Gabriel took a second to look at his hands being full and stopped mid-step toward Sayori. He drank the tea (One scalding sip at a time) and walked over to Yuri's tea set-up and placed his cup next to it, then he put Parfait Girls in his bag next to Portrait of Markov for later reading. Yuri and Natsuki were too absorbed into their own reading activities to pay him any mind. After that he went to Sayori.
Gabriel walked up and stood in front of the desk. Sayori didn't even seem to be aware of his presence as she was staring hard at the paper, tapping her pencil against the desk. The tip of her tongue was just barely poking out the corner of her mouth.
That thing's going to dry out if she keeps doing that...
"If stare's could start fire's that desk could be used to roast marshmallows." Gabriel said.
Sayori snapped out of her trance and blinked her eyes into focus, her tongue going back in her mouth. She looked up and saw him. He gave a small wave. "You doing okay there?"
Sayori smiled and she immediately went for...
Bubbliness? Or is it bubblyness? Is that even a wo-?
"Yup!" Sayori said cheerfully. "Just working on stuff for the festival."
"I can see that." Gabriel said as he looked over the notepad again. He saw that the page was filled out earlier from afar, but what he didn't see was what was on the paper. He couldn't make out any exact sentences from being upside down, and her writing was small, compact, and all over the place. He even saw that there were a few pages already used in that notepad flipped over on the spiral rings. They weren't properly folded so two pages were scrunched and folded in on themselves, but the same small and scattered handwriting were on them as well. Sayori was working harder than he thought. "Making progress?"
"Hmmm..." Sayori stopped thumping the pencil. "Well, I've had a few things that sound pretty good to me, but I just can't make a decision..." Sayori looked flustered. She leaned on her desk with her arms outstretched on both sides, practically hugging the desk. She groaned. "I just don't know what to pick!"
Since Sayori was currently taking Monika's role of making the final decision, Gabriel assumed he would have to play Sayori in this case as adviser.
"Well... what do you think is the most promising one?"
Sayori sat back straight and eyed her paper with a hum. She fingered through the words until it landed on what she was looking for. "Well, the problem is trying to find a way to draw people in! Even if we make it the most fun thing ever, no one will come if it's a literature event! So it's most important to figure out how to get people to show up in the first place, y'know? And after they come, we can do the thing to speak to their creative minds."
"What did you have in mind?"
"Well..." She tapped the one line she had been staring at. "... Maybe we can play some music?"
... That ...actually wouldn't be that bad of an idea. But it'd probably be better to stay on track. "I mean, you could, but music seems a bit too dependent on taste. Like a more atmospheric thing, but that can be taken care of in a different way."
"Mmmmmmm..." Sayori hummed. "Well, what could we do to make it a more awesome thing?"
"Well," Gabriel paused, pretending to think it over. "I mean, everyone likes food, right?"
Sayori immediately perked her head up and her eyes shining. "W-What kind!?"
"There's so many options to-" Gabriel began.
"Cupcakes!" Sayori decided with a joyous smile.
Gabriel fought back a snort. "There's an idea. I don't think Natsuki would mind making them for the festival." I hope.
"Ah! You're right!" Gabriel could have sworn there was a drop of drool in the corner of her mouth. "Natsuki makes the best cupcakes. That works out perfectly~"
"I thought that would have been why you'd have picked them out in the first place."
"Cupcakes speak to my creative tummy~"
Gabriel smirked. "Looks like you've come to a decision, Club President."
Sayori now found herself in a downer. "I'm hungry..."
"One sec." Gabriel got up and went to his bag to grab one of his jerky sticks and brought it back to Sayori. "Want it?"
Sayori's eyes somehow got brighter and she grabbed the jerky from his hand. She opened it quickly and took two big bites out of the meat stick. "It's kind of greasy, but it's good!" She said over a mouthful.
"It gets the job done." Gabriel couldn't help but find himself smiling. He couldn't understand how Tardis could actively avoid someone like Sayori. Despite how much he would say in the game how much he appreciated and admired her, he would have just as soon turned to criticize her for almost trivial things, even though the main character himself admitted that he found almost no motivation to do anything. Gabriel guessed he could understand how the main character and Sayori would bounce off one-another for support since they were childhood friends, but-
"But", what? Gabriel chastised himself. Stop letting the trivial shit get to you, you have other priorities. Don't be stupid about this. This is all just temporary so you can't make it your business. Ride it out smart until then.
After Gabriel snapped out of his funk he noticed that Sayori was oddly quiet. His eyes went back to her and he saw that she was watching him silently, curiously. "Something on my face?"
"Oh!" Sayori chirped. She swallowed with a giggle before continuing. "No! It's just that..."
Alright, here we go... "Just what?"
"Well... You just don't seem like... you lately."
Gabriel fought from making any movement to her statement. So she is aware... "What do you mean?"
Sayori shook her head. "I'm not really sure how to put it into words. But I am worried about you. You're still getting good sleep and stuff, right? You did just get over a cold..."
They've been friends since childhood. Gabriel thought. I can make a decent guess on the way Tardis talks, but that's about it. This may be a bit harder than I thought. I have to divert attention away from the topic... "I-I'm fine, Sayori." Gabriel stuttered. He internally winced at himself. Remember your notes. "What about you? Are you sleeping well? Last I checked you were still oversleeping."
