced in the way I had expected. Usually, someone would rebuke me and just assume that I had nothing planned before then, dragging me along against my will. Instead, her voice was filled with honest, pure curiosity. Nothing more, nothing less. It was a refreshing change of pace, to say the least.

"Well…" I begin, but stop myself, trying to think of the right words to explain my situation. "Actually—"

"—Oh look!" Oh wait, never mind what I said earlier about this being a change of pace. Looks like my protests were going to be unheard once again. "There they are! My surprise!"

Without letting me get a single word edgewise, my airheaded guide began running towards something that I recognized immediately and, simultaneously, made me want to start running in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, before I could even contemplate the negatives outcomes of such an act, an unexpected voice rang out and firmly locked me in place as the group of descended upon me like a flock of vultures.

"Hey there, Hikitani-kun," the person at the forefront of the group greeted me with his usual perfect illusion of a smile. Hayama Hayato, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed, king of the riajuus himself, was standing before me. For what reason, I didn't know, but I can only assume that it's to celebrate my birthday – given that aforementioned group of people was made up of people I knew and would technically have a reason to do so. That only makes me question your presences more, though. What are you even doing here, Hayama? I thought you hated me. "Happy birthday."

"Thanks." Not being one to throw away my manners just because the inside of my mouth started to taste really bitter, I make sure to respond, while also showing the least amount of contempt towards him as humanly possible. I have to say, though. Doing so was extremely difficult.

"Hikitani, bro!" Speaking of riajuus, the next person to greet me was someone who almost as insufferable Hayama. Actually, wait, no. I could at least tolerate this next guy and his annoying, overly loud antics. Hayama, on the other hand, put me in an awful mood to just look at. That being said, I couldn't help but glare at the tolerable riajuu coming my way for what he just said. Oi, Tobe, the hell do you think you're calling 'bro' so casually? There's only one person who gets to call me that and her name is Komachi— H-Hey! Why are you suddenly getting so close?! You aren't Totsuka! Get your damn arm off my shoulders, you bleach-haired ape! "Happy eighteenth, man!"

Seeing that my personal space had rapidly been invaded, I decided to throw all my previous mental speak about manners out the window and just openly glare at the invader of my space instead of replying. Tobe Kakeru, the loudest person in all of Sobu High and the only other male member of Hayama's group that I bothered to remember the name of. Bleached-brown hair, random headband holding his hair back for no reason, and excessively loud behavior. Truly, he was the epitome of a riajuu.

"Tobe-san…" Suddenly, and from out of nowhere, an angelic voice rang through the air, uttering the name of my riajuu oppressor. Turning my attention towards where it had originated from, I found that my previous bad mood had up and disappeared. Standing there, in all his infinitesimal glory, was Totsuka Saika – a young man who looked like a girl and was entirely too pure to be on this Earth. Everything from hair, which was a heavenly white, to his heart-shaped face, which was accented by a pair of eyes so blue that it rivaled the sea in its majesty, only made my stated opinion of his 'too-good-for-this-world' status stronger. "…I don't think Hachiman's very…um, comfortable in that position." See! This is what I'm talking about! Without me even saying anything, he's already coming to my aid! What a great friend I have in you! "Oh, and happy birthday, Hachiman!"

When I heard him say that, I felt something in my heart suddenly be illuminated by a warm, relaxing light. So much so, that I couldn't even bring myself to stop staring and thank him for the greeting. Face, I know and understand why you're turning red right now, but I need you to stop before a certain someone notices—

"Kah!" Too late. She's already picked up on the undertones in the atmosphere. Okay, time to go find a window to jump through. What? I'm standing on solid ground right now and that's impossible? Crap. "My heart! I can't take it! Getting to see all four you come together to celebrate Hikitani's birthday!" Suddenly a geyser of blood spouted out from the speaker's nose with enough force to send her head flying backwards. I, nor anyone around me was surprised by the display put on by Ebina Hina – the local yaoi lover of Sobu High. We all knew of her antics by now and we all knew that saying anything wouldn't do anything about it. "Ah, my poor, little heart can't take it anymore! Thank you Hikitani-kun! It's your birthday and you're the one giving me a gift!"

After Ebina's little outburst, I blinked at her. The three other guys standing near me blinked at her after that. I'm pretty sure we all then blinked at her simultaneously after that. Then, all male members of the group took a step away from each other.