Sayori was caught off guard. "Eh?" She smiled nervously. "N-Not every day..."
Going good. Double down. "How often do you get up on time?"
"That's..." Sayori gulped. "...It's a secret!"
"I see. Maybe you should be worrying more about yourself than me."
"C'monnnn!" Sayori fidgeted in her seat, pressing her fingers together. "At least give me the benefit of the doubt..."
May as well go full routine. Safe measure. "I don't think I can. There's a few more giveaways that you're not taking care of yourself very well."
"Eh?" Sayori leans back on her seat and glances around at herself. "What giveaways?"
"Well, your hair is sticking out on one end." Gabriel reached his hand to run his fingers tip down her hair to straighten it out, an action he remembered Tardis doing. Sayori squeaked at the contact, a sound that sent an unpleasant shiver down his spine. He hated to do that. "It really needs to be brushed."
"My hair is just really hard to get right..." She defended.
"Well, there's more than just your hair, Sayori." He pointed to her bow. He was about to say something about it, but it really did look better on the side of her hair anyway. He decided to avoid that topic and instead pointed to the collar of her shirt. "There's toothpaste on the collar of your shirt." He again reached for her and grabbed the collar of her shirt, rubbing his thumb on the stain in an attempt to wipe it out.
"B-But nobody would ever notice that..."
"Maybe. But they could just as well not be saying anything because they'd rather not make you feel embarrassed."
"Hey, you meanie..."
Gabriel reached out to do the blazar part of the route next that had led to the button-up picture of Sayori. He looked to her face while he was reaching for her. From the corner of his vision earlier he could see that she was easily frazzled by all of Gabriel's nitpickings, acting almost playfully defensive in response.
In the moment he looked at her face all he saw was sadness. He saw a fragile girl who was just resigned to having the next criticism to happen. To just get it over with.
The music, Sayo-nara if he recalled correctly, droned in his head seeing that expression. Then the memory of what followed after opening the door at the end of the 1st act was met with.
Gabriel felt cold. He saw that his hand was still outstretched for her blazer. His hand flinched back into a fist away from her, one of his knuckles cracking in the process. In the corner of his vision he saw Sayori look up at him. He made eye contact with her.
Whatever saddened look she had was gone. She looked timidly concerned for Gabriel. Tardis.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Sayori asked in a lower pitch. Gabriel assumed it was so that way Natsuki or Yuri couldn't hear them. "You-"
"I'm fine!" Gabriel said quickly. He swallowed hard and chided himself for losing his cool. He put on a smile. "I'm... Fine. Look, I'm sorry, just..." He looked down. "Just try to take care of yourself more, okay?"
Sayori was caught off guard by this reaction, looking more surprised than she had earlier. Goddamn it. I might've messed up...
She smiled and giggled. "I have you for that, silly! Helping each other out is what best friends do!"
"You're right." Gabriel smiled and nodded to her. He wasn't sure if he should look her in the eye for emphasis or if she would just see through it. He felt he had put himself in a corner.
There was barely a pause before Sayori called out: "It's about time to share poems everybody!" She leaned in with a playful smile. "Tardis, I can't wait to read yours!"
Gabriel heard nervous sounds from the two of them. He honestly couldn't feel more relieved to be out of the awkward situation. I have to be more careful, damn it...
As everyone was gathering their poems from their own bags Gabriel walked to retrieve his. Sayori seemed to be excited (If her bouncing up and down on her heels was any indicator), Yuri and Natsuki clearly reluctant about going through with the reading. Gabriel tried to keep the poem as neutral as possible to show no favoritism to one girl, but after the little discussion he had with Sayori he was worried to have any interaction with her. He pulled out his poem. Looking in. Gabriel looked over it again. He cringed at it and quickly erased the Meow.
He figured he'd go through Sayori last, get as much time as he can between the conversation from earlier. Gabriel quickly looked around for either of the two other girls to show first.
Yuri was the closest. She saw him walking up to her and she smiled her shy smile. They exchanged a brief greeting before Gabriel handed his poem to Yuri. She took it and began to read, staring at the poem with concentration.
A thoughtful frown appeared on her face. Her brows furrowed and her eyes darted up to Gabriel for a brief moment before returning to the poem. Her eyes went back to the top of the poem to re-read it.
A moment of silence passes between them. After Gabriel counted to twenty he spoke up. "Hope this isn't a bad sign." Gabriel joked.
"Oh!" Yuri snapped out of her train of thought. "N-not at all! It's just I... " Yuri trailed off.
"Yuri, it's fine. If you didn't like it there's no hard feelings."
"No!" Yuri said quickly. "It's not like that! I did like it's just that I didn't... expect something like this from you." After Yuri got the words out she got immediately flustered. "I don't mean that in a bad way!"
"I didn't think you did." Gabriel assured. "Take a minute. I can wait for what you have to say."
Yuri paused and took a breather. After she had gathered herself she tried again, this time far more composed. "Have you ever written poetry before, Tardis?"
"This is my first time, actually." This was true for Tardis sake, but it was also very true for Gabriel.
She looked at the poem then back to Gabriel. She traced her fingers along the words of the poem, as if breaking it down more thoroughly. Still, though, it was as if she was trying to be sure of something before she spoke. Gabriel thought she was going to ask something else, but she instead gave him the same suggestions she would have given in the game before, after whatever event took place. Gabriel nodded and smiled appreciatively as she said them.