"Was that seriously necessary, Hina? We're in public, y'know?" The next person to speak was one fire queen of Sobu High: Miura Yumiko, clearly dyed blonde hair that was unnecessarily styled into drills; deep, vibrant emerald-green eyes; and strangely overly-aggressive personality, despite being also really socially conscious. Suddenly, her exasperated eyes came my way. I couldn't see any sign of emotion in them at all. "Anyways, happy birthday, Hikio."

…Was that really it? That's all you have to say? Huh, for some reason I expected something more. Like a scalding insult for no reason. Are you okay, Miura-san? Did these people here drag you here to celebrate too? Hm…It's weird to finally be on the same page as you.

"What are you talking about, Yumiko? Out in public is the perfect place to display my love for BL," Ebina countered, her voice having lessened in intensity some as she looked over at someone else, who was clearly trying to distance herself from the rest of the group both physically and figuratively, as she was also looking away off to the side as well. "Isn't that right, SakiSaki?"

'SakiSaki', as Ebina called her, swiftly shifted her attention over to the group she was trying her hardest to ignore, or more specifically, the one of us that currently had two streams of blood rolling down the lower part of her face. From what I've seen from the two interacting in the past, the two were friends, though I couldn't help but question that with how the light-blue ponytailed, delinquent-looking former was glaring her light purple eyes at the brown-haired, bob-cutted, bespectacled latter.

"Ugh… Why'd I even agree to coming here?" SakiSaki asked herself aloud as she pinched the bridge of her nose. Oi, you're here to celebrate my birthday and I'm standing right here. Don't act like I don't exist. I'm more than 100% percent sure Stealth Hikki isn't active right now, so I know, that you know that I'm here.

Someone seemed to share my sentiment about being so easily snubbed and cleared their throat rather loudly. Turning my head towards where it came from, I find that I'm both very surprised and, at the same, not surprised at all by who it turned out to be. How could I possibly think so contrastingly? To put things as bluntly as possible, that was the only way I could make any sense of Yukinoshita Yukino, the infamous ice queen of Sobu High and also the second daughter of Chiba's first family in terms of wealth and stature. Everything about her just sort of naturally contrasted with some other part of her. It was actually kind of mind-boggling to have to think about.

Anyways, what I was trying to get at by saying both her name and her two titles was that, the two parts of her personality that were the most prominent when we were in public should've made it so that she acted in one of two ways: either she a) conform to her ice queen facade and not care about the blatant snub, or b) scold SakiSaki for displaying such bad manners towards me due to her familial background in wealth. So, knowing that, I had already expected one of two reactions from her. Turns out it was the latter.

Seeing that she had succeeded in getting SakiSaki's attention, the raven-haired rich girl flicked some of her long, silky hair behind her shoulder, clearly annoyed, and replied, "If you're going to talk like that while the reason is standing just a few feet away from you, then I too am going to have to ask you that question, Kawasaki-san."

Wait, SakiSaki's last name is Kawasaki? Huh, and here I thought that her name was Kawahonda Saki this entire time. Man…I really need to write that down somewhere. This is the kind of mistake that can lead to misunderstandings.

"What was that?" Unlike Yukinoshita, Kawasaki didn't act differently given the social situation. Usually, she acted in a single, consistent way, which made it easy for me to anticipate the sudden shift to the standoff-ish attitude that had earned her the delinquent label from our peers. It also helped that it was a well-known fact that she, Kawasaki, didn't like Yukinoshita at all due to the latter's wealthy roots, but trust me, it really only helped a small, tiny bit. "Don't you start talking down to me like I'm an idiot, rich girl. I know exactly why I'm here. I'm just not the biggest fan of the people here excluding that reason, is all. You being included."

"Hey, I heard that!" Miura yelled out indignantly from the sidelines, most likely somewhere near Hayama knowing her, while all the others simply chuckled to themselves awkwardly.

"And yet, here you are," Yukinoshita, not being one to back down from such verbal matches, instantly started to go on the counterattack, "trying to get a rise out of me instead of wishing that reason a happy birthday…" She trailed off as she glanced at me with her beautifully blue eyes and allowed a smug smirk grow on her lips. Oi, I know that smirk. I know that you're only trying to prove a point, but I'd rather you not use me as a tool to do so. "Oh, and happy eighteenth birthday, Hikigaya-kun."

"Um… Thanks?" I reply half sincerely, the other half being a little miffed that I was relegated to an afterthought, even though I was the only reason she was here in the first place with.