"... It might take you some time," Yuri was saying with a smile on her face. "But it all comes with practice, and learning by example, and trying new things. I also hope that everyone else in the club gives you valuable feedback." Yuri frowned to herself. "Natsuki can be a little bit biased, though..."
"To what regard?"
"U-Um... well..." Yuri delved back into her nervous self. "Never mind...I shouldn't be talking about people like that... sorry..."
I already have an idea of what to expect. "That's fine. May I read your poem now?"
"Please do!" Yuri smiled dreamily. "I'd love to share my thought process behind it..."
Gabriel took the poem from Yuri and read Ghost Under the Light. He didn't really get the symbolism behind it before when he first read, but he could say the same about most of the other poems throughout the game (Natsuki's were the easiest to understand, obviously). He only learned after playing it that the poems actually meant something deeper for each character, but he never really had the attention to go back and read them since he already had his fill of jump scares and such. Re-reading it now, especially knowing a bit more of Yuri's background, he could tell what the poem was conveying.
Gabriel finished reading it and looked up at Yuri. She was anxious and fidgeting, feeling self-conscious for how long Gabriel spent reading.
"I... I'm sorry I have such terrible handwriting!" Yuri said nervously.
"That's not the case at all! I actually like your handwriting."
"But it took you a long time to read..."
"Just trying to wrap my head around it is all. Your handwriting is very pretty, Yuri."
"Eh?" Yuri blushed lightly. "That's... a relief..."
The expected back-and-forth between them continued as normal. Gabriel even asked Tardis' line if Yuri was into ghosts and Yuri smiled happily and proudly to explain the poem to him in detail, and Gabriel listened as she freely chose her words rather than carefully picking them, with no sputter at all.
"... Lingering in her last remaining place of comfort, unable to let go of the past." Yuri was saying. "And soon to be left with nothing..."
"You really know your stuff when it comes to poetry." Gabriel said. "I'm impressed, Yuri."
"It's nothing, really..." Yuri modestly said to the praise. "Well... it makes me happy that you think that. Just remember that it won't be too long before you pick up on these things, too."
"Maybe." Gabriel said with a laugh. "I certainly don't expect to come out as Shakespeare, but I'll be sure to keep doing my best."
"I'm glad." Yuri looked delighted to hear that. "May I inquire something of you?"
Gabriel nodded. "Sure."
"Your poem..." Her eyes fell on Looking In in Gabriel's hand. "What was your thought process when you were writing it?"
Gabriel paused. His gaze went to his poem, thinking carefully. He finally looked up to Yuri with another smile. "In all honesty, I couldn't tell you. I just remember you saying yesterday about how the truest writing is writing to yourself, I put the pen to the paper, and came with this. I guess I have a harder time understanding myself."
Yuri frowned at this. She looked like she wanted to say something. She even opened her mouth once, but closed it a second later. She gave him a shy smile instead. "I see." Yuri finally said. It was hard for Gabriel to tell if Yuri had actually bought it. "So far this is actually exciting. I'll be waiting to read your next poem tomorrow."
"You as well."
By then Sayori and Natsuki were done exchanging their own poems so Gabriel had swooped in to share with the later. Not even three words were passed between them when Natsuki held out her hand expectedly to be given the poem. Gabriel obliged wordlessly and Natsuki still held her poem in one hand while she held his in the other, eyes traveling the paper.
After about a minute she finally responded with a grunt and a shrug. "It's okay, I guess." Natsuki handed the poem back to Gabriel. "Weird, though."
"Weird in a good way, or weird in a bad way?" He grabbed the poem.
"Weird in a weird way."
Gabriel shrugged. "I'll take that. Better than it being crap."
Natsuki smirked. "Here, read mine. I'll show you how it's done."
Gabriel took Eagles Can Fly and read it over. It took maybe 15 seconds.
"Well?" Natsuki asked when she felt Gabriel was taking too long, arms crossed. "What do you think?"
"That animals can do more than humans." Natsuki rolled her eyes. Gabriel laughed. "Just a joke. In all seriousness, I thought it was good."
"R-really?" Natsuki said with childlike surprise. She caught it and cleared her throat and puffed out her chest. "Well, I'm just warming up! You better believe that the next one will knock your socks off!"
"I see that you're also about simplicity over... " He thought over it over. "Sophisticated language."
Gabriel went through Natsuki's tangent about her preference for simpler poetry over... Well, basically Yuri's poems. Gabriel, like he did for Yuri, listened to what she had to say while supplying the lines Tardis would have given while changing them enough in tone to support the role he was playing.
"Like I set up for a rhyme at the end," Natsuki was saying. "but then I made it fall flat on purpose. It helps bring out the feeling in the last line."
"Ah." Gabriel said. "Clever."
"That's what it means to be a pro!" Natsuki placed her hands on her hips. "I'm glad you learned something. Didn't expect that from the youngest one here, did you?"
"Youngest by, like, what, a few months?" Gabriel said without thinking. "Doesn't seem that much of a difference." Natsuki looked absolutely surprised by Gabriel's response, much to his confusion. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was slightly agape. "What?"
"H-how..." Natsuki fumbled and tried again. "How old do you think I am?"
"Eighteen." What's up with her?