Right after I said that, a low growl came from Kawasaki. It only lasted a split second though as the girl stopped herself in said amount of time. If I had to guess as to why, I'd bet money that it was because she realized that by doing so, she was playing right into the ice queen's hands. That didn't stop her from glaring, though.

"H-Hey, Yukinon, Saki-chan, let's not fight, okay?" Yuigahama, being the excellent peacekeeper that she was, saw the conflict going on in front of her and how it was most likely going to spiral out of control fast, and used her kindness to nip it in the bud as fast as possible. "Instead, we should be focusing on making Hikki's birthday party the best it possibly can be!"

The air almost immediately erupted into a chorus of affirmations to Yuigahama's statement, all of which of varying intensities. I, of course, didn't join them.

The two girls that had been right on the cusp of waging verbal, nuclear warfare against each other, glanced at the bubblegum-haired girl telling them to calm down and almost immediately caved into her influence, looking away from the other with their eyes closed and arms crossed over their chests. I couldn't keep from being impressed by the sight. I mean, how many people could really say that seeing a puppy stop a lion and tiger from fighting wasn't an impressive sight? Not many.

"Fine," Kawasaki replied with a bitter huff. She then turned her attention to me – rather suddenly, might I add. "Happy birthday, by the way."

Instead of responding verbally, I simply nod my head back in acknowledgement. Thankfully, she wasn't the kind of girl to get angry about having her show of thanks regulated to a simple downward tilt of the head. Actually, I'm pretty sure she was the type of girl to appreciate that kind of gesture — her being a loner like myself and all.

Anyways, my choice of thanking the girl aside, it looks like everyone in the group has had a chance to unnecessarily congratulate me, though I can't help but feel like we're missing someone—

"Huh? Yukinon, where's Iroha-chan?" As if she were reading my mind, Yuigahama asked a question that directly answered my own, pulling out her smartphone from a pocket in her shorts as she did so. Unlocking it with practiced ease, she added on in a way that clearly displayed her confusion, "I thought that she said that'd she come…"

"Yuigahama-san, I'm sure that Isshiki-san is on her way." Seeing that her friend had allowed worry to creep into her usually cheery, bubblegum head, Yukinoshita spoke in an attempt to assuage Yuigahama's aforementioned worries. Wait, did I seriously just hear you right, Yukinoshita? Isshiki, Isshiki Iroha, is the one who's running late to a planned meeting? Huh, who in the world would've guessed that? "I'm sure she's has a good reason for being this late—"

Funnily enough, just as the ice queen said that, an all too familiar voice of a certain kouhai rang through the air from directly behind me, "Ah, senpai~! Senpai~! Senpai, over here!" Turning around, I find myself not being at all surprised by the sight of Isshiki Iroha jogging over to where I was standing, her shoulder-length, flaxen hair bouncing with every step closer she took towards me. When she finally reached the spot in which I was standing, she immediately bent over and began panting heavily. If I was someone less familiar with her, I would've assumed that the display was, in fact, real and that she wasn't just doing it to gain sympathy points from me for being late. Thankfully, I knew better. "I'm sorry for being late." She looked around at all the people she had kept waiting. "Did I keep you all waiting for long?"

"Ah, no, we weren't—" Hayama, just like the nice guy he pretends to be, immediately tries to do what's expected of him.

"—Yeah, we've been here for about ten minutes now." I, of course, don't allow him to do so. Doing something like that would only encourage such behaviour in the future, y'know? Gotta nip that bud in the head while you still can, y'knoooow? Oh wait, why is everyone glaring at me like I just broke some age old code just now?

"Ugh, senpai!" Of course, that sort of response doesn't sit well with my kouhai, who immediately stood straight up and sent a glare right at me with her amber eyes. Ha, glare at me all you like! I'm never going to stop calling you out on your bullshit! If there's ever a time in which I do, I'll already be long dead and in the ground! "How many times do I have to tell you! You're supposed to say—"

A cough cuts her off before she could go through with her usual spiel about how 'a man should always say that they just got there because it makes the girl feel bad to know that they made the guy wait for any amount of time'. Ha, what a load of bull. Why do I have to make anyone feel better about wasting my time by being late?