Natsuki stared at him for a moment longer, her eyes big. "No one's ever gotten that right before." She said. "How did you know?"
"The-" Wiki! Gabriel caught himself. "-tone in your voice.
"My voice...?" Natsuki sounded unsure.
"It has a mature edge to it." Gabriel said as if it were the absolute truth. "I mean, yeah, you're... a bit on the little side, but," He put emphasis on the last word before Natsuki decided to deck him in what he could hope would be the stomach. "you talk like an adult. Anyone would notice that if they would pay attention."
"... Really?" Natsuki asked timidly.
I doubt it. "Absolutely."
"... Yeah." Natsuki said in some kind of realization (Notable to Gabriel that she actually made her voice lower when she said this), and she nodded to herself, her swell of pride returning ten-fold. "Yeah! People just don't hear how mature I am! If they could pull their head out of their asses, they'd see I'm not just a kid!"
Bail before you fuck this up. "That's the spirit! Confidence!" He edged away from Natsuki who couldn't care less about him doing so. There was a skip in her step as she went to share her poem with Yuri while Gabriel went to share his poem with who he dreaded the most right now: Sayori.
Sayori met him half-way with a skip in her step and a smile on her face. If she was still thinking about any of the earlier awkwardness she wasn't showing it on her face. She simply exchanged greetings with each him in her cheery way, hopping on the heels of her feet in excitement as she held out her hand for his poem. Gabriel handed her the poem.
"...This is a good poem, Tardis." Sayori said after reading it. "Are you sure this is your first time?"
"Yup." She's not commenting about earlier.
"Well, I like it! I'm very impressed!"
"Really?" Seems like we're sticking to the original route.
"Well, to be honest..." Sayori said with a bashful smile. "I was afraid that you wouldn't do it seriously, or that you wouldn't write at all." Her cheery smile returns. "I'm really happy just that you wrote one. It just reminds me of how you're really apart of the club now~"
Either she's just choosing not to say anything or she didn't label it too out of the norm. I'll just have to roll with it for now. "Well, of course. I'm not really into this stuff yet, but I'll keep my word and keep trying at it."
"See? It's like I say, Tardis: Deep down, you're not selfish at all, you know? Trying new things like this for other people..." Her smile became brighter. "That's something only really good people do!"
Gabriel met her smile. "Thanks, Sayori." Except I'm only here because I honestly am not sure of what else to do. They seem like nice girls, and I can't help but kind of feel bad putting up this whole front, but I have a strong feeling that what's happening right now is related to the club, at least in some way. I'm starting to have doubts about it now, but it's only the second day.
... And in my second day I'm slipping up pretty bad.
"Yeah!" Sayori said. "And I'm gonna make sure you have lots of fun here, okay? That will be my way of thanking you~"
"Looking forward to it.
"Yay!" She cheered. "Now you'll read my poem too, right? Don't worry, I'm really bad at this. Ehehe..." Bashful once again.
"Let's see it." Gabriel was handed back his poem along with Sayori's. Dear Sunshine.
"... So." Gabriel said after reading it. "What did you have for breakfast?"
"... Eggs and toast." She put her fingers tips together in a nervous gesture. "Ehehe... Is it that obvious?"
"That you wrote it this morning? A little bit."
"I forgot to write one last night." Sayori became defensive. "I still tried my best!"
"It's not bad, Sayori. I liked it. It's certainly... a Sayori poem."
"Really, really." Gabriel assured. "Just make sure that you remember to write a poem tonight. Preferably a good amount of time before you actually go to bed. Don't want to end up doing it last minute again, do you?"
"I don't have a problem with doing it before school..." Sayori once again became bashful.
"But don't you have trouble waking up on time, though?"
"I do, but... maybe you could... you know-"
A knock on the classroom doorframe. Everyone in the class room turned to look to the source to see a white haired, red-eyed student, who's only familiar to one of the Literature Club members.
"Yo." Tsubasa said with a lazy wave from standing in the doorway.
"Oh, hey dude." Gabriel greeted, surprised to see him there. And admittedly nervous. "What's up?"
Tsubasa's eyes scanned the room, stopping on each girl for no more than a second before landing back on Gabriel. The girls looked at him with varying feelings: Natsuki looked at him distrustfully, Yuri was already shying away and sunk into herself, and Sayori was confused. Sayori's eyes went back and forth between Gabriel and Tsubasa.
Tsubasa was blatantly aware of all the looks, but he chose to ignore them. He nodded to Gabriel. "...Tardis. 'Was hoping I could talk to you privately for a minute?"
"Um, yeah, sure." Gabriel handed the poem back to Sayori who was still confused. "I'll just be a minute, okay?"
"O... okay." Sayori looked to Tsubasa one more time. She then went back to her happy self and looked back to Gabriel. "Take your time, okay Tardis?"
Gabriel nodded and walked over to Tsubasa whom walked out into the hallway. Gabriel followed and they were a good distance from the door for privacy. After Tsubasa looked over Gabriel's shoulder he finally speaks to him in a hushed voice. "So. How's it going?"
"I'm stupid and I'm bad at this."
Gabriel ignored that. "I keep slipping up. I keep acting out of character, which is fine for the most part with the girls, but it's dangerous with Sayori. I have to avoid talking about books and literature here despite being a part of the Literature Club because I don't know if the stuff I know about even exists here, and I may now be too in the favor of Natsuki because I know her real age and had to make up some bullshit about some trait that was obvious." Gabriel ended this with air quotes.
Tsubasa's brows furrow. "Who's Natsuki?"
"The shortest one with the pink eyes and hair."
"Oh." Tsubasa tilted his head. Curiosity got the best of him. "How old is she?"
"I absolutely do not believe you."
Gabriel waved his hand between them in a dismissive motion. "Not important. Look, I-"
"Hold on." Tsubasa cut him off. "I'm not here for a venting session. I just came to tell you that we can't do the after school talks for a while. My sister got pissed at me for being as late as I was and now she 'put down her foot' and I have to be there before dinner."
Behind Gabriel the sound of an erupting argument was taking place.
"Maybe you're just jealous that Tardis appreciates my advice more than he appreciates yours!" Yuri was yelling.
"Huh! And how do you know he didn't appreciate my advice more?" Natsuki retorted. "Are you that full of yourself?"
"I...! No... If I was full of myself..." Yuri's voice grew louder. "I would deliberately go out of my way to make everything I do overly cutesy!"
"U-um!" Sayori was now heard. "Is everyone okay?"
The argument was getting louder and was echoing further down the halls.
"They fighting?" Tsubasa asked.
"That happens." Gabriel said. "But what about the..."
Tsubasa handed Gabriel a folded piece of paper. "I'm not going to bail out on you yet. I just wanted to give you my phone number. For now, it'll be easier this way."
Gabriel took the paper and pocketed it. "Thanks. What would be a good time to call?"
"Any time after five, no later than nine. If I'm sent anything about hentai, cats, or waifus, I'm blocking you."
"... That last one doesn't count toward the club members, right?"
"They're the exception." Tsubasa eyed behind him. "And they look pretty pissed."
Gabriel was going to ask what he meant but he had by then finally caught the sound of footsteps stomping toward them. Gabriel turned around to see a determined and angry Natsuki and a firm but almost fragile looking Yuri storming in his direction with Sayori tagging right behind them still trying her best to diffuse the situation.
"I-I don't like fighting, guys...!" Sayori was saying.
Gabriel did not take into account that they would ignore any other factor just to push their personal agenda, like arguing in front of a stranger on top of confronting Tardis in front of said stranger. Then again, both of them were pretty riled up when this happened the first time and brought Tardis into the fight despite being a member for only a day.
Gabriel was feeling less capable of anything every moment.
"Tardis!" Natsuki yelled. "Could you tell Yuri that she should get over herself and learn to appreciate that simple writing is more effective? This argument wouldn't be happening in the first place if she just would! What's the point in making your poems convoluted for no reason? The meaning should jump at the reader, not force them to figure it out. Help me explain that to her, Tardis!"
"W-Wait!" Yuri interjected. "There's a reason we have so many deep and expressive words in our language! It's the only way to convey complex feelings and meaning the most effectively. Avoiding them is not only unnecessarily limiting yourself... it's also a waste! You understand that, right, Tardis?"
Gabriel looked between them, looked to Sayori who was in-between either letting out tears of frustration or clearly having thoughts of intervening, and Tsubasa was... Indifferent.
"Well?" Yuri and Natsuki said in unison.
Gabriel mentally shook himself. He had to remember to follow the route normally, and this was a part of it. He just had to follow the optimal choice.
"Sayori...!" Gabriel called.
Sayori perked up in attention. "Eh?!"
There was an audible gurgle among them. Sayori's color drained and she clutched her stomach and she began to bounce on her toes. "B-b-bathroom...!"
With that Sayori bolted past Gabriel and Tsubasa to the restrooms. Gabriel watched as his only out ran away and he was now left with the two girls who were still looking at him impatiently.
Gabriel gulped. "T-Tsubasa...?"
At that point Tsubasa casually turned around and walked down the hall without another word, leaving Gabriel to fend for himself. He has hoping Tsubasa would do something, but even only knowing Tsubasa for a day that reaction should have been expected, and understandable. Sayori was having "Problems", Gabriel was more than sure it was because of the jerky he had given her. And now by the game standards, he was left to either side with Yuri or Natsuki.
"Come on, answer already!" Natsuki said impatiently with a glare.
Yuri said nothing, her expression defenseless.
Gabriel's hands turned to fists as his weary and nervousness was turning into anger to the point that he had closed his eyes. He could feel his teeth grinding.
Why? Gabriel thought. The first day went well enough, now this? I didn't even want to really change anything! I just wanted to get through this without trouble, but whatever little thing I do seems to backfire. I don't want to be here, I don't want to pretend to be someone else, and I sure as shit don't want to deal with this! It ain't fucking fair. I didn't ask for any of this, and it's not my fault these two don't get along. And I...
You know what? "No."
Both girls blinked at his answer.
Gabriel opened his eyes. They both looked flabbergasted with their own level of frustration. Gabriel felt his body slacken and his hands relax and found he had lost any energy to be mad. He felt tired. Very tired. He just wanted to be somewhere else.
"I said, 'no'. I'm not doing this." He reiterated. "I'm getting my stuff and going home."
He went and walked around them to the classroom. Yuri and Natsuki were immediately on his tail.
"Wait, hold on! You can't just walk away like that!" Natsuki nearly growled. Yuri fumbled on her words to say something to the same effect, but ended up not saying anything and just merely following Natsuki's lead.