"Excuse me, Isshiki-san?" Yukinoshita's voice reaches my ears and I realize that I'm in the middle of a conversation and it isn't the best time to start ranting about stupid, unfair double standards that women force upon men. "I'm sorry to interrupt while you're in the middle of berating Hikigaya-kun for being the rude, insensitive human being that he is, but I do believe that there's still something you need to tell him."

"So she does it for everyone, huh…?" From somewhere to my left, I hear a certain girl with a motorcycle-based name grumble that under her breath. I was tempted on commenting, but as I glance over in her direction, I see someone with a look of deep contemplation and frustration, which is a sign that tells me that it's probably best to keep my mouth shut on the matter.

"Huh?" Isshiki turned her head to look at Yukinoshita and gave her a quizzical look, before her face then lit up in realization. "O-Oh yeah, right!" The girl turned back to me, tilted her head slightly and winked at me, smiling her usual foxy smile the entire time - the same one that has never succeeded in enticing me ever. "Happy birthday, senpai!"

Alright, now everyone present has said 'happy birthday' to me.

Hm, why do I still feel like we're missing someone? Someone male… Someone with a great deal of body fat on him… Someone who's always wearing a trench coat, no matter the weather… Someone I'm ashamed to be associated with most of the time… Whelp, no one comes to mind. Must've not been that important if I can't be bothered to remember his name.

"Alright, since everyone's done greeting me and all, what exactly are we going to do now?" From pretty much out of the blue, I ask that question as I pull my phone from my pocket. Checking the time, I can't help but frown and furrow my eyes when I see what's being displayed at the top of my screen. Crap. Only going to have a few hours before I need to head back home… Suddenly feeling the all too familiar, hair-raising sensation that only the scrutinizing stares of people could give you, I glance up from my phone and see that I was being stared at by the group that had been assembled to celebrate my birthday. Immediately, I started to slide my phone back into my pocket.

"Hikigaya-kun…" Yukinoshita started as she crossed an arm over her chest and held her head in her free hand, her voice low and ominous, "…I know that you don't want to be here—"

"—Don't take it like that. I just need to get back home before a certain time." Already knowing what she was going to say, I'm quick to interrupt her with the reason why I looked at my phone. "My mom told me that she was going to come home from work early to celebrate with me. My dad said that he'd try to, but he said that he might not be able to due to work stacking up."

"O-Oh…" As expected, Yukinoshita didn't take being proven wrong well. To be fair to her though, what just came out of my mouth was a big, giant lie that wouldn't hold up to any sort of scrutiny, so she shouldn't have been feeling that way to begin with. Actually, now that I'm looking around, everyone around me was looking at me with just about the same way. "I-I'm sorry, I wasn't aware—"

"Don't worry too much about it." Not wanting her to feel bad about something that was totally untrue, I cut her off again. Looking away just in case my guilt decided to show itself on my face, I add, "We still have a good deal of time before I need to start heading back anyways, so there's no real reason to stress about it."

"A-Alright! Now that's been settled, let's all get going!" Yuigahama, most likely seeing a need to, decided to step in and cheer that out loudly - a decision that elicited a chorus of cheers from the rest of the group. Of course, the same couldn't be said about the less…vocal members, me being included. I actually cringed a little when they did so. So loud… Tone it down a little, will you! We're still in public, y'know?!

As I expected, Yuigahama Yui would make me do something that was 'out of my comfort zone' to help me 'grow as a person'. Sigh. Seriously? I mean… Seriously? This of all things? Wasn't forcing me out of my home to meet up with a large group of people enough of a step out of my comfort zone? You're really gonna subject me to this too? What a cruel woman, you are.

What was I currently griping about? Well, my eyes were currently looking at a sign that read "karaoke". That was what I was currently griping about.

Glaring at my pink-haired torturer, said sadist let out an awkward chuckle and said, "S-Sorry…"

Breathing in deeply to keep my composure, I turn my attention back to the sign that was mocking me and take a step towards the door that sat underneath it. Back in my more naive days, I used to dream of going to a place like this, with a group this big. Now, I absolutely feared it. The idea itself made me toss and turn in the night. Well, not actually, but I still very much loathed the idea to its core being the person I was. Doing something as embarrassing as singing was easy when you were a well-liked, popular riajuu like the majority of those around me. When you're a social outcast? Pft. Dead upon arrival.

As I reached a hand out towards the door's handle, my hand was forced into a full stoppage when the sound of a police horn sliced through the air.