They reached the classroom and Gabriel was bee-lining to the desk with his bag. "Why not?"
"Because..." Natsuki paused to think of an answer. "... Because as a member of the Literature Club you have to give your input on a club related issue!"
"It's not a club issue," Gabriel shouldered his bag. "It's a personal conflict."
"I-I agree with Nat-..." Yuri trailed off. Gabriel turned to face them to find Natsuki looking livider than ever and Yuri turned away and nervously playing with her long hair.
"I'll tell you what: If you really want my answer, you both have to answer mine first." Gabriel said. He didn't give them a chance to respond before he continued. "Does my opinion really matter because it's a 'Club issue'," He finger quoted. "or is it because you're sure that my answer will benefit your personal agendas and bias'?"
Yuri and Natsuki froze to that question. Natsuki's almost authorative demeanor faltered and her angry expression slowly melted. Yuri's face was completely hidden in her hair and although she slowed down on playing with it he could see a slight tremble in them.
Natsuki: "W-Well, I..."
That answers that. "So if my answer is what either of you hoped neither of you cared about what the other would have felt for it? Winning the argument mattered more, right?" Neither of them answered. "And even then, I thought literature was about self-expression, artistic creativity, and varied writing styles. I would think that a Literature Club would be more accepting of all that to broaden horizons. Not limit how the literature of the club should be based on personal preference."
Silence. Natsuki completely deflated, arms loosely crossed and staring down at the ground with a frown. Yuri had stuck with the same position; however, she had become completely still.
"Trying to drag me into it was unfair to me, stressing out Sayori the way you did was unfair to her, but most importantly how you treated each other was unfair and uncalled for."
More silence, both clearly downcast.
Great. I'm sure this will bite me in the ass later. Gabriel left without saying another word. The only sound to follow him on his way out was the sound of his own exiting footsteps.
Gabriel was constantly chiding himself on his way back to Tardis' house, fighting himself in his head on a million different things he could have done differently, and criticized himself about all the other mistakes he had made. He felt the beginning of another headache coming on, a throbbing ache already beating in his temples. He just wanted to take some time to clear his head if only for a little while. He remembered that there were headphones in the bag, and there surely had to be some music on Tardis' phone that he could drone out to.
He stopped and kneeled down to grab the phone and hunted for the headphones. He felt the phone vibrate in his hand. He had set it to vibrate just before going into school and hadn't checked it since that morning. He turned the screen on and winced.
3 missed calls and 5 unread texts from Sayori. She didn't leave any voice messages so he went straight for the texts.
Text 1: Is everything okay?
Text 2: I came out of the bathroom and you're gone! Natsuki and Yuri are also really quiet.
Text 3: I mean, Yuri is always quiet, but not THIS quiet, and certainly not Natsuki! They're barely saying anything to me.
Text 4: I ended club for the day. I thought it'd be best for them, but I'd still like to know what happened! Can you please tell me?
Text 5, the one he had just received: Please talk to me.
Gabriel sighed heavily and smacked the phone lightly against his forehead. He had not taken Sayori into consideration when he got out of there. He left her to dry with those two after the whole thing. At least they didn't yell at her.
Though knowing Sayori seeing her friends sad was probably a lot worse for her.
"Fuck..." He smacked the phone hard once against his head again. He sighed through his nose.
He caught whiff of something that made his stomach grumble. He finally became more aware of his surroundings, seeing other than just the route back to the house. He saw he was next to a small restaurant of many within close proximity of each other, and though it was a part of the day were the rush was just starting to die and there were people coming in and out of all the food establishments the one that caught Gabriel's attention wasn't too active. It had a curtain covering the entrance and he could see the outline of one person sitting down eating and another person working behind the counter, the name was enough for Gabriel to know what he would expect from it.
El Rosa. Mexican food.
After two days of mostly jerky and ramen, he couldn't think of any other way to lighten his day up a bit. His stomach growled again. He got up and texted Sayori as he walked to El Rosa.
I'm sorry I didn't answer you, phone was in backpack on vibrate. I'm sorry I walked out on you with that, I guess I kind of lost my temper and went off on them. I'll be sure to apologize to them tomorrow at the club. I just think that for today that it would be better for everyone to clear their heads, including me.
He sent the text and moved the curtain out of the way. There were eight stools in total, and the entire interior was painted green and the ceiling was painted red to keep up with the theme of a rose. The counter was a polished wood which plates and bowls could glide easily across.
And the place smells awesome.
The cook was reading a book until Gabriel came in, an elderly gentleman. He was a thinning man who was perhaps anywhere between his fifties to sixties, liver spots and wrinkles splotched here and there on his face and arms. He set the book down and smiled at Gabriel. "Help, sir?" He asked in a deep and heavily accented Spanish voice.
"Yes, very much so." Gabriel said in Spanish. "I would like one of whatever has carnitas and cheese with extra carnitas and cheese, to go. I'm not too picky, so I'd be fine with dealer's choice." Gabriel thought it over. "I don't mean to come off as rude, I'm just in a bit of a rush."
The man blinked in surprise. A big grin had spread across his face and he chuckled. "Absolutely, sir. Coming right up." He tied his apron and went to work.
Gabriel took a seat and smiled back. "Thank you."
He felt the phone vibrate in his hand and he saw it was another text message from Sayori. He opened it.
Oh, okay! I'm sorry about the way Natsuki and Yuri reacted! :( That's the first time they ever fought like that. It was really surprising! I know you probably just want to cool off after that, so I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay? ;);)
Gabriel smiled at the message. He was happy at least Sayori was okay after all that.
"Such a big smile!" The old man said with a laugh. "Talking to your girlfriend, my friend?"
"Not exactly." Gabriel pocketed the phone. "Can you add another of what you're making on top of that?"
Gabriel made another stop to a store to pick up some things for the kitten. He made it back to the home in decent time, but made one last stop to Sayori's house. Sayori was still behind him on her walk home so she wouldn't there for maybe another fifteen or twenty minutes. Gabriel walked through her gate to her door and put the food on the front step. With a pen he left a message for Sayori on the Styrofoam container that held a hot quesadilla.
I'll see you tomorrow.
With that he quickly jogged back to his house. Upon entering he was greeted with the sound of rapid pattering his way.
"Meow!" The kitten tried to halt right at his feet but ended up slipping on the floor and crashed his front paws into Gabriel's shoe, knocking him over both of Gabriel's feet in a clumsy backflip. The kitten recovered quickly and stood on top of his shoe, meowing continuously. Gabriel snorted and set the bags down and grabbed the furry little guy Gabriel held the kitten against his chest, to which the kitten purred and stared up at him.
"Well, hey there." Gabriel greeted. "How's your day going?"
"Yeah, mine, too." Gabriel paused. "... You pooped somewhere in the house, didn't you?"
"Yeah, that was a stupid question. I'll have to hunt that down later."
After Gabriel set the kitten up with a bowl of kitten food he had bought from the store (Which he had moistened up with a can of tuna), hunted down and found the cat turd, had taken a long hot bath while trying to bathe a kitten, he finally retreated to the bedroom with a heavy sigh while the kitten enjoyed himself with the meal. He set the desk up for homework, placed Portrait of Markov and Parfait Girls Vol. 1 next to the homework. Looking at them made him feel a twinge of guilt. He looked at the clock on his phone. A quarter after 5. Gabriel called the number Tsubasa had given him.
When Tsubasa answered Gabriel told him everything that happened in the classroom after he left, what he had said to the both of them, and also the little details that had transpired before, as well as restating his concerns.
After Gabriel's rant Tsubasa grunted. "I don't think you should concern yourself too much with those two. I saw the way they were acting. How you responded wasn't unjustified."
"Yeah, but..." Gabriel shook his head. "They have it pretty rough themselves, so I can understand it, I guess."
"Doesn't excuse their shitty behavior. If you want to apologize to them, by all means do so. Not my decision."
Gabriel thought it over, but he didn't dwell on it long. He knew he'd be the one to apologize, if only because the club may be related to what's happening to him. He needed to keep thing's on the route and he can't do that if he's on the majority of the member's shit-list. He told Tsubasa this. Tsubasa grunted ambiguously.
"As for the Sayori thing, just find something to help study yourself, get some background."
"The only thing I was really able to work with were texts."
"You're childhood friends. There's bound to be something: Yearbooks, family albums, old videos. Find some context clues or something. If you-Tardis didn't take any, his parents or Sayori's parents are bound to have made something back then."
Gabriel wrote it down as a to-do list for the early morning. "Got it."
"For being worried about what this place has and does not have compared to where you're from, the internet is a thing. Look up what you've read before and see if any of it is here. On top of that familiarize yourself with what is popular here, have something under your belt to blend in better in the club."
Gabriel felt stupid about not even realizing that one. He didn't say this aloud. Instead he just made another note. "Maybe I can find some music and shows I know, too."
"It's possible. Just make sure you read the stuff they gave you, first. That would be a priority regardless of what happened today."
"I planned on it. I'm not the fastest book reader, but the manga will be quick work at least." Tsubasa grunted again. "So, that was my day. How was yours?"
"About as it usually is. Routinely boring. I don't do much outside of school, dude."
"What? Don't you have any friends to hang out with? You're in an anime/gaming club."
"... If you spent one day in my club you'd understand why I don't take that question seriously."
"Is this a 'I hate this school and everyone in it' kind of thing?"
"Not everyone. Just the majority."
Gabriel snorted. "Edgelord, much?"
"Bite me." Tsubasa replied in good humor. "I have to get my own stuff done, so we'll have to put this off until tomorrow."
"Alright. I'll call you tomorrow, let you know what I find, how things go. Later."
"Later." Tsubasa hung up.
Gabriel tossed the phone on the work desk and did the homework he was given. During this the kitten had jumped on Gabriel's shorts and made a climb all the way to the top of the desk. Gabriel winced a few times from the claws but he sucked it up and let the fur-ball climb the mountain. The kitten watched Gabriel do homework with his head tilted and his tail swinging left and right. Gabriel saw out the corner of his eye that the kitten was preparing to pounce and attack the pencil in his hand.
The kitten jumped and attempted to tackle the pencil, only for Gabriel to move his hand out of the way. The kitten skidded all the way to Gabriel's other hand and Gabriel immediately used that hand to play with the kitten while he kept using the other to do the homework.
Gabriel winced. He has sharp teeth coming in.