"Huh, what was that?" The airhead next to me asked. I could see from the corner of my eyes that she started to look around for the source of the noise. Dammit… Now? Now of all times? You really have a terrible sense of timing, you know?

"Yuigahama-san, I'm pretty sure that was the sound of a police horn," Yukinoshita answered back in quick succession. From what I heard in her voice, there wasn't an ounce of concern in her voice.

"Police?" Miura parroted from somewhere behind me. She sounded confused, as she should be. "I didn't see any police cars pass by, though… You see anything, Hayato?"

"Ah, no, I didn't." Despite Hayama saying that and me not looking behind me where he was standing, I was sure that he himself wasn't sure of what he was saying. "I'm guessing that it must've came from some nearby street. It's probably nothing."

"Yeah, but that didn't sound like it came from far away though…" Totsuka chimed in, clearly unsure of the riajuu king's attempt at keeping the peace.

"Eh, I wouldn' worry much 'bout it." After Hayama had failed, it seemed that it was now Tobe's turn to keep the peace. "Prolly nothing to worry about just like Hayato said."

"Yeah, Hayato-senpai and Tobe-senpai are right!" Isshiki added quickly, though her tone was one of annoyance more than it was of agreement. "Now can we get inside now? It's really hot out here!"

"Yeah, I'm with her," Kawasaki grumbled out bitterly, sharing in the local kouhai's irritation, but in a much blunter fashion. "It's freaking baking out here… Also, I'm pretty sure that this heat isn't helping Ebina at all after losing that much blood."

"I am okay, SakiSaki!" Aforementioned BL lover exclaimed in reassurance. I could even picture the thumbs up she was giving her delinquent friend. "Don't you worry about me!"

"What are you saying? You look like you're about to pass out at any moment—!"

"Alright, alright, I'm going in." Not wanting to listen to the commotion going on behind me anymore with what I knew was coming our way, I decide to just get it over with. There's no way we're going to get out of this by delaying the inevitable.

As I pulled the door in front of me open, I felt a subtle pulse of energy run through the air and over my body – something that my companions didn't seem to notice. I couldn't blame them for it. I didn't notice it myself when this first happened to me.

Stepping inside, I wasn't surprised by what I saw next. I couldn't say the same for those who stepped inside with me, though. They all reacted pretty much the same way – which could basically be perfectly summed up with two words: "confused" and "surprised" – so I didn't bother actually paying attention to what any of them were saying, but I couldn't help but feel bad for them. They had no idea what was coming. Well, at least they had someone to help guide them through the process… Heh, lucky bastards.

If one were to take one look at the hallway that the front door of the karaoke place's front door led to, not a soul would question the looks of panic that were on all of my companions' faces. What we should've been seeing was a waiting room with a desk where we could rent a room for karaoke. Instead, us ten were all treated to the sight of a tall, full cement hall that seemed to go on for forever and ever.

"Yo," I call out to the people behind me, who I was sure were all still trying to make sense of what they were currently looking at, without turning around, "if you want to make it out of this alive, I suggest you all follow me." I mean to start moving forwards after perfectly executing that action hero-style one-liner, but I quickly realize that I still need to tell them something. "Oh, and also, I wouldn't suggest trying to go back out through that door behind us." Now, I start to move. "Trust me, it's going to much safer in here than out there."

"Hikigaya-kun, wait, w-what are you— Do you know what's going on here?" Hayama, finally deciding it a serious enough situation to use my real damn name, asked me, his usually calm and even voice being tainted with a clear panic.

Stopping once again to turn and face the riajuu while I answered him, I then proceeded to give him the response that he should've expected from me, "Of course I do." I narrow my eyes at him in irritation. "Why in the hell would I tell you to follow me otherwise?"

"H-Hey, don't talk to Hayato like that!" Miura, probably seeing that I was verbally attacking the "love of her life" (lol), quickly moved to speak in his defense. "He's just confused as to what's going! Just like the rest of us are!" She gestured to everyone else in the entrance hallway around them as she took an aggressive step towards me. "So, how about you stop trying to act all cool and mysterious, and explain to us what the hell is going on!"

Letting out a sigh in response to the silence that ensued due to Miura's little outburst, I shake my head disbelievingly as I wonder just who in the hell thought it was good idea to add more people into this equation. I was doing just fine on my own! I mean, yeah, I needed her help with solving a case more often than not, but that didn't mean ten more people were needed!