Gabriel finished and set the homework in the bag for tomorrow. Out of the two books to read he figured that it'd be best to read more of the Portrait of Markov since he was the most acquainted with it.
Reading the first few chapters was just build up for the story, establishing characters and the setting. He already knew what to expect later on in the book so what he read was a nice little reprieve from the weirder stuff, but the darker undertones were certainly there. And like the MC had stated in the game, the character did remind him a little of Yuri. He made a bookmark out of a torn piece of paper and set the book aside.
He picked up Parfait Girls and cracked open the first page. A few chapters in and he actually found himself having a good time. He wasn't too into Slice-of-Life stuff, and Magical Girls certainly wasn't his cup of tea, but the funny moments got him here and there. He got to the ice-cream-shop-guy part Natsuki had talked about.
Alice smiled widely as the cute boy from 9th Circle Ice Cream had given her order of Neapolitan.
"Here you go, miss," He said with a polite smile. "Will there be anything else?"
"N-no, I'm fine." Alice replied nervously. She fidgeted in her seat. "A-actually, now that I have the chance to r-..." Alice gulped. "Really talk to you..."
"Oh." He cleared his throat and leaned in closer to hear her. "What do you mean?"
Alice blushed when the boy got closer in her face, as if ready to hear a secret.
Finally! Fufu~ Alice's thought bubble read. I finally get to be alone with him! With Minori in the pit-trap I dug in her yard, Yuyu trapped at the zoo, and Ayami stuck in the mirror maze, I now have the chance to confess!
"Well, the thing is..." Alice stared at the boy's lips and she found herself edging closer to them. I can feel his breath... "I... I lo-"
The door busted open, surprising the boy and Alice out of their moment. The door was opened so roughly that the glass on both the door and the wall it slammed against were cracked.
Alice was horrified to find Yuyu and Minori standing there! Minori's school clothes were covered with dirt, but especially on her shoes and hands, her finger nails caked with it. Yuyu was covered in scratches and stains, some bleeding, her hair was a mess, and in one arm she held a...
"Yuyu." Alice asked, more confused than scared. "Is that a coyote?"
The coyote snarled in response, foam leaking out of the mouth, eyes filled with primal anger. The coyote struggled in Yuyu's grasp, but to no avail.
To respond to Alice's question, Yuyu simply slammed the coyote in Minori's arms, who gripped the coyote in both arms like a doll with ease, despite the coyote's struggle. Yuyu then grabbed the back of Minori's school shirt and skirt, lifted her in the air, and spun around with her.
"Minori!" Yuyu roared with determination. "Inflict violence!"
After reaching the full 360 Yuyu threw Minori toward Alice, flying at Mach speed with a trail of foam from the coyote.
Minori: "WITH GUSTOOOOO!"
"Kyaaa!" Was Alice's only retorted before she was slammed to the other side of buildings interior by the Minori/coyote torpedo. The momentum brought the table half-way with them. Then the biting started.
"Ehhh?" The ice cream shop boy, who watched this all passively, was able to manage with amount of surprise one would have finding their purchase was 1$ more. "This is surprising!"
"THEY'RE EATING MY FACE!"
Gabriel chuckled at the slapstick and continued reading. After half-an-hour he set the book in his bag to return tomorrow. He didn't bother with the notes about the day's progression. He figured he would fill it out in the morning, after he had a night's sleep to really think things over he figured he'd do it then. The day's stress was still lingering in his head and he didn't trust himself to be able to take out any kind of bias writing anything down. So, that aside, he only had one thing left to do before calling it a night: A poem.
He got out another piece of paper, pencil ready, and waited for something to hit him. When an idea formed he began:
The Long Walk
The wheel spins, churns, grinds, halts, and screeches. Clockwise, repeating in its alien yet familiar echo. I can see the pattern through my theater in the greying chair, still it always ticks in tandem as it all spins. I look through my telescopes.
The heat sears, burns, dries, scorches, and weighs. Forward, I keep trudging through the barren sands, only focusing on the road ahead. I can feel the sand shifting beneath my very feet, but I can still feel the asphalt of the road on my soles. I walk forward.
The time passes, morning, day, evening, and night. Rotating, dawn to night the heat falls and rise in the familiar pattern of existence. I can feel the progression of wear and tear on the edges of my mind as the sun and moon make chase for each other. The clock ticks.
They scream in pain, confusion, misery, sadness, and madness. Echoing from all sides I feel their anguish grappling on my being. I sprint trying to out run their words and tongues, but their grip is tightening to keep me grounded. I fall.
The wheel spins, churns, grinds, halts, and screeches. Clockwise, repeating in its alien yet familiar echo. I slump in my greying, ripping chair. Resignation whispers its sweet promises and comforts, yet I'm still in this godless theater room. My choices are few.
I look through my telescope.
Gabriel set the pencil down and stretched. He set the notes next to the bag for tomorrow so he remembered what to look for before school. Looking at the phone clock he thought it was a good as time as any to go to bed, though a text from Sayori caught his eye. He opened it.
Thanks for the food! :D It was super yummy! :) :)
Gabriel smiled. At least he could go to bed a good note. He picked up the kitten from his spot on the desk and turned off the light as he took him to bed with him.
Gabriel laid down and the kitten immediately took his place in Gabriel's neck and left shoulder, curling himself into a ball and purring softly.
Gabriel closed his eyes. He fell asleep in minutes.