"Look," I begin, my voice probably sounding exasperated ed as all hell, "I'll explain what's going on to all you once we're out. Right now, we don't have time time to—"

Just then, I was cut off by two voices that sounded out simultaneous to each other, coming from two opposite directions. One was shrill, other-worldly, and distorted. The other belonged to someone I feared much more and was accompanied by the sound of a door getting pulled open.

"INTRUDERS, KILL THEM!" "Hachiman, comrade! I, the master general, have come to celebrate your day of birth! My apologies for being late!"

"Hikki, look out behind you! Something's coming—" Out of all the people that began to try and warn me, Yuigahama was the quickest. She even managed to do so quick enough to

Sigh.

Turning around slowly, I find what I can only describe as a giant mass of shadow rushing towards me and slamming itself down into the ground directly in front of me, causing a blast of wind to hit me. Oi, whatever kind of shadow you turn out to be, could you do me a favor and not do that? It doesn't really do anything to or for me – other than make me look cool, which, if you're trying to actually do, thanks, but I'd appreciate it more if you'd wait until I'm fully ready so I can fully max out how cool I look right about now. Eh, whatever. It's not like I can't work with what you've given me.

"Per-"

Pulling my right hand from the corresponding pocket, I open it outwardly, my open palm facing away from my body. An instant later, a bright blue light flashes begins to emanate from said hand and I feel an all too familiar, almost non-existent weight take form in it.

"-son-"

I open the newly formed object with an admittedly, gratuitously hammy flick of my wrist.

"-a."

Uttering that last and final syllable, I place aforementioned object, a pair of simple, frameless glasses, on where they belong naturally and I'm immediately consumed by a torrent of blue flame. It didn't burn me at all, it didn't radiate heat, and it didn't spread any farther than a few feet away from my body. Truly, barring some sort of symbolic meaning that I was too lazy to think about, its only purpose was to make people look cool, which I was completely fine with.

The shadow that had been sent to eliminate me and those with me materialized just as the flames subsided, revealing our true forms to one another and the world - the forms that we'd be doing combat in. …Ugh, that sounded way too chunni for my liking. I should really stop hanging around Zaimokuza. What? I do everything in my power to avoid him already? Whelp, looks like I'm going to have to stay even farther away from the guy then.

Anyways, the shadow had revealed its true form to me and mine to it, and I couldn't help but be unimpressed by what I was being shown, though that was a much more common occurrence than I'm sure most expected. For some reason, a lot of the time, shadows were a lot more intimidating in their sealed forms than their true ones. I've been fighting against shadows for about two years and I still couldn't come up with a reason as to why that was. Hell, the first one I fought ever, turned into a damn Pixie and they were basically the most unintimidating-looking thing in the world!

Anyways, to get back to the point, what the shadow had turned into was a dark-haired young woman wearing no clothing whatsoever, the only thing saving her modesty being the long, black-scaled snake that was draped over her pale shoulders. Instantly, I recognized her for what she was: a succubus. She wasn't just any old succubus, no. She was the succubus. The first one ever. Lilith.

Oh, so this is how you're going to play, huh? Been a long while since I stumbled upon a scene just to be welcomed with something that was powerful enough to be considered a mini-boss in a video game.

Smirking to myself at the prospective challenge this shadow posed me, I use my left hand to adjust the slate-grey tie that was tied loosely around my neck and then, the similarly-colored fedora that sat atop my head, making sure that the prior was loose enough to not be too much of a bother and the latter was firmly secured to said limb. After doing that, I stuffed both my hands into the pockets of the long, also slate-grey trench coat that sat open, over jet-black clothing that was so similar in color that, from far away, it was difficult to distinguish where one piece ended and the next one began.

"H-Hikki/Hikigaya-kun/Senpai…?" When I hear Yuigahama, Yukinoshita, and Isshiki suddenly utter my name out loud, I knew that it now was about time to start acting.

Turning to look over my shoulder at the being I already knew was there, I see the first ever manifestation of the mind, otherwise known as a persona, that I ever called upon. I remembered it like it was yesterday.

"Job…" Huh, it's time like this where I feel like I need to say some sort of cool one-liner. What to say though? Hm… Something clever, cool and is appropriate for my persona… "Eh, screw it. I don't have time to waste coming up with something cool to say. Just kill that thing, alright?"

-Chapter End-

That's it. I'm done. Remember, go to SpaceBattles if you wanna see more, faster than everyone here. Be there or be square punks